Monday, October 31, 2005

Descartes Reloaded

In my Social Theory class last year, we were required to write weekly response papers about our readings. Mine were notorious for being scattered, convoluted, full of movie references and often having nothing to do with that week's text. Periodically I post some of my papers here, just to share with everyone out there the mechanics of my madness.

Descartes, Locke Leibnitz

The knowing, knowable, transparent “I.” Ah yes, what circular fun. Because I know this one basic thing, and that fact that I do know it and can know it without contradiction provides basis for the existence of my creator who in creating this certainty, surely would not fool me otherwise.

The initial critique of this is of course the easiest, but what must come after this is the hard part. While Foucault comes up with a decent initial critique of the Cartesian subject and the humanism that developed and gained prominence because of it, Nancy Fraser and Jurgen Habermas seem to be correct in noting that on the matter of what must and can come next, Foucault was either silent, evasive or dead. In her article “Foucault a Young Conservative” Nancy Fraser outlines Foucault’s attacks on humanism on three different planes, describing them in the context of Habermas’ responses. (According to Fraser, the scorecard goes Habermas 2 Foucault 1, but like a cricket tourney, with neither side necessarily the winner) The x creating in his texts is constantly empty or unknowable, because much of his efforts never get past that easy initial critique. (For example, Foucault’s nightmare is that of a society fully panopticonized. Yet what is the basis for this critique if he rejects a humanist paradigm and cannot produce or identify a nonhumanist ethical one? Namely a different one?)

The initial easy critique of the knowing, knowable and absolute Cartesian subject can lead us to the same edge before the x void that our critiques require. My vacillation on this derives partially over my own initial meager readings of Zizek’s unclear defense of the Cartesian subject. I don’t know enough about this as my copy of The Cogito and the Unconscious hasn’t arrived yet, so all I know is from Zizek’s text The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology. In it Zizek attempts to conserve the Cartesian subject, but not in the sense of the transparent “I,” but according to him in its “obverse, the excessive unacknowledged kernel of the cogito.” In this text it is unclear at least to me, what specifically Zizek’s defense is other than the requirement of Lacanian theory for a “kernel” to exist. (For example, the ethics of the other, at least in Zizek’s latest text dance around the proper relationship to this kernel of the other, interpersonally this means, what is the fundamental fantasy of the other. (The difference between the Oracle to Neo and the Architect to Neo in Matrix Reloaded)(Zizek is proud of noting that it is this orthodox acceptance of a kernel which separates Lacan from the discursive fictionalists people outside of France call poststructuralists.) Therefore I get the sense that Zizek seeks to find the kernel of the cogito which theorists since Descartes have either misread or missed completely. (I get hints of it here and there, such as “madness” which necessarily accompanies the cogito, but is often disavowed by certain philosophers. Descartes had said that we spend at least a third of our lives insane, because to him dreams and the type of mixed thinking and existing they represented were a form of insanity. I know this is important, but don’t know yet how.)

I brought up Foucault, because sidestepping this “I,” requires the same x. The same assumption of and articulation of a possible beyond this point. Foucault’s rejection of humanism of course relies heavily on humanism for its grounding (for example Foucault’s romanticization of an ancien regime (such as ancient Greece) and his romanticization of “autonomy” because of that.) Perhaps Zizek is right in seeking for something to salvage in Cartesianism, maybe because it does offer something in terms of combating the social destruction that is so often attributed to Cartesianism, but also just as something that cannot be rejected in its entirety. So while I am obviously doubtful of any attempt, even by my hero Zizek to recast or dissect in better terms the “I,” when I consider that all attempts to do away with it have merely reformulated it, the strategic rejectionist approach might not be as effective as some suppose. (I am doubtful for several reasons, but basic point is because of the casual violence which is at the core of Cartesianism. During the days of Descartes, the proponents of his theories would often beat animals to death at court, and would scoff and laugh at those who were horrified, scolding those people for not understanding the latest theories. The lack of “thought” that the animals represented made them the objects which could be acted upon with impunity.)

Furthermore, anything which has the power to somewhat seamlessly unite otherwise incompatible camps should be treated with some suspicion, as the fight against Cartesian subjectivity can unite environmentalists, postmodernists, Habermasians, cognitive scientists and so on. Like the attempted recuperation of an ethical continental European identity (proposed by Habermas and Derrida) when something smacks of such obvious rightness and of courseness in its unifying aspects, it probably when one should step back the quickest and think. (I just thought of Latour, and how in his text, We Were Never Modern, he uses the hole in the ozone layer as something which exemplifies the epistemological walls which tentatively create modernity. But unifying fronts against Cartesian subjectivity seem to defy Latour’s ideas of necessary purification for readability, as the intersection of language, science and society is a must for the critique to be both made and understood.)

Moving on to Locke, we begin to see the political implications of Descartes theories and the ways in which the particular and the universal relate to each other. This treatise is said to contain Locke’s own ideas on the “state of nature” which are supposed to be a more warm and cuddly response to Hobbes’ ideas about the war of the “all against all.” But it is far more important to note how they are similar instead of different. Both of them, despite creating the state of nature as part of a self-serving genealogy, create it as something which must be escaped and preserved, however in a more rational form. In the signing of social contracts or the creation of the Leviathan, the state of nature doesn’t disappear, but is instead transferred and translated into the body of the sovereign or the right of the legislature. Thus the exceptionalism which in nature is said to be found in all and none at the same time, is both localized in the ruler of a society and universalized within a specific property/rationality owning class, or within a fraternal patriarchal class.

The fact that this was written while England was erupting in civil war is important. Locke is ultimately attempting to suture his particular position to a universal principle. Building off of the subject Descartes inaugurated, Locke takes the particular subject of his writing, which looks suspiciously like himself (possesses rationality, possesses property (an important point of Locke’s argument which leaks into our discourse of today is that the possessions must be worth defending, further limiting who has access to this modern subjectivity) and proposes himself as a universal in an attempt to both protect and conserve his position, as well as multiply it. Thus Locke nonetheless recuperates in a different way the thing which he was supposedly writing against, the unchecked or chaotic sovereignty of the monarch and the natural man. But of course, kismat is in his favor as that authority now rests with him and those whom he trusts, those who don’t cheat and abuse words and those who own enough property to keep them from becoming the rabble in the streets.

Turning at last to Leibnitz, after reading Monadology I cannot help but think of Voltaire’s Candide. After all Dr. Panglos from the text is modeled after Leibnitz. The cruelty, the terrible destruction and hardships of the world are all accompanied by a commentary by the good doctor which emphasizes nearly always that despite the terrible things that have taken place, the world is nonetheless the best of all possible worlds. (Voltaire, even in his satirization of Leibnitz’s position seems to accept it, or at least accept the same helplessness and limitations, however with a different emotional bent, from “this is the best of all possible worlds! :) ” to “this is the best of all possible worlds……:( ”)

Aside from his further articulation of the soul and its moral implications, this statement of what is being, “the best of all possible” continues to echo up til today. It is the liberal mantra and the theme song to the liberal (political) deadlock. I’m thinking here about Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, this is the stupid song which flits around the background of the landscape as well as out of the mouths of its denizens. It provides at one point a possible site of resistance, a key, a tolerable sliver of the Real (Jonathan Pryce singing the song as he passes into psychosis) (which holds potential for a radical act, an outside). Yet at the same time it is also the mantra through which the Real remains the Real (Jonathan Pryce listening to the song in his “borrowed” transport, Robert De Niro singing the song as he works, the tune working as a containing device).

I am thinking specifically of the harsh, yet touchy feely deadlock that exists as a integral part of today’s liberal democracies. The form of government that exists, the social structures are all thought to be the best possible, the fruits of important modern teleological journeys. This is summed up well by Winston Churchill’s worn-out statement that “democracy is worst of all systems, the only problem being that there is none better.” This point is only further enhanced with Zizek’s point that the basic principle of today’s democracies has nothing to do with people power, but instead with the compact amongst parties above and below that whatever results take place, they will be accepted. (The Hindi film Company thus making a welcome point in showing how the underworld in Mumbai operates a lot like today’s democracies.) (Furthermore this of course illustrates why outcry over possible election manipulation was regarded as being “anti-democratic” and Kerry’s choice to stay out of it, proving he is worthy of the “democrat” mantle.) What this idea of the best possible of all worlds makes impossible (in Zizek’s use of Hegel’s negation of a negation) are Acts which might break, even if just for a moment, this deadlock.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ten Things I Hate About Lacan

I just came across another great song for thinking through Lacan. I last heard it in the film Ten Things I Hate About You (hence this post's title). Other than the obvious Hegelian connection that "desire is the desire of the other," its Lacanian in that the I who is desiring is put into question because of the eternal exteriority through which its interiority relies upon. The use of "need" to compliment and complicate the "want" shows the lack that both the I and the other share, which doesn't complete them, but merely constitues them and forever connects them.

But the section on crying reveals that love is possible despite this apparent rift. Love happens, we can connect to the other, but not through pre-packaged romance and the realization of social fantasies about the other's magical qualities, but instead when the facade does break down and when the curtain of fantasy is lifted away. When we experience that hysterical moment where the fantasy frame through which we hold the other in attraction experiences a glitch as we perceive a glitch, a piece of the other's Real. It is often momentary, and often disbelieved or rejected, such as the lyrics which repeat in different ways a strange disbelief over whether or not the other is crying. When the other is broken down to something like this, which sticks out of joint, whether its a look aside during sex, a laugh which seems to come from nowhere, a statement with an uncertain author, or even tugap or do'do', it is only here that love is possible.



I WANT YOU TO WANT ME

* I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I'd love you to love me
I'm beggin' you to beg me
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I'd love you to love me
I'll shine up my old brown shoes
Put on a brand new shirt
Get home early from work
If you say that you love me
Didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin'
Oh, do not I, do not I, do not I see you cryin'
Feeling all alone without a friend you know you feel like dying
Oh, do not I, do not I, do not I see you cryin'

[Repeat *]
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I'd love you to love me
I'm beggin' you to beg me
I want you to want me
I want you to want me
I want you to want me
I want you to want me

Friday, October 28, 2005

Matai hit! Mamta' i Militat Ta'lo

Oh no, no, no, mungga fan, put fabot, ai nina'ye yu' ni' kanset siempre put este na news.

My day and possibly weekend has just been ruined by the charming news that the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force currently stationed in Okinawa will be moved to Guam. Wait, ruined temporal units doesn't quite capture my dismay. Its so much worse, and if you read the article below from this morning's PDN then you'd understand why.

First there is the association of this increase with the "liberation" of Guam in 1944. Its so interesting, because in nearly all articles about increases in military presence in Guam, this connection is implicit. We host and we accomodate because we understand that we have this obligation from the US saving us from the Japanese. The fact that this particular military unit is one that helped liberate Guam more then 60 years ago shouldn't be seen as cool, unique or special. It doesn't create any different thinking or statements, it just allows the statements which under pin most all enthusiastic military support in Guam to be said openly. To basically say what everyone is already thinking (whether they know it or not).

I'm currently working on a paper for a conference next February which will discuss the role of particular hegemonic images in Guam, such as the one which this article absolutely reinforces, that of an arriving American military force bearing gifts of necessity and survival. The images power lies not it what is specific historical, but in how it can be stretched, how things within it can be replaced over time, to maintain the power of the image itself. These Marines no longer hand out Spam and powdered milk to starving Chamorros, but the connection remains the same even as the objects and uniforms change. The Marines still impart something vital to surival, something that we can literally not live without. (this is why its strange that the author of the article gave the 30% statistic on military support, because in most articles a number is never given, only enhancing the desperate and utterly insurpassable dependency). But now that vitalness becomes reconfigured into things like shishkabobs purchased at Chamorro Village or contracts for local construction firms.

Unfortunately, little other than this amorphous and highly ambiguous positive is ever even discussed. This is a particularly important point, since the for a generation after World War II in Guam, the military wasn't interpretted in such a narrow way. Military did not automatically equal life or safety, but was understood more fully as also implying war. A large number of Chamorros who left Guam during the 1940's and 1950's cited the fear of another war as being a reason for their leaving. This is one thing which has been almost completely eliminated from public speech in Guam, this side which no amount of ideological proliferation can destroy, but only twist and turn into something blindly patriotic. A rare moment when this fantasy was shattered came in 2001 just a few months after the 9/11 attack. After weeks of speeches and statements all eagerly asserting that Chamorros (and others on Guam) are ready to do their part for help the nation in its time of need and war, Chamorros were given such an opportunity.

Those that the Bush regime had deemed "enemy combatants" from Afghanistan were in need of incarceration, Guam was considered a possible site for their detainment. That which Chamorros had claimed they desired and wished for (a chance to prove their patriotism by participation in the newly christened war on terror) appeared in a form to appropriate, yet they did not snatch it. In fact the majority of people on Guam were terrified of this prospect that Al Qaeda prisoners might be held on Guam. Why? Because the thing which The Chamber of Commerce, The PDN and even the shift in name from War Department and Department of Defense all are invested in denying, that where there are militaries there will always necessarily be wars, had emerged from the patriotic mire that seeks to hide it. The return of the Real in refreshingly poetic form.

This whitewashing of the military can of course be found in this very article, and the movement from Okinawa to Guam is what does the washing. Note that violence, crime and rapes in Okinawa by US troops are part of the reason for this troop shift, yet why do these terrifying facts of militarization not carry over into Guam? Why does this article or any others attempt to have this discussion? Shouldn't people on Guam be concerned about similar things? Several thousand Marines in Guam doesn't just mean, 28,000 more plate lunches purchased at the Chamorro Village each month, it means more fights in clubs, more racism, more nasty gendering, more potential environmental damage, more annoying patriotism.

These issues are of course rarely discussed in public and in politically useful ways, but tend to be private fears which aren't to be mentioned out loud except amongst radical troublemakers such as myself. These are things which most Chamorros feel ashamed for feeling, because we are instructed in too many ways to conceive of that American soldier as an emissary of our father/Uncle Sam, our savior, a member of our family. Because of this, we understand the military as having just as much claim to Guam as its indigenous people do. Because of this, we follow the logic of this hegemonic point, made clear in an PDN editorial from 1980, Guam is American soil, it can do whatever it wants here. Incidentally, this editorial was about the base issue in Okinawa.

7,000 Marines Pentagon announces shift to Guam
By Gene Park Pacific Sunday News
epark@guampdn.com

Guam will be receiving the bulk of up to 7,000 Marines being relocated out of Okinawa, Japan, the Department of Defense announced today.

Although there is no exact figure of how many Marines will be moving to Guam, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo announced that the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force will be moved to Guam. The Expeditionary Force is the same that helped liberate Guam from Japanese forces during World War II.

"The decision to bring U.S. Marines to Guam represents another acknowledgement of the strategic value of Guam and the increasingly prominent role our island plays in America's national security," Bordallo said this morning. "We will now celebrate many Liberation Days in the future beside the men and women that carry on the tradition of those that freed our people. It will be a wonderful reunion."

Guam makes most of its money from tourism, but the existing military presence represents about 30 percent of the island's economy.

Guam's business community and elected leaders have pushed for a greater military presence on the island, citing the economic benefit.

"This is not only great news for our economy but also for Guam and our nation, as it places the best fighting forces in the world on U.S. soil while simultaneously keeping them at the tip of the spear," said Lee Webber, chairman of the Armed Forces Committee of the Guam Chamber of Commerce. Webber also is the president and publisher of the Pacific Daily News.

"Marines cleared the way on Guam some 60 years ago and that has enabled our island to grow into its current position," Webber said. "They will most certainly assist us in maintaining that growth position well into the future."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Nobutaka Machimura and Minister of State for Defense of Japan Kiyoko Ono made the announcement at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Bordallo this morning stressed the need to prepare the island, including Guam's infrastructure and schools, for the incoming Marines and their families. Important discussions, including cost sharing with Japan, remain in the future.

While no exact time line for arrival of the Marines has been established, Bordallo said the island should expect a planning period and then a phased movement of forces to Guam during the next two to eight years.

The move from Okinawa is part of a bilateral agreement to reduce the burden on base-hosting communities, Japanese Defense Agency Chief Yoshinori Ono is quoted as saying in a Japan Today report.

The personnel will be mostly from command posts -- office personnel and supply officials --and not operational troops, in order to maintain deterrence, Ono and his agency officials stated in Japan Today.

The United States has 14,460 Marines in Japan, the largest contingent overseas, most of whom are on Okinawa.

Okinawans long have complained of crime, crowding and noise associated with the Marine presence. Protests against the presence peaked in 1995 after the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three U.S servicemen.

The United States recently agreed to close the Futenma Marine Air Corps Station in the crowded southern part of Okinawa and move its functions to Camp Schwab in the north.
And it was announced Thursday that Japan will allow a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be based in Japan for the first time, possibly in 2008.

The carrier would replace the USS Kitty Hawk, a diesel-powered carrier based in Yokosuka, Japan, which often makes port visits to Guam. Commissioned in 1961, the Kitty Hawk is the Navy's oldest aircraft carrier.

Originally published October 30, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Calling in the Feds

Being someone who has decided to turn my life into a never-ending critique of life in Guam, I can no longer ask myself, "What the hell is the matter with Guam?!" Even today, while I still want to desperately ask myself that, I have a dozen or so ready explainations as to why Guam is the hell like that.

Today I stumbled across yet another glorious poll on the Guam PDN website (http://www.guampdn.com). These polls always seem to exemplify colonization in frustratingly simple ways. One can only marvel at how they are created. Do they sit before a computer, mouths dripping in anticipation of whatever horrifying construction of reality they can come up with next? Do they begin with more honest polls like "should all public school children on Guam just be flown to California for school rather than waste their time here?" or "should the Federal government be in charge of everything on Guam (except the PDN of course, since that would be unnecessary since we pretty much follow their lead anyways)?" and then soften it up to things such as today's poll, "should the Federal Government take over GWA (Guam Water Authority)?"

Robert Underwood was gof magahet when he complained that Guam is sadly unique in the fact that the majority of its people want as much intervention as possible from the Feds, where as most states and all nations would want as little as possible. In Guam however, Federal interference is often seen as the only way that local pathologies and absolute inferiority can be overcome. The light of America's reason is the only thing that can save us from our dark, corrupting cultures. How can anyone without, their chest cavities either collapsing or exploding say that colonization is dead and gone, when these narratives still very much bind us in the way we conceptualize what can and should be done to fix Guam?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fun with Footnotes!

I'm about to have my first actual, official, professional article published in an anthology about feminisms and militarisms. The article is titled "The Exceptional Life and Death of a Chamorro Soldier: Tracing the Militarization of Desire in Guam." I'm pretty excited about it, especially because the editor let me keep all the insane footnotes I write.

Several years ago I wrote an interesting poem titled "My Island is One Big American Footnote," since then all my academic papers or texts have been filled to the brim with sprawling footnotes.

I just wanted to share some of my most recent footnotes, especially since few people ever seem to actually read them (I encountered a strange thing recently, where an academic actually rooted her radicalism in her choice never to read footnotes.). I'm biased of course, but my take on footnotes is that you should always read them, and in fact more closely than the "main" text. In the book Hegemony, Contingency and Universality by Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek, I actually read all the footnotes before every touching the main body of the text.

Three reasons why one should pay careful attention to footnotes. 1. Alot of times, people don't really have the evidence to back up what they are saying, so careful attention to footnotes can help you spot the weak points in their arguments. 2. For those looking to deconstruct a text, the footnotes or notes are a perfect place to start. 3. The author can often times make more important and radical claims in a footnote, precisely because it does not properly belong in the main body of the text.

With that said, here's few of my footnotes from my article:

#5: Patricia Taimanglo Pier, An Exploratory Study of Community Trauma and Culturally Responsive Counseling with Chamorro Clients. (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1998), 151-155. The use of an American inclusive doesn’t quite sit right with me, there are too many discontinuities in Guam and in its relationship to the United States for me to call Chamorros Americans without supplying a book length footnote. Michael Lujan Bevacqua, “These May or May Not Be Americans: The Patriotic Myth and the Hijacking of Chamorro History in Guam, (M.A. Thesis, University of Guam, 2005). Despite enthusiastic admissions of patriotism from Chamorros themselves, the discontinuities are not only difficult, but often impossible to speak around. While eating dinner at Denny’s in Guam with my family, I pointed out to my nephews and niece that all the white people were sitting in at the center tables which are much bigger then the one’s we were at against the wall. My nephew Dylan responded, “Oh I see Uncle Mike, those tables are for the Americans and these tables are for us.”

#28: The images are of course more complex then drive by descriptions such as these can contain. Thousands of Chamorro females are in the military; they are photographed in similar postures and backdrops. How does this either reinforce of complicate dominant discourses? Furthermore, how are matan inosensia, or “faces of innocence” received? What I mean by this are faces such as Jonathan Pangelinan Santos, where the looks directly at the camera, face somewhat level (as opposed to chin up slightly), with hardly a proud smug countenance, but instead an uncertain one. Do they challenge characterizations of these images as masculine or strong? From the meager research that I’ve done into these types of image I find that they perform a powerful patriotic function. With Jonathan Pangelinan Santos for example we see the active creation of a worthy sacrifice and worthy role model, as the language of loyalty intersects between family anecdotes (of the young man not wanting to go, but going anyways) and his young, uncertain, but nonetheless loyal face.

#37: Any discussion about political maturity often drips hypocritically with the infantilization of the other. Those seeking a good example of this need only visit any Senator or Congressional representative office in Washington D.C. and discuss with them Guam’s possibility of becoming a state. If you aren’t completely pandered to or dismissed, then a discussion around unreadiness for that sort of political obligation will take place. Government corruption will be discussed, as will the inability of Guam to become “economical self-sustaining.” Of course what will be gracefully negated from this conversation is any meaningfully mention of any similar inconsistencies within America itself.

#50: Tracing this process can be a fun yet horrifying endeavor. In any positive notion on Guam, one can find a colonizing contestation taking place. On occasions it can be an ignorant yet productive distortion, a mere flipping of chronology. For example, in Spanish times the assertion that Chamorro didn’t have fire prior to contact by Europeans. In American times, this can be produced for example, in a discussion of cleanliness, as most Chamorros will describe the source of clean living as coming from American civilizing and something which didn’t exist prior to that (despite the fact that the cleanliness of Chamorros had been well documented by explorers and government officials for centuries). Most recently I have noticed a shift in the way “family closeness” is discussed. Once a powerful point of departure for Chamorros seeking to create a sense of Chamorroness in contrast to the United States, since September 11th, 2001 in particular this point has been contested constantly as Chamorros attempt to use love of family and family closeness as another way of overcoming the political, historical and social gaps that make Chamorros and Guam as a normal member of the American family untenable.

#56: Diaspora and diaspora discussions are of course the most pressing of all these ways, however such would require a paper in itself. But briefly what such a conversation would begin with would be the eastward movement to the United States and how ideas drastically change and how that dictates what the local can mean in Guam. How does “corruption” change as a Chamorro and their thinking move eastward? How about “family?” Or “respect?” “Culture?” What all this leads to is how the United States as a concept in Guam and often times when Chamorros recreate home in the states functions as a very particular “fantasy space.” One in which colonizing fantasies are played out and joissance imbibed. The United States operates as the place where concepts such as “democracy” “freedom” “fairness” “progress” and so on can be projected and “enjoyed” without the pathological local taint of Guam. Some of the most difficult ideological tasks in Guam are complicating this purity and revealing the inconsistencies of the United States. Much like the unlucky engineer in Patricia Highsmith’s story The Black House, I too have felt the anger of other Chamorros over my attempts to reduce that fantasy space to everyday reality. Zizek, Looking Awry…,8-9.

#57: This example may seem trifling, considering how little votes mean in the United States or its empire. But in reality it does carry a lot of symbolic value, and some of it derives from the pathetic ways that Chamorros and people on Guam are tokenistically placated. For example, people in Guam do cast votes for the President of the United States. These votes are counted and published, but they mean nothing. Guam has no Electoral College votes, so these votes are worth the paper that they are published upon, they mean nothing, except as a tokenistic gesture to feign an inclusion. Similarly, the delegate for the United States Congress from Guam (like the delegates from the other colonies) cannot vote in session, only in committee. At one time however, the delegates were allowed to vote and be counted, but only so long as their votes do not affect the outcome of the vote. So in landslide votes delegates count, but when the vote is close, their votes were taken out of the total.

#69: Zizek discusses how this operates in films such as Beau Geste or Dangerous Liaisons. Zizek, On Belief, 67-70. Another function of the sacrifice which I initially felt might be productive but then dismissed later, is the sacrifice not to cover up the inconsistencies of the other, but to sacrifice precisely to determine whether there is an “other” or not. Semi-Americans are familiar with this as its actualization is “spontaneous citizenship.” The Chamorro who sacrifices to prove that America does really exist is thus “spontaneously” awarded Americaness. The article which I will discuss further down is evidence of this process. The maintaining function of this process is powerful, because even if the other desires attached to the sacrifice aren’t fulfilled, the colonizer is nonetheless humanized as someone who does respond! Who is not just a disinterested colonizer, but someone who cares!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

American Brain Disease

Life is regularly horrifying when you are an American who is not quite American. For those born and raised on Guam, you are prepared from a young age, to be an American. You were probably raised up on American cartoons, movies and most savagely American commercials imported directly from California (I'm still shocked at about how much I knew about places such as Millbrae or San Dimas as a child, because commercials from those cities would be beamed directly to Guam as if we lived there). Whether you like it or not, you have an unavoidable intimacy with the United States, whether you've actually been there or not. After all, you were taught to memorize its capitals in schools, even learn the nicknames of its states (sunshine state, show-me state, golden state, blech kalakas!) and instructed in the importance of a number of its dead white men.

But although you live and breath this need to complete your desire, to find a fullness a completion as to why you were taught these things in school, shown these things on tv, and made to feel that they were important, this desire is never reciprocal. Save for a few orientalist exceptions, there is no desire to complete one's knowledge or yearnings for Guam and Chamorros. People in the United States do not hum the tune to IT&E or Dial Rent to Own jingles. They were not made to learn the village flowers for Piti, Malesso or Mangilao. Nor were they instructed in the importance of Maga'lahi Hurao, Pale' Jose Palomo or Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo.

This is the subtle horror that Chamorros from Guam live with in the United States and seek desperately to cover up and repress.

Most recently, a friend of mine was at the post office mailing a package to Guam. The woman at the counter, unaware that she had any colonies to speak of, asked impolitely, "Guam huh, isn't that where they have that brain disease?"

A shock and awe strike worthy of Donald Rumsfeld. (for those who don't know the brain disease this epidemiological scholar was referring to is litiko bodig, which was a disease highly concentrated in Guam which combines symptoms of dementia and Parkinson's Disease). But of course, strikes such as this take place everyday, across this not so great land. Most Chamorros when slapped with this, find themselves overcompensating in their patriotism and love for the United States as a cushion for this traumatic ignorance and disinterest. This thing, the Chamorro, which has existed for thousands of years, which has a culture, a history, a homeland, and a language has to be squished down and smashed until it becomes not a thing worthy of recognition or acknowledgement outside of the United States, but just another fragile piece of that beautiful multiculturalist puzzle of America. Once this move is naturalized, then this lack of recognition becomes tolerable, because it is now the task of that proud and greatful American Chamorro to educate his fellow Americans about a corner of this multiculturalist wonderland that they haven't had the pleasure of knowing yet. To sum up, when slapped with a pathological and uncarring ignorance such as this, most Chamorros turn themselves into tour guides.

Other Chamorros however brood over this, and its appropriate that they should. The lack of symmetry over things such as this is appalling. To posit a response from my friend to the "brain disease" American, it would go something like this: What I know of you and this country could fill a book, fill a hundred books. But all that is supposed to be me, is apparently me, is contained in that single statement of "brain disease."

For the sake of our people, it is vital that these moments of terror not be used to make more patriotic Chamorro American tour guides. When confronted with an obvious lack of knowledge, respect and reciprocity, our response SHOULD NOT be, "despensa yu', nangga na'ya ya bai hu na'menggua i kettura-hu, pues mas faset para un tungo'." for those of you who don't speak Chamorro, our response shouldn't be, "I'm sorry, allow me to transform my culture into something which will be easier for you to deal with."

This diminishing of cultural possibilities is what I detest about multiculturalist logic. In the United States for example, we do not live in a world full of a multitude of beautiful cultures. We live in a world where a multitude of diminished cultures all reflect the glory of a singular dominant culture. As members of different cultures we are privileged to take a place in subordination to this culture, but nothing more.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Rasheed Wallace Stage


Here's a photo of my with the cornrows I got over the summer. I only had them for about two weeks before my hair started escaping from them and returning to its chaotic self.

There are several reasons for getting my hair done like this (such as my little sister wanted to get some done, but not alone, so we got them together). But there was a more fundamental reason, which is actually pretty ridiculous, which is of course why I'm posting about it here.

How many of you reading this have heard of Rasheed Wallace, the NBA player? Well, for several years there has been mild debate in my family over whether or not I look like Rasheed Wallace. It wasn't really that strange of a thing when it first started, since we all have a habit of calling people names based on people that they seem to look like (for example our brother Cyrus is a big movie star, since Jack calls him Mark Wahlberg and I think he's Heath Ledger).

The debate over whether or not I really looked like Rasheed Wallace would intensify based on whether or not my current hair style was similar to whatever hairstyle Rasheed Wallace was sporting. So during my fro days, I would get called Rasheed Wallace alot around the dinner table and over the phone.

The last time I had seen Rasheed Wallace in a basketball game, he'd had cornrows. So over the summer when the opporunity arose to get some, I decided to once and for all settle whether or not I looked like him.

(For those familiar with Lacan and his work on the image and identity, I am totally aware that this story is almost too perfect at illustrating how identity is fundamentally outside of us, and the forming of the ego is nothing but a traumatic circular movement around this splitness that never ends.)

It only took about forty five minutes, after which my stepdad snapped a couple shots of me such as the one above to show everyone else in the family.

So what was the verdict? I'm pretty sure the consensus was that I don't really look like Rasheed Wallace. Lao ti lalalu yu' yanggen parehu i linekkat-mami.

(Despensa yu', but part of the reason for posting this is just to check to see if the image load function works on my blog)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Adventures in Barbequing

Today was alot of fun. Two of my friends from Guam, Vince and Doreen, (now living in Seattle) flew in to attend a concert in San Diego and somehow or another they ended up turning today into a fiesta day. Last night after they flew in, Vince was already craving some Chamorro food, and started making a list of all the things he wanted to make today. I was freaking out. It was like 1 in the morning and there we were talking about what kind of tatiyas to make, what kind of steak to buy, and suddenly it was decided that we would barbeque up a typhoon the next day.

One problem is, that as a poorly equipped Chamorro I don't have a tanke' or anything, so we had to find a cheap fanunuyan or barbeque. We went to several different stores, shocked to find that the only barbeques that we're being sold, were either tiny ass camping gas stoves or huge gas barbeque grills. It actually took us several hours to find a decently priced, humble little charcoal grill.

For those who don't know, the difference between gas and charcoal grills definitely shows up in taste. Gas grills maybe be easier on the eyes and less mess, but if you use charcoal or wood in your barbequing, it can actually improve the taste. On Guam, tangantangan is a plentiful invasively nasty plant which was sowed after World War II to "cover up" the gaps in the plant landscape which were created by typhoons and the war. As anyone driving around Guam can see, it has taken over many areas, preventing different kinds of trees and plants from growing as well. Tangantangan serves a few purposes, such as feeding livestock, but also great for barbeque. Some of the best kelaguan mannok I've ever had was cooked on a tangantangan fire.

The consensus was of course that we couldn't go gas, but had to stick with charcoal since there's no tangantangan out here (sina guaha, lao ti hu tungo').

So for the first time in my life, I had my own barbeque grill. On Guam, there was never any reason to have my own. Grandpa had one. My cousins have their own. Even the offices at the University of Guam sometimes have their own grills. It was definitely a special day, made more special by the feast we cooked up.

We put that thing to good use on its first day, barbequing flank steak and beef short ribs (marinated Chamorro style, hmmm gof mannge), and then chicken for kelaguan and even corn on the cob. Vince even made tatiyas and fina'denne' from scratch, as well as banna fritters and hineksa' aga'ga'.

The cooking took a while, and it was strange doing it all on a weekday too, since out here this stuff only happens on weekends, if they ever happen at all. But it was nonetheless an important experience for me.

Several weeks ago I attended the Mangilao fiesta here in San Diego, and spent some time talking with my Tiha Janice about the Chamorro social club down here, The Sons and Daughters of Guam Club, and how we could best make use of it to reach out to our people and in particular our youth. Throughout the United States, but in particular on the West Coast in California and Washington, very concrete social networks have been established by Chamorros and these fiestas become very organized, very huge and very delicious affairs. But one look at the people in the kitchen and those replacing the dishes at the tables, will tell you that those who are supporting these events are middle age to manamko' age Chamorros. What will happen to these networks as this people pass on? Will Chamorros my age, be able to continue these events and maintain these networks in this way (cooking, organizing) or will these events become evidence of the social mobility that we have (supposedly) attained? That we don't have to cook for these things, or organize them, all we have to do is pay for them?

My Tiha Janice had a great idea, and that was to write up an education grant where young Chamorros would apprentice under different people in the Sons and Daughters Club. Where they would assist in the organizing as well as be taught how its done. How to make the food, how to plan the events, etc. A wonderful idea, and it was with this in mind, that I spent most of the day cooking with my friends. Knowing full well that in time it will be my turn to assist in providing space and events where our families and people can maintain ties and stay connected, and so I better start practicing my barbequing and preparing for fiestas.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Japanese Characters

I'm looking for anyone out there in cyberspace who can read Japanese characters.

Here's the reason why.

Last week, I had an amazing night with this one girl. I cooked her dinner, we made bonelos aga' together, and then we painted a painting together. It was the most fun I'd had in a long time.

Before we started painting I asked her if she made any art. She said just caligraphy. I said that I've always admired people who can do that, because I suck the worst in the world at it. We decided to paint a background together, and then she would write Japanese caligraphy on top of it.

We made a beautiful background together, but when it came time to write something on it, this girl wasn't sure what to write. I told her, she could write whatever she wanted, in fact she wouldn't have to tell me what it meant. She agreed and after testing out some drawings in her notebook, she wrote some beautiful characters on our painting.

At first, I was content not to know what the characters were. But days later, I find myself thinking more and more about this girl, and naturally more and more about the characters. What had she written?

For those unfamaliar with my social inabilities, I find it impossible to tell when someone is attracted to me. If a girl hit me on the head and yelled at me, "I'm in love with you!" I would sit there and ponder hysterically, "what could she mean by that?" "What did she mean by love?" "When she said "you" was she referring to me?" Not a very fun life, and something which makes dates and dating insane experiences at best.

To tell you the truth, I had no idea whether this evening was even a date or not. But regardless, I really like this girl, and so I have this hope that she liked me too and to this end, I have this fantasy that somehow she expressed her affection for me in this text that I was never supposed to read.

So if anyone out there is willing to try and do some translation for me, I would really appreicate it. Email me and I'll send you a photo of the painting.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Pinagat put Pas - Peace Lecture

Here is the text for a lecture that my friend Fanai Castro gave earlier this year at the Forum for Peace, Human Rights and Environment earlier this year in Japan. There have been alot of incredible statements this year, made by Chamorros who are attempting to situate ourselves and what we mean in global conversations about things such as war and human rights.

Recently another friend of mine Julian Aguon testified before the United Nation about the decolonization of Guam and made some similar stirring points. I am very proud to be a part of this generation, who are obviously fighting for Chamorros and Guam (and the Marianas), but do not see this fight as being here alone, but very much connected to a more global struggle.

I'm glad that there are people such as Fanai and Julian and others who are doing that work, because, although I know what needs to be done (at least I'm always told that this is what needs to be done), I'm still far to ethnocentric to be of any use in the forming of allainces and coalitions.

Anyways, estague i pinagat, osino siempre bai fatta' yu' mas.



in tina in tina i manmatao
in tina i manmatao
in tina i manmofo’na na taotao
in tina i manmofo’na na tao tao
i man matao
i manmofo’na na taotao


I am a Native daughter to the island of Guahan, from the Matao Archipelago, known to the Western world as the Mariana Islands. My bloodline is from these islands, and from these islands, I exist.

We in Oceania are home to vast, interconnected cultures living through an odd paradox: we are sites of violent conquest and strategic positionality, we are witness to the unjust; wars waged in the name of peace and democracy, ending in bloodshed and brutality. Our people have long suffered under the yoke of imperialist occupation, subjugation, and mass manipulation. We have endured over four hundred years of colonialism. Today we still endure, as the colonial project of invade and plunder continues its destructive course.

Viewed as a mythical paradise inhabited by small groups of island tribes void of any true “civilization,” Oceania has become a preferred setting for the nuclear activities of arrogant nations. From north to south—Hawai’i, the Marshall Islands and the Marianas to Aboriginal Australia, Fangataufa and Moruroa—our lands have been mined for uranium and dumped with chemical wastes, our environments endlessly exploited and bombed in military training exercises. In striving for peace, many of us have found ourselves speaking out against war.

Today we stand in demonstration not only for a peaceful world, but also for a world united in the cause of Justice.

From the tragic events of 9/11 the global corporate war machine emerged and has indeed grown worldwide, advancing privatization on a massive scale. In the lucrative industry of war and with the use of military force to safeguard economic assets, multinational corporations reveal to us that life is expendable as long as profits can be made. And as war has proven to be an economic cash machine, the Empire, these days, grows fatter. Where I am from, post-9/11 has exposed the true intentions of an elite group of businessmen, the Guam Chamber of Commerce (COC), to “develop” our infrastructure and increase US military presence for their profit. The COC relentlessly negotiates business deals with the US military and US war corporations. They market our island to the US Congress, lobbying for more troops, more aircraft carriers, more jets, more submarines. Selling off our island resources, the perpetually money-hungry COC even negotiates with government officials, claiming to have the best interests of our people in mind. Many elected officials remain silent to these injustices; blinded by short-term gains, they have bought into the false notion that a greater military presence will strengthen our economy.

It seems they have forgotten the legacy that imperialism has left throughout our islands.

When the US returned to our island1in 1945 for what many had hoped would be the ending of a war era, the military began an immediate and immense base expansion. Lands were condemned for military recreation and use, disconnecting many Chamoru not only from our ancestral heritage, but also the foundation on which to nurture future generations. Thousands of tons of chemicals were stored on our island, and when they were no longer needed by the military, these chemicals were dumped in our oceans and wetlands or simply buried in the ground. Using the whole of the northwestern pacific as a staging area for “strategic interests,” the military began testing nuclear weapons in our waters. Of more than 150 documented testings in Oceania, 67 nuclear bombs were exploded in the Marshall Islands, with much of the fallout scattering throughout the Pacific and drifting towards our island on winds and in ocean currents. The radiation poisoning we have experienced has resulted in birth defects and cancers, and today many of our people are still unaware of the extent of contamination, or that they were even contaminated in the first place. The strategic importance of our island to the US has kept us separated from our sister islands in the Northern Marianas and from Micronesia as a whole. In the name of imperial war and conquest, coming generations have been dispossessed of a homeland.

For those of us engaged in the movement for peace and justice, the tasks that lie ahead are daunting. Contrary to popular belief, Oceania is still under the heavy hand of imperial projects. Using the excuse of “global security,” they continue to exploit our resources for multinational and military ends. In this post-9/11 world, the US military has stepped up its efforts to expand military installations in the Pacific. At a recent BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment) meeting held in California, the COC and a few elected officials, including our governor and nonvoting US congress representative, testified in support of military buildup and lobbied for the presence of more military on our island. They claim that this is what the people desire. Meanwhile on Guahan, preparations are being made to accommodate an increasing number of military personnel. Plans are underway to dredge Apra Harbor for the “home porting” of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines; bases are being primed for fortification; hangars built to house bombers, igloos constructed to store weapons of mass destruction; fighter squadrons are regularly rotated in our area; helicopters fly day and night, along with bombers, fighter jets, cargo planes; covert military “training” exercises are routinely conducted. In its never-ending fight against “terrorism,” the US military terrorizes the people of my homeland. For those of us engaged in justice, the work that lies ahead is indeed daunting. Throughout our Pacific region, a post-9/11 climate that is blind in its “patriotism” and apathy allows these injustices to continue, and has allowed even the crashing of a US nuclear-powered submarine in our waters to go relatively unchallenged. And with this, I would like to echo the words attributed to a noble Chamoru chief: we are stronger than we think.

Many of us are beginning to organize throughout the region, and there is a growing number of support for our endeavors. Our people in the Asia/Oceania region are coming to realize that the ends of true peace cannot be attained through the means of unjust war. Despite the constraints of “national” borders and government bureaucracies we are beginning to make the connections across a vast Ocean. We have witnessed the destruction and deterioration of our lands, our livelihoods, our cultures, and our health. It was from our sister island of Tinian that the atomic and hydrogen bombs, little boy and fat man, were stored and it was to Hiroshima and Nagasaki that they made their final destinations. It was from our island of Guahan (Guam) that the 143 members of the 315th Bomb Wing were set to fly the “Last Mission” six days after Nagasaki was struck by the second atomic bomb.

Let us not be fooled into thinking that we can remain isolated from the violence that has been unleashed in other parts of the world, for the war that each and every one of us today must overcome is of a spiritual nature. It is a choice between remaining silent or speaking out, in whatever ways we can, about the violence and destruction that we are made to live through on a daily basis. The banner under which we must strive to attain Justice must be that of UNITY, held high by each and every one of us committed to a better world. Let us continue the work of coalition building for peace. For, together, we are one loud voice. In solidarity, we must declare to the fighting factions, to the imperial nations that seek to control every aspect of our lives, that we do not support the destruction of earth and her children, and that we will no longer be persecuted by the their brutal wars. Let us commit ourselves to working for a sustainable future, one that will ensure the long-term survivability of generations to come. With one unified voice, we must finally put an end to the violence that consumes our world today. The opposite of war is not peace, it is creativity. War inhibits our ability to create, to commune with Greatness at a higher, more spiritual level. To combat war, we must continually find ways to be creative, spending our energies and resources not only for peace, but also for the love and well being of humanity. We need to focus on nurturing our spiritual life, creating the great change within.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Let's Chat in Chamorro about Hindi Movies Part 4

Miget: Hoi primu, hafa tatamanu hao?

Jofis: Maolek todu che'lu. Ya hagu? Maolek todu lokkue?

Miget: Hunggan che'lu. Matto yu' ginnen umegga' i kachido Salaam Namaste. Kao gauha un egga'?

Jofis: Hunggan lai, esta, gi i ma'pos na simana. Humami yan i nobia-hu.

Miget: Ya kao ya-mu?

Jofis: Hmmm, bei fa'anboku'i hao, ti siguru yu'.

Miget: Sa' hafa?

Jofis: Sa' ti sesso taiguihi nai i kachidon Hindi.

Miget: Hafa kumekeilek-mu?

Jofis: Umbre, esta un tungo' debi di. Lana. Hunggan mana'halom i binaila yan i kinanta, lao follow i estoria nai. Desde naihon na ma fa'estoria este na klasin estoria?

Miget: Kumekuentos hao put i minapotge' sanhiyong inakkamo' yan nai ma na'hongge hit na Preity pau pokka' i patgon-na.

Jofis: Enague lai. Gof grabu este na kachido achokka' gaige lokkue i binaila yan i kinanta.

Miget: Lana, hu komprende todu este siha, lao ti hu kompreprende sa' hafa un laisen i finaisen-hu. Kao ya-mu i kachido?

Jofis: Hekkua' lai. Este na klasin kachido fihu ma yalaka todu i siniente giya Guahu. Pues ti hu tungo' hafa hu siesiente.

Miget: Lao, yanggen ti ma na'halom i patte siha put minapotge yan pinekka', ya-mu siempre?

Jofis: Ahe' lai, ti simple taiguenao. Hafa mismo mas ya-hu gi este na kachido, enao na problema siha.

Miget: Lana dei.

Jofis: Subres lai ekungok. Mas tengga gi i kachidon Hindi, ma fa'nu'i hit hafa maloffan ginnen nai umasodda' i amantes asta ma asagua i dos. Lao gi este na kachido, ti ma fa'nu'i hit i kasamiento. Instead ma fa'nu'i hit i triniste yan i minappot gi inakkamo' (kalang i otro na mubi Saathya), yan ma focus gi guinaiya sin inakkamo' (achokka' gi i finakpo' ma konfotme na u ma asagua.)

Miget: Hmm, pa'go hu komprende sa' hafa ti un oppe i finasien-hu. Achokka' hu egga' gui' lokkue, ti siguru yu' pa'go hafa hinassosso-ku. Ai adai, si yu'us ma'ase para taya'.

Jofis: Taya' guaha. Ha!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

taimamahlao na promotion alert

For those who don't already know, B4K is the working title of a comic book that me and my two brothers, Jack and kuri (Jeremy) are working on. The artwork for issue one is almost complete, thanks to Jack's diligence and discipline. The words for the first three issues have already been written, thanks to my inability to pay attention to the professor or discussion in class, and preference to work on my own things instead.

So now, begins the period of shameless free promotion. I post about the comic on my blog and already about half a dozen people have given me their emails and expressed interest in learning more about it and purchasing it. One guy emailed me, excited about it, asking if I could tell him stores in his area where he could find it.

Patience. As we're still in the early stages, our production cycle is ridiculous (months upon months). Plus since we have no publisher except for ourselves (as yet), we make our own deadlines, which is a frightening thought, since I procrastinate over everything, and thus with no deadline to procrastinate towards, I constantly have this ambiguous feeling that I'm not doing my work, but that its okay, since the Onibocho (tinaga') which hovers over my head is being held by myself.

Those of you who receive regular emails from me, might also notice another shameless promotion. Beneath the link where I encourage people to come to my blog ("hoi, check out my blog fan!"), there is now another note, which teases the existence of B4K. Here's the text:

COMING SOON - B4K -
A Pump Fake Nation/ Panopticomix Production

Pictures: Jack Lujan Bevacqua
Words: Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Ankas: Jeremy "kuri" Bevacqua


Its nothing big, but if anything it'll force me to throw together some web presence for the comic, so I can actually put a link there as well, instead of an odd and potentially meaningless "coming soon" notice.

If you are wondering who are these groups doing the producing. Pump Fake Nation is my brother Jack's imprint, while Panopticomix is mine. In reality, neither of these imprints exist in the legal commercial sense, but are just the things we've always wanted to name our imprints if they ever did come into existence.

For those who don't know what the word ankas means, its a Chamorro word which basically means "freeloader." Our mas hoben na che'lu Si Kuri is attached to our project, but as he is still in high school, he is usually too busy being socially disciplined and conditioned to do much. He says he'll make a website for the project, but I'm not so sure that'll ever happen. What I'm hoping to get him to do is something both me and Jack loathe the prospect of doing, lettering.

As I've posted before, as time goes on, we'll be ready to release more details on the comic itself. As for what genre it might be part of, it contains all the creative influences in me and my brothers' lives. So there are elements of white fantasy (European warrior traditions) as well as warrior traditions from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Pacific. Because of the world that we've cretaed, these different motiffs from across history and across the world can exist together. The framework of the world and characters however isn't traditional comic lore, but is instead based on my readings of psychoanalytical texts by Slavoj Zizek and Jacques Lacan. Therefore pyschosis, madness, the frying of memories, the use of fantasy to cushion trauma, the fundamentally splitness of each subject, these are all parts of the story and the world. But at the same time, the stories are intended to be socially critical, to make political statements about certain issues. Although at times, it might be very difficult to "get" exactly what is being said, that is exactly what I am intending to do, to make those points in a way that's hopefully different then the way they are usually made. Whether or not we can actually pull it off, I don't know, but it is definitely fun to just try it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Flightplan

Ever since I began writing B4K with me and my brothers, I've been paying more and more attention to how stories are told and the conventions that dictate their readability.

Because of the nature of the world that B4K takes place in, I'm trying as much as possible to avoid the traditional ways comics are structured, stories told and even how worlds operate. Its difficult however, as too often when you are creating a narrative, you'll find yourself adding in certain things, or altering things to match some expectations of how a story is told.

For example, too often in Hindi movies one gets the feeling that one or two songs are "extra" that they were added in, not to ehance the plot, but merely to fill the space in order to meet the "conventional" number of songs in a Hindi movie. But then, in some directors films, such as Nasin Hussain's, the style dictates certain elements in certain places, such as an outrageous over the top fight scene right before the film's last minutes.

Ultimately, the form in which something is made, is never nuetral. Whether or not one picks a genre, one will ultimately be subject to specific ideologies of interpretation and understanding. We can define these ideologies, based on how we anticipate what certain things will mean from their place in film. For example, the creaking of a door opening, will mean something different if its in a horror movie, a comedy or a porno movie.

But of course, these expectations often go beyond the form themselves, but into the very representations themselves. One could refer to this as stereotyping, but by using that term, you would just be stereotyping these forms of representations. It goes far deeper than just superficial images, these expectations can be intricate, beautiful, artistically intense, and still follow a very obvious logic.

For example, stories of Ancient Chamorro life all tend to reproduce the same events and meaning. A beautiful, simple people, living as one with nature, yet all the stories that I have come across emphasis the same basic narrative, that of the fall from this native state, as symbolized by a heroic death (most notably the story of I dos amantes, or the two lovers who jumped from a cliff together). Is there no other way of portraying this period of time? Why do artists and writers consistently to this type of narrative, which re-enacts the death of the Chamorro, and thus like The Passion, says its intent is one thing, but in reailty communicates a far different message (for Chamorros, the message becomes an obsession with this death, which prevents an obsession with life from taking place (thus perpetuating the same old narratives)).

Most recently I saw the movie Flightplan, from which a discussion about one logic of strong female characters can be discerned. I wanted to watch the film, because of a similar movie that came out last year The Forgotten. Both of them, deal with hysterical mothers, who lose a child, which everyone around them says does not exist. I was intrigued when another movie came out which had the same basic narrative impossible twist and so decided that if this was I trend, I should try to follow it. Both films portray strong female roles, whose strength is derived from their maternal bond, which refuses to give into social reality, but instead clings to something which is dead and disconnected, because the social refuses to recognize that it existed. My question after watching both films was, does this type of strong role, require that hyper hysterical moment, where the woman can only be thought of as hopelessly delusional? Without intentionally attempting to avoid this very critique, could this character be created without a stop-over in psychosis?

But these sorts of limitations take on all forms. In film noir for example, the trajectory of the femme fatale is often times the same. For most of the film she is an aggressive, manipulating and powerful woman, before whom the protagonist is just putty to be pawned. At some point in the narrative this woman, who at one point was so powerful and controlling is broken down, and she is revealed to be nothing more than a thing manipulated by something other man, who is either impotent or hidden away. One can find similar stories with female warriors in martial arts movies. Where the price of being a strong warrior, who exceeds her role, is usually her death or humiliation.

Inakkamo'

Gi i kachidon Hindi na'na-na Masti, ilek-na un taotao,

"gof mangge' inakkamo', sa' ti sina put minagof ha' lina'la'."

Hinasso-ku put este, sa' sinangani yu' as ga'chong-hu na esta umasagua Si Zizek. Lao nai ma akonfotme i des (dos) na u sumiha asta i finakpo' i langhet, ma sangan lokkue na "gof baba este na kosa, inakkamo'. Taya' gi lina'la' ni' mas baba yan mala kinu este."

Hmmm, kumekeilek-na bula put todu i lina'la'-ta siha esta na dos na sinangan.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Calling all Zizeks

I'm currently in my second year of my Ph.D. program in Ethnic Studies at University of California, San Diego. Its a very good program in my opinion, but for some reason or another over the past year, we've had a mad rush of faculty out of the program. This year we've got two searches for new faculty positions, one being a critical gender studies hire, the other being a social theory hire.

There have been discussions throughout the department about what kind of person they'd like to bring in, what kind of work, etc. One of my friends in the program emailed me "ask Zizek to apply here."

I of course cracked up at the thought of that, and more so because I was actually considering it.

For those of you who don't know, Slavoj Zizek is my patron saint of annoying scholarship. His work is what I use most in my own work. Sometimes to make really really important points, but other times, just to piss people off. Some people call his work dense and detached, but I see it as extremely political, especially with regards to avoiding as one of my friends calls it "the state of here we go again" which marks so much contemporary "critical" work.

I have an email which is supposed to be Zizek's email, but I've never gotten any response from it (maybe I am asking the wrong questions, who knows). But I learned recently that there are alot of Zizek posers out there on the net, who post as him and email as him. So unless I get like an institutional email, chances are slim that it'll actually be him I'm getting in touch with (although I also heard that his email is supposed to be deceptively simple, like zizek@yahoo.com or zizek@hotmail.com (maybe I should just mass mail out to zizek @ anything.com))

After googling around for a while, I wondered. As a theoretical rock star, would Zizek still trawl or google around the internet on his own, or would he have tentago' who do it for him? Could I anticipate the things that he would be googling and then possibly arrange a list of terms in a post on my blog which would show up during his search?

I started searching through the terms that I know from his work, but then realized, why would he be searching for terms and things that he's already written on (except to see how they are being used and abused)? Wouldn't he be searching for things for his current modes of thinking? More funky evidence, anecdotes, slips and jokes?

I started focusing on most recent texts of Zizek's that I'm familiar with Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, his foreword to the new edition of They Know Not What They Do, and his interview in Rex Butler's Zizek Live (which is of course exactly the same as parts of Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle).

So if this was the case, then would be be searching for things on the third world and language (relating to psychosis)? Ways people are utilizing Antigone? Stories on the favelas or similar potentially subversive political communities or units? Or how about more critiques of Hardt and Negri and Empire? Or more ways of attacking the muffling of psychoanalysis and the reductionist tendencies of its proponents when dealing with politics and race? Or how about the critical value of science fiction movies? Or more ways of forming oppositional movements against American (and possibly Chinese) hegemony?

Anyways, I have no idea. I'm still trying to put a list together. No doubt, getting a hold of his most recent book to be published this or next month would help.

Would Zizek come to California anyways? To an Ethnic Studies program? I know he was here (or was supposed to be here) recently for a Lacan conference in San Francisco. But would he come here to work? Derrida did it, so did Foucault and Baudrillard. Or maybe the fact that they came would be a good enough reason not to come here. If one wants California, you should probably just watch movies or tv, you might get a better sense of it, then if you actually came here.

So if anyone has Zizek's email or would like to pretend to be Zizek, get in touch with me and I'll pass along the job description.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Angels carrying savage weapons

Returning to my last post, this verse (which I got from the film The Prophecy) is one of the strangest from the Bible.

"Even now in Heaven there were angels carrying savage weapons."

Hafa kumekeilek-na este? Kao kumekeilek-na Si Santo Paul na debi di manluhan hit nu i Si Yu'us yan i tentago'-na siha? Sa' achokka' guaha un bandan guinaiya gi as Yu'us, guaha lokkue un bandan ni' savage, yan tinaklalu?

The interesting part of course (as one poster kindly pointed out to me) is that its probably not actually in the Bible. But in response to the questions (would you really want to meet an Angel?) opened up by the movie, one might almost expect (along the lines of my last post) that it would be there. Precisely because it would lead us down the road of thinking out these things which remain unthought. Regardless of whether or not it is really in the Bible, it still plays a descriptive role in fleshing out those unthought, but very much felt questions about faith and religion.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Cruel Angel's Thesis

I'm planning on writing some more on Evangelion, so just to start off I thought I'd post the lyrics to its main title song.

Part of the reason why I'm posting this is because I've just finished watching the film, The Prophecy. A very interesting concept. Definitely explores the underside of Christian mythology (and not underside like, The Da Vinci Code style) which I will not read completely until AFTER I've seen the movie). The appeal of its concept is similar no doubt to the appeal of Preacher comics. It either stains something which is supposedly be unstainable ("wait! I thought Gabriel was the light of the lord's sky who watches over me while I pray at night! [sniff] [sniff]) or it in a way completes something which demands to be completed.

Dore's plates for The Divine Comedy kind of hint at this. While the Paradiso sections are glorious and beautiful to look at, the bodies themselves demand something more. Do these bodies sit there, waiting for the end of our world alone? Does this entire universe truly sit in wait for what happens here on earth? While no doubt appealing in a Star Trek kind of way (Q episodes in particular, where there is a flurry of statements like "man alone in the universe" or "of all the creatures in the universe, man alone..."), it is unsatisfactory for despite any pleas to man's greatest, the fundamental religious trauma that we live with is that, as Martin Luther (kind of) said, rather than man being God's greatest creation, man is the shit that fell out of God's ass.

This is probably why Dante had it in mind that upon reaching a certain level, speech would no longer be used, but instead people would mentally communicate, thus washing the heavenly bodies of the stain or imperfection which language always leaves (and modernist thinkers such as John Locke labored to contain). But the bodies themselves, remain, and mark this heaven as something which is not truly beyond us. And so therefore we secretly desire the gossip of this world, the fueding that no doubt takes place, or more so the jealousy that arises. Far from men taking jealous glee in this Empyrean of angels and stars waiting for them, there is a far more perverse and therefore potentially enjoyable experience in having angels fume and stew over how they who were once above all else, now sit beneath us, who are as Christopher Walken says in The Prophecy, "monkeys." This is the object that sits at the center of both The Prophecy and Preacher, basically the opposite of NERV's mantra from Evangelion, "god is not in heaven, and all is right with the world."

An interesting tangent, but anyways, here's the lyrics:


The Cruel Angel's Thesis

Like an Angel without a sense of mercy
Rise young boy to the heavens as a legend

Cold winds, as blue as the sea
Tear open the door to your heart
But unknowing you seem, just staring at me
Standing there smiling serenely
Desperate for something to touch
A moment of kindness like that in a dream
Your innocent eyes as yet have no idea
Of the path your destiny will follow

But someday you'll become aware of
Everything that you've got behind you
Your wings are for seeking out
A new future that only you can search for

The cruel angel's thesis bleeds
Through a portal like your pulsing blood
If you should betray the chapel of your memories
The cruel angel will enter the window of your soul

So, boy, stand tall and embrace the fire of legend
Embrace the universe like a blazing star!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Acts of Decolonization

Since I came to the states a few years ago to start my graduate program and a career as an "academic" I've often experienced a big disconnect when it comes to dealing with academics from the United States. This isn't to say that the disconnect is total or absolute, a sheer and insurmountable abyss, but its given me mixed feelings about the work I do here. When I try to discuss Guam's status and how it cannot be accounted for within the nation (at least not in any neat or clean way), people nonetheless find ways of recycling it back into it.

For example, most recently in one of my seminars, when I was discussing decolonization in Guam, one of my classmates decided to use South Korea to discuss her problems with my ideas of decolonization and colonization. Comparing places is fine, but South Korea and Guam have not just completely different historical and contemporary relationships with the United States, but very different statuses today. Using that example, or any similar ones tends to obliterate any point I was trying to make.

Similarly, most academics that I have met in this country, although they may consider themselves to be the most critical people in the room, have trouble with the term decolonization itself. When they hear it, they tend to assume, no matter what your argument is, that for you decolonization is a zero-sum game, where your goal is to expunge your land, country, colony, whatever, or all traces of the colonizer, thus attempting to recapture that precolonial moment, and the indigenous people that you once were. I reiterate, that regardless of what your argument is, this is the argument that is generally imposed on you. (the reason is probably because even if you're a person of color or a super smart scholar, unless you are careful you will tend to make critiques on behalf of the nation, whether you like it or not, and regardless of how "trans-national" you say you are.)

In reality very few decolonization movements have that character. Very very few wish to return to that precolonial movement and in fact tend to be more obsessed with being the greatest modern nation they can be, which means doing a Grimm's move on their history and culture, nationalizing it as part of the nation-building process. Needless to say, neither of these is my point when I say decolonization. Considering how many arguments I get into, or how many people I meet who function as little more than brick walls in discussions on these topics, I decided that it might be a good idea to try and put down on paper my thoughts and conceptions of what decolonization is for today, most specifically with regards to Guam.

Decolonization is defined through displacement. It is not so much a ridding the land of all American traces, because this assumes a fixing of meaning, and that Guam is easily divided into categories of being, meaning and source and that they don't so much change as are either vaporized, removed or forgotten. So therefore under this thinking, decolonization would mean, getting rid of all the American flags, getting rid of education, getting rid of the government, cars, concrete houses, etc, blah blah. But on the contrary, these meanings are never fixed, but constantly battled over. The perceived source of an object is what gives it power in the colonial space and how an object is connected or chained to other objects. (given this language, J.D. Crutch's pula i kadena i korason-hu, ya sotta yu', can be thought of as a decolonization song).

Different objects, institutions, concepts, words, images, people, all of these things are battled over constantly in Guam, as to how their meaning will be made to mean and thus what will constitute the forces that hegemonize or create common sense connections and narratives. As I wrote recently in a paper, family closeness was a concept which was constantly invoked to reflect something positively Chamorro in contrast to American china'gue put familia, but in recent years, in particular since 9/11, the battle of this concept has shifted from a contrast, to a beautiful connecting image, which binds Chamorros and Americans through their shared love of family, thus in comparision to earlier times, hijacking it from Guam.

Decolonization would not be to evict this concept from Guam, but instead contest it and fight over its meaning and source. According to Slavoj Zizek, we never speak directly of an object, never really describe it, but always speak of it, to contest something we perceive to be a competing description (the examples he uses are the Shark from Jaws and the Jew in European history).

Decolonization are thus particular interventions into the hegemonic struggle which seek to contest the fixing of certain images, groups and concepts to certain elements, thereby releasing otherwise repressed or excluded potential. But, one could argue that my previousstatement is all that the hegemonic struggle is, thus this description doesn't create any particularity to this concept which would require naming it something different.

What makes decolonization different however, is that it is a statement meant not just to displace or change the circle of meaning around the object, but also to change and refocus the terrain over which the objects exists and the battle for hegemony takes place. Decolonization is an attempt to shift the battle from there (US) to here (Guam), to change contingent basis upon which statements can be made, should be made, and will reflect once they are made.

I can already hear people clamor that its an impossible, unworkable distinction, to divide Guam and US like that is to reduce decolonization to that all or nothing game. This reaction is of course one of the most fundamental hegemonic points in Guam, which of course keeps the game from not being played out locally, or not even trying. This task is meant to be impossible, and thus not meant to be tried. Those who are being overtly critical of me in this regard, do not factor into account the fact that impossible should not be interpretted as something which shouldn't be tried, or something which would not have effects or successes. (Impossible is a concept and word which must be explored more, because it is too often used strategically to deter, whereas I would rather attempt the impossible task of making it enable.)

Decolonization is therefore an attempt to change the hegemonic battle in such a way that something outside of the established limits, something namely outside of or beyond the limits of the United States and its perceived influences and objects in Guam. Thus making it so that Guam can sit at the center of the hegemonic battle, and thus the battle take place in the interests of Guam and not the United States. The basic move of colonization in Guam was i mabokbok or the uprooting of the Chamorro imaginary, so that this battle would take place across the Pacific and ultimately always fall on the side of the United States.

Given the framework I've described here, acts of decolonization or at least attempts are taking place all the time. One of the problems however, is how this important impulse to imagine something outside of or beyond the United States, too often finds itself redistributed back into that nationalizing hegemonic battle. For example, the easiest way to constitute a subject outside of the United States is to resort to anthropology and the precolonial pure native, and thus attempt to reinvent that subject. Acts that follow this logic do assert a native image, a Chamorro, but they do not refocus the hegemonic terrain. Obviously a contestation takes place, in that the source of the Chamorro is attempted to be altered by asserting a presence/essence that predates the United States and Spain in Guam. But the gaze which makes the statement is not challenged, in fact it is eagerly embraced. The ego ideal for the Chamorro remains that of the United States. But now it is no longer Uncle Sam the benevolent liberator patriarch who wants you to be American, but now Uncle Sam the Anthropologist, who wants you to be a friendly native.

Thus the focus of decolonization is to shift the imagination of Chamorros to Guam first and the United States second. For example, the very high numbers of Chamorros serving in the military, the great love and acceptance of 1/3 of Guam being under American military control, and the great love and accomodation for the United States military, especially in terms of government rhetoric (at least Carl Guiterrez had a soundtrack for his administration (EXCEL) other than Uncle Sam Sam, My Dear Uncle Sam, Won't You Please Come Back to Guam), all of these things indicate the ways in which the United States is imagined first, then Guam as an effect of that. If such was not the case, then there would probably at least be more questions about Guam's relationship to the United States, in particular its military. But sadly there are not, and decolonization in one vein, must be about releasing the potential through hegemonic struggle, where those questions can emerge.

The Militaristic Knot

Came across this today. The issue of military service is one of the most vital yet impossible points which those seeking decolonization must attack or at least irritate. Military service provides a crucial role in naturalizing certain statements, ideas, relationships and beliefs in Guam, whether it be Guam's dependency on the United States (similar to the NYT article a few months ago), Guam's love for the United States (as evidenced concretely through the higest recruitment statistics in the country!) and Guam's central value as anything in this world, as a bsae for the military operations and fantasies of the United States (we are doing our part! ("our part" always seems to be providing a base for military operations and fantasies))

**************

Guam has high recruit rate
by Ryota Dei
Pacific Daily News
October 9, 2005

Jaelin Sanchez said joining the U.S. Navy is "the way to go" after graduating from Guam International Christian Academy in May.
"There are so many things I want to do," the 18-year-old Mongmong resident said. "Plus I need the workout ... I want to travel. I want to meet different people and live in different countries. I want to discipline myself because I really need it. I want to be more independent."
The nation's military recruiters have experienced a big slump in the last fiscal year. However, Guam's sons and daughters continue to show a strong interest in military jobs.
In the past few years, the island's recruitment numbers exceed quotas set by the Department of Defense.
An Associated Press report states the Army has experienced one of its worst recruitment slumps in fiscal year 2005 by missing its enlistment goal by the largest margin since 1979.
The federal government has been seeking to enlarge the Army in order to supply enough soldiers to support its overseas engagements, including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Army was only able to recruit about 73,000 in fiscal year 2005, a shortfall of 7,000 enlistees from its goal, according to the report.
The Washington Post also reported the Marine Corps fell short of its monthly recruiting quota in January for the first time in a decade.
Both reports state that the rising death polls of soldiers in the Middle East has put a damper on eagerness to join the military. Also, a strong national economy has created more career options besides joining the military.
But on Guam, the Army has recruited 253 active duty soldiers in fiscal 2005, which exceeds the goal of 238 recruits. The U.S. Coast Guard also has surpassed the fiscal 2005's goal of 22 by recruiting 40.
Ladonna Castro said raised self-discipline, good salaries and benefits and travel opportunities are three main reasons for joining the Army.
"They have good medical plans -- medical and dental insurance. And the pay is good," said the 24-year-old woman from Rota. " It pays me way better than jobs I can get in Rota."
Edward Galvez, 25, also seeks better salaries and benefits.
As a son of an immigrant family from the Philippines, Galves said he couldn't find a better paying job than the military. Galves had worked at a gasoline service station and a construction site. Despite his degree in computer science both jobs paid him barely more than the minimum wage.
"I couldn't find any jobs that pay well. That's my only reason to join the military," he said. "It's kind of hard to be separated from family. But it was my decision."
Willie Pizarro, the Navy's recruiter-in-charge, said a recruiter in the mainland usually recruits one person a month. However, a recruiter on Guam averages about twice that.
Pizarro said one of the main reasons why Guam has a better recruitment average is that the military can satisfy young people's financial and travel ambitions.
"The economy is a little low here on Guam. Also there are not many jobs that pay them well. That's why young people tend to be attracted to the military," he said. "Also, in the states, people can travel to anywhere. But Guam is an island. Traveling options are very limited."
Sgt. 1st Class Eugene Pereira, the Army Recruiting Station commander, said the strong recruitment on Guam stems from patriotism.
"It's a history. I always felt that there's always an appreciation for the U.S.," he said. "There are a lot of families on Guam who have some type of experience with the military."
Gary Apatang, 18, is the youngest male in a family of three boys and six girls. His brothers have been stationed in Korea, and Apatang joined his school's JROTC program. He is leaving to Hawaii for an Army training camp today.
"I want to be independent," he said. "I really want to start my life in a proper way."
Despite high local recruitment numbers, Army Recruiter Pereira said it's still not an easy job.
"We don't have people knocking on the doors and telling us, 'Hey I want to join now.' We don't have people calling in and saying 'Hey, I'm coming down now,'" Pereira said. "We still have to go out there. But because of the history and the military influence in the family, a lot of kids today just need guidance. That's what we offer -- guidance. Once somebody opens a door for them, they take advantage of it."

Pinagat Si Al Gore

Published on Thursday, October 6, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
American Democracy in TroubleIt is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse
Keynote Speech by Al Gore
We Media Conference in New York, NY
October 5, 2005

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?
I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.

At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?

On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"

The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next re-election campaign.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists - that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.

In fact there was a time when America's public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.

Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well- informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.

The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule of Reason."

Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as "the Empire of Reason."

Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient Athens. They also understood quite well that in America, our public forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy in which individual citizens would participate not only by speaking directly in the presence of others -- but more commonly by communicating with their fellow citizens over great distances by means of the printed word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly as a basic right, they made a special point - in the First Amendment - of protecting the freedom of the printing press.

Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as the proverbial fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States in its first half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers and books.

Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print.

And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.

Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.

When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online. There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few minutes.

Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the television networks mimicked the nation's leading newspapers by faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession. Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar.

But all the while, television's share of the total audience for news and information continued to grow -- and its lead over newsprint continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on television, it doesn't exist."

But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines . And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.
It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.
And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.

Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a "Public Sphere" , or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America's earliest decades.

In fact, our first self-expression as a nation - "We the People" - made it clear where the ultimate source of authority lay. It was universally understood that the ultimate check and balance for American government was its accountability to the people. And the public forum was the place where the people held the government accountable. That is why it was so important that the marketplace of ideas operated independent from and beyond the authority of government.

The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas were:
1) It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was available to all; 2) The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the individual responsible for them; 3) The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement. That is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.

What resulted from this shared democratic enterprise was a startling new development in human history: for the first time, knowledge regularly mediated between wealth and power.
The liberating force of this new American reality was thrilling to all humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." It ennobled the individual and unleashed the creativity of the human spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what they could yet become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore the farther frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for women, and eventually, we still dream, for all.

And just as knowledge now mediated between wealth and power, self- government was understood to be the instrument with which the people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The Rule of Reason under- girded and strengthened the rule of law.
But to an extent seldom appreciated, all of this - including especially the ability of the American people to exercise the reasoned collective judgments presumed in our Founders' design -- depended on the particular characteristics of the marketplace of ideas as it operated during the Age of Print.

Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today.

Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.
Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.
Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.

The number of cables connecting to homes is limited in each community and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast and satellite spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource controlled by a few. The production of programming has been centralized and has usually required a massive capital investment. So for these and other reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations control virtually all of the television programming in America.

Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the "demonstration." This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television.

So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television's domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.
It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no "meritocracy of ideas" on television. To the extent that there is a "marketplace" of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That may sound like gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.
It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.

The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.

The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.

For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me.
Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."

The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the "horse race" and little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local television news is "if it bleeds, it leads." (To which some disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it stinks.")
In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore.

Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.

And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.

One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news.

This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of "The Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.

Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush's Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President's Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.

The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America's marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.

Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, "the manufacture of consent...was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy...but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique...under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy."

Like you, I recoil at Lippman's cynical dismissal of America's gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth.

I don't know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi- way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.

We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.

I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America's ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success.

I want to close with the two things I've learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.

First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile" to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn't look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call "the establishing reflex." And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously - sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, "glue eyeballs to the screen," is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk.

The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy's future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.

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