Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sinot Single

I've come to realize over the past few weeks that I will probably either be single forever or for at least a very very long time. For those who read this blog regularly you'll know some of the other reasons for this (kaduku yu') yet recently yet another reason appeared.

For me, time appears to be radically out of joint. While in some ways this is charming, interesting and good for conversing with people you don't really want to talk to, it makes my dating life ideal for laughing about at 2 am at Kings in Tamuning.

I used to have a thing about writing numbers on myself. On Guam you tend to sweat alot, so writing on your skin isn't advisable or possible, so I started writing on my t-shirts. Often times when I would meet my friends at Kings late at night I would be covered with new phone numbers. Maybe if you don't know me you'd assume, lana! menha hao siempre, kapas hao ume'palao'an! You know, that I'm some sort of adept when it comes to securing women's telephone numbers.

But my friends of course knew better and that's what was always hysterical. At present I am 25, yet the median age of the owners to the numbers on my shirts is often twice that. The median age of the owners of these numbers is usually eligible for GovGuam retirement, and most of the owners usually are GovGuam reitrees. What makes it so hilariously worse is that most of these numbers do actually belong to Chamorro women. The reason I have so many numbers is because of the research that I'm always doing, interviewing people, or working with people on different academic, community or art projects.

So in a good way, I am what you would call an old soul. Socialized as a Chamorro primarily by my grandmother, through taking her to parties, weddings, funerals, etc. Picking up gossip, hanging around with her and her group of friends. Because of this, I learned Chamorro very quickly and I also became proficient in the geneaology of my family and Guam history as well. If I had been socialized by Chamorro men, my language learning would have probably stalled at the cuss words and female anatomy.

The drawback to this is that within my own age group, I am an "old soul," and rarely in a good way when you're trying to find a partner in life. The most recent horrifying thing that clued me into this. An epidemic of Chamorro girls, who are either my age or a little older who refer to me as "Sinot."

For those of you who don't know, sinot, means "sir" and is what you call people older then you who aren't old enough to be Tun or Tan or bihu or biha. I'm sure that its done out of respect, but nonetheless it becomes something impossible to talk or act around. It sticks up/out like this huge restraining order that taints everything I do as if I'm hitting on my student or something.

Last year when I broke up with my last girlfriend I knew that if I ever wanted to find a Chamorro girl, my knowledge of Chamorro history, culture and language would unfortunately probably work against me. I actually wrote a poem titled "How to Pick Up Girls Using a Dead Language," if I can find a copy of it then I'll be sure to post it on my blog. The point of it was that when a language is dying, meaning not spoken by the youth but only by elders, a young person who uses the language will always unconsciously be associated with the manamko', making hanging out with me or dating me, like dating your uncle or something.

Of course it doesn't have to be like this and what we should be pushing for is the releasing of Chamorro language (amongst other things) from particular spheres or life and understanding. The idea that Chamorro language is a "social" language is just as troublesome as the idea that it is an "old people language." Both of them, while pretending to merely describe the language, actually inhibit its usage and prevent it from circulating throughout life. Making it something only certain people are supposed to use and only certain topics are to be discussed using it. What I hope for everday is that we can push these assumptions until they break and crack open, and Chamorro language spills across Guam. Because as I am becoming more and more fond of saying, survival means spilling across the things that make life possible. So long as Chamorro language is something only to be spoken by some and to be used from only particular things, then we might as well prepare it for some linguistic museum.

But here again we encounter something which prevents me from having "normal" relationships with people my age. A normal Chamorro my age wouldn't have linked his dating problems to American colonialism and issues of indigenous survival.

Yes, yes, I know. So I need to find an "abnormal" Chamorro girl, one who doesn't mind romantic candle dinners over backissues of the Pacific Daily News and discussions about decolonization. Any leads would be much appreciated. Maila magi i chule'guagua siha!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Chamorros as American Viagra

Where does patriotic blowback come from?

Na'haggannaihon hao ya bai hu sangani hao.

When a Chamorro soldier dies in war, as four have done so far in the Iraq war, your average patriotic American, upon hearing of this on the news or reading of it in Time magazine experiences a rush of patritoic blowback. It is an infusion of glorious pride in the fact that someone whose death I am completely unpreared for, died for me. This Chamorro, from Guam, who is something I know nothing about, from a place I barely know, has died for me, defending my freedom.

Since Guam is a colony of the United States, it is the right and privilege of America's citizens and national subjects to know absolutely nothing about Guam, and conversely to use it to say anything. Guam could be used, as TV personality Johnny Carson did for many years, as an empty meaning-less signifier, which can be used to say literally anything, with no expectations of its actual content getting in the way. It can also function as a vanishing mirage through which patriotic blowback is produced. A mythical, barely visible place, where unexpected, unanticipated patriots arrive, serve and sometimes die.

How did I end up writing about such a strange and depressing thing? An interesting intersection took place several months ago, which led to me writing about this and attempting to develop it into a concept.

The first thing I came across was Zizek's last chapter of his text Looking Awry. Never one to dare speak about race in any meaningful way mana'manman yu' nai hu li'e i didide' na tinige' put race! That's right, in a small section towards the back, Zizek mentions in passing something about a Lacanian view on race as well as the nation. (the most common way that I've seen Zizek dare touch the subject (stupid pun) is when he says that talking about race in a "meaningful" way misses how it is rooted in something deeper. This might be true, but it is nonetheless a cop-out).

Around the same time I heard for the first time the Weezer song "El Scorcho." Gof ya-hu este na kanta. Fine'nina sa' kalang kantan "fratboy" pues maolek ha' yanggen un essalao. Mina'dos sa' hu sinienten i taotao ni' kumakanta, parehu yan iyo-ku put famalao'an yan guinaiya.

In the song's second verse there is a passage that I connected to Zizek and that lead me to patriotic blowback.

Estague i palabras:

I asked you to go to the Green Day concert
You said you never heard of them
-How cool is that?-
So I went to your room and read your diary:
"watching Grunge leg-drop New-Jack through a press table..."
and then my heart stopped:
"listening to Cio-Cio San fall in love all over again."

First we begin with the encounter of the foreign other. The person who is marked in a certain way and therefore one never expects them to know the thing you know by virtue of this hegemonically obvious diffrence. "oh you speak such good English" or "oh how do you know about Brad Pitt?" This other is so cool because what to me is everyday, boring, obvious is to them new and exciting!

The search for the diary is of course an attempt to find the secret or the "truth" of this other. But as we should all know, the diary is hardly the place for any secrets, since the writing of it already presupposed someone (internet viewers, a little brother, an evil demon, parents) secretly reading it. What the singer finds is something far better than the secret of this girl, but instead something which allows the previous link, one based on exotic enchantment (she is so foreign even a dumbass like me will sound like a Ph.D.) to transform into something else. When he discovers the reference to professional wrestling, that exotic fantasy shatters, and will allow something more meaningful to take place, through a "common" love.

But I haven't even gotten to patriotic blowback, it appears in the next two lines. First, with the singer's heart stopping, a rush of sheer excitement. Blowback, from an unexpected find, from an unexpected place.

Through the allusion to Madame Butterfly the singer suddenly takes on the role of Lt. Pinkteron, and through the reference to Cio Cio San falling in love all over again, the secret of this other is at last revealed. The thing that makes this girl tick, that makes her different is revealed to be, the singer himself. Guiya mismo gaige gi i kerason-na i palao'an.

We have therefore passed into a completely different stage of identification. It is no longer that this other covered in yellow is just a mere surface scratch away from being white like me, or that by scratching both of ourselves we can reveal some sort of third color we share. Instead what has taken place is that the self who gets this rush of love, of glorious excitement is constituted through the depriving of this particular other of even being an other. A foreclosure takes place, because by becoming or seeing myself as the secret to this other, the thing which would make them different, which would make them threatening, which would make them something is lost. If I am the secret to this other, then this other has no secrets from me, this other is nothing to me, because it is nothing without me.

The question therefore becomes, will we, Chamorros (as well as others who have been forced and maintained in similar situations) continue to play this part? Will we accept this pathetic status of being literal fodder through which a nation tumisu yan chumugo'? Should we really be that proud to be nothing more than patriotic Viagra? The means through America gets its military hard-ons?

I really really hope not.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cowboy Bopeep/ Cowboy Bebop

An interesting experience last night.

For the first time in almost a year I was on the verge of tears. Of course something woefully traumatic wasn’t taking place in my life. These almost tears don’t come at those moments, instead they are always almost ridiculously attached to characters from movies that I watch.

It is slightly disturbing when one becomes accustomed to recognizing the coping strategies that we use. For me, the difficulties in my own life are displaced onto characters in films or tv shows that I identify with. So long as that character is alive in the chronology that I keep of it, my traumas will always be blunted in some way, as this attachment character remains unscathed. But, at some point if that chronology is damaged, if for example that character dies or suffers then the result is an overidentification with it. As I disidentified with my own trauma through my identification with this object, its trauma therefore becomes more than my own or its own. It becomes as the near tears revealed last night, almost overwhelming.

As a teen for example, I remember heavily identifying with the comic character Usagi Yojimbo created by Stan Sakai. My only knowledge of Usagi however came from the TPBs that the library in Hawai’i had. The library had a total of seven volumes. Me and my brothers eagerly requested all of the volumes and slowly they arrived, one after the other. Strangely enough they seemed to arrive in sequential order. The first, then the second. Third and fourth. The fifth. And finally the sixth. I loved Usagi’s character for a number of reasons, and was particularly touched by the story “Circles” from the sixth book.

It follows Usagi’s attempt to return home and start life over after his lord has died and he has wandered as a ronin for several years. Although he helps to save the son of his former love, Mariko and his childhood rival, he realizes that this place is no longer his home. Whatever life he could have had with Mariko is gone, destroyed because of both of their social commitments. Mariko tells Usagi that her son Jotaro is in reality his, and that he cannot stay in the village. It would be too difficult considering that Usagi’s rival has raised Jotaro as his own and the boy doesn’t know any different.

The final page has Usagi saying goodbye to Jotaro who has secretly met him on the road and given him some food to eat for his journey. After Jotaro has left, the final panel is a close up of Usagi’s face, looking down, shaded by the setting sun.

A truly mortal moment and one which stopped me and made me physically unable to read the next volume for fear that it would be the last one I would ever read, literally the end of Usagi. Of course thankfully, Stan Sakai continued to make Usagi well after that seventh volume, but everytime I read his comic I am nonetheless haunted by that moment and how its inevitability echoed in me.

So what was the drama last night that nearly brought me to tears? Over the past few days I’ve slowly made my way through all 26 episodes of Cowboy Bopeep (I’m fully aware that it is called Cowboy Bebop, but this is what I call it). I had seen the movie before and a few random episodes. But last night I finished it and saw the character, Spike Spiegel, through which I had formed a melancholic attachment “die” in episode 26.

One interesting aspect of Cowboy Bopeep is that the characters are actually developed when nothing happens. What I mean by this is that the distinction which Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex decided to make explicit when it named episodes either complex or stand alone is actually what makes this anime so ridiculously powerful for me at least.

For someone like me who is seeking a suitable object for melancholic attachment, the cowboys of Bebop would seem to be perfect. The characters actually actively resist development. They don’t share information, they hardly communicate, they remain devoted to ethical commitments beyond our frame of reference and sometimes it seems, beyond the characters themselves. Stand alone episodes take place and our understanding of these characters actually regresses constantly.

For example, over 25 episodes we are slowly nudged towards an understanding of Spike’s character as being driven by the signifier “Julia.” Spike is always a creature of drive, but the cool detachment through which we constantly view it is replaced when this name is mentioned and his drive then becomes hysterical, “Where is she? Where is she?” But, what happens in episode 26? We learn that a small, minute detail, which never seemed to have any impact at all, was in fact what has driven Spike all along, namely his fake eye. It wasn’t the loss of Julia that put Spike into his dream-like state of detachment, but it was the loss of his eye which forced him to deal with Julia in the way that he did. Why is his relationship to Julia the way it is? Because of the fear that she will lose the color he finds in her, that somehow the rain, the ballad of fallen angels, the grey of his dream like life will erase it some how, diminish it. That it will make that piece of reality that appears as the red in a rose will grey until it becomes like everything else. Moments like this take place throughout the 26 episodes, where the characters are continuously re-written, details which we felt we could take for granted, either become meaningless or suddenly full of meaning.

So at first glance, the characters appear extremely stable. Although they share the same space, they constantly resist admitting to this fact. Although they may share the same bounties, they continuously refuse to share information. Although we assume that they are forming relationships they nonetheless refuse to admit to this fact and even at the end when Faye is ready and willing to admit to this fact, Spike and Jet do not. They both adhere to that initial shared principle that our ethical commitments are never each others, but always til the end our own.

The last episode is especially intriguing because both Spike and Faye have lived through the past 26 episodes in a dream like state. Both of them ruled by obvious fears that should they commit to something, should they attempt to form something concrete in their lives (again!) they will no doubt wake up. Waking up in this sense however doesn’t mean being slapped in the face with harsh concrete reality, but instead the fading of their act back into this dreamlike state. To have their act, which could even just be something as simple as “I need you” or “I want you” or as the characters constantly try not to say, yet nevertheless do, “where are you?” or “where have you been?” become emptied somehow. To have the person with whom their desire for requires the act and also invests itself in dissipate slowly and become trapped between times, whether within the rift of Faye’s memories and lives or even between the gaze of Spike’s eyes. The fear of Jet becoming a just another bystrander or just another bountyhead keeps Jet from even becoming Jet.

In the final scene from Cowboy Bopeep: The Movie we see the fear of this act, when Spike is confronted with the elusive ephemereal butterflies of Vincent’s which float around his vision. The proof that the film follows the season is that Spike reaches out to the butterfly, that he is even in this minute moment willing to act to test the dream. Why this change? Because now that Spike has died, he knows that he truly lives. In his last words to Faye he makes it clear that only once he has killed Vicious can he truly live. This final stand off is the only thing that can test this dream, the only thing that can help him escape it (now that the hope that Julia represented as either failed or been lost).

The end of the film asks “Are you Living in the Real World?” indicating the shift, from questioning within the dream (“are you living in the dream world?) to now an assurance that although things may shift, Spike is now within the real world, his ability to act is once again assured. He can at last break his attachment to the vision that his fake eye always implies. Although the butterfly he reaches out for disappears, he remains. The fear of living in a dream is never truly that what I touch or what I see might disappear, it might just be a dream, but that I might disappear as well. If this world is just a tapestry woven by my slumbering mind, might I be something woven and wakened from elsewhere as well?

In the events leading up to the end of the Cowboy Bopeep season I continued to wonder over how this would end. Vicious and Spike are characters who seem linked until death splits them apart (or joins them together for ever). Of course a final face off would take place, but would Spike live or die?

Faye pleads for Spike not to go so that he might live, so that they might live, because she has finally moved herself from melancholy into the realm of grief. The loss of her life and past is at last given up and replaced through the crew of the Bebop. She pleads for Spike to make the same change, to give up his melancholic attachment to his gaze, his past, to replace it with something else (herself, Jet, Edward and of course Ein).

But in Spike’s response he realizes that the change that both he and everyone else wants can only come about through this final act. The type of change that we always hope for in our lives never comes about because we simply say so or decide so. Why are New Year’s resolutions nearly always pointless or useless? Because they are empty speech, fake acts, the don’t involve the dimension which makes possible the change in Spike we find in the film. The self-destructive and self-inflicting aspects of the act.

Solidarity does take place however in the scene right before the film’s credits. Where the statement of peculiar endearment which he makes always away from those he is endeared to, he makes to Faye herself, teasing her about her gambling problem.


The question that I haven’t answered here of course is why the attachment to Spike arose in the first place. If I had to guess as to why I tear up at the thought of Spike’s death it would probably have something to do with his relationship not to Julia, but to Electra, the girl in the orange jacket from the film.


What seemed to happen with her character was a meeting of disparate threads of desire and pain. She seemed to embody in strange ways something of my past, present and future. She reminded me of various different girls in and out of my life in a single contained figure, and somehow I created an attachment to Spike in order to deal with it.

For those confused or insane by my ramblings about this anime, you might want to pay careful attention to the words from its theme song The Real Folk Blues. I was surprised at how much of what I've just tried to say is already there in the lyrics.

The Real Folk Blues
By Yoko Kano

Too much time has passed by to
Lament that we were deeply in love
The wind keeps blowing while my heart
Cannot heal all the tears in it
Some cry for me with parched eyes

The Real Folk Blues
I only want to know what true sadness is
Sitting in muddy water
Isn’t such a bad lifeIf it ends after the first time

Puti Tai Nobiu

Ti Guahu tumge' este na kanta. Lao sa' gof bunita malago yu' bei share hamyo i binita-na. Si Flora Baza Quan kumanta, ya fine'nina nai hu hungok este, gof malago yu' tumungo' hafa ilelek-na. Gi ayu biahi ti hu gof tungo' kumomprende fino' Chamoru, pues achokka' gof ya-hu, ti hu gof gagacha' hafa masasangan.

Pues hu gagao i tiha-hu si Victoria Ritter, yanggan sina humami umekungok ya pues pau pula'yi yu' i palabras. Pues manmata'chong ham gi fi'on i stereo, ya ha pega i talangga-na gof hihot gi i speaker. Pues hu na'play i kanta para un betsu, pues hu na'para. Si tiha-hu, humassonaihon, pues ha sangani yu' hafa pine'lo-na na maalok.

Estague i palabras ni' in tige' pappa':

Puti Tai Nobiu

Ha tuge’ I tutuhun I tano’
Gi hatdin I paraisu
Si Yu’us ha na’fanhuyong
Flores siha ni’ mambunitu
Si Yu’us ha na’fanhuyong
Meggai siha na milagro
Ha na’dokko’ giya paraisu
Un flores trongkon hayu

Puti tai nobiu, ai puti tainobiu
Milagron Si Yu’us Bunitan-mu
Puti tai nobiu ai put tainobiu
Mampos I pinalacha-mu

Flores hao gi halom flores
Tumachu hao gi kastiyu
Buente hao kalang I ninu
Lao I na’an-mu gos piligro
I na’an-mu ma adahi
Sa’ sahnge hao gi batkada
Puti tai nobiu na flores
Ai parehu estoria-ta

Puti tai nobiu, ai puti tainobiu
Milagron Si Yu’us Bunitan-mu
Puti tai nobiu ai put tainobiu
Mampos I pinalacha-mu

Flores hao gi halom flores
Maolekna ti hu mafanagu
Sa’ chatpa’go yu’ mohon
Ti hu padedesi este pa’go
Embediosa yu’ nu Hagu
Put tai nobiu na flores
Sa’ yanggen hu konsedera
I bida-hu ha’ tumanges
I bida-hu ha’ tumanges

Puti tai nobiu, ai puti tainobiu
Milagron Si Yu’us Bunitan-mu
Puti tai nobiu ai put tainobiu
Mampos I pinalacha-mu

Manlaolaolao I kersaon-hu
Ai yanggen hu konsedera
Este taya’ nai nobiu-hu
Maolekna mohon ti hu sottera
Puti tai nobiu na flores
Lastima I bunita-hu
Sa’ taya’ yu’ na ma espiha
Buente put I delikao-hu

Puti tai nobiu, ai puti tainobiu
Milagron Si Yu’us Bunitan-mu
Puti tai nobiu ai put tainobiu
Mampos I pinalacha-mu

Dichosa hao na trongkon flores
Ma guaiya hao kalang kirida
Sa’ tituka yan malamana
Hafa na sigi ha’ hao ma espiha
Bai hu dispidi hao trongko flores
Hu respeta I na’an-mu
Lao mungga yu’ madalalaki
Sa’ sumen maolek saga-mu

Puti tai nobiu, ai puti tainobiu
Milagron Si Yu’us Bunitan-mu
Puti tai nobiu ai put tainobiu
Mampos I pinalacha-mu

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Why Does the Application of Moral Philosophies to Dating Life Inevitably Turn into Outtakes from The Naked Gun Movies?

Last month, Theo a friend from my department posted a hilariously horrifying story on MySpace. It was about the dangers of being single in this world of post singularity, where singleness has developed its own essence is no longer the state of not yet being with someone, but something in and of itself something to be explored. What comes from this is interesting forms of fetishizing dating techniques, norms, pick up lines and moves. When these fetishized forms mix with alcohol the results are often brain numbing, as Theo found out when he was forced into situation where he was berated for the poorness of his moves and offered help with them at the same time through drunken social role-playing with some random chick he met at a party.

As Theo is part of the theory student bloc of power in my department the first thing that came to mind after reading of his exploits in the realm of getting hot girls to lecture you while they are bleeding vodka from their eyeballs, was of course "did Immanuel Kant ever date?" And the trailing follow up thought would of course be, "what would Hegel say if he were told by a girl that "you need to work on your moves if you want to get hot girls like me"?"

Their answers, while possibly being in German might have something to do with the distinction between singularity (the state of being single) and copolarity (the state of being in a relationship), and how in order to escape the chaos that is singularity (where we incessently question ourselves, "this is what single people do right?") we must submit to the order and rationality of social norms and thus become national couple subjects, who only deal with those questions of copolarity, not in hysterical single people fashion, but instead in drugding already known and accepted Kantian moralistic ways ("fucking categorial imperative, shit, but this is what people in relationships are supposed to do right? Dammit, of course I know its right. Stupid Kant.")

This helps us answer the question which has puzzled at least two or three scholars for centuries, and that is why Kant spent most of his life indoors despite the absence of internet, cable and easily accesible pornography. If Kant had left the house more often, then instead of being an academic or a hermit he would have been considered a single man, and to him no doubt, singularity would be just like the state of nature, no rules, and we know how much Kant loved his rules.

But what would a base Kantian approach to dating be anyways? Say for example, the book The Rules was written by a Kantian who was trying to impart Kant's beautiful beliefs on morality and law to the general public in an attempt to make dating more modern, moral and free. Can you imagine trying to date and pick up people, using the categorical imperative as your pick up line?

"Dude, are you ready to try for her number?"
"Wait dude I'm just going over my lines. Lemme see. Complement a woman on her hair only if I can will that complement to be universal."
"Shit, you can't do that then."
"Why not? I can compliment anyone on their hair."
"But what about bald people? Or cancer patients?"
"Well I just said hair, it doesn't mean just on their heads...."

This is why the claim that Kant is a strict moralist philosopher makes little sense to me, his philosophies of morality (like just about everything else) eventually turn into dialogue from The Naked Gun movies.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Manmafnas

For the past few weeks I've been digging through my room look for aspects of former selves. It is a very interesting experience. Finding pieces of myself in different moments, artifacts meant for different goals. moving in different directions, some of which are still familiar and intimate, others brutally foreign and uncomfortable.

For example, I find fragments of poems that I wrote when I first came back to Guam in 1998. Traces of the light brown coconut I once was flash before me, as I read a voice which was once my own, but long ago abandoned. The angry, angst ridden teen/ college student struggling over loves lost.

Perhaps the anxiety over finding this voice comes not from the fact that I've changed so much since then, but because I haven't changed that much. Although my poems rarely take on that character anymore, that self who is lovestruck and love lost is still very much here, as people who frequent my blog might know. He appears every once in a while to lament the drama of dating and the impossibility of me every escaping singularity, or the status of being single. My poems of course now are almost always in Chamorro and always make great pains to make their political intents and aspirations known. So while my poetry voice might have changed, little else has. That self who is always struggling with love and loss is still here, he's just read alot of Lacan and Zizek since 1998.

My paintings and art is another area where I am doing deep excavaution of myself in other moments. While away from Guam for the past two years I didn't really realize how much my art has changed over the past 8 years. One of the reasons being that I had very little of my early art there. But now back on Guam I am going through the dozens of canvases and monotypes that I left behind in my room (ya manmachuchuda' ginnen i closet. Ai lalalu Si Grandpa put este) and noticing that I produced a lot of beautiful art as well as bula'la'la' take'. Ai Yu'us, some of my old stuff really really sucks.

Nai hu tutuhun giya UOG, ti kare hu nai put hafa pau ma sangan put i fina'tinas-hu. Fihu ma sangani yu' na ti kapas yu' na pepenta, sa' ti hu gof tungo' taimanu yumungga' "realistic." Lao nu Guahu, taibali ayu, sa' ti malago yu' fuma'tinas "realistic" art siha. Diposti na ginnen i sanhalom i kesas pinenta, pues yanggen ti ya-na i sanhalom-hu "realistic" ti bai hu chagi gui', bai hu puni, bai hu suhayi. Bai hu na'halom yu' gi i art abstract, ya ta li'e hafa sina yu' chumo'gue.

So my abstracts from this period, I love. Some of them I can stare at for minutes at a time, just going over the different areas and the tricks of color and shape that I was able to pull off, most of the time by accident.

Also I had some very interesting work with faces and figures. Very reminiscent of Giacometti, both in terms of distortion as well as lines beneath the figure's surface forming the shape and tone of it, almost in an unnatural way.

But things which were supposed to be realistic or actually look like something other than a woman's face generally turned out really bad. There is one very good reason why the only landscapes I do are either abstract of simple sunsets or oceanscapes, and that's because I suck really really badly at foaliage and just simple things in landscapes. I also suck at structures, buildings, and drawing people in supposedly natural or unposed positions.

One unfortunate thing about being an artist on Guam is that the weather is often your worst enemy. Over the years I've lost alot of work to typhoons and rain. In addition to art I've sometimes lost interview notes, paper or books in storms. During the last typhoon, the windows were all shuttered up and I thought my things would be safe. Unfortunately the typhoon turned out to be stronger than we thought and my window shattered and water started flooding in, runing dozens of notes from interviews that I had done during the months before. I actually found some of these ruined notes while I was going through my room. Its strange to look at. Small yellow pads, on each page an invisible pool bordered by watered blue ink.


I've also lost over the years alot of my printmaking stuff. I used to do alot of lino cuts and woodcuts some of which were really nice, such as the one I'm posting here. Over the years however the plates have been either lost or destroyed and so often times all I have are test prints that I've done or a single from a series that I wasn't able to sell. I've decided to scan these in case I never find their plates, just so I have some evidence that I made them.

The name of this print by the way is "the kiss," it was used as artwork in the University of Guam's creative journal Storyboard a few years ago with a poem that a I wrote titled "The Habanera" which unfortunately I seem to have lost all copies of.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Hidden Logic Behind Guam's Patriotic Love

With the arrival of the new year, a new slogan must be trotted out for my self-description and self-representation. We all do this, consciously or unconsciously, its the reason why on MySpace we each get to input our headlines over our pages.

That is of course the reason why the GVB is so powerful in recolonizing Guam. Their efforts, far from mere fabrication of tools of representation to others are seriously the tools we often use to view ourselves. How effortlessly does the tourist slogan "Guam: Where America's Day Begins!" become hegemonic and the principle through which we see ourselves? Well, we need not look hard to find this, because Guam has already been blanketed by it through bumper stickers and murals that localize this mantra and reformulate our gaze for it.

"I LOVE GUAM: Where America's Day Begins!"

What is the hidden logic behind the superficial and supposedly sponteanous love that this statement blazons? It can be fleshed out by adding just a few more words to it. The reformulation of this representation supposedly for others, for ourselves is taiguini,

"why do I LOVE GUAM? Because its Where America's Day Begins!"

The horrifying meaning behind this is that, the kernel that makes Guam Guam, is no longer Guam, but the United States. That mysterious quality that gives this place a quitodian consistency, that makes it hum, that makes it tick, has nothing to do with it being the home of the Chamorro people. But the consistency is all built upon it being an edge of America, a distant yet loyal fragment. The small piece which the sun touches first.

Slogans like this are important for critical work. Although life is complex, the simplicity of these statements or principles both express so perfectly aspects of life as well as encourage them. Our lives may be complex, but that has very little to do with the ways we think we operate. Why is a film like Syriana rejected by many as being preachy or overly longwinded and complex? Because it attempts to deal with life in its complexity, by linking many numerous threads together to show how things happen, why they happen. For example why do suicide bombers kill themselves? Fox News and most people will tell you that they are crazy, or their religion tells them to do it. The simple is what I use as my defense, but it is also something that I take as evidence. Something which is complex, although it may affect me, I will reject it. The public is thus as we all know dictated by what can be defined as "simple."

Herein lies the paradoxical power of the slogan. Its simplicity belies its impact on all of us. Something so simple couldn't have such effect, could it?

Of course it does. That is why we only remember certain things, events, moments, people, etc. That is why we develop ready stories to talk about vast expanses of our lives and experiences. What is your relationship with your mother? How was your childhood? What was it like going to that school? We form mantras through which we represent ourselves to others and even to ourselves. The hysteria of the self is dealt with through recourse to these nodes of meaning, through which we anchor ourselves and thus find a foundation to form statements.

What will be my slogan for the new year?

I heard it on a commercial on TNT,

"I'm not schizophrenic, I'm just very busy."

Things we must remember, if only to be forgotten

Another Chamorro has died in Iraq, Richard DeGracia Naputi Jr. Again I find myself brutally torn. The public response will be as it always is. Congresswoman Bordallo has already started it, both in her empty words of eternal debt and undying love for the military and its troops, yet also in her affirmation last week of the war in Iraq. This death will therefore be interpretted as the previous three were. A tragic loss, but we appreciate the opportunity to get ourselves killed for the greatest country in the universe.

Why is a critical relationship between Chamorros on Guam and the United States military impossible? Because the military is no longer those white on white uniformed Naval officers from pre-war Guam, nor is it those tall "god-like" Marines from 1944 who seemed to have an infinite amount of canned goods in their pants pockets. The military has been browned, especially so by the huge numbers of Chamorros in the military. To make this point clear, let me quote from a paper I wrote recently.

"The United States military has become transformed, no longer was it some Other whose arrival I need to survive, but now I can only find myself through them. I am them, but they are not me. The military is no longer something which can be critiqued from any distance, because I will always see myself, as exemplified by those in uniform, in them. To critique them, to resist, to oppose them, means to oppose not just those close and dear to me, but potentially to resist and divide myself.
The concept of “the military” thus becomes naturalized as a local and yet not local. It can easily be viewed locally, as many would describe a member of Guam’s family, partially for the simple reason that so many family members serve in it. However its interests resist localization and are inevitably linked to larger and absolutely non-local concerns. This split invariably works against Guam and the possibility of a critical relationship with the United States military both in Guam and in its interventions elsewhere.
Take for example the most recent planned military increase in Guam, which eventually amount to 7,000 new Marines in Guam. The interest that brings about this influx will most likely remain unscathed in Guam, unquestioned (national/local American interests with global action and effect), and it will be so precisely because the face through which those on Guam receive and perceive this will almost always be one of familiarity, a local one, a Chamorro one. The liberating Marines need not be identified anymore as tall, white, American soldiers. Wearing the uniform of Americaness, American power and military might, these liberators are now my children, my cousins, my relatives, my neighbors. The military’s interests anywhere, not just in Guam, must now be my interest, because as so many who leave home to go to war, or to serve in the military say, they are only fighting to defend their homes, their families. As they leave to defend me, while I remain on Guam, they, entangled with the interests of the military, will be defended as well.


What is obviously lost in the transition is GUAM! The defense of Guam is always assumed to be linked to the defense of the US, and more importantly the defense of the US military. The possibility that what is good for the US military might not be good for Guam doesn't emerge, it is supposed to be unthinkable here, because a split of recognition takes place here, which leaves the interests always not local, but the face always local.

This is the fight for those interested in Guam's future today, is to make it so that Guam's needs can viewed outside of the United States'. That they can be attended to, discussed, understood, etc. What we see all over the island today, is an inability to do so, and a covering of this inability by performatively making Guam unable to do anything. Water privatization, more military, more Federal oversight, all of these things are covered or justified by the creating of Guam as being pathologically inferior and incapable and then following that creation up with the solution, which is the United States, whether in its image as a military powerhouse, a economic super power, a place where schools are fully funded and everyone has textbooks printed right before their eyes, every three days.

The moves are shrewd and their effectiveness depends upon not just belief but more importantly lack of action and response. Zizek is fond of saying over and over what Pascual said about ideology, people don't treat the King like the King because he is the King, it is only because they treat him like the King that he is the King. These moves are shrewd and effective because those who publicly act do tend to follow their logic, while those who may not either have no space from which to speak or critique, or their just don't feel the need to speak or critique. What people such as Lee Weber, Joe Murphy say does not necessarily reflect reality, but given their whiteness, their institutionalized voices, their fidelity to a large violent and ugly super power their statements become reality far easier then something oppositional or critical. But it is the always the lack of action, the lack of response which makes it reality, which makes it hegemonic, which makes it common sense.

The recolonization of Guam is taking palce again as I type. As people formulate discussions about the death of this most recent Chamorro, as they begin to sift through possible identities, possible statements, the majority of them are no doubt scrapping the bottom of that barrel in hopes of using this point to increase their Americaness. I should note though, that there are two dominant articulations of this point. The first is gross and drives me nuts, that's the proud to serve articulation. Chamorros are American and we do our part. The second, isn't as bad, but nonetheless it relies upon a certain patriotism, a certain loyalty, a certain acceptance of America as the master of Guam which I don't like. The second articulation can be summed up as the unappreciated patriots. We go to war, we die, but we can't even vote, and no one even knows we are Americans. Occassionally I even get stuck in this articulation, its very attractive, because it has the aura of a critique, yet is still protected by the sovereignty of the United States.

As I am back on Guam, this colonizing mire is especially close once again. While in the states I can propose myself as an indigenous academic getting educated to return to Guam and decolonize some shit. But here, the problems seems so massive and people can be so ridiculously colonized and militarized. The song which I find most adequately describes how I feel sometimes, and how I see Chamorros on Guam sometimes, is Audioslave's Doesn't Remind Me.

The lyrics can be interpretted in many ways, but the constant refrain of "it doesn't remind me of anything" following the encounter with a particular object is the life of your prototypical colonial subject. You could very easily make this song about Guam by substituting local objects, events, places and then follow them with "it doesn't remind me of anything." For example, "I try to vote for president, but I can't" followed by "it doesn't remind me of anything."

What is the thing which doesn't remind you of anything? It is obviously that colonial kernel which we are constantly instructed to overcome to get rid of, by seeking to be one with the colonizer. Diaspora, language, education, economic development, all of these things can be viewed as exercises in forgetting or misrecognizing things. For example, when I see the suburban house in California that I left island to get, the first thing that comes to mind, is precisely the desire that makes this acquisition feel wrong. The structures that made this feeling, this desire, this need to move, this need to dream this American dream necessary. The first instinct is always that "this doesn't remind me of that anything." This need to quickly forget that thing which makes this an effect of something which would stigmatize me, or it, or reveal specific powers and effects in my everyday life.

"this doesn't remind me of anything" is the mantra of life in Guam. It is the mantra meant to make what I do to be one with the colonizer something apparently autonomous, free, beautiful and not merely because I wasn't allowed to speak Chamorro when I was young or because my land was taken after World War II.

The intent of the line is of course "its nothing" but the clarity of its formulation as "anything" reveals how even nothingness must always appear in the form of somethingness (imagine nothingness, its probably a deep dark black eternity? Or maybe its a white room with no perspective that goes on forever? Or maybe its you bored at the computer?) That colonial kernal therefore always appears and always emerges and life in Guam is built around either getting rid of it, or dealing with it and critiquing based on it. This is why of course my mind always returns to this song as I read about the most recent Chamorro death in Iraq. As Chamorros on island read this, they are repeating in their own heads, "this doesn't remind me of anything," in an effort to get rid of this irritating bone in the throat that makes their Americaness always ill-fitting.

It would of course be far more productive in my opinion to not use these moments to blind ourselves and swallow yet another box of American flags, but instead use them to see where we truly are. Outside of this desperate need to remember to forget so many things, what future lies head for us? Can we ever even see it or will all of our moments instead by shadowed by this persistent verse?


Doesn't Remind Me
AudioSlave

I walk the streets of Japan till I get lost
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything
With a graveyard tan carrying a cross
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything

I like studying faces in a parking lot
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything
I like driving backwards in the fog
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything

[Chorus]
The things that I've loved the things that I've lost
The things I've held sacred that I've dropped
I won't lie no more you can bet
I don't want to learn what I'll need to forget

I like gypsy moths and radio talk
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything
I like gospel music and canned applause
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything

I like colorful clothing in the sun
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything
I like hammering nails and speaking in tongues
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything

[Chorus]
The things that I've loved the things that I've lost
The things I've held sacred that I've dropped
I won't lie no more you can bet
I don't want to learn what I'll need to forget

Bend and shape me
I love the way you are
Slow and sweetly
Like never before
Calm and sleeping
We won't stir up the past
So descretely
We won't look back

[Chorus]
The things that I've loved the things that I've lost
The things I've held sacred that I've dropped
I won't lie no more you can bet
I don't want to learn what I'll need to forget

I like throwing my voice and breaking guitars
Cause it doesn't remind me of anything
I like playing in the sand what's mine is ours
If it doesn't remind me of anything

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Decision and Human Instrumentality: Lacan Avec Evangelion


Hehehehehe. After a year of droning academic work in my program and going around to conferences, things are finally starting to be fun again. It all started several months ago when my advisor in my new program told me that my writing and work is "playful" and that for once this playfullness wasn't a bad thing, but was in fact a good thing! (Yen Le Espiritu, have I told you lately that I love you? yanggen ahe', pues estague i sinangan-hu!)

With the approval of my new advisor my writing is again getting freer and more interesting, and actively and eagerly resisting becoming droning, drowning and scowlingly appropriate social science prose. This goes not just for my writing, but what I write about and how I decide to appropriate shit.

To give people an idea of this, let me share with you the abstract I just submitted a few minutes ago for The Crossing Borders Conference which will be taking place next year at USC (its the California Graduate Student Ethnic Studies Programs Conference).

The Decision and Human Instrumentality: Lacan Avec Evangelion
Or…
Why Immanuel Kant Never Dated


Michael Lujan Bevacqua,
mlbasquiat@hotmail.com, http://minagahet.blogspot.com
Graduate Student, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego

Are you hopelessly mired in unappetizing aporias of post-modern politics? Depressed because the particular is never really the particular? Enraged because the universal is never really the Universal? If Democracy is impossible and freedom belongs to the void, why doesn’t George W. Bush’s head explode?

As the post-structuralist hangover hits those who let the spectre of Derrida sleep on their couch and are on the verge of taking Jurgen Habermas’s calls, a number of would-be post-post-theorists are emerging with a cure. From the grandfatherly formalism of Laclau to the crusty Fidelity of Badiou, the recidivist relationship between the universal and the particular in order to re-allow the subject agency, is constantly being re-written, republished, and translated into English, even as you are reading this.

The first goal of this paper is to discuss Jacques Lacan’s theories of the subject (via Slavoj Zizek), specifically his conception of the Act and political (im)possibility. This goal is easier said than done, as hagiographers are still uncertain as to whether Lacan was a schizophrenic android from the future, or just another philosopher with bad hair. The point being, that Lacan often makes more sense in French, to English readers, then he does in English. If Hegel is the proverbial “bone in the throat,” then would Lacan be the prototypical “pain in the ass?”

The second more interesting goal of this paper is my attempt to “breakdown” Lacan for those who find his theories useless, depressing or annoying. As a hapless fanatic of Slavoj Zizek, my intervention will take an intentionally unorthodox character and combine culturally “low” objects (Weezer songs, the anime Evangelion and Harry Potter books) with culturally “high” ones (Kant, Lacan, Hegel) in an effort to express the political potential of both Lacanain theory and psychoanalysis in analysis of race and the nation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lemlem Taotao

Since I've been on Guam people continually ask me if I'm still painting. I should expect it after all, people here constantly know me as either the "guy with painted clothes" or the "guy whose car was full of paintings, paint cans and books."

This identification even follows me into the diaspora. A few months ago at a Chamorro party in San Diego, someone was there selling his brand t-shirts and stickers and he saw me and asked me if I went to UOG. Ilek-hu "Hunggan." Ya ineppe-na, "yeah, hu hasso hao, todu i tiempo gaipintura i magagu-mu."

Since I've been in the states I've forgotten how much of an artist I use to be. How I used to paint constantly and even go around the island to fairs to sell my work. There are hundreds of people in this world (mostly on this island, but I did sell some to tourists and military) who purchased one of my paintings and hopefully have it hung up somewhere in their house with my name and signature on it. Then again, it is possible that my grandfather is right and that many of them bought paintings from me because I looked like patgon mayute', or an abandoned child.

When people used to ask me "what was the last thing you painted?" since I was primarily an abstract artist, the descriptions would always get a bit loopy or trippy. Like a really really boring high. How can one describe abstract art without the art being in front of you? Its really difficult (unless your pyschotic and don't care) because sooner or later in your attempt to get across an image with barely a helpful referrent, you will end up sounding like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off,

"....uh....so there's red...and uh....beside the red there's yellow....a big splash of yellow...and then there's a piece of green....that touches the yellow..."

But now! Those days of posession by Ben Stein's best work ever are over. Given the advances in technology that have slowly invaded my life, when people ask me "what was the last thing you painted?" I can now email them an image of it that I took with someone else's digital camera.

I'd like to therefore share with everyone the most recent painting that I did. Before I left the states for Guam, my department (Ethnic Studies) had a Christmas party, where the biggest event of the night is a gift exchange. These gift exchanges are always interesting, because it is one of those moments where the whole people of color allaince breaks down for a few hours as people struggle over who gets the internet chat headset, the set of Christmas cups, or the set of bath oils. The only reason that these moments are exciting is because of the stale depression that some people must go through, when the gifts that they chose are never stolen or even looked at (except in disgust or mortification). One girl in my department was unfortunate enough to select a beautifully wrapped VHS tape of a Kathy Lee Gifford Christmas special. She screamed in terror the first practical thing to come from her head, "I don't even own a VCR!"

The year before I had submitted on of my paintings, in a non-descript Trader Joe's brown paper bag, which most people avoided (going for the far more fluffily attended gifts). It was eventually chosen by someone and stolen several times. It ended up in the hands of one of my professor's kids who had told me that night that he was very interested in making art and learning more about it. It was an exciting experience, him talking to me about the painting and how he liked it.

This year I also submitted one of my paintings, which is the most recent painting I have painted as I type this and therefore will post an image of below. Again, I put it in a brown grocery bag, which again most people avoided. After it was finally picked, it was stolen twice before ending up with one of the first years in our department, Angie, a Native American girl who came from Oregon State. She was so excited to get it, which of course made me excited that she got it. What I find disappointing too often amongst Leftists is like a post-aesthetic existence, where art is only appreciated along very specific parameters. This usually comes about because people have artist friends and therefore are familiar with art and don't see much art as being anything special. I get annoyed at these people, because even if I paint something for them and give it to them, they will often refuse it, because they have no intention of hanging it or appreciating it (should I therefore cherish their rude honesty?). For them, the gift of it, the fact of it not being just an object which is exchanged, but a link between us is not even thought of or felt. I was glad that Angie got it and I hope she enjoys it. Like I tell everyone else, it might be worth something someday.

Anyways, here's the painting, what I enjoyed about making it was leaving the heavy brush strokes in and not getting rid of them. Unfortunately loading this up on blogger takes something away from the quality, but you can still get a sense of it. Its obviously a sunset, but the heavy brushstrokes and the flatness of the color almost gives you the sense that there is something beneath it, behind it.

As someone who saw it at the gift exchange said, "it looks like nuclear testing in Micronesia."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Maolek Na Chinagi

I'm back on Guam, so its only inevitable that I'll be writing Chamorro poetry again. Sorry I've been away for a while, my internet on Guam isn't very good. But I love being back and so I have bula'la' to post about.


Maolek na Chinagi...

Tatfoi I binita-mu
Asta umugo’ yu’
Lechera yan po’dak
Gos pika pika-mu
Donggat hao palao’an gi salon po’asu
Bei hanao bei chagi
Para hafa na ekpe’ yu’

Ilek-hu
HOI GA’CHONG
GA’CHUNGI YU’

Hokkok suette-ku
Sa’ matto mismo ga’chong-mu
Lekkat yan mitkedu
Ya siempre u puno’ hu
Pa’go ga’otgan yu’ ni’ banidosu-ku
Sinembatgo todu maolek sa’ I leddo’ pau nukot yu’

Ilek-hu
HOI CHE’LU
SOKKA YU’

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Wisdom of Weezer

I learned several weeks ago that its not appropriate for a conscious person of color to like Weezer. It was an interesting exchange that I had with someone who once felt I was an ally in the struggle for social justice against whiteness, but now somehow saw me as a traitor because of my affinity for Weezer.

Is Weezer white people music? Prior to this moment I would have openly agreed with this characterization. It is really white ass pop rock music. But after I was prohibited from listening to it based on my status as a critical person of color, I now must stop for a moment and think about this. What makes it white people music? Those who buy it? If this was the case, then wouldn't mainstream rap music then be white people music, since white people tend to purchase most of it? Is it the people who make it? But then you'll find inconsistencies in that as well. Would Dave Chappelle's blind KKK character then make white or black music if he came out with an album? Or is it just that certain genres are white or black? Is all pop music white based on its level of mainstream appeal and play? Is then the characterization one of power? Therefore underground music would be black and above ground music would be white?

Obviously I have no answer to this, and no sure way out.

On a personal level, I'll continue to listen to Weezer just because at least five of their billions of songs have the ability to burrow into my brain and not leave for several days.

On a political level I find Weezer very useful in my theoretical work. Hopefully in a few days I'll share more on this, when I describe how their song El Scorcho helped me to develop my conception of patriotic blowback.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mangge' iyo-mu draf?

I am back on Guam and I am loving it.

The daily slaughtering of the English language is so exciting and refreshing. I really detest this language, and how cumbersome and evil it is. But what I detest more than its usage is the way in which people attempt to defend and map out what is proper about it (the same thing happens with Chamorro, and that is something I detest even more (if this level of detesting is even humanly possible). While it can be fun to tease others about "accents" and simple mistakes in their English, the result is always a silent and sometimes hysterical privileging of English which drives me nuts.

So sometimes I say "borrow me your pen" instead of "can I borrow your pen." Hayi matai put este? The first time I recall saying it as an adult I remember people laughing and chastising me for poor English. I became so annoyed at the rebuking that I decided from then on to intentionally say "borrow" in that "incorrect" way.

I am back on the island I love and my English is getting poorer by the moment as I return to my happy bilingual self. Today, when I was typing my cousin Alfred and my friend Madel about a conference panel that we are trying to throw together for next year on Pacific Islander communities in transition, I made another cute mistake. I'm not sure yet whether it was on purpose or on accident. But it doesn't really matter anymore anyways.

I wrote the two about our abstracts, whether we all had our draft abstracts ready to turn into the conference. Instead of writing draft in the correct way, I wrote it the way I pronounced it in my head, as draf.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Reason Enough?" Ai Yu'us Satba Yu' Put Fabot!

I've been stuck lately in discussing with all sorts of different people, the relationship between "questions" and "answers." While for most people it's an obvious link, i ineppe' u fatto sa' famaisen hao finaisen, the answers arrives comes because you've asked a question. For me, what I am realizing more and more through my work on the decolonial deadlock in Guam (resistance to almost any form of decolonization (and that includes statehood!)) is that the relationship between a question and an answer is rarely ever innocent or natural. When people ask questions (in particular with regard to political possibilities, or what can and cannot be done in any given socio/political space), too often the gesture is performative, in that it marks the given territory through which an answer may be, or should be culled.

This is one of the primary reasons that everyday public critiques about "politics" are so overwhelmingly useless and annoying. Through the superficial and often empty (empty as exemplified by this construction, question: "can you believe what those politicians did?" answer: "no I can't!") forms they take, they imply that they only seek empty and superficial answers. The form this complaint takes implies that I don't really care about its content, I am interested in something else (social bonding, having something to talk about to people I otherwise don't want to talk to, want to sound smart, want to sound informed, want to bother someone who hates "politics."), and by reciprocating its empty form (by not really answering my question, but answering a desire visible more often in the structure that the question takes,) you will have matched my desire.

This is one of the reasons why critical analysis in Guam (and elsewhere) must always be transgressive, it must resist the evidentiary confining and outlaying that your very question will seem to propose. I am researching politics, so therefore certain forms of evidence will appear before my mind as "obviously" what I have to use to do this work. Often these natural tendencies are important, but they are never enough. In critiquing power, you must realize that any power is maintained by straddling and crossing the divisions it otherwise proposes as absolutely necessary. If for example you are critiquing the State, your analysis cannot remain in the realm of state documents or political rhetoric, because as we all should know, the power of any state pervades social life (think for example about Hollywood films that thank government agencies or militaries during their ending credits), and a productive analysis must attest to this impact and not shy away from it. (This is my argument as to why Homo Sacer by Agamben is so compelling to most people, its because of the efficiency it gains by being a very theoretically sharp legal analysis. It remains within the expected answers of the question. We cannot fault him for doing this, people should try to critique in this way, but we shouldn't give him more credit than he deserves).

In order to match my rhetoric on this point, my work is always ready willing and able to use anything around me for my analysis. The value I see in this policy of using anything is that 1. it gives me a better framework for understanding what certain forms of power do, instead of just assuming that "power is power, that's what it does." 2. it also helps me explain to people and communicate to people my ideas, by switching to social spaces (movies, internet, magazines, newspapers) that they probably feel they're more familiar with.

So I'd like to share with everyone, a piece of potentially trangressive critique that I've recently found. Its a romance novel that takes place on Guam, published in 1986 by Arlene James titled Reason Enough. I hope to use it at some point in the next year to discuss the particularity of Guam and how more and more, what is important about Guam, what is unique, what is valuable in Guam is perceived to be nothing from Guam, but pieces of presence from the United States. In this text, a blonde white girl stands in for the Chamorro native, and becomes what the main character and we the readers as well, fall in love with in Guam. Here's the description from the book's back, which might hint for you what value it might have in explaining Guam's current status in relation to the United States:

ISLAND GIRL

In all the time he had spent on Guam, Captain Victor Dayton had never given much thought to the islanders. That is, until Coral Jerome came storming onto his ship.

Coral was wild and carefree, as bright and sunny as her tropical home, and different from any woman Vic had ever known. And while Coral hadn't ever given much thought to falling for a Navy man, she had her mind set on winning the heart of this ruggedly handsome Second Lieutenant. Vic stirred her passion like no other man, and Coral knew that was reason enough to be falling in love...

Lana, bei muta, kao un hongge este? KALAKAS!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Movie Help!!!

In my work I often use movies to help me illustrate my theoretical points. Sometimes the ideas come out of watching movies and making connections between whatever I'm reading (ahhhh, so Herbie the Love Bug is the death drive!). When this happens, life is easy. Just a matter of writing this insight down and then finding someplace to put it.

But other times, the insight comes differently, through some sort of cruelly vague resonance. It hits you, or rather blindsides you and vanishes before you can see what it is. Several weeks ago while working on my master's thesis, I was blindsides by some absolutely archetypal scene, which I nonetheless can't pin to any particular film. I was trying to make a point about indigenous peoples and how even the ways we think where to look to find ourselves are conditioned by modern knowledge and a way out of this, lies in recognizing this fact and not denying it. To do so a movie scene popped into my head which would fit perfectly, however no particular movie arrived with the scene, so what I was stuck with were vague, insecure fragments which could each lead me to a different possible film, but none seemed to. I still haven't found a movie that matches this scene, but I'm sure that if you hear what I'm looking for, you'll feel a similar tug at your brain stem.

If anyone out there reading this can come up with a movie where the scene I'm about to describe takes place, please let me know, I would very very very much appreciate it.

The basic story is this, people come from a certain place, time, universe, dimension, land, etc and somehow cross into another place, time, universe, world, etc. What they find in this other place is an easy abundance of things which are rare in the place where they came from. For example, it might be an ancient treasure temple, where jewels and gold are everywhere. They take objects from this world so potent and rich, and think to return to where they came from with their haul. But happens though when they return to their land, time, dimension etc. is that what was once a scarce, treasured object, suddenly becomes plain, ugly, regular, hardly rare, hardly valueable.

If you take for example the ending of the film The Goonies, imagine that when they leave One Eyed Willy's treasure trove and meet their parents on the beach, and find that they have a bag full of jewels instead of marbles, instead of jewels coming out of the bad, its marbles or rocks.
(perhaps, to invoke a bit of Harry Potter here, and akin to Dumbledore's charm on the Philosopher's Stone in the first book, maybe the only reason they could escape with the jewels, is because they didn't know that they had them.) I have in my head a scene where a thief takes diamonds from a place, yet when he leaves they have turned to rocks. I'm looking for something like this.

Please! I'm hoping someone out there can help me. Put fabot, ayuda yu' fan!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Scene of Liberation

I'm finishing up my papers for my quarter before I head home to Guam. Bula minagof bula minagof!

I really enjoy working with my new master's chair at UCSD Yen Le Espiritu. First of all, she's very supportive and good at reading your work and providing questions which don't just tear you apart, but try to support your project and where she thinks your project is heading. Second, she is brilliant and that is obvious to most people who meet her or take classes with her. The third reason is of course, because she encourages me to be playful in my work. Maybe you weren't expected this last one, but its true. She is very supportive of different ways of writing (she loves Avery Gordon's Ghostly Matters for this reasons) and she enjoys the way I sometimes talk about serious topics in a creative way using non-serious objects (movies, weird goofy language).

I decided to be playful then in the paper I wrote for my class with her this quarter, Race War and Violence (or as I call it, Race War and Death). Just to give a taste of how seriously silly I got, I'll give you the titles for the sections in my paper.

HACHA - where does patriotic blowback come from?

HUGUA - the obtrusive presnece of Spam

TULU - the scene of the traumatically simple

FATFAT - my speech always presupposes starving and dying bodies

LIMA - since ever since dependency

GUNUM - how Global Hawks or high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) become a member of my fmaily

FITI - from the scene of liberation to the scene of desertion

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Guam - Where America is Testing the Next Generation of Unmanned Surveillance Drones

I apologize for the lack of posting recently I've been sick and trying to finish up my quarter. I'm turning in a research paper for one of my classes and its supposed to be 15 pages but is slowly sprawling out of control. I may have to make it half-ass just to finish it by its due date tomorrow.

For those who don't know yet, part of my stress is me preparing to head back to Guam next week. When I arrive there it'll have been 495 days since I left. Holding my breath near drowning in diaspora for that long, seems insane, but somehow I did it.

It'll be so nice to see my family in particular my grandparents that I've missed so much and can't keep in regular touch with over the phone since puru ha' mantangga ham, and our conversations are constant "hah? Hafa ilek-mu?" I'll also get a chance to see my cousin and her kids that I love to death and make me pine for the day when I get to stress over, abuse, and fatta' over my own kids. I'll also get to hang out with the people I can't seem to keep in touch with over email, because they aren't my email friends and so emailing them feels like I'm one of those participants who is trying to confuse the test subject as to whether I'm a computer or a human being.

"Hello....Francis...Are you Well?....I am Well...We must email more frequently...Are you still Fat like a Rancid Eclair?...I am only Joshing You...I mean Jonesing You...Or is it Jeffing You?...We must email more often...I Hope You Are Well...Keep in Touch...Goodbye..."

Then there's the food! I can't wait to eat at Shirley's and King's. Am I the only person in the Diaspora who wants to return to Guam and not eat my ethnically appropriate food (nengkanno' Chamoru?) but instead eat just plain old Americanzed diner food? I'm sure I'll eat plenty of Chamorro food too, but I miss desperately not just the food at these places, but also just kicking back, humahaggan, with my friends, sharing crepes, sharing fries, overcompensating when the bill arrives and therefore making the waitress very very happy.

Oh, ya i tasi! Lana, taimanu na maleffa yu' put Hagu? I can't wait to swim in water which doesn't threaten to make me sterile by dropping the temprature of the lower half of my body to absolute zero. I mean, the beaches out here in the states that I've been to are okay, but by okay I mean, hellishly freezing and discomforting. I can't wait to get back to my marginally polluted, litter strewn beaches of Guam. I'm really looking forward to doing again one of my favorite extreme sports, that's right spearfishing alone at night. Whenever I tell people on island that I do that, they react like I've just told them that I raided the U.S.S. Haole currently stationed in Apra and then sailed it to some mythical pirate island where I sold the ship for scrap and turned the crew into some twisted reality TV show on the military and its disavowed yet very obvious homosexual economies. If there was a reality show on this, what would its name be anyways?

In addition to all this, it will be nice just to leave this country for a while, even though people will no doubt remind me politely, patrioticly, and patronizingly that I'm not really leaving the United States when I go to Guam. But I don't buy any of that. Unlike most Chamorros and people on Guam, what I love about that island isn't because of the United States. I don't love it because its America in Asia or because its Where America's Day Begins, or even Where America Will be Testing the Next Generation of Surveillance Drones. I love it for other reasons which naturally predate and often conflict with the United States, so for me becoming entangled in the colonizing consciousness of my island again, where life seems so determined to strangle the local, to kill or deny the existence of the Chamorro, attempting to inhabit that space which the United States and its representatives cannot get rid of, is why it is my home and why Guam does not belong to the United States. Although some may claim that this kernel that resists is small, is located far back in the past, is practically nothing, it is not in my view. It is huge, and it is what I fight for and what I seek to show to others.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Free the CPT

Published on Friday, December 2, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Join Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Cindy Sheehan, Denis Halliday, Rashid Khalidi, and Many Others in Calling for the Urgent Release of Peace Activists Held in Iraq
An Urgent Appeal
Add your name at:http://www.freethecpt.org

Four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were taken this past Saturday, November 26, in Baghdad, Iraq. They are not spies, nor do they work in the service of any government. They are people who have dedicated their lives to fighting against war and have clearly and publicly opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They are people of faith, but they are not missionaries. They have deep respect for the Islamic faith and for the right of Iraqis to self-determination.
C.P.T. first came to Iraq in October 2002 to oppose the US invasion, and it has remained in the country throughout the occupation in solidarity with the Iraqi people. The group has been invaluable in alerting the world to many of the horrors facing Iraqis detained in US-run prisons and detention centers. C.P.T. was among the first to document the torture occurring at the Abu Ghraib prison, long before the story broke in the mainstream press. Its members have spent countless hours interviewing Iraqis about abuse and torture suffered at the hands of US forces and have disseminated this information internationally.
Each of the four C.P.T. members being held in Iraq has dedicated his life to resisting the darkness and misery of war and occupation. Convinced that it is not enough to oppose the war from the safety of their homes, they made the difficult decision to go to Iraq, knowing that the climate of mistrust created by foreign occupation meant that they could be mistaken for spies or missionaries. They went there with a simple purpose: to bear witness to injustice and to embody a different kind of relationship between cultures and faiths. Members of C.P.T. willingly undertook the risks of living among Iraqis, in a common neighborhood outside of the infamous Green Zone. They sought no protection from weapons or armed guards, trusting in, and benefiting from, the goodwill of the Iraqi people. Acts of kindness and hospitality from Iraqis were innumerable and ensured the C.P.T. members' safety and wellbeing. We believe that spirit will prevail in the current situation.
We appeal to those holding these activists to release them unharmed so that they may continue their vital work as witnesses and peacemakers.
Signed,**
Arundhati Roy, author, The God of Small Things
Tariq Ali, author, Bush in Babylon
Denis Halliday, former U.N. Assistant Secretary General and Head of the U.N. Humanitarian Program in Iraq (1997-1998)
Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan
Noam Chomsky, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Haifa Zangana, Iraqi novelist
Kamil Mahdi, Iraqi economist and anti-occupation activist. Lecturer, University of Exeter
Mahmood Mamdani, "Herbert Lehman Professor of Government," Columbia University
Rashid Khalidi, "Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies," Middle East Institute, Columbia University
Cindy and Craig Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie, killed by Israeli military
Hasan Abu Nimah, Permanent Representative of Jordan at the United Nations (1995-2000)
Ralph Nader, former independent presidential candidate
James Abourezk, former US Senator
Howard Zinn, historian
Naseer Aruri, Professor (Emeritus) University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence/Nobel Peace Prize Nominee
Naomi Klein, author/journalist
Michael Ratner, President, Center for Constitutional Rights
Rev. Daniel Berrigan, poet
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, National Coordinator, Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq
Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist
Mazin Qumsiyeh, author, Sharing the Land Of Canaan, board member US Campaign to End the Occupation
Milan Rai, author, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq
Sam Husseini, writer
Dahr Jamail, independent journalist
Ali Abunimah, Co-founder, Electronic Iraq
Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, United for Peace and Justice
Eve Ensler, author
Jennifer Harbury, Director, Stop Torture Permanently Campaign
Omar Diop, Président de la Coalition Sénégalaise des Défenseurs des Droits humains
Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal
Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange
G. Simon Harak, War Resisters League
Michael Albert, ZNet
Dave McReynolds, former Chair, War Resisters International
Bishop Gabino Zavala, President, Pax Christi USA
To add your name to this statement and to see the full list of initial signers: http://www.freethecpt.org
Contact: freethecpt@gmail.com
**Organizations and institutions are listed for identification purposes only
###

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Does High Fidelity Lead to Numerous Forms of Strategic Ethical Violence?

Another one of my rambling theoretical response papers. I love the section on Suspect Zero and Levinas, which is why I feel all warm and fuzzy posting it here. (apologies though for the recent rash of "question" titles for my posts.)

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Social Theory B
Professor Denise Da Silva
May 9, 2005

Levinas and Irigary

It becomes difficult to read just the sections of Levinas that we were supposed to from class. The truth is, Levinas constantly pops up in the same ways that Spivak,Omi and Winant and so many others do. A short note here when I want to use a phrase like "I am responsible for the other so far as he is mortal." (By the way, I plan on using this phrase at least once during this paper.)

Even Zizek himself has yet to confront directly Levinas, at least in all of the books I've read. Instead he makes quick snipes at him, such as in Organs without Bodies or Welcome to the Desert of the Real. I can understand however, how one might be hesitant to engage with him, because his works seems too simplistic and local, yet overwhelmingly vast and strange at the sametime. His philosophical starting point is as simple and similar as Heidegger's, before one can interrogate what exists, one must first come to terms with the fact that something exists. What seems to separate Levinas and Heidegger those who came before is what this means for beings in being. It doesn't mean the rational isolation of Descartes (which we now see as an attempt to master and exhaust being), but instead an acceptance of engulfment in being.

But moving on from this point becomes difficult. For me, it is because these chapters that we are reading for class, seem different then the Levinas I have read elsewhere and read when written of by others. I know part of this is because of the way he moves between other, Other, human Other and wholly Other, and many translations don't seem to translate these movements very well (even in the photocopied pages, the translators constantly switch between Other and other for autrui. I wonder if these texts are the foundations for Levinas' thought, and that is why they differ from his interviews and other works were he is working towards an ethics without ethics, the means of possibly constituting this neighborliness. Much of what I read in these pages left me confused, until I reached page 300, where I reached familiar territory. And actually when I returned to the familiar I realized something about Levinas’ work that I hadn’t before (it was Jean Wahl’s comment that made me think about it). Although Levinas is trying to get past Descartes and those who followed him, he is at the same time working very closely with Descartes, especially around the idea of infinity. In Descartes we see a finite mind struggling with infinity, and it is this limitation that forces Descartes to admit to a infinite which put the idea his mind alone could not know or grasp (God). For Levinas, this same presence of the infinite is where we find the Other. It is in the gap, the rupture in the totality of the world that we see and know the Other. Levinas wanders along a similar infinite line, constantly tracing (primarily because of our own expectations) the face of God, however reaffirming that this is not religious in the common sense.

It is instead the infinite, the Other with which we interact and the interaction which dictates the required, but often forgotten third position of this relation, that of the We. The forming of this We however is always violent, because it creates universals which force negation, which force encounters to be in absentia of the encountering.

Speaking of negation, it is interesting seeing Levinas wax densely yet poetically about the I and the Other. On page 303 he mentions Hegel and Sartre, and here I think we can pick up another key point. While at first, the recognition of the other as another possibly self conscious thing, (another I) seems nice, Levinas does have a point in critiquing those two, and how effectively that meeting of the I and the other, the possibility of the other becoming another I, limits our very freedom.

The Other cannot be reduced to another I, because when this takes place, the violent anxiety of overproximity and fear of the same takes place (such as Ron Silver in the end of the film TimeCop.). Here we see Levinas attempting to conserve exteriority, because in his ideas, the acceptance of the obligation, the responsibility entrusted in recognizing the face of the other is what gives the I authentic freedom. (Much like Delueze’s remark that the only real choice comes in being chosen.) (Hindi movie films vary this endlessly, forcing the distance between the Big Other and the subject, to sometimes disappear (first example to come to mind, Amitabh Bachan in like every film in the 1970’s (Deewar, Muquaddar Ka Sikandar, etc.)

Does this however presuppose an I which already possesses consciousness-for-itself? As opposed to the Cartesian I which is so cute and innocent, having done nothing to anything important other then doubt itself and find out that it exists, Levinas presupposes something which has a history. It has already negated its share of others, and therefore made the recognitions necessary to become something for itself, as opposed to in-itself. What both Heidegger and Levinas both can’t escape from Hegel is repetition. That the movement from in itself to for itself is based on repetition of the same. (My favorite way of illustrating this is De Ja Vu in films, such as the appearance of the black cat in both the first Matrix film (when the Agents change the building’s architecture) and the last film (when the world is recreated after Smith and Neo’s obliteration (the mythological shift in the matrix films from the first film (which was most likely written by someone else and not the Wachowski brothers) to the second and the second and a half, and the way resistance is articulated and “path” outside of the never ending, ever looping and returning dialectical conflict is presented, can offer important points for those wanting to make use of Denise’s readings of Fanon)) Reminding me of my meager readings of Saint Augustine, we can see also in Levinas, a tiring of the repetitive life of the senses (which also echoes Descartes), and enjoyment. This tiring marks the transition from the in-itself to the for-itself as well, forcing the self to confront the other as something which does not exist only to be consumed or to be the object of enjoyment.

Thus, the I for Levinas is never an innocent I, but one which is seeking to leave behind a violent past. An I which has recognized the potential of exteriority, and sees how the repetition of the Same leads to the regular, everyday violence of life, and also forces one to yearn against a language which speaks of freedom (in particular of the self), only because it is unable to articulate the experience of unfreedom.

It is particularly interesting to read Levinas with or against the film Suspect Zero. In it we see an ethics based on impossibility, an intimacy which cannot help but be haunted by the very distance that creates it. Ben Kingsley is a remote viewer, one of many trained by the FBI to see events taking place in faraway places, through meditation, concentration, sound and symbolic cues. When the program which trains these men is terminated, the men themselves are not told how to “terminate” their “gift.” Thus, they continue to be connected in the most intimate of ways to people across the country. What is most pertinent to the film’s plot, is that Kingsley sees the horrible acts by one serial killer, whom he calls suspect zero (who has disappeared hundreds of children around the country). It is interesting hearing Kingsley discuss these distant impossible others from whom he cannot escape the fact that he is responsible for them, insofar as they are mortal. Furthermore, one must wonder what Levinas’ stand on violence would be, since his position of necessary high fidelity, invariably leads to numerous forms of strategic ethical violence. (such as Kingsley’s killing of several serial killer’s himself, and the also attempting to entrap the film’s main character Aaron Eckhart, into killing Kingsley)(The interesting part about this entrapment comes in the film’s special features, where in one version of the film’s end, the death of Kingsley, leads to the transformation of Eckhart into a remote viewer himself, who resumes Kingsley’s impossible quest to save the other who cannot help but be mortal (this also referring to the fact that the most revolutionary form of violence is against the revolutionary himself (the ethical death of Kingsley, somehow avoiding the terror which the Jacobins and Stalin did not, and finding the revolution re-embodied in Eckhart in the film’s alternate ending)).

Turning to Irigaray, we see both her and Levinas articulating the importance of love in relations with the other. What we see in Irigaray is the importance of the third term, which is always present, but always invisible of assumed as well. For Levinas, the third term is through which the social is formed, the constitutions of that however depends on how we first relate to the other and deal with exteriority. For Irigaray it seems just as important that we spend some time interrogating that third term, looking at the importance of love in forming new ideas of sexual ethics, most likely because they are not possible without each other.

In this class we have mentioned the dead, ghosts, children. For Irigaray, her maybe-past-modern proxy of choice seems to be that which embodies Eros the best, the angel. It is interesting to note how we fixate constantly on the I and the Other, always assuming the invisibility of the third term. As Irigaray’s ideas come largely from psychoanalysis, she is specifically dealing with the child as the third term. For psychoanalytical sexual readings the gaze of the child is always embedded, always present (at least for Lacan and Zizek). The child who sees his parents having sex is the gaze which is presupposed in every I – Other relationship. This can of course be debated endlessly when thinking of variations on the gender and sex of those viewed, and of course goes to the core of psychoanalytical limits for social understanding as well as why Irigaray seems to be seeking another term. (I am thinking here of Zizek’s use of a French author to discuss the relationship between love and the political. The I and the Other gazing into each other’s eyes, misses love and politics. What is necessary is for the I and the Other to both look off to a third point, and it is there that they can find love in the political) (We can see echoes of this possible ethics in Irigaray, as well as Levinas’ implicit desire that somehow the I and the Other come to be side by side).

But of course Irigaray recognizes that this project in itself is inhibited by the very grammar we use, which is sexed masculine. Her use of the discourse of the schizophrenic is an important intervention in understanding this. It is of course easy to just say this, “oh, yeah language is masculine,” but given Irigaray’s ideas, how does one make this point? Her conceptualization of the woman in language, borders on the Lacanian definition of psychosis. Meaning that, while all subjects are detached from language, the woman is forced into a psychotic state, because of what the language speaks her as, namely the fantasy of the man. Confronted with this derivational, impossible state, the woman as a self is forced either to embody that feminine mystique or to turn psychotic in an effort to reject the Big Other which is oppressing you. The new grammar is needed to bypass this place which has been created for woman, which is built upon the imperial-like nostalgia for the Oneness of the womb. (What we see in the cases Irigaray briefly mentions is that unlike men, women are forced to move between hysteria and psychosis, while men move between them, neurosis and most commonly settle around perversion (Perversion in this way is meant to be understood as the discourse of knowing what the other wants, thereby knowing both what the other is, and the what the self is).

If the house of your culture and history was burning down, what would you take?

My mind constantly circles around the question of, "Why Guam is the way it is today?" Its not a rare question, people seem to ask it constantly. The Pacific Daily News has plenty of answers. As do people on the radio, people who chat in restuarants. People in backyards at parties, in churches, in chatrooms or message boards. Meggai na taotao manggai este na finaisen.

But just because everyone seems to ask this question, doesn't really mean that they are interested in or seeking actual answers. The Pacific Daily News and other official news sources are very adept at asking this question and then providing an answer to it often in the same sentence (ever wonder why there is always one or two incredibly long sentences in any given news report or newspaper article? Check out Brit Hume or even Lou Dobbs for clunky examples of this). When people just out of nowhere discuss these issues, aren't the questions themselves already skewed into providing or provoking a particular answer? ("Can you believe what the politicians have done with our island?")

Some people will cling to the idea that asking questions is enough, but if the framework for your question sucks, then you will only ask sucky questions, and refuse any real answers to your questions. If suppositions that form your question come from a particular tradition or intent, then they will move you to answer, seek answers or demands answers along that trajectory. As I've written extensively on already, too often the way these questions are posed lead us to find fault only in the "local." When I say local I mean what, on a day to day level is thought to be from Guam, and not from the United States. Local in this sense has meant "Chamorro" or Chinamorro for the longest time, but given today's ethnic make-up in Guam, it could also mean "non-American" groups like Filipinos and Micronesians.

This search for answers along these lines leads us to always find and be satisfied with "ethnically qualified" answers. The problem with the government is not "politicians" although people may say that, the image that they always draw from and re-draw for others is that of "local politicians" or more accurately "Chamorro politicians." The problems with education are always ethnically marked objects such as "Chamorro teachers" or "Micronesian studes" or "ESL students."

Notions such as "politics" or "education" which are free from this taint, are always so nicely and gently and respectfully associated with the United States and therefore felt to be fine, dandy and gof maolek. So generally, unless you take into account from where you are asking your questions, you will always tend to find positive answers with the United States (more military, more Federal oversight, more English language, more patriotism) and negative answers with Chamorros and Guam (less Chamorro language, less gayu politics, less languages that aren't English, less families getting their land back so we can have "economic development"), and to me those answers are completely useless, because they privilege the United States and its interests above anything having to do with Guam.

But this limit extends even into other realms. For example, in seeking answers to "Why Guam is the way it is?" Chamorros who are searching for Chamorro answers, tend to search along pre-given, established lines of historical, chronological and cultural thought.

I wrote this to a young Chamorro recently, who I'm afraid didn't get what I was referring to when I said it:

"If the house of your culture and history was burning down with you inside it, and you could only grab one thing from which you would explain to other what we are as a people, what would you grab."

A terrible hypothetical trap, which I know is really really problematic, but it is nonetheless telling. The young Chamorro who had emailed me wanting to know more about his roots and his culture (and also, of course wanting to know why it seems like I don't like the US that much) responded that he would get stories from "the war" (although he grew up in the States, for him "the war" meaning World War II still exists without the need for qualification) or maybe stories about the Ancient Chamorros. Most Chamorro and non-Chamorros would answer the very same. Where is the value of the Chamorro? Last year I was emailed by a haole living on Guam who was concerned about the loss of Chamorro culture and history, he told me that we must regain our culture, re-learn it, and to do so we must study archeology. Also, in what type of book is Guam (probably) mentioned the most? Military histories of World War II.

To be perfectly clear before I continue, there is nothing wrong with taking these two things. There is something wrong however if we only think to take from these two areas because these are the only two areas where we think we can find anything of value for explaining who we are. We seek answers in Ancient times, prior to colonization by the Spanish because that's where anthropologists, historians, Pedro Sanchez, Robert Rogers, and too many of ourselves say that that's where the "real" Chamorros are. (bei faisen hamyo, yanggen siha i manminagahet, hafa hit?). We seek answers in World War II and our experiences there, because that was the event which not only made us Americans (as newspaper accounts from the time and people who write editorials for the Pacific Daily News maintain), but gave us the need to be Americans, which radically changed Chamorro forever, where we can conceive of ourselves as nothing else.

For the answers both as to "Why Guam is the why it is?" and even "Why the Chamorro is the way it isn't? (since remember, real Chamorros don't exist anymore) we are required by the knowledge we use and too often believe to only return to these points of reference for explainations.

The reality however, for those interested, lies elsewhere. For those seeking "the Chamorro" only returning to that Ancient point, is the easiest form of symbolic genocide imaginable. It means slaughtering the island's indigenous people again and again through language, through belief and through the objects and texts you produce from those beliefs. As I wrote recently in a paper, the survival of the Chamorro means spilling. And this is survival not in the sense of a barely alive native thing, which can do nothing more than pick up the pieces of its faded existence and prepare that dying form of itself for its exhibit slot in the Museum. But survival in the sense of spilling across the borders that imply and require your death, your confinement to a particular lost time, your attachment to particulat lost practices. It means spilling across time, space and imagination, so that the Chamorro can and should be found everywhere, not just at that point where Jane Underwood says to us, "thank you for flying Anthro-Air, now that we've taken off the life of the Chamorro is now over, please use your designated "neo-Chamorro" term for the duration of the flight."

For explainations of "Sa' hafa taiguini Guahan pa'go?" while the Second World War played a big deal in causing Guam to be like this now, we should pay even more close attention to what came after the war. There are of course two approaches one can take, the local and the non-local. A decent look at either howeve, requires a fair understand of both. From the local angle, which I am most interested in now, I am referring to decisions made by Guam's politicians to structure a particular relationship to the United States (wave the flag, ayuus i bandera, wave the flag, ayuus i bandera), as well as reconstruct the island and its landscape after particular images. After World War II ended there was heavy heavy emphasis on improving Guam and the island advancing, but what were the images upon which these forward progressions and changes would be copied after? What were the notions of change which pushed Guam to have a closer relationship to the US military, or to develop a tourist market?

If someone really wants to know answers to this ever-present question, then you have to look beyond the whole "America in Asia" and "Where America's Day Begins" bullshit (which is basically the historical mindset which continues to privilege the war as a historical site, and assumes that the return of the Americans is the happy ending which "ends history"), and get into the mechanics of how the island changed after the war. A good place to start as I've recently learned is advertisements made by people on Guam to represent Guam to the United States. Also literature created by different Government of Guam agencies (tourism, education, administration, agriculture) during the 1950's and 1960's, and how they describe the road to progress that Guam is one, what are the examples and metaphors they use to draw it and to paint its progression? It is not enough to say that Guam was rebuilt after the war, but these representations clearly show how this rebuilding followed a very particular image. The postwar reconstruction was taken up by both Americans in Guam and elite Chamorros as the opportunity to rebuild Guam in the image of the United States (as seen from Guam), and what this literature makes clear is how that was imagined.

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