Friday, January 27, 2006

Fun With Footnotes Mina'Dos!

Despensa yu', sa' ti fihu pumost yu' gi este na simana. Gof tinane' yu' put eskuela so hassan i tiempo-ku para este.

So what I thought I'd do is have another edition of Fun With Footnotes, where I share with everyone the sprawling, almost jaw shattering footnotes that I often put in my academic papers. There are several reasons for making footnotes of this size, but the one that has served me well most recently is that I use them, or the rambling discussions I start in them as the basis for my next papers. One footnote from an article that will hopefully get published this year, has provided me with the basis for an article I'm working on with a friend of mine Madel, for an article we plan to try and submit to The Journal of Contemporary Thought.

The following footnotes are from an article titled Everything You Wanted to Know About Guam But Were Afraid to Ask Zizek: Part 1, that I first presented at the Sovereignty Matters Conference April 2005 at Columbia University. After the conference, they announced a call for articles from the conference which might be published in a volume. When one person asked me to describe this paper, I gave the following description, "it moves from democracy to leprosy to corruption to family to radical resistance and then sovereignty." It was a pretty fun paper to write. Here are the highlight footnotes from it...

#3: In 2005 a small scandal arose when an article published on about cockfighting in Guam, represented Guam and its people as being in the stone age and willing to give up their daughters to any white Navy man who walks by. These moments of possible freedom are frequent, where the gap between Guam and the United States is put forth, the Chamorro again reminded of the colonial wounding, yet they are nearly always rejected. In June of 2005, a representative of ESPN called up the Tony Blaz Positively Local radio show on Guam to apologize for the article content. Confronted with the fact that both the article and this very apology created the people of Guam as an ethnic and national other, Tony Blaz rejected the revealing of the wound, or the chance to re-examine it, and went on to fulfill what are supposed to be the ideological commitments of every Chamorro towards the United States when he made it clear that “We are Americans too!” Thus not sealing up the gap, but using patriotic plaster to hide it from view, so that some sort of emotionational consistency could be maintained.

#13: Of all the names which I could drop here to illustrate this point, my (least) personal favorite has to be Joe Murphy. A white, retired military man, Murphy worked for years as editor of the Pacific Daily News, and has for decades been one of its most regular columnists. He is the most aggressive presence in the paper for ensuring that the naturalness of the military presence in Guam be questioned as little as possible. His pieces are written in straight forward prose, always professing to get straight to the point, which pragmatically lecture around how Guam needs the United States, whether in the form of military bases or as some ideal to emulate in order to survive. In 2004 I wrote a letter to the editor of the Pacific Daily News which discussed similarities of “sovereignty” between Iraq and Guam (namely lack of). Murphy responded a few days in a letter making it clear that Guam cannot survive without the United States. This is the skill of a seasoned ideologue, not just the ability, but also the desire to always return to the basic antagonism, regardless of the context. In Murphy’s case, that being that Guam is intrinsically dependent upon the United States.

#19: The subversive potential in attempting to occupy a position of impossibility can be seen in the learning plays of Bertolt Brecht (where an actor playing a ruthless exploitative capitalist, while announce to the audience that he is a ruthless, exploitative capitalist, and then will proceed to act as such) and even in Hollywood films such as Hitch starring Will Smith (where the main character Hitch, is able to court an otherwise uncourtable girl (Eva Mendes) by admitting to the impossibility of his own courting, while he is courting her).

#32: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, (Vintage, New York, 1979), 30. I can only use this if I qualify it. The popularized perceptions about Foucault’s theories are of course that, power is everywhere, and no one can escape, personified in nearly everyone’s reaction to the first hour of the first Matrix film. Zizek’s take on the first film is instructive here in seeing what’s wrong with this interpretation. In Welcome to the Desert of the Real, he questions why the machines create the Matrix for the humans, if all they are after is the energy of the human body? Why not develop a means of just extracting it, instead of going to all the trouble of programming and policing something as sprawling as the Matrix? Simple, the machines aren’t really after the biological energies of humans, but instead something that is a part of the trauma of everyday life, namely joissance. Zizek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real, 96-97. But the price of this is that the interpolation must not be complete and that in the constant attempts to close the gap, to eliminate the inconsistencies of the Matrix (which are beautifully visualized in both the film and comics from the prequel The Animatrix), power creates its excesses. And it is in the moments and zones created through this uncontrollable excess or abundance that the resistance which is not necessarily presupposed by the power lies. Or if you prefer, a more simplistic incantation can be found in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince holds a similar lesson in J.K. Rowling’s explaination of Harry Potter’s and Lord Voldemort’s relationship through the prophecy revealed in Harry Potter and The Order of the Pheonix.

#45: Based on my productive misreading of Lacan and Zizek, my ideas of resistance follow the Lacanian ISR triad. Symbolic resistance can be seen in films such as The Full Monty or Brassed Off. It is an act which is designed to “deliver a message,” to ensure the existence of the Big Other and then do little else. Today the Left is preoccupied with symbolic forms of resistance, which are meant not to effect change, but instead to self inspire (to remind us that we are doing our part!). Imaginary resistance can be seen in films such as Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde, where the act is meant to reform, to make possible change that which is already understood to be possible. Real resistance as seen in Acts such as Jin’s final battle in Samurai Champloo or Kevin Kline in In & Out blurting “I’m gay” instead of “I do” at his wedding, relies upon an apparently “suicidal gesture.” An excessive expenditure that is neither merely a strategic intervention into the Symbolic order, or a crazy negation of it, is the impossible gesture which has the effect of redefining the rules and contours of the existing order. (A crucial difference between the Imaginary and the Real would be that the Imaginary is possible to happen, where the Real is impossible that happened. The radical shift is always negated in a certain way, so that what the Act has brought about might seem routine and normal. A clue for this might be the decision to include “of course” in such a descriptive statement. The tiny addition helping to cushion the trauma in the wake of the Act. (such as the final party scene from In & Out)) Rex Butler, Slavoj Zizek: Live Theory, (New York, Continuum, 2005), 145.

#53: As Chamorros saw in 2005 with their most recent attempt to get war reparations from the United States government for their suffering during World War II, the language of exclusion is severely limited. As a U.S. Naval base during World War II, Guam was occupied by the Japanese for 32 months, resulting in several hundred Chamorro deaths. The reoccupation of Guam by the U.S. military (which involved several weeks of sustained bombing) destroyed most of the island’s villages and structures. For over sixty years Chamorros have sought some sort of compensation for the death and destruction that was brought to their island. The 2005 argument for Chamorro war reparations evidenced well how the language of exclusion operates. Rather then claiming any wrong doing or accusing the United States of anything which would require restitution, the Chamorro claim was that they were not given equal “access” for reparations as compared with other groups (such as U.S. soldiers). Chamorros thus requested compensations based on first their understanding of assimilation (their die-hard patriotism and love for the United States which was illustrated through war narratives of Chamorro loyalty to the United States) and then a movement towards themselves as victims of exclusion (stories from Chamorros who stated that they had no idea after the war that they could seek compensation). The rejection of the Chamorro petition from both the United States executive and legislative branches made a similar move. For example, statements from the Bush administration on this issue, always began by qualifying that they respected and understood the depth of Chamorro patriotism towards the United States, but then would go on to reject their claim based on their misrecognition of reality (as Robert Underwood noted, what they are and are not owed because of their patriotism) and the potential approval of victimhood in giving in to such a request. The obscene force here, is the inherent glitch in the parallax, which sustains the exclusion at the level of enunciation which shall keep any fundamental inclusion from taking place.

#55: My work for the past year has been preoccupied with sinthomes and scenes in Guam. Sinthome being the image through which an ideological system or economy is run. Zizek offers as an example of a sinthome, “single unwed mother.” “It is a point where all the lines of predominant ideological argumentation (the return to family values, the rejection of the welfare state and its ‘uncontrolled’ spending etc) meet.” Slavoj Zizek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology, (London, Verso, 1999), 176. Scenes refers to the fundamental images and metaphors upon which people build their lives in Guam. These scenes delineate and stimulate fantasy and fantasy spaces, and are thus chronologically and teleologically rooted. At present I see two main types of scenes in Guam, both of which enact different forms of colonization. First, there are those which nationalize the local, or force what might be local or Chamorro to be re-imagined nationally. The US Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the gifts of modernity and the Enlightenment make common appearances. To give a concrete example, when Angel Santos passed away in 2003, the Acts of his life were filtered through scenes such as these. When his life emerged, he had been recast by many Chamorros and non-Chamorros on Guam as lina’la’ Amerikanu and not Chamorro. One such transformation went as follows: According to a radio-caller responding to Santos’ death, since Chamorro culture is a non-confrontational culture, his actions could only be American. The great stuff that he did, he did it all as an American. Bevacqua, Michael Lujan, “Nihi ta fan Agululumi: Inferiority and Activism Amongst Chamorros,” Galaide, (2:1), 2003. Second, there are scenes which force the local to confront its own non-existence, based on colonizing anthropological notions of cultural death and change. This influential effect on behalf of the colonizer remains outside the scene, giving the impression of autonomy or absolutely local. A good example of this can be found in the cliff at Two Lover’s Point. As evidenced in the 2005 text I Dos Amantes, it is here where the colonizing enjoyment takes place as the death of the “last Chamorro” (who proudly and nobly leaps to his death) is continually re-imagined alongside the epic Chamorro love story of two lovers, from different social castes who leap to their death together. What emerges from this intersection is an impossible inconsistency, (a scene upon which the self cannot build or fantasize) exemplified in the fact that rather then a rebirth or a resurrection of the Chamorro, as the tale might suggest, it instead becomes a static, too easily commodified, charmingly tragic tale for tourists. Baltazar B. Aguon, I Dos Amantes, (Self-published, 2005).

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