Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why I will always love Michelle Branch

I talk often about Chamorro language and the limits of it, and I often kase' pat keha people for their re-affirmation of these problems. People who talk about how its sad that we only use or language to make jokes or tease each other, lament this gi fino' Ingles! People who talk about our dying language often do not use it to complain or make depressing predictions, even amongst those who can understand. They instead of course use English, how fitting.

Naturally given the content of this post, I fall under this category as well. There have to be some Chamorros on the internet who can speak and read our language, who are trawling for anything they can find out there, to stimulate that piece of their mind and memory. Actually I know that those Chamorros exist because I am one of them, I constantly search for certain Chamorro words on the internet and often use different spellings to see if I can find it.

When I first started this blog, I was using Chamorro more. I had just left Guam and so the language was so fresh and alive in my mind. I was calling grandma and grandpa on Guam every week and speaking to them, sometimes for an hour or two. For those of you who were here during the first weeks of my blog you might remember a small disagreement taking place in the comment section of one of my posts. Several Chamorros shared their thoughts on whether me speaking in Chamorro about certain issues was useless or not since the majority of Chamorros as well as the rest of the world's population doesn't speak the language. I continued to receive emails about this, many of them saying it was great to see the language being used, but that if we really want to change our people it has to be in English!

A depressing thought, "if we really want to change our people, then we must speak English?" This sounds suspiciously to me like another one of those fake-change-scenarios. Something like the Organic Act, where things only appear to change a great deal in order to cover up the fact that they actually changed very little. Remember what Ricky Bordallo said in one of his more lucid moments, the Organic Act of Guam instead of providing more autonomy for Guam, actually enhanced the authority of the United States over Guam. You can see this politically, but more so discursively, in terms of what prevails as hegemonic in Guam.

Analytically we can see things very clearly at this point, but all the insightful and beautiful analysis in the world may not make anything happen. If the message of change I am pushing for only comes out in English, then the change that we all say we are hoping for will never come about. It cannot come about, because it is only through the critique another language, another imagination can provide that the sovereignty we say we want, whether at the level of politics, culture, economics or even just everyday existence, can truly come into being.

Without that commitment to work, to endure, we will be stuck like the fellowship of the ring, in the film of the same name, before an object, a realm, a door, which we can describe til our hearts content in glowing or glowering terms, which we can hiss at, boo at, charm, khanayi, but no spell can seem to open. Only in the proper language can this door open. Only then can the change which we speak endlessly about around it, of it, for it, only then can it truly come into being before us. Until we can take that step, that radical leap into something different, breaking of course the chains that bind us as well as our language, we will remain hopelessly outside of that door, covered in the inscriptions of our ancestors as our descendants as well. The future that might lie there will remain always there, never here a part of us.

But I should be careful when I speak of this, not to keep myself out of this discussion. Although I try my best to speak Chamorro as much as I can and use it often times even if people don't understand me, I still find myself bound and gagged in so many ways.

Take for example poetry. Along the right side of this blog you'll find links to all the poems that I've posted on this site as well as a long poem I wrote in 2003 titled "I am Chamorro." The majority of the poems that I've posted on this blog have been in Chamorro, many of them short, simple, sweet, like song lyrics. Alot of them are written to the tune or rhythm of songs. They are a huge contrast to the "I am Chamorro" poem which is written in English, and is long and winding, complex and erratic.

Although I complain often about other fluent and mampos kalamya Chamorro speakers who don't try to speak in Chamorro about complex or important issues, I find it hard myself sometimes, even when I am alone and writing poetry. When I try to write in Chamorro it always returns to silliness, romance, love sick ballads, I find politics difficult to focus on, colonization even harder, and militarism occassionally impossible. I can write on these things, but never in the way that I want to, which would be something similar to the way I write in English. Meaning, crazy and creative, with intense imagery and language.

Does this mean that a Chamorro critique, meaning rooted in the language, cannot take the form a critique that one of mine would in English? While I might agree with this in some way, I also know that it has a cruel colonial edge to it. While I would very much be an advocate of English not being able to contain things from other languages, the reverse has a very colonial dimension, and the kind which keeps it so that languages such as Chamorro are not used for everything, while English is. People do not say that Chamorro language is dying, because they are merely reflecting that fact through their speech. But in fact the language is dying because people say it is and act based on this, even in their rhetoric to defend or protect it.

The fact of the matter is, people know what it would take for Chamorro not to die, but are they willing to take on the personal commitment to make that so? Are they ready to learn the language, not from the comfort of some anthropological chair or classroom, but actually in their lives, as they move and exist, actually understand that the language will only survive when we remove it from the museum that it has been placed in, and make it ours, everyday in everyway.

This does not mean not speaking English, but lana, debi di un na'setbe i fino'-ta lokkue! Na'achaigua i dos, pat na'mas takhilo hafa mismo i fino'-ta, lao lana, fino' Chamoru fan put fabot!

Returning to the issue of serious and non-seriousness of our language, we seriously need to let go of that shit. Many of you when you read my confusion over what a critique in Chamorro would be, probably felt like the issue was simple, Chamorro just isn't like that, its not supposed to be used for those types of things.

The route that you might go based on that thinking is a terrible one. You might return to the anthropological assumptions about native peoples and that they don't have serious bones in their bodies, that their lives were simple without complexity, just relaxing in the sun and occassionaly eating coconuts or fish. That sort of mental route needs to stop right now. Because that is the type of thinking that continues to colonize Chamorros, albeit now ourselves doing the work. What colonizes us now are particular ideas and certain assumptions about certain images, peoples, words, etc. The vicious circle of Chamorro containment persists because of this idea that Chamorro language isn't to be used for serious issues, that Chamorro culture isn't anything serious just parties and fokkai, that Chamorros themselves are ancient native people who continue to exist in minute form in the dark and light complected Guamanians of today.

Are we just going to allow that stupid stereotype of the native as non-serious to continue to dictate our lives? Is this why people love malafunkshun so much, because political and social critiques can be consumed in hardly serious form, and therefore not really felt to mean anything?

I for one am working my best to break out of this, but it is hard. No matter how hard I try and push myself, until I can become more fluent in Chamorro language, meaning use it more and more on a daily basis to make its use more natural and fluid, then I will continue to write poems in it that sound like Michelle Branch songs.

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