Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Anything Guam, Everything Chamorros

I'm doing my best to get back into a regular writing routine for this blog. In case you haven't noticed I've been writing sparodically lately and mainly just recycling things that I've written elsewhere or for classes.

Part of the reason for this absence of writing on my blog has been because I'm writing way too much crap elsewhere. I'm trying to get my latest master's thesis done by May, and so I'm neck deep in that. At the same time I deal with an extra couple dozens emails each week about the Famoksaiyan conference that I'm helping put together. This extra couple dozens emails means more time spent responding to emails. Then there's the fact that I've got three conference presentations coming up in the next three months, each of them different papers. PLUS, I've got one article that I'm trying to work on with my friend Madel to be finished by June.

I've got to get back to the point where I see my blog not as some extra work, but as something which helps to produce my work. A test board if you will, where the chaos of things floating around, or perhaps swimming around in my head, can be sucked out and slapped onto this blog, and finally I can then see whether it works or not. Kao sense este, pat ahe'?

When people ask me what my work is on, I always respond in a very earnest, lao frihon, lao jackassish sort of way. As an academic we are each supposed to have those one or two lines prepared and polished which will present our work in a very contained and concise yet topical and possibly vibrant way to those who probably don't care, but probably should. I thought about formulating something like this, but later decided not to.

Hafa i che'cho'-hu? Mismo todu nai, mismo i lina'la'-hu!

So what then is my answer when this question comes up, as it always does?

Question: "And what is your research on?"
Answer: "Anything Guam, everything Chamorros."

Recently I've developed an abbreviated version, which is "Guam and Chamorros."

I che'cho'-hu guini gi eskuela, ti sahnge ginnen Guahu. Achokka' guaha papet academic na hu tuge' ya guaha nai bai hu famanu'i gi conferences siha, i mas impottante na che'cho'-hu, Guahu.

One night I was driving down from Atascadero, the Central California cowboy town that most of my immediate family lives in. The drive from their to San Diego is usually around 5 1/2 hours, but can quickly become 6 1/2 or 7 1/2 hours if you hit traffic in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara. To avoid becoming a sickened smog heaving sardine awaiting distributing on more free flowing freeways, I usually drive literally in the middle of the night. Like from 8 - 2, or 10 - 4.

This particular night I was driving through LA, very late and I was listening to this interesting leftist liberal radio station whose name and number I can't remember. What they were presenting was a recording of a public panel of different activists talking about religion and activism. The person that they were focusing on was a Buddhist monk who was speaking on reflection, personal change and political change, etc. He told an interesting story which has stuck with me since.

It was about a heroine rehab clinic in a South East Asia country. According to this monk, heroine addiction is notoriously difficult to cure, but yet this small clinic or monestary had gained a big reputation for its success. So this monk travelled there in order to see what the secret to this success was. What were their strategies, whether in terms of food, medication, therapy, physical exercises. When he arrived he found a typical monestary, nothing obvious from its structure what would make it so unique. Inside he found heroince addicts meditating and eating some sort of broth mixture. Each day, the addicts would meet with and meditate with the leader of the monestary, a monk who had formerly been a narcotics agent for the government. The American monk asked the leader of the clinic what the secrets to his success were, since the broth they ate seemed to be harmless, the mediations were just regular medidations and the addicts didn't seem to do anything else. The monestary leader asked this monk a series of cryptic questions, but said little more. There didn't seem to be much of an answer.

It was only later when the monk learned the history of this leader, how he had once been a narcotics agent who had become disillusioned by the prevelance of addiction and drug abuse and there seemed to be little that could be done to combat it. His grandmother however told him that if he became a monk, she would tell him a way to cure heronie addiction. So he radically changed his life, and renounced a number of things in order to live a monk's life, in fact renouncing more than he was actually supposed to, purifying himself. When he had done this however he didn't return to his grandmother to ask her what the cure was, because through this process, as the activist monk recounted, he had become a cure for heronie addiction. There was something in his presence, in his energy, which brought about this change in those within his clinic.

I haven't told this story out loud for so long, so the details have become fuzzy, and this shows in my re-telling, but the end of it has always stayed with me. This is very much connected to Gandhi's famous sinangan, "be the change that you want to see in the world," because only by coming this thing can you change the world.

This is a vital part of my new master's thesis. Getting at this dimension of social change, bringing out the necessity of a self-violence. I intend to critique Fanon in my last chapter, because although he can be reformatted to work with my theories, he nonetheless privileges the violence against the colonizer. While I can see the necessity of this for Africa and its era of decolonization, in the Pacific (primarily Micronesia) this emphasis would be pointless.

The primary justification for our relationships with the United States deal with comfort and with material happiness. When decolonization is discussed in Guam, schizophrenic paranoid collages writhe up from the discussions, and ruined villages are invoked, rampant drug addictions, an inability for capitalism and markets to run, government breakdowns, corruption, dictatorships. This schizophrenic (ti clinical) response emerges from a fear of this self-violence, a fear to question the things which are supposed to be unquestionable. There can be no happiness beyond the United States, no possibility, nothing lies beyond it but death and chaos.

I do not in anyway believe this, and although many people may also say, "well of course we know its not true, but...," we must identify that "but" as the signification of that belief. All rationalizations of "we can't live without the United States" come from a colonizing fear that we are nothing without it.

Two of the interviews for my last master's thesis make this clear for me. The first is from an Chamorro raised up during the colonial era prior to World War II. According to this elder Chamorro students were instructed on proper hygenie and bodily maintenace, which to her was insulting, "do they think we don't know how to use the bathroom! That they have to teach us!" Read this statement along with that of a 2002 Senatorial candidate for Guam's Legislature, who said that he was against decolonization because he didn't want his children to use "outhouses." What an incredible distinction, according to this logic, we have been taught how to take' by the United States (take' magof) and without them we revert back to intolerable outdoor plumbing, (take' baba).

Decolonization must mean that there are those of us who assume this violence against ourselves, who are willing to embody these irrational and insane fears, to show their absurdity. When I speak to people about returning to the land, I speak of it in all seriousness. There are those who say that Guam is an island and "blah blah blah" it has no natural resources and therefore can't ever sustain itself. A regime of comfort emerges to protect this form of being, that this is the only way that we can be, and an island could never provide this, so we must depend on the US in everyway possible to make sure this form of being isn't threatened. But it must be threatened! It must be revealed to be not the end of history, the end of progress, but just another contingent historical moment. So many of us must chose wrongly, chose badly.

We must chose to return to the land despite what predictions of doom and impossibility follow us there. And we must not do it for capitalistic gains, but in order to offer alternative ways of social organizing. Different ways that we can relate to each other and the world around us. Acts such as these are the key to decolonization, because the change becomes embodied because of those who accepted the risk, the sacrifice, who have chosen the impossible and done it, these are what can pierce that veneer of comfort and happiness which is actually so shallow, yet bleeds necessity and eternalness.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that I give up the American indoctrinated values of consumerism, materialism, and cut-throat competition in exchange for living a life of humbleness, frugalness, simplicity which leads to pure cooperation??? Are you suggesting that I live those latter values of my Chamoru Ancestors which are also the important values of Christianity??? Are you saying for me to give up my Americanness and hold on to my Chamoruness???

What a difficult dilemma to come face to face with??? How can I know the right choices to make???

.....I got it!!!

As you've been saying for so long...
"Sahuma Minagahet ya Na'suha Dinagi"

VM

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Masters Thesis Writing

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