Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Why It's Over For America
by Noam Chomsky
An inability to protect its citizens. The belief that it is above the law. A lack of democracy. Three defining characteristics of the 'failed state'. And that, says Noam Chomsky, is exactly what the US is becoming. In an exclusive extract from his devastating new book,"Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy," America's leading thinker explains how his country lost its way.
The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern for human welfare and rights is, naturally, a subjective matter. But there are a few choices that seem unavoidable, because they bear so directly on the prospects for decent survival. Among them are at least these three: nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world's leading power is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes. It is important to stress the government, because the population, not surprisingly, does not agree.
That brings up a fourth issue that should deeply concern Americans, and the world: the sharp divide between public opinion and public policy, one of the reasons for the fear, which cannot casually be put aside, that, as Gar Alperowitz puts it in America Beyond Capitalism, "the American 'system' as a whole is in real trouble - that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of its historic values [of] equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy."
The "system" is coming to have some of the features of failed states, to adopt a currently fashionable notion that is conventionally applied to states regarded as potential threats to our security (like Iraq) or as needing our intervention to rescue the population from severe internal threats (like Haiti). Though the concept is recognized to be, according to the journal Foreign Affairs, "frustratingly imprecise," some of the primary characteristics of failed states can be identified. One is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious "democratic deficit" that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.
Among the hardest tasks that anyone can undertake, and one of the most important, is to look honestly in the mirror. If we allow ourselves to do so, we should have little difficulty in finding the characteristics of "failed states" right at home.
No one familiar with history should be surprised that the growing democratic deficit in the United States is accompanied by declaration of messianic missions to bring democracy to a suffering world. Declarations of noble intent by systems of power are rarely complete fabrication, and the same is true in this case. Under some conditions, forms of democracy are indeed acceptable. Abroad, as the leading scholar-advocate of "democracy promotion" concludes, we find a "strong line of continuity": democracy is acceptable if and only if it is consistent with strategic and economic interests (Thomas Carothers). In modified form, the doctrine holds at home as well.
The basic dilemma facing policymakers is sometimes candidly recognized at the dovish liberal extreme of the spectrum, for example, by Robert Pastor, President Carter's national security adviser for Latin America. He explained why the administration had to support the murderous and corrupt Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and, when that proved impossible, to try at least to maintain the US-trained National Guard even as it was massacring the population "with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy," killing some 40,000 people. The reason was the familiar one: "The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations of the region, but it also did not want developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely."
Similar dilemmas faced Bush administration planners after their invasion of Iraq. They want Iraqis "to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely." Iraq must therefore be sovereign and democratic, but within limits. It must somehow be constructed as an obedient client state, much in the manner of the traditional order in Central America. At a general level, the pattern is familiar, reaching to the opposite extreme of institutional structures. The Kremlin was able to maintain satellites that were run by domestic political and military forces, with the iron fist poised. Germany was able to do much the same in occupied Europe even while it was at war, as did fascist Japan in Man-churia (its Manchukuo). Fascist Italy achieved similar results in North Africa while carrying out virtual genocide that in no way harmed its favorable image in the West and possibly inspired Hitler. Traditional imperial and neocolonial systems illustrate many variations on similar themes.
To achieve the traditional goals in Iraq has proven to be surprisingly difficult, despite unusually favorable circumstances. The dilemma of combining a measure of independence with firm control arose in a stark form not long after the invasion, as mass non-violent resistance compelled the invaders to accept far more Iraqi initiative than they had anticipated. The outcome even evoked the nightmarish prospect of a more or less democratic and sovereign Iraq taking its place in a loose Shiite alliance comprising Iran, Shiite Iraq, and possibly the nearby Shiite-dominated regions of Saudi Arabia, controlling most of the world's oil and independent of Washington.
The situation could get worse. Iran might give up on hopes that Europe could become independent of the United States, and turn eastward. Highly relevant background is discussed by Selig Harrison, a leading specialist on these topics. "The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the European Union were based on a bargain that the EU, held back by the US, has failed to honor," Harrison observes.
"The bargain was that Iran would suspend uranium enrichment, and the EU would undertake security guarantees. The language of the joint declaration was "unambiguous. 'A mutually acceptable agreement,' it said, would not only provide 'objective guarantees' that Iran's nuclear program is 'exclusively for peaceful purposes' but would 'equally provide firm commitments on security issues.'"
The phrase "security issues" is a thinly veiled reference to the threats by the United States and Israel to bomb Iran, and preparations to do so. The model regularly adduced is Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, which appears to have initiated Saddam's nuclear weapons programs, another demonstration that violence tends to elicit violence. Any attempt to execute similar plans against Iran could lead to immediate violence, as is surely understood in Washington. During a visit to Tehran, the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned that his militia would defend Iran in the case of any attack, "one of the strongest signs yet," the Washington Post reported, "that Iraq could become a battleground in any Western conflict with Iran, raising the spectre of Iraqi Shiite militias - or perhaps even the US-trained Shiite-dominated military - taking on American troops here in sympathy with Iran." The Sadrist bloc, which registered substantial gains in the December 2005 elections, may soon become the most powerful single political force in Iraq. It is consciously pursuing the model of other successful Islamist groups, such as Hamas in Palestine, combining strong resistance to military occupation with grassroots social organizing and service to the poor.
Washington's unwillingness to allow regional security issues to be considered is nothing new. It has also arisen repeatedly in the confrontation with Iraq. In the background is the matter of Israeli nuclear weapons, a topic that Washington bars from international consideration. Beyond that lurks what Harrison rightly describes as "the central problem facing the global non-proliferation regime": the failure of the nuclear states to live up to their nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligation "to phase out their own nuclear weapons" - and, in Washington's case, formal rejection of the obligation.
Unlike Europe, China refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the growing fear of China on the part of US planners. Much of Iran's oil already goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons, presumably considered a deterrent to US threats. Still more uncomfortable for Washington is the fact that, according to the Financial Times, "the Sino-Saudi relationship has developed dramatically," including Chinese military aid to Saudi Arabia and gas exploration rights for China. By 2005, Saudi Arabia provided about 17 per cent of China's oil imports. Chinese and Saudi oil companies have signed deals for drilling and construction of a huge refinery (with Exxon Mobil as a partner). A January 2006 visit by Saudi king Abdullah to Beijing was expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for "increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas, and minerals."
Indian analyst Aijaz Ahmad observes that Iran could "emerge as the virtual linchpin in the making, over the next decade or so, of what China and Russia have come to regard as an absolutely indispensable Asian Energy Security Grid, for breaking Western control of the world's energy supplies and securing the great industrial revolution of Asia." South Korea and southeast Asian countries are likely to join, possibly Japan as well. A crucial question is how India will react. It rejected US pressures to withdraw from an oil pipeline deal with Iran. On the other hand, India joined the United States and the EU in voting for an anti-Iranian resolution at the IAEA, joining also in their hypocrisy, since India rejects the NPT regime to which Iran, so far, appears to be largely conforming. Ahmad reports that India may have secretly reversed its stand under Iranian threats to terminate a $20bn gas deal. Washington later warned India that its "nuclear deal with the US could be ditched" if India did not go along with US demands, eliciting a sharp rejoinder from the Indian foreign ministry and an evasive tempering of the warning by the US embassy.
The prospect that Europe and Asia might move toward greater independence has seriously troubled US planners since World War II, and concerns have significantly increased as the tripolar order has continued to evolve, along with new south-south interactions and rapidly growing EU engagement with China.
US intelligence has projected that the United States, while controlling Middle East oil for the traditional reasons, will itself rely mainly on more stable Atlantic Basin resources (West Africa, western hemisphere). Control of Middle East oil is now far from a sure thing, and these expectations are also threatened by developments in the western hemisphere, accelerated by Bush administration policies that have left the United States remarkably isolated in the global arena. The Bush administration has even succeeded in alienating Canada, an impressive feat.
Canada's minister of natural resources said that within a few years one quarter of the oil that Canada now sends to the United States may go to China instead. In a further blow to Washington's energy policies, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, Venezuela, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the openly hostile US government. Latin America as a whole is increasing trade and other relations with China, with some setbacks, but likely expansion, in particular for raw materials exporters like Brazil and Chile.
Meanwhile, Cuba-Venezuela relations are becoming very close, each relying on its comparative advantage. Venezuela is providing low-cost oil while in return Cuba organizes literacy and health programs, sending thousands of highly skilled professionals, teachers, and doctors, who work in the poorest and most neglected areas, as they do elsewhere in the Third World. Cuba-Venezuela projects are extending to the Caribbean countries, where Cuban doctors are providing healthcare to thousands of people with Venezuelan funding. Operation Miracle, as it is called, is described by Jamaica's ambassador to Cuba as "an example of integration and south-south cooperation", and is generating great enthusiasm among the poor majority. Cuban medical assistance is also being welcomed elsewhere. One of the most horrendous tragedies of recent years was the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. In addition to the huge toll, unknown numbers of survivors have to face brutal winter weather with little shelter, food, or medical assistance. One has to turn to the South Asian press to read that "Cuba has provided the largest contingent of doctors and paramedics to Pakistan," paying all the costs (perhaps with Venezuelan funding), and that President Musharraf expressed his "deep gratitude" for the "spirit and compassion" of the Cuban medical teams.
Some analysts have suggested that Cuba and Venezuela might even unite, a step towards further integration of Latin America in a bloc that is more independent from the United States. Venezuela has joined Mercosur, the South American customs union, a move described by Argentine president Nestor Kirchner as "a milestone" in the development of this trading bloc, and welcomed as opening "a new chapter in our integration" by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Independent experts say that "adding Venezuela to the bloc furthers its geopolitical vision of eventually spreading Mercosur to the rest of the region."
At a meeting to mark Venezuela's entry into Mercosur, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said, "We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies," a not very oblique reference to the US-sponsored "Free Trade Agreement for the Americas," which has aroused strong public opposition. Venezuela also supplied Argentina with fuel oil to help stave off an energy crisis, and bought almost a third of Argentine debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the control of the US-dominated IMF after two decades of disastrous effects of conformity to its rules. The IMF has "acted towards our country as a promoter and a vehicle of policies that caused poverty and pain among the Argentine people," President Kirchner said in announcing his decision to pay almost $1 trillion to rid itself of the IMF forever. Radically violating IMF rules, Argentina enjoyed a substantial recovery from the disaster left by IMF policies.
Steps toward independent regional integration advanced further with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005, the first president from the indigenous majority. Morales moved quickly to reach energy accords with Venezuela.
Though Central America was largely disciplined by Reaganite violence and terror, the rest of the hemisphere is falling out of control, particularly from Venezuela to Argentina, which was the poster child of the IMF and the Treasury Department until its economy collapsed under the policies they imposed. Much of the region has left-center governments. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies, and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in SUVs in traffic gridlock. Some are even calling for an "Indian nation" in South America. Meanwhile the economic integration that is under way is reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests, with Latin American elites and economies linked to the imperial powers but not to one another. Along with growing south-south interaction on a broader scale, these developments are strongly influenced by popular organizations that are coming together in the unprecedented international global justice movements, ludicrously called "anti-globalization" because they favor globalization that privileges the interests of people, not investors and financial institutions. For many reasons, the system of US global dominance is fragile, even apart from the damage inflicted by Bush planners.
One consequence is that the Bush administration's pursuit of the traditional policies of deterring democracy faces new obstacles. It is no longer as easy as before to resort to military coups and international terrorism to overthrow democratically elected governments, as Bush planners learnt ruefully in 2002 in Venezuela. The "strong line of continuity" must be pursued in other ways, for the most part. In Iraq, as we have seen, mass nonviolent resistance compelled Washington and London to permit the elections they had sought to evade. The subsequent effort to subvert the elections by providing substantial advantages to the administration's favorite candidate, and expelling the independent media, also failed. Washington faces further problems. The Iraqi labor movement is making considerable progress despite the opposition of the occupation authorities. The situation is rather like Europe and Japan after World War II, when a primary goal of the United States and United Kingdom was to undermine independent labor movements - as at home, for similar reasons: organized labor contributes in essential ways to functioning democracy with popular engagement. Many of the measures adopted at that time - withholding food, supporting fascist police - are no longer available. Nor is it possible today to rely on the labor bureaucracy of the American Institute for Free Labor Development to help undermine unions. Today, some American unions are supporting Iraqi workers, just as they do in Colombia, where more union activists are murdered than anywhere in the world. At least the unions now receive support from the United Steelworkers of America and others, while Washington continues to provide enormous funding for the government, which bears a large part of the responsibility.
The problem of elections arose in Palestine much in the way it did in Iraq. As already discussed, the Bush administration refused to permit elections until the death of Yasser Arafat, aware that the wrong man would win. After his death, the administration agreed to permit elections, expecting the victory of its favored Palestinian Authority candidates. To promote this outcome, Washington resorted to much the same modes of subversion as in Iraq, and often before. Washington used the US Agency for International Development as an "invisible conduit" in an effort to "increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of crucial elections in which the governing party faces a serious challenge from the radical Islamic group Hamas" (Washington Post), spending almost $2m "on dozens of quick projects before elections this week to bolster the governing Fatah faction's image with voters" (New York Times). In the United States, or any Western country, even a hint of such foreign interference would destroy a candidate, but deeply rooted imperial mentality legitimates such routine measures elsewhere. However, the attempt to subvert the elections again resoundingly failed.
The US and Israeli governments now have to adjust to dealing somehow with a radical Islamic party that approaches their traditional rejectionist stance, though not entirely, at least if Hamas really does mean to agree to an indefinite truce on the international border as its leaders state. The US and Israel, in contrast, insist that Israel must take over substantial parts of the West Bank (and the forgotten Golan Heights). Hamas's refusal to accept Israel's "right to exist" mirrors the refusal of Washington and Jerusalem to accept Palestine's "right to exist" - a concept unknown in international affairs; Mexico accepts the existence of the United States but not its abstract "right to exist" on almost half of Mexico, acquired by conquest. Hamas's formal commitment to "destroy Israel" places it on a par with the United States and Israel, which vowed formally that there could be no "additional Palestinian state" (in addition to Jordan) until they relaxed their extreme rejectionist stand partially in the past few years, in the manner already reviewed. Although Hamas has not said so, it would come as no great surprise if Hamas were to agree that Jews may remain in scattered areas in the present Israel, while Palestine constructs huge settlement and infrastructure projects to take over the valuable land and resources, effectively breaking Israel up into unviable cantons, virtually separated from one another and from some small part of Jerusalem where Jews would also be allowed to remain. And they might agree to call the fragments "a state." If such proposals were made, we would - rightly - regard them as virtually a reversion to Nazism, a fact that might elicit some thoughts. If such proposals were made, Hamas's position would be essentially like that of the United States and Israel for the past five years, after they came to tolerate some impoverished form of "statehood." It is fair to describe Hamas as radical, extremist, and violent, and as a serious threat to peace and a just political settlement. But the organization is hardly alone in this stance.
Elsewhere traditional means of undermining democracy have succeeded. In Haiti, the Bush administration's favorite "democracy-building group, the International Republican Institute," worked assiduously to promote the opposition to President Aristide, helped by the withholding of desperately needed aid on grounds that were dubious at best. When it seemed that Aristide would probably win any genuine election, Washington and the opposition chose to withdraw, a standard device to discredit elections that are going to come out the wrong way: Nicaragua in 1984 and Venezuela in December 2005 are examples that should be familiar. Then followed a military coup, expulsion of the president, and a reign of terror and violence vastly exceeding anything under the elected government.
The persistence of the strong line of continuity to the present again reveals that the United States is very much like other powerful states. It pursues the strategic and economic interests of dominant sectors of the domestic population, to the accompaniment of rhetorical flourishes about its dedication to the highest values. That is practically a historical universal, and the reason why sensible people pay scant attention to declarations of noble intent by leaders, or accolades by their followers.
One commonly hears that carping critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: "They present solutions, but I don't like them." In addition to the proposals that should be familiar about dealing with the crises that reach to the level of survival, a few simple suggestions for the United States have already been mentioned: 1) accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court; 2) sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols; 3) let the UN take the lead in international crises; 4) rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror; 5) keep to the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter; 6) give up the Security Council veto and have "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind," as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centers disagree; 7) cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending. For people who believe in democracy, these are very conservative suggestions: they appear to be the opinions of the majority of the US population, in most cases the overwhelming majority. They are in radical opposition to public policy. To be sure, we cannot be very confident about the state of public opinion on such matters because of another feature of the democratic deficit: the topics scarcely enter into public discussion and the basic facts are little known. In a highly atomized society, the public is therefore largely deprived of the opportunity to form considered opinions.
Another conservative suggestion is that facts, logic, and elementary moral principles should matter. Those who take the trouble to adhere to that suggestion will soon be led to abandon a good part of familiar doctrine, though it is surely much easier to repeat self-serving mantras. Such simple truths carry us some distance toward developing more specific and detailed answers. More important, they open the way to implement them, opportunities that are readily within our grasp if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and imposed illusion.
Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to seek to induce pessimism, hopelessness, and despair, reality is different. There has been substantial progress in the unending quest for justice and freedom in recent years, leaving a legacy that can be carried forward from a higher plane than before. Opportunities for education and organizing abound. As in the past, rights are not likely to be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions - attending a few demonstrations or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as "democratic politics." As always in the past, the tasks require dedicated day-by-day engagement to create - in part recreate - the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena, from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena, from which it is excluded in principle. There are many ways to promote democracy at home, carrying it to new dimensions. Opportunities are ample, and failure to grasp them is likely to have ominous repercussions: for the country, for the world, and for future generations.
Noam Chomsky, the eminent intellectual and author, is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
Sunday, May 28, 2006
At UCSD I get free access to the online archives for the PDN and so I decided to check out my old letters and see what the responses to them were. For the past couple years I've spent most of my time stateside going to school, so sometimes I will be told that my letter was published and just get hints from people about the responses to it.
Here's one from last year, which I wrote after reacting to Tony Blaz's statements on the radio to a representative of ESPN, where basically Blaz cried out in different ways, "we are Americans too" over and over. For most people this may be true, but for me this is one of my least favorite parts about Guam, its obsession with proving how American it is, or maintaining a level of healthy level of Americaness. (notice how the discussions of societal breakdown in Guam are almost always made in relation to how we have fallen below acceptable levels of Americaness! When you hear people shriek in terror about Guam possibly being a third world country, the fear of losing our Americaness is there, making us think that being a third world country is the end of the world!)
For me, there is much more to life on Guam than the red, whitewashed and blue and so when these moments come that make clear to us that we aren't really Americans, my response is always, great maybe we can have a discussion about this now, without someone trying to leklok into an American flag. Of course, these moments are rarely used that way, and that was the point of the following letter, we are told we are not this, not Americans over and over, so is our most intelligent response to be to demand that we ARE THIS? I should hope not, people on Guam have fears of being stigmatized as a third world nation, but just love being a first world nation's colony? Better to kneel and beg in heaven, then to even consider living on your own in hell, seems to be the colonizing wisdom here.
Scandals assert we are not one with Americans
August 12, 2005
In all our lives, there are regular moments where reality itself, in all its harshness, appears before us and we are given two basic choices: We can either transform ourselves based on this revelation; or we can live in denial and "stay the course."
In Guam, we call these encounters "scandals," such as our most recent, involving ESPN. I would like to remind everyone that these scandals happen all the time. But such is life in the colonies. Since we're familiar yet different, we become the stuff of colonial fantasies: an island covered in snakes, employment deflowering virgins and, of course, natives who will marry the first sailor they come across.
When these movies, magazines, politicians, etc., constantly tell us that we are backward, exotic or foreign, they are hinting at a reality few of us wish to confront, namely that we are not one with the colonizer, that we are not actually Americans.
One main reason why things rarely change on Guam is because instead of using moments like these to re-evaluate Guam's political existence, we sink into denial and we use them to attempt to assert our so-called American-ness. We use them to try and overcome the colonial gulf that seems to forever separate us from being actual Americans. Confronted with this division, people cry out, "We are Americans too!"
But if you scan the pages of the Pacific Daily News following the 9/11 attacks, you'll see how even these claims unravel themselves. When people on Guam said, "Guam stands with America," America responded by saying, "America thanks you," always constantly referring to a division which all the flag-waving in the world could not overcome.
So the next time we are confronted with a scandal like this, which shrieks, "You are not Americans!", instead of instinctively yelping, "Yes, we are!" we must yell back, "Fine!" and then use that moment to re-evaluate our relationship toward the United States and try to chart a future outside of this pathetic status of "Americans-in-waiting."
MICHAEL LUJAN BEVACQUA
A few weeks later, two letters to the editor were published arguing in strange and mysteriously pointless ways against what I had said. When reading them today, I couldn't really be angry at them, because they don't really have any points to be angry with. All I can really be is frustrated at them, especially the second one that I'll post which is written by a completely clueless haole, who knows absolutely nothing and somehow uses his ignorance and lack of knowledge to prove that what I said has no merit.
Here they are, read at your own discretion, they may cause your brain to shrivel up and die.
Writer uses unflattering reporting to back views
August 27, 2005
In his latest tirade against the United States, Mike Bevacqua attempts to illustrate in the Aug. 12 Pacific Daily News how deluded we Chamorros are to dare think we're in fact Americans. He says that we can either live in denial of this circumstance or "transform ourselves."
While this impassioned display may be rooted in some genuine concern for Guam's people, it is rather unfortunate that he uses the occasional unflattering and unsubstantiated ESPN-type reporting in order to exaggerate the merits of his political views.
Whether or not the American flag is hoisted on the grounds of Adelup or in the halls of I Liheslaturan Guahan, any reasonable person can surmise that there would be no difference, if not more, in the amount of such publicity.
CARLOS B. PANGELINAN
Chamorro friends aren't `Americans in waiting'
August 31, 2005
I have to take issue with Michael Bevacqua's recent letter suggesting Guam re-evaluate it's relationship with the mainland United Sates due to "scandals" (Aug. 12 Voice of the People). My family and I are recent arrivals here and have enjoyed what the island of Guam and its residents, whatever their background or origin, have offered.
Bevacqua hinted of numerous disparaging articles and statements in the press about Guam, yet only referenced the regrettable ESPN article. My family and I searched a great deal for information on the island prior to our arrival and found little, if any, negative press. We did find articles about the food, the hospitality and, of course, issues with corruption and various infrastructure problems, many of which were published from the island itself.
Bevacqua also wrote about the people of Guam, stating, "Guam stands with America" and how "America thanks you" was an inappropriate response. Can he provide a more appropriate one? Would dead silence have sufficed? I work with retired military and reserve personnel who were born and raised on this island and they don't seem to think they are "Americans in waiting." My wife and I counted many Chamorro friends, prior to our departure, who had elected to live on the mainland, for whatever reason, and I don't recall them ever referring to themselves as "Americans in waiting."
GARRY P. CRAMINS
First off, I really have no idea what the last paragraph of Carlos B. Pangelinan's letter is supposed to mean. And Cramins' article ends with a paragraph that is completely oblivious to anything that I wrote. Both of these letter writers did absolutely nothing to even tamper with my points even briefly. In fact Cramins' final point actually just proves my point even more. I said that the way Guam says it is part of the United States, always keeps it outside of it. And the way that the United States responds to Guam's plea for inclusion, always keeps it outside of it as well.
"Guam stands with America" and "America thanks you" both allude to the fact that Guam and America are separate things, distinct entities and NOT THE SAME THING. (As Joe Ada noted in one of his speeches on political status, if we truly are part of you, why does it make sense for Guam to talk like this, but not so for places like Idaho or Kansas? Why after 9/11 was their no cry from Kansas that its stands with America!) Its such a big freakin duh, but I guess thats the privilege of haoleness on Guam, your speech is always so elevated because of where you claim to be speaking from, the US proper, the place where the desires of all of us on Guam is supposed to be directed to. Its almost a smaller paraphrasing of Bush's philosophy of power, "screw facts, I'm the Decider!" or in this case, "Screw facts, I'm haole!"
These two questioned the lack of evidence, but then obviously did no actual research. The dozens of "scandals" that I can name off the top of my head date for decades back even to before World War II, in addition to the ESPN incident.
In the 1970's Richard Nixon says that Guam is "unpleasant" and suggests that the White House send people it doesn't like to be stationed there. In the December 2001 issues of Marie Claire, in a section called "Jobs Your Boyfriend Wants" the magazine states that on Guam women can't get married if they are still virgins and so men travel around the island "deflowering" future brides. Then there is the Rubin Lake incident, where two of Clinton's Asia/Pacific economic liasons laughed at the prospect of Guam having an economy and joining others Pacific nations in an economic forum. Just last year an Admiral referred to Guam in the New York Times as the "trailor park" of the Pacific, he wasn't the first and he won't be the last. There's the movie No Man Is An Island (fumufugo' yu', sa' na'lu'han este na kachido). Johnny Carson made fun of Guam for decades, using it to say whatever he wanted to, and movies such as Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers and shows like Family Guy continue that tradition. Then there are the everyday scandals, such as politicians in Washington D.C. literally saying to people from Guam, "didn't we give you guys your independence?" People from this freakin colonial nation acting as if they don't even own us, or have no control over us, or have never heard of us. We are their colonial citizens, and its breaks so many Chamorros to come here and realize that even though you LIVE for the United States, and too often offering to die for it, they do not know anything about you, and do not need to know anything about you. Their right as your colonizer, is this big happy lack of knowledge.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Appearance would seem to play a larger role in me frequent harassing. Take for example this photo, which I took several years ago for a passport renewal, which was actually rejected by the passport office, and I was told to provide a new photo. I wasn't told what was the matter with the photo, but the humor of my grandfather would probably get us the closest to the logic of rejection, "adahi boy, matan Taliban hao!"
I had no idea that dishelved individuals represented a threat to airport security and airline integrity, but apparently poorly dressed and bearded men such as myself are dangerous. Who knows what secrets we hide in our beards, our weapons we conceal in our fros?
Since 9/11 I have been consistently stopped at airports sometimes for more than an hour. I remember one time when travelling through Honolulu from Guam on my way to the United States, I was the only person from the flight stopped at immigration, and not only was I stopped and questioned, I was put into a room by myself for nearly an hour. What happened at the end of that near hour? I was just let go and told nothing about why I had been stopped in the first place.
In the states I'm stopped too, but its interesting because, even though I'm "Pacific Islander," it is in the Pacific Islands where I am stopped the most frequently and for the longest priod. In the United States proper, I get stopped and searched for short periods, but in Hawai'i and Guam I literally get interrogated sometimes. That annoyingly retarded haole Dave Davis whines about the "special rights" we Chamorros get on Guam which makes someone like poor little Davis second class. Forgetting for the moment that Davis belongs to what Tom Tomorrow notes, is most likely the most privileged group in the history of the world, white men, these special rights don't seem to apply to me at customs in Guam's International Airport. One might assume that as a "local" person, I would get a pass at customs and they wouldn't give me a hard time. Unfortunately, this is never the case. Since 9/11, I get stopped the most when coming into Guam from the states and most recently in January of this year, I was literally the last person again to walk out of the gate to meet my family. Even the two haole guys who were caught with Marijuana coming in from Belau/Palau left the custom's area before I did.
When I came back to Guam earlier this year I was determined not to get stopped at customs again. Whereas I usually dress fairly shabby when I travel, puru ha' bahakke, this time I decided to dress up, in this instance meaning dress white. So this time no aplacha pat gaipintura t-shirt with fatigues, but instead some nice board shorts with a Hawaiian print shirt. With any luck, the the custom's guys would be proud to be patriotic semi-Americans and think I'm military and then let me pass because of how I'm defending their freedom, their families, their pitbulls and their trucks.
As I've already let you know, this little deception on my part did not work. I was told to step to the side with around a half dozen other people, mostly men, only one woman. An officer proceeded to go through my stuff and continued to do so for nearly an hour. You're probably asking yourself, why did they go through your stuff for so long? What were you carrying? "Hafa i kinatga-mu Miget, na ma na'paranaihon hao gof apmam?"
That is what makes this story so interesting, the past three times I have flown into Guam, my detour through the customs tables has been significant, but not because I am carrying with me Fundamentalist Islamic Oppression, but because I am carrying the history of Guam in my suitcases.
No, I am completely serious, whenever I travel, I take a crapload of books with me, and when I travel to Guam, I'm still doing work and so I have a number of Guam books with me. This last time, I had with me some very interesting shit, an old Johnny Sablan LP, a romance novel set on Guam called Reason Enough, my Chamorro dictionary, Spoken Chamorro, Chamorro Reference Grammar, some Guam history books, A Pictoral History of Guam U.S.A., some Hale-Ta books, the Chamorro Mormon Bible, and a bunch of others. At one point, three customs agents were going through my stuff, flipping through the books and asking me questions. One agent actually asked me if he could borrow a book from me.
So my delay wasn't just simple because of my matan Taliban, at least it had an interesting and inquisitive reason for it. All of this though makes the Antonio B. Won Pat Guam International Airport a less than exciting but very ambivalent place for me, because of this mixture of teaching, curiosity and surveillance.
For me though, the most exciting thing to come out of the Guam Airport is still and will probably always be Ami Suzuki's career.
Sugite yuku chiisai mainichi ga
Kimagure to zutto asonde itara
Konna ni toki ga sugite ita
Love the island wasurenai
Hajimete yozora no shita de dakiatte itai
Anata wo omoidashisugite iru
Yukkuri to shizuka ni kizukarezu wasuretai
Monday, May 22, 2006
Amongst manamko' on Guam the game is a favorite, I last played several years ago with my auntie Vicki, her son and her sister in law. It was so much fun, despite me not being very good at it. My attitude towards my poor playing ability was always surprisingly positive. How much would basketball suck if everyone was Michael Jordan? How much better was watching the Chicago Bulls in the 1990's because they had the immortal Michael Jordan and guys like Randy Brown and Peter Myers?
My excuse when being chastised for my suckiness in Tres Siete was something similar. If all four players were pros, then it wouldn't be some climactic and gof dramatic battle, it would be a well played, but brutally monotonous deadlock. How much more exciting is the game when you pair up a 80 year old biha who is a pro of the Dededo Community Center Circuit and rules the tables at Guma' Trankilidat, with a guy whose only strategy for covering up his poor playing abilities is so be extremeley upfront about it and constantly invoke it to make the other players laugh. That is the description of a true pro, the ability to play with the worst of partners, and carry them and their lameness all the way to victory.
The fact that I have always played Tres Siete so poorly should therefore be conceived of as a kind of public service that I provide in terms of testing the skills of the skilled. Remember all those samurai and ninja texts about the never ending search of each true warrior, which is to find the person who is better than you, the person who carries their death with them? You search to test your skills, to meet your match, beat the best, become the greatest by facing down, in a duel that who is your rival, equal or better in skill? Well, that's nothing, true skill means finding the worst swordsman out there, and then facing off, stumbling, bumbling, and soon to be urine soaked comrade in tow, against the two other best fighters the way of the warrior has to offer. (this is probably why Jubei from Ninja Scroll and Ninja Scroll: The Series is such a consumate warrior, the three weaker and generally useless travelling partners of his, all survive the 13 episodes)
I'm eager to play Tres Siete poor skills be damned, but both me and Madonna can't remember all of the rules. Is there anyone out there who can give us a quick or detailed overview? And, if there is anyone out there in San Diego who is interested in playing let me know.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Histories, Identities & Futures
Famoksaiyan translates to either “the place or time of nurturing” or “the time to paddle forward and move ahead.” It is in this spirit that this movement is being organized. To provide a space where the somewhat dire, health, economic, and social and cultural issues Chamorros are facing through the world can be discussed by students, activists, educators and professionals and so on, with the hopes of developing progressive solutions. In addition we are hoping that this movement will provide an opportunity for Chamorros scattered through out the islands and the United States to form crucial personal, professional and political networks which will make a progressive future for Chamorros and their communities possible.
Bay Area Follow up Meeting
Saturday, May 20, 2006 10a.m. – 4p.m.
Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley (Near Bancroft & Telegraph Ave.)
For direct location of the Hall please visit: http://www.berkeley.edu/map/maps/DE45.html
Sunday May 21, 2006 10a.m.-4p.m.
SMAAC Youth Center (old Armstrong University Building)
1608 Webster St. Oakland, CA 94612
For more information or to RSVP please contact Tiffany Naputi Lacsado, firstname.lastname@example.org / 510.427.8507
Thursday, May 18, 2006
With this post, I am not denouncing Chamorro families and not interested in this being interpreted as some blanket generalization about the decline of Chamorro families. Usually when people discuss cultural declines, they do so in such a lamented ridden way that it seems almost understood that there is no hope for reversing such a trend. The extended family is disintegrating, the kinships ties are fading apart. People now bring KFC to fiesta siha!
These declines are absolutely reversible, and I refuse to entertain any arguments about "cultures changing, blah blah blah," as that transculturative nonsense is how colonization continues to flourish. It should always be understood, regardless of the limits of the language that we use, that the defense of anything, whether it be a specific form of family organizing, a language, a cultural practice, requires a reinvention of that concept, its re-evaluation. I assume that this particular form of family exists, indendepent of any claim of uniqueness, but I do not assume that it truly exists in defiance of my articulation, it exists because of the articulations that claim to refer to it, and therefore change it, based on whatever content they weave into its potential meaning.
"Family closeness" in Guam amongst Chamorros is a perfect example of this, and how its content has been changed based on what it is articulated with (made equivalent with) and articulated against (made antagonistic or productively negative against).
While once a crucial signifier for forming oppositional chains of indigenous culture and identity, the authority of the positivity of "family closeness" has been greatly contested in Guam, in particular since 9/11. After World War II for example, the use of this signifier can best be summed up through the statements of an elderly black man in the film Cry Freedom, you whites have a lot, but family was one of the things you didn’t get right.
More recently however, the hegemony of this chain of meaning has been weakened, through the linking of “Chamorro family” with less than noble images of government corruption (nepotism), child molestation (as evidenced by discussions around Shawn Texerria’s book Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep) (statement: “Chamorros are really into family” response: “you’re just covering up all the abuse that takes place!”) and family violence in addition to reformulating the concept to be linked nationally rather than locally (“love and closeness of family is what makes Guam and American strong”). A shift has thus taken place, where the shading of this signifier has inverted what it might have meant a generation ago, thus making it as a positive concept more “American” and as a negative concept more “Chamorro.” In one sense of decolonization, one would obviously not try to evict this concept from Guam, but instead battle over its meaning and where its perceived source is. Is family closeness just another fantastical attempt to overcome the colonial gap? (“Our love of family is what makes us strong semi-Americans”) Or is it something which might link us to other communities in the Pacific and elsewhere, with regards to alternative notions of social organizing?
Reversing this trend in family commonsense will take more than simple manipulation of ideology, but a willingness to endure more material discomforts. A willingness to understake that same sacrifice that our parent, our elder is willing to take to keep us from sacrificing. It takes a sacrifice on our behalf, whether it be free time, comfort, privacy. The modern world seems to provide temptation for the worst most selfish aspects of ourselves. You will find this in the speech of Chamorros who left Guam long ago and don't keep in touch with their families. You'll find it in recent migrations from Guam, for people who are so relieved to be free of all of the "drama on Guam." You'll find it in people who join the service, left Guam far behind and claim that if they had stayed on Guam, they'd be either fat or dead. People both on Guam but elsewhere who claim that corruption and incompetence are more indigenous to Guam then Chamorros themselves.
What all these things feed into, is the idea that my self-realization, the manifestation of the usually deceptive feeling of "who I really am," is intimately linked to my movement towards the United States, whether in terms of "giving up culture" or literally moving to the United States.
The most cruel remanant of American colonization cannot be reduced to simple material objects or practices. It is instead a colonizing desire, deep inside of us. A desire which pushes us constantly Eastward, pushes us to conceive of our way of life as something which must be cast aside to achieve success, our parents as something to warehouse or rest home in order to get what we want, our island a place to quickly leave behind, and lastly the military service, the place which one interview subject told me "is the place where your eyes are really opened. On Guam we are all blind, ignorant, we don't know anything, join the service, and you will see the world as it really is."
I have been toying for more than a year, with writing a poem about this desire that sits within us, our speech, our vision, our dreams. The sinthome or hegemonic phrase that I would like to structure the poem around I've heard most prominently in the film Constantine. After Shia Labeouf is killed by an unknown assailant, Constantine tries to reveal the identity of the attacker by calling it out of the translucent shadows, "Into the Light I Command Thee!"
For years, this has been my project. Tracing the serated edges of this desire, that cut the Chamorro to pieces constantly and offering them up as a sacrifice to the altar of American awesomeness.
Into the Light, oh spiteful colonizing desire, I Command Thee!
Here at last, is the poem that I started this post with, adahi hao sa' na'triste este na kanta, siempre ti propiu este para i sinilebra i ha'anin mannana...lao it is definitely related, for it is that colonizing desire to helps support all manner of the justifications for family estrangement and isolation, because of the way these bodies, these people, these obligations stand in the way of my Americanization, my constitutive consumption, my leisure, my relaxation, my choices that are mine because I'm such a freedom loving individual. Along with it, I've also included the words to Johnny Sablan's I Nana gi Familia:
I Nana Gi I Familia:I nana gi I familia
Maseha chatpa’go pat bunita
Ta honra todu gi tiempo
Kalang anghet para Hita
Ti bunita Si nana-hu
Ti u maayek para raina
Lao bunita’na Si nana-hu
Ki un blonde na Amerikana
Ti ha chagi Si nana-hu
I latest styles siha gi tenda
Lao todu tiempo listo I modan-mami
Maseha pinat manmalienda
Ti umeskuela Si nana-hu
Ni’ sirtifiku ni’ un dimploma
Lao guiya ha’ yu’ fuma’na’gue
Na Si Yu’us na bai adora
Hamyo todus ni’ Mannana
Gof takhilo’ I sagan-miyu
Si Yu’us infanbenendisi
Put todu I bidan-miyu
Esta taigue pa’go nai Si nana
Lao magof yu’ hongge todu
Sa’ esta hu tungo’ Si nana
Gaige fi’on as Yu’us
I Nana ni’ Mahalang
Si Nana ni’ taya fimilia-na
Kumekematai gaige gi espitat
Yanggen guaha familia-na
Siempre esta manmaleffa pot Guiya
Si Nana ni’ maneyok gi korason-na
Taya u faisen I estoria-na
Taya u ekongok para I kanta-na
Ya taya u tanges put matai-na
Si Yu’us ha’ pa’go I ga’chong-na
Yan kada fanaitai nu Guiya
Sa’ Yu’us ha’ u alibia piti-na
Ya u chalao I anti-na
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Farm workers who pick tomatoes for McDonald's hamburgers and Chipotle's burritos earn about 45 cents for every 32-pound container of tomatoes they pick, a subpoverty wage that has remained stagnant for almost 30 years. Although Taco Bell signed an agreement last year with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pay an additional one cent per pound for tomatoes it purchases, McDonald's and Chipotle have refused to sign a similar agreement to raise wages in the fields. Tell McDonald's and Chipotle to support fair wages for farm workers and sign the agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers now.
What's At Stake?
Tell McDonald's and Chipotle to Support Fair Wages for Farm Workers
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), based in Immokalee, Fla., is a membership-led organization of agricultural workers. Florida is the leading producer of fresh tomatoes sold across the country to restaurants and grocery chains, and CIW members harvest these tomatoes.
In March 2005, the CIW reached a groundbreaking agreement with Yum! Brands, ending a four-year national boycott of one of its subsidiary companies, Taco Bell. The agreement calls for Taco Bell to pay farm workers an extra penny per pound for tomatoes it purchases. It also ensures farm workers, through the CIW, a place at the table in the design and enforcement of a stronger supplier code of conduct, creating important new avenues for farm workers to participate in the protection of their own labor rights, as well as transparency in Taco Bell's tomato supply chain.
For more than a year, the CIW has called on other fast-food companies to work with them to advance these precedents within their own supply chains. But McDonald's has responded to the coalition's invitation of partnership by working with their suppliers to resist and reverse the advances of improved wages, worker participation, and transparency that were achieved in the CIW-Yum! Brands agreement.
Chipotle Mexican Grill was, until recently, a wholly owned subsidiary of McDonald's. Following a public offering of the company in January 2006, McDonald's now owns a controlling interest in Chipotle.
Chipotle takes a strongly activist stance toward guaranteeing humane conditions in its supply chain—for farm animals. The company's "manifesto, "titled "Food With Integrity," discusses its mission to "revolutionize the way America grows and gathers its food" by "working back along the food chain" to encourage production of healthy vegetables and humane raising of animals by farmers.
Chipotle recognizes that its volume purchasing of vegetables and meat place it in a position to demand the humane treatment of animals, yet its manifesto says nothing about the conditions under which people are laboring to harvest its produce.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has described farm workers as a labor force "in acute economic distress." Tomato pickers earn about 45 cents for every 32-pound container of tomatoes they pick, working from dawn to dusk without the right to overtime pay. The 45-cent piece rate has not changed in nearly 30 years. Annual income is extremely low. The DOL reports that farm workers earn an average of $7,500 to $10,000 per year. Of course, the vast majority of farm workers receive no benefits—no health insurance, no sick leave, and no vacation pay.
CIW is calling on Chipotle to expand its own "Food With Integrity" mission to include "Work With Dignity" for farm workers who harvest its tomatoes by partnering with the coalition to ensure improved wages and the participation of farm workers in the protection and advancement of their own rights. Further, CIW is calling on Chipotle to influence McDonald's to join Yum! Brands in working with the coalition for these important human rights advances in the agri-food industry.
For more information on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, go to http://www.ciw-online.org.
Go to this link to take action
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Gi este na espiritu, bai hu peggayi hamyo pa'go este na pinagat-hu na hu taitai gi i tinituhun Famoksaiyan gi i ma'pos na mes. Achokka' i manmatto para Famoksaiyan mostly ti sina fumino' Chamorro, hu baba i dinana' ni' este na pinagat gi fino' Chamoru, sa' ti debi di famleffa na guaha lenguahi-ta! Achokka' mas fa'set pa'go na manakuentusi hit gi fino' Ingles, i tinaya', i absence kumekuentos gui' lokkue, ya guaha nai gi i mamatkilu-na, mas a'gang kinu hafa oppan. Debi di ta hasso este.
Si Yu’us Ma’ase todus hamyo para i finatton-miyu, este na gofha'an na ha'anin.
Antes di tutuhun, nihi ta fanhasso i manmofo’na. Siha ni’ manmatto fine’nina. Siha ni’ gaigaige ha’ gi i halom tano’, gi i hagga’-ta, i hanom-ta, i hinagong-ta.
I kinalamten i gefes-miyu, i hila’n-miyu, i kannain-miyu.
Mungga ma hasso na gaige ha’ este siha gi i fanma’pos’an, guatu gi i tatte-ta. Mismo gaige guini gi sanhalom-ta, esta, kada diha, todu tiempo.
Ayugue i finayin i palabra “taotaomo’na.” Este i taotao ni’ mo’na gi tiempo, ni’ esta maloffan.
Lao este i taotao lokkue ni’ mo’na, gi tiempo, ni’ mamamaila.
Todu tiempo, achagigu gaige i espiritun i manaina-ta, gi sanme’na-ta yan gi i santatte’-ta.
Hasso yan na’setbe i finayi, ni’ chumalani i taotao-ta desde i tinituhun.
Hasso yan na’setbe i minetgot ni’ muna’fanungon i taotao-ta, ni’ gera, ni’ pakyo, ni’ chetnot.
Ekungok nu este na kanta, tinige’ Si Carlos Taitano’
Galaide, Galaide, Tunas mo’na gi hilo’ tasi.
Galaide, Galaide, Fa’nu’i hami i guinahan i tasi.
Hu takpangi este na dinana’ “famoksaiyan” put i sanhalom-na este na kanta. Hita i hagga’n, i telang, i kinedon ni’ muna’hanao mo’na i galaide. Lao i che’cho’-ta lokkue, na ta fa’tinasi hit este na batko, na ta fa’tinasi i manmamaila lokkue este na batko.
Olaha mohon yan i finayin yan irensian i manaina-ta, siempre sina hit. Siempre.
Si Yu'us Ma'ase ta'lo.
Our Silence Will Not Protect Us
The deal recently struck between the governments of the United States and Japan allowing for the transfer of 8,000 marines and their dependents should scare us into action, not silence.
The people of Guam are right to be outraged at how people in power, our own included, are having a conversation about us, but not with us. This alarming move will affect the entire landscape of our future and our children's future yet we are expected to keep quiet about it.
When we will realize that keeping quiet is killing us? Why are some of us so quick to welcome the same troops being kicked out of Japan, a country so desperate to get these guys out that they have agreed to pay what they know is too much? Why do we want the same marines who terrorized the citizens of Okinawa with rape, alcoholism, noise and violence?
Local leaders unable or unwilling to see that this move will cause our island great social, cultural, and ecological damage, raising societal violence to likely devastating heights, keep saying this transfer is good for Guam. They say it is the answer to our economic prayers. In fact, it appears 'money' is the only thing that has made it to our conversation table. Though there are whole worlds of social issues outside the realm of economics, it seems people in power are banking on our inability to see this.
What is it going to take for us as a community to find our feet and stand against this worrisome military buildup? Is it going to take the raping of our women, which is not only a possibility but a near guarantee? It would be foolish to think that the rape, alcoholism, and violence that brought ruin to Okinawa will not bring the same to us.
Beyond the rape of our women and the proven inherent violence of militarism, we should be worried about something else looming in the not-too-distant distance: China . Regional, national, and international media suggests that China already has one eyebrow raised at Guam; China understands what this transfer means. It seems it is only us who do not yet understand the truth: Guam is the sacrificial lamb in US military realignment schemes. Intelligence already suggests that Guam will be the first site of Chinese attack, which itself is becoming more and more real because of US aggressive posturing toward Asia. To know this, we need only read the national articles in The Washington Times or USA Today, the stack of articles in the various Japanese newspapers or the recent publication of the National Defense Research Institute, prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In fact, our strategic location is only strategic to the US, a nation that needs us more than its leaders want us to know.
And what about the other war that this re-occupation will cause - the war on the environments of both Guam and the CNMI? The same government that has yet to clean up its lethal contamination of our land and water during and after the last world war is set to bring still more weapons of mass destruction and toxins to Guam again. The same military we are welcoming is the same military that used our fellow Micronesians as human guinea pigs in its horrific nuclear experiments from which all of us in Micronesia are still suffering in the form of sky-high rates of all kinds of cancer. Are we not tired of burying our dead? We cannot be naïve enough to believe our extraordinarily high cancer rates are not connected to US nuclear experiments in our region. Nor can we be naïve enough to think the same government will not continue to use our Mariana Islands as the site of more such 'experiments.' Indeed, in our quest for economic stimulus, we are welcoming more crimes against humanity.
This transfer is being sold to us as good, even necessary. Military buildup is being framed in a way that suggests we have real choices here. But people without real means to right their colonial condition know that this tale is a tall one. We know our survival will ultimately depend on whether or not we are able to see the truth: we do not have to buy what they are selling.
The deal recently struck between the governments of the United States and Japan allowing for the transfer of 8,000 marines and their dependent should scare us into action, not silence. After all, our silence will not protect us.
-Julian Aguon is an author and a resident of Tamuning
Friday, May 12, 2006
In other words, my ruminations on attraction and dating will now be filled with a grateful distance. Hopefully for a while...I haven't written a dating hysteria post since I got back into a relationship, and this one I started several months ago before umasodda' ham yan Si Madonna, so I'm finishing it in a slightly different mood. So I'll be the first to admit, this post may seem a bit scattered or confused:
Life truly is the stringing together of a possibly infinite, but surprisingly limited number of moments or scenes. Pula i Kadena I Korason-hu yan sotta yu'. Yamak este na kadena, na'matgan este gof fotte na hinasso ni' pumopongle yu', ya bai hu mana'libre! Or the pearl like memory of his nanny from Shah Rukh Khan's character from Swades. Memories are strung together stand beside each other, gained equivalence, distance, misseconaissance, they affect each other, stimulate, mutilate, neutralize (such as the magnet next to the flash drive from last week's 24). The content perhaps doesn't change, that moment of hurt, loss, love, but when imagined beside another moment of love, hurt or loss, the narration changes as it must. The shifting continuity to make for the explainations of changes. Sa' malingu ayu na guinaiya, matto este na nuebu na guinaiya. Could I feel this love without that loss?
These memories are of course never equal, and although they hold the potential for being reworked at every moment, they usually aren't. A strong scene or moment will draw others to it, it will gain the appearance of fluidity and flexibility, it will appear to be adaptable, it will therefore become a fantasy. We can see this clearly in the way that people tend to typically articulate their relationship to an other group, ethnic groups, opposite sex, age group, culture, sub culture, etc. We tend to preface our discussions of such groups with a particular moment in our lives, literally our lives, meaning where my life who is speaking, overlapped with the lives I am speaking of. A moment of harrasment at the mall, a failed dating experience, times when you were cheated, stolen from, looked at strange, smelled something funny.
These moments are elastic, flexible because of the way they can integrate nearly any new experience and nonetheless return to what is always the lesson of that inital moment. Zizek often uses the example of a German in pre World War II Nazi Germany to make this point. The German neighbor of Mr. Stein is confronted with physical, material facts and evidence that his Jewish neighbor is not part of a conspiracy to control the Germany economy and state, and is not a lewd and immoral creature who preys on the innocent daughters of Germany, but only a kindly old man who obviously minds his own business. The German's usual response will be, but that is how shrewd they are, how momumentally deceptive! The clear lack of the qualities which match my fantasy is what condemns them to possess these fantasies in a way which is more than themselves (the Jew more than a Jew), since I ascribe to them these malicious traits, the ultimate proof of their maliciousness is their ability to maliciously hide them from view!
(For those familiar with my academic research, this is taken from my work on Liberation Day and what I call the scene of liberation. Of how the Chamorro even up until today seems condemned and doomed to return to that fateful day of Guam's "liberation" in order to exist.)
This post had started on moments, attraction etc, but slowly wandered into ideology. Let me try to bring it back on track.
Attraction produces the same condensed, collapsed, extremely potent and potentially labile moment. Let's take for example the following poem by e.e. cummings, which nearly brought tears to my eyes when I heard it most recently in the film In Her Shoes:
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
There is an interesting tension over what I carry in my heart. Although a common interpretative short cut would lead us to think that the poet carries his lover in his heart, it is merely a poetic choice to say "your heart." But to say that the lover is in my heart is the fiction, "I carry your heart in my heart" is the truth.
What I carry with me is never you. I cannot carry you, but only your heart. We cannot be sure what it would entail to carry all of you, is it simply impossible or would be grotesque because your lover is simply too close to you, that there is no room to breath or think? (like when Jerry Sinfeld meets himself in female form and they can't stand each other!)
Only a moment, perhaps a collapsed, collage, melange, deluge, of half lit moments, incomplete moments which only gain the meaning of love when they are felt within this privileged site through which you are always there. The Beatles song "With a Little Help From My Friends" would make an interesting connection here:
Would you believe in a love at first sight?/ Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time/ What do you see when you turn out the light? / I don't know but I know its mine
It is not literally, that the moment you first physically laid eyes on this person, you were in love, but only that in love, you will always return to that moment of "first sight," the moment where the heart of this person first appeared. I posted about this last year as "Ten things I Hate About Lacan," I'll paste a section of the post below,
"Love happens, we can connect to the other, but not through pre-packaged romance and the realization of social fantasies about the other's magical qualities, but instead when the facade does break down and when the curtain of fantasy is lifted away. When we experience that hysterical moment where the fantasy frame through which we hold the other in attraction experiences a glitch as we perceive a glitch, a piece of the other's Real...When the other is broken down to something like this, which sticks out of joint, whether its a look aside during sex, a laugh which seems to come from nowhere, a statement with an uncertain author, or even tugap or do'do', it is only here that love is possible."
(but this isn't a really a timeless moment that never changes fundamentally. As we see in the film At First Sight (where two distinct moments of "love at first sight" take place), the moment can change, as we change, the scene through which our love becomes possible shifts, are our eyes are recast in a different desire.)
Returning to the Beatles' lyric, this moment of attraction will create a space through which it will remain. Through which moments that follow will be laced and threaded into. Even in the absence of this lover, the love will remain and its presence produces a secret, a loving avarice which produces possession. Similar to Derrida's statement that there is no love without narcissism, there is no love without possession. To pay homage to my unorthodox Lacanian roots, Love is the sinthome of perversion, hysteria and neurosis. The loop which can bind these frames of mind together. The desire to posses, the desire to consume, and yet the prohibition to not do anything such thing, to let the other be other, let my lover to my lover and not, mine. Through this we see the somewhat crazy mixture of emotional threads that push me to know the secret of my lover, to consume their secret, to make it mine, and yet at the same time, to let it be their's.
The whole point of this post was to introduce a poem I wrote several years ago about what I supposed was one such privileged moment of attraction, a crush on a girl in class.
Although these moments force you to desire a possession, what we find in songs, poetry, art, and everyday conversations is that these moments possess us just as much. The camera tricks used in films to denote a moment of lust or attraction (slow-mo, camera jerks, zooming) remind us of this point. They jerk us from what we felt was a normal course of seeing, viewing, living, and snag us. It is for this reason that the Chamorro word I use for crush is sinekkai which comes from the word sokkai or "to snag," like to snag your clothes on a tree branch or a nail. (This dynamic was made clear to me recently in an incredibly interesting way in "A Dragon Within," episode 9 of Ninja Scroll: The Series)
Apologies before you read the poem though, romantic poems in English have never been my forte. They always have a quality of sadness and incompleteness that my poems in Chamorro don't have.
There is nothing about you that I love, except for that void that consumes everything I think of
It trails beneath the hair that falls from your fingers
In your eyes pieces of your smile still lingers
It is an insensible, often unreasonable weight, that constantly secures my gaze
Envelopes it and develops it.
Words emerge from the depths attempting to explain you, yet refuse to contain you
They splash beneath my downturned head
Like unrelenting tears of empty and conscious dread
A loss which feels like nothing but ghostly threads looping around my cringing fingertips
The caress of an empty kiss
My always waiting lips, always waiting, wondering over the other who has never left, because they never really arrived.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
It look like we're going to have a followup meeting for Famoksaiyan next week in San Francisco, on the 20th and the 21st. If you are interested in attending please let either of the Migets know. (Guahu pat Si Miget Tuncap (email@example.com))
The purpose of this meeting is to formalize the goals that we developed last month at Famoksaiyan in San Diego, to see what sort of structure this organization, if it is one at all will take. It's very exciting. (please sign up for the email list here http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/famoksaiyan if you want to be a part of the organizational loop)
Also, I finally scanned all my six crappy disposable camera rolls from the conference. You can check them out at the links below.
The Day Before Famoksaiyan
The First Day of Famoksaiyan
The Second Day of Famoksaiyan
Apples to Apples
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Manaige este siha na klasin paluma giya Guahan, lao sisina ha' un sodda' gui' gi i sanlagu na islas siha, Luta, Saipan, yan i otro siha.
The Mariana Fruit-Dove or "tottot" as it is called in Chamoru, once graced Guam's forests with its smooth cooing call and beautiful bright colors. Brown tree snake (kulepbla) predation, however, has caused its extinction on Guam, although an occasional sighting is still reported, especially after a storm hits Rota. The tottot is still found on other Mariana Islands from Rota to Saipan.
The tottot has a purple cap, yellow and orange breast and bright yellow tail band. Its feathers are mostly green which allows them to blend into the leaves of trees as they make short flights to look for food. They eat fruits such as figs, inkberry and papåya.
The tottot lays only one egg in a flimsy nest built in the fork of a branch. Like all doves, the young are fed a milky substance produced in the lining of the parent's throat sac or "crop". The young are later fed fruit that has been partially digested.
This shy, easily disturbed bird holds special meaning for Guam because it is our Territorial Bird, the symbol of our island.
The Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources hopes that one day, when the kulepbla population is controlled or eradicated, we will be able to reintroduce the tottot back into Guam's forests.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
First of all, there is the idea that no unfriendly, negative or critical thing can be said about the United States Military without a positive rebuttal. John Gerber is indignant that somewhere on Guam, people are talking poorly of the United States Marines Corps, and there is no representative of the Corps there to defend it. I would be fine with this complaint, if the next logical point became hegemonic in representations of the United States Military in Guam. Namely that all positive statements about the United States Military be accompanied by a negative rebuttal. Sadly and for those familiar with the tone of Guam's media, this is absolutely not the case.
It has been only recently that apprehensiveness about the arrival of these 8,000 Marines is being recorded by the island's leaders. Prior to that, the discussion seemed to follow the two most pathetically simple forms imagineable, first the delusional "what will we do with all that cash!?" and second, "how can we be good hosts and fix up the island for their arrival?!" I remember clearly the initial articles in the PDN covering this military increase. It was truly pathetic, because the only real critique the PDN offered in contrast to all the excitement and hoopla over the economic windfall of these 8,000 bodies and their families, was 1. our infrastructure sucks we can't support them, even though we love them! 2. they better respect!
Media teaches complex lessons in what appear to be very simple statements. First of all, the first critique is hardly a critique at all, since given the universe of statements that these sorts of remarks enter into, they only make the case that more military is not just good, but necessary. The Chamber of Commerce and other rabidly capitalist organizations in Guam gain their super powers not just from the sacrifice of Chamorros on the altar of war and colonialism, but because of the way the eternally crumbling infrastructure of Guam, plays into their arguments of the need for the military. By saying that the poor infrastructure of Guam is an argument against the influx of Marines, you are actually arguing for their arrival, because of the way it is commonly understood that it is only an arrival such as this which can cure those sorts of material ills. The paradox here being that only the arrival of these Marines can fix the problems which prevent their arrival.
The second reason I've pasted below direct from the October 31st, 2005 article in the PDN, "Marines Welcomed Warily,"
Byron Garrido, 43, of Yigo said he is not excited to see the shift of Marines to Guam.
"At first, I thought it would be good, but then think back to the past," he said describing how he has seen fights break out between local residents and military personnel.
Garrido said he hopes military officials will brief all troops who move to Guam about the culture on Guam and how to respect that culture. "Respect, learn where you are at," he said. "You are not in the states, this is Guam."
Here we encounter a similar problem, where the critique leaves unscathed a number of assumptions that must be tampered with.
Through the laundry list of reasons why we should support this miltiary increase we see a very important dash of culture/history (love of the US from liberation) mixed with a deluge of real-world/material factors most importantly economic. On the otherside of the issue, we have a very large dose of culture (respect us!) but little to no mention of the negative (or less than rosy) impact of the Marines in economic or material terms.
One thing that the media tends to teach very well is to what realms of life authority and value belong to, or emmanate from, and to where else should this authority be connected to. Take for example this common justification for voting for Felix Camacho in 2002, "he's a businessman, he'll know how to fix the island's economic problems." Underwood on the other hand was a teacher and therefore will only know how to fix the schools. These assumptions are actually pretty ridiculous for so many reasons, I feel like my brain would try to escape through my eye sockets if I even try to explain why. A connection like this however is common in the media, especially in a newspaper such as the PDN which is tied very closely to the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests in Guam (in other words, articulate that those who want control over the economy (for profits, for their business), should have the most control over it (but only because they have the know how to help all of us).
What we are meant to learn from the PDN coverage of the pros and cons of this and nearly all military increases, is that the positions of those in favor and support for the increase are bolstered and justified through "real world" arguments. Stone cold economic indicators and facts. Those against the increases appear in the media without any such support. There is no economic data to support whatever they say, common sense is definitely not on their side (there is for example no argument that if they don't respect our culture, interest rates will fall). The only argument they really do have is a cultural one, which as I've most recently started to write about after reading The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories by Partha Chatterjee, seems to always crumple beneath someone who proposes to speak on behalf of the "material" or the "real" world.
As Jeff Barcinas noted in an interview in Lee Perez's article "Liberation Day: A Chamorro Re-Telling," the realness of the United States and those who support it is almost always undeniable. Those who profess to speak from that realm seem to get not just the benefit of the doubt, but the benefit of "reality." In this statement by Barcinas, which describes the historical/theoretical dependency the Chamorro has on the United States for survival, we can see how the realness of the United States is privileged over the cultural specificities of the Chamorro, “we [the Chamorro people] could have been completely wiped out and we could have been nobody in terms of identity of a people who are seeking right now self-determination."
The Chamorro in the universe of this statement is the luxury. If all the realness of economics, of history and its liberation tendencies are satisfied, then issues of culture can be dealt with, such as self-determination. But the realness of the United States and those who proclaim to be its defenders in Guam will always have the power to override such simple, unrealistic, cultural things.
It is for this reason that at Famoksaiyan last month, I proposed the forming of an organization whose purpose would be to disseminate critical information about the military
(this 8,000 Marines increase in particular), to help support the positions of those who don't want them coming to Guam by providing them with "real world" hard economic evidence, facts and arguments to support their claims, which cannot be dismissed as simple "radicalism" or "maladjustedness."
Returning to the article I posted below, and how simply the two Marines listed can argue against the abuses, damage and pollution that the Marines have caused in Okinawa, we can see clearly how unequal ideas operate in Guam.
Where are the voices of the women who have suffered the presence of so many Marines in Okinawa? Why is it that these voices can be snuffed out with the mere mention of the fact that rape and violence take place on Guam? (also, why is the treatment of this issue being framed in a negative way, as if to dimiss it through the way it is introduced? To put it more simply, why is it that the topic of rape and gender violence in Okinawa or from the military in general is framed in such a way that the emphasis becomes how free speech and equality were denied to the Marines Corps? LANA!)
This is of course the very palpable residue of a colonial relationship. Notice, how unequal understanding of reality works? Certain statements resonate, can travel, can be understood easily, naturally, while others, are quickly and sometimes forcefully rejected.
Why is it that a critique of the military can be unravelled so easily, by merely showing that such abuses take place on Guam, and not the other way around? Why is it that in response to complaints that Chamorros on Guam and the government on Guam is pathologically corrupt, when I assert that such abuses take place in the United States at a far greater scale and with much more dire consequences (Iraq War), people reject such a point as being either meaningless of unimportant?
Why is it that the recent Abramoff scandal is not inciting the legendary outrage of the people of the Guam the way the abuses of Uncle Carl used to? Why is it that when evidence arises that clearly indicate that government corruption is not indigenous to Guam, and not simply a "third world plague," people work overtime to either ignore it or find ways of twisting it into meaninglessness?
Read carefully the final section of this article below and you can feel this inequity spilling within you and flowing out of you. The way that Gerber sanitizes the United States Military and then attempts to dissociate us from the island, to shame us into displacing local interests, and replacing them with Military interests. Because of the way conversations tend to operate in Guam, he doesn't have to work very hard. It is the clearest example of colonization in action, that the interests of the United States Military become not just our own, but more than our own. That we must consider them before we consider ourselves.
Semper Fi: former Marines defend Corps at women's meeting
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Monday, May 08, 2006
While Governor Felix Camacho has been preparing for the arrival of 8,000 Marines and their families by meeting as recently as last week with key Defense Department officials on the need for accelerating and financing improvements to Guam's infrastructure. Senator Judi Won Pat (D) and Vice-Speaker Joanne Brown (R) met with a group of women from various walks of life on guam to discuss the potential social problems that may come with these thousands of servicemen.
With the arrival of troops are coming to Guam and with that comes a lot of concerned women. Women who met today at Carmen's Mexican Restaurant in Hagatna to discuss different concerns with this pending influx of military personnel. But while women were inside discussing these issues, former Marine and war veteran John Gerber was upset that he was not allowed into the women's-only meeting.
Gerber criticized, "I think this is a very unfair biased meeting that they're having in here not to allow them to have Marines in there to defend themselves and the blatant statement that Senator Won Pat said on TV last night with all the sexual problems that they're having in Okinawa - what is she talking about?" In this instance Senator Won Pat was referring to reports out of Japan of rapes committed by Marines against local Okinawan women.
Although Gerber feels that it has all been blown out of proportion, he admits that Marines are not perfect. He said, "I'm not going to say that Marines are not going to get into trouble here, you know Marines are human beings just like anybody else, but I'll tell you this for every Marine he has twenty superiors looking after him twenty-four hours a day and if he gets in trouble gets in some sort of mischief the Marine Corps will deal with him severely.
"Unlike on Guam you can be accused of rape and be a bus driver and still be employed and then be transferred to another sector and ordered not to talk to that girl that you were accusing that doesn't happen in the Marine Corps you are dealt with severely."
In fact retired USMC colonel Adolpho Sgambelluri was a provost marshal with the Marine Corps in Okinawa back in the early sixties and he questions the accuracy of reports that Marines committed rapes in Okinawa going as far as to say that these reports may be a result of propaganda. He hotly responded, defending the Corps, saying, "This notion that Marines are going to be involved when they get to Guam with rape and pillaging and destroying the village and raping the women and little girls. A bunch of crap, a bunch of crap."
While Sgambelluri and Gerber were upset that they weren't allowed inside the meeting to defend the Marines, the meeting inside was actually meant for women only and did not focus on bashing marines and perpetuating the fear of rape. Instead, the focus was on social issues and what kinds of impacts may result from such a rapid influx of this many people.
For example, Lydia Tenorio administrator for the Bureau of Social Services Administration said instead of bringing up concerns about rape the group brought up concerns about single local consenting women who may actually be looking forward to the arrival of Marines. "I'm also afraid that it may turn out to be the year of the baby booming year we'll have and increase in pregnancies we'll have unwanted pregnancies we'll have unwed pregnancies that's actually going to have a lot of impact on our society because whose going to have to take responsibility over this but our island community," she explained.
In fact the focus of the meeting was to bring up concerns like this and to discuss how the island community can prepare itself to be more accountable and responsible when these Marines arrive. Co-chair of the international networking committee of the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights former senator Hope Cristobal is concerned primarily with our island's leaders. She told KUAM News, "I'm concerned about the kind of leadership that I feel is lacking I feel that the chamber of commerce has basically taken the leadership on this and this is not truly just about economics it is about how our family lives are going to be impacted it's about how most importantly also how our environment will be impacted."
While it's obvious that the women inside were concerned about the social impacts of these Marines, outside Gerber also expressed his concerns about what might happen and what has happened when you mix locals with military personnel. He said, "Everyone is worried about our Marines. I was in the Marine Corps, I was born and raised in Ordot. I never heard of one incident where a marine in the past fifty-five, sixty, seventy, years was ever accused of rape or getting into any misconduct on Guam, but I can tell you this in the early 1990's, I remember the lance corporal that was invited to the Umatac fiesta beat to death and left to die in the bamboo patch down there. I remember those three sailors that were strangled down at Cabras Island robbed and strangled, I remember the two sailors that were taken up behind Ordot dump robbed and executed.
"Now if you ask the parents of those kids whether they should station troops on Guam, they'll say, 'Hell no, that's a dangerous place.'"