Monday, April 30, 2007

The Language of Decolonization

I just wanted to share with everyone, the short speech below which I had intended to give at last week's incredible conference, Famoksaiyan "Our Time to Paddle Forward" Summit on Native Self-Determination and Decolonization. This was a continuation of last year's conference that we held down here in San Diego, and because the dream didn't die, didn't dissolve and didn't disappear, I can safely now refer to last year's gathering as "historic." And do so with incredible pride.

It has truly been inspiring, both this year and last year to see the incredible excitement and commitment that I have come across and that has been created amongst Chamorros and others from Guam out here. I'll make an uncomfortable point here before continuing. I rarely put any stock into the self-inflating rhetoric of Chamorros being strong or passionate or willing to fight for what is right, since this, like with most ethnic groups or communities, often is spoken simply to provide a talking point through which people can talk around the absence or disappointment of precisely what they are praising. The idea of Chamorros as strong and committed subjects is most prominently linked to their ability to be super-Americans, or psuedo, sub-Americans who gallantly and bravely soldier, celebrate and accept their secondary citizenship and status. In a related, but less visible way, we have the commitment of Chamorros (especially in the states, but this is also increasing in Guam), to their culture and language, not because they want to be good Chamorros, but because they want to be good Americans! The reason that an idiot like Don Imus can't get away with making stupid racist remarks against the Rutger's girls basketball team is because the subject of American society and culture today isn't a racist white male, but rather a subject of many different colors who 1. appreciates diversity and accepts that people should be allowed to speak other languages and be able to call themselves different things and 2. accepts more fundamentally the whiteness of the nature of American life, and therefore doesn't allow the multicultural tendencies which are becoming more and more dominant to interfere or threaten what makes America great, which is all derived from the intelligence, benevolence, understanding or compassion of a long line of great white men. In this sense, we see more and more Chamorros pushing for things such as "language preservation" and "cultural heritage" not because these things should be spoken, lived, passed on, but rather because Americans are no longer simply white men who have no culture, but now the real American is slightly culture, lightly colored with not too much color, but just enough to give a sense that it has roots somewhere else, a language it used to speak, or another culture or home which it can make it feel unique or different.

Unfortunately, those who are politically committed to things such as decolonization and other forms of activism (unless its religious) are generally labelled as crazy, radical, anti-American types, who live in the halomtano' outside of polite American society in Guam. What I see in Famoksaiyan and a few other groups that are emerging, is that the thesis of "no activism in Chamorro culture" is actively being rejected, both in direct confrontation, as I often prefer, or in simply ignoring those labels entirely. As I have seen over the last year with the incredible progress that Famoksaiyan has made in bringing Chamorros and others from Guam together for very specific political purposes, and helping inform people around the world in what is happening and the status of Guam is Chamorros taking up the challenge of living up to our own rhetoric of love, inafa'maolek, community, political/social commitment and so on, and proving that we are not simply talking, but are acting!
In the midst of all of this excitment, there is one thing which I have been a little distressed about, and that is how little is being done to actually learn the Chamorro language, amongst the hundreds I am encountering who want to fight for Chamorro issues, learning their language and culture/history, and reconnect to the Marianas Islands. I have hoped that these spaces would help instill that need and help proliferate the desire to learn, speak and perpetuate the language. Unfortunately this has not been the case, although I do see many people trying in small ways to bring tiny bits of Chamorro into their conversations and email correspondence.

When I opened the conference last year, despite the fact that most people present could not speak Chamorro or understand it, I opened it with a statement in Chamorro, and then reminded all present the centrality of language in our efforts of decolonization and cultural/political revitalization. I would later make this point while drafting Filosofia Famoksaiyan, or what I would hope lies at the spiritual and political core of Famoksaiyan as a group:

Central to this aesthetic impetus is a commitment to the revitalization of Chamorro language. The process of decolonization is the re-invention of a form, an identity, or a place in relationship to something once conceived of as lost or gone. Over the past two generations the language loss amongst Chamorros on Guam has been terrifying. Anti-Chamorro language policies propagated by both emissaries of the United States and Chamorros themselves have both linked speaking perfect English and ridding of the Chamorro language and accent to better chances at economic prosperity and therefore happiness. As Chamorros of the most recent generation contend with their own language loss, which was either forced from their mouths when they were children or kept hidden from them entirely, what is to be the relationship we define to that loss? Do we accept this loss as American education planners perceived it, as natural death and the only route to progress and the future? Or is decolonization the reversing or the disrupting of this very natural flow by which the path forward is followed? A redefining of what the future can and should be, based on in this instance, what language we will use to meet it, to describe it, to live it?

As the importance of language goes beyond communication alone and extends into the realm of expression and beauty of a world view, the overall process of decolonization is not complete without a revitalizing of Chamorro language, whether in public discourse, everyday conversations, or the arts.

I had wanted to make a similar point this year, again reminding people of how important the revitalization of Chamorro language is, in taking a stand against the order of things, challenging the way our future is being directed, and moving it in our own direction. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time in the presentations, so I did end up just sharing it with people informally in conversations and during the sessions. I also wanted to share it her as well.


Antes di ta tutuhun på’go na ha’åni, guaha bai hu sångan gi fino’ Chamoru put fino’ Chamoru.

Gi este i dos na ha’åni ta’lo, siempre guaha impotånte siha ta diskuti put i mamamaila na lina’la’ i taotao-ta yan i islå-ta, yan lokkue’ put i kinalamten i otron gurupun natibu siha gi Estabos Unidos ya gi eriyan i Pasifik.

Este na para ta sångan på’go, yanggen hagas ta cho’gue, sien años pat maskeseha sinkuenta años antes (tåtte), siña mohon ta diskuti gi fino’ Chamoru. Lao på’go siempre ta sångan osino diskuti todu gi fino’ Ingles.

Meggai giya Hita ni’ manggaigaige guini maninteresao put (gi) decolonization. Guaha interesao gi pulitikat, kuttura, pat hinasso. Lao maskeseha hafa guenao, gof impotånte para Hita todus, ya ta tatanga na u ma kumple i decolonization.

Guaha nasion siha, ilek-ñiha na Siha gumehilulu’i i kinalamten i mindo (mundo/tano’). Ilek-ñiha na Siha dumirihi i milalak Estoria yan Tiempo. Yanggen saddok i tiempo, siempre gaige Siha gi i puntan i saddok. Pues Estoria, Tiempo yan Inadelanto milalak ginnen Hita para Siha, ginnen i Chamoru para i Amerikånu pat i manåpa’ka. Osino guini na hemplo, ginnen Fino’ Chamoru asta Fino’ Ingles.

Yanggen ta aksepta este na punto, este na logic, para maseha hafa na rason, lastima i dinsehå-ta siha nu decolonization. Yanggen ta aksepta este put i lenguahi-ta, buente sa’ gof mappot matungo’ fino Chamoru, pat tåya’ bali-ña para u matungo’ fino’ Chamoru, pat todu ha’ esta manfino’ I’ingles, pat tåya’ tiempo, i humuyongña na gof chachago’ ha’ i guinife-ta siha nu decolonization.

Mientras ma diskukuti i mamamaila na lina’la’ i Chamoru yan i isla siha, ya taimanu siña ta na’magåhet i guinife-ta yan dineshå-ta, debi di u mahasso na gof impotånte para i che’cho’-ta i lenguahi-ta Chamoru. Ti kabåbales ha’ este na decolonization, kontat ki, ti ta chuchule’ tåtte gui’ ginnen Siha sumakke’. Ti kabåbales ha’, yanggen ti na’la’la’la’ gui’ mo’ña para i famagu’on-ta, yan i famagu’on i famagu’on-ta.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Matto Tatte' Si Naomi Klein

Its good to see Naomi Klein publishing things again, I know she was on research leave or something for a while now.


Published on Friday, April 27, 2007 by The Nation
Sacrificial Wolfie
by Naomi Klein

It’s not the act itself, it’s the hypocrisy. That’s the line on Paul Wolfowitz, coming from editorial pages around the world. It’s neither: not the act (disregarding the rules to get his girlfriend a pay raise) nor the hypocrisy (the fact that Wolfowitz’s mission as World Bank president is fighting for “good governance”).First, let’s dispense with the supposed hypocrisy problem. “Who wants to be lectured on corruption by someone telling them to ‘do as I say, not as I do’?” asked one journalist. No one, of course. But that’s a pretty good description of the game of one-way strip poker that is our global trade system, in which the United States and Europe–via the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization–tell the developing world, “You take down your trade barriers and we’ll keep ours up.” From farm subsidies to the Dubai Ports World scandal, hypocrisy is our economic order’s guiding principle.

Wolfowitz’s only crime was taking his institution’s international posture to heart. The fact that he has responded to the scandal by hiring a celebrity lawyer and shopping for a leadership “coach” is just more evidence that he has fully absorbed the World Bank way: When in doubt, blow the budget on overpriced consultants and call it aid.

The more serious lie at the center of the controversy is the implication that the World Bank was an institution with impeccable ethical credentials–until, according to forty-two former Bank executives, its credibility was “fatally compromised” by Wolfowitz. (Many American liberals have seized on this fairy tale, addicted to the fleeting rush that comes from forcing neocons to resign.) The truth is that the bank’s credibility was fatally compromised when it forced school fees on students in Ghana in exchange for a loan; when it demanded that Tanzania privatize its water system; when it made telecom privatization a condition of aid for Hurricane Mitch; when it demanded labor “flexibility” in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami in Sri Lanka; when it pushed for eliminating food subsidies in post-invasion Iraq. Ecuadoreans care little about Wolfowitz’s girlfriend; more pressing is that in 2005, the Bank withheld a promised $100 million after the country dared to spend a portion of its oil revenues on health and education. Some antipoverty organization.

But the area where the World Bank has the most tenuous claim to moral authority is in the fight against corruption. Almost everywhere that mass state pillage has taken place over the past four decades, the Bank and the IMF have been first on the scene of the crime. And no, they have not been looking the other way as the locals lined their pockets; they have been writing the ground rules for the theft and yelling, “Faster, please!”–a process known as rapid-fire shock therapy.

Russia under the leadership of the recently departed Boris Yeltsin was a case in point. Beginning in 1990, the Bank led the charge for the former Soviet Union to impose immediately what it called “radical reform.” When Mikhail Gorbachev refused to go along, Yeltsin stepped up. This bulldozer of a man would not let anything or anyone stand in the way of the Washington-authored program, including Russia’s elected politicians. After he ordered army tanks to open fire on demonstrators in October 1993, killing hundreds and leaving the Parliament blackened by flames, the stage was set for the fire-sale privatizations of Russia’s most precious state assets to the so-called oligarchs. Of course, the Bank was there. Of the democracy-free lawmaking frenzy that followed Yeltsin’s coup, Charles Blitzer, the World Bank’s chief economist on Russia, told the Wall Street Journal, “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”

When Yeltsin left office, his family had become inexplicably wealthy, while several of his deputies were enmeshed in bribery scandals. These incidents were reported on in the West, as they always are, as unfortunate local embellishments on an otherwise ethical economic modernization project. In fact, corruption was embedded in the very idea of shock therapy. The whirlwind speed of change was crucial to overcoming the widespread rejection of the reforms, but it also meant that by definition there could be no oversight. Moreover, the payoffs for local officials were an indispensable incentive for Russia’s apparatchiks to create the wide-open market Washington was demanding. The bottom line is that there is good reason that corruption has never been a high priority for the Bank and the IMF: Its officials understand that when enlisting politicians to advance an economic agenda guaranteed to win them furious enemies at home, there generally has to be a little in it for those politicians in bank accounts abroad.

Russia is far from unique: From Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet, who accumulated more than 125 bank accounts while building the first neoliberal state, to Argentine President Carlos Menem, who drove a bright red Ferrari Testarossa while he liquidated his country, to Iraq’s “missing billions” today, there is, in every country, a class of ambitious, bloody-minded politicians who are willing to act as Western subcontractors. They will take a fee, and that fee is called corruption–the silent but ever-present partner in the crusade to privatize the developing world.

The three main institutions at the heart of that crusade are in crisis–not because of the small hypocrisies but because of the big ones. The WTO cannot get back on track, the IMF is going broke, displaced by Venezuela and China. And now the Bank is going down.

The Financial Times reports that when World Bank managers dispensed advice, “they were now laughed at.” Perhaps we should all laugh at the Bank. What we should absolutely not do, however, is participate in the effort to cleanse the Bank’s ruinous history by repeating the absurd narrative that the reputation of an otherwise laudable antipoverty organization has been sullied by one man. The Bank understandably wants to throw Wolfowitz overboard. I say, Let the ship go down with the captain.

Naomi Klein’s website

© 2007 The Nation

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Act of Decolonization #6: Metgotña Yanggen Manhita

One thing which was discussed and highlighted as critically important at last weekend's beautiful and incredibly inspirational Famoksaiyan conference in Berkeley and Oakland, California was the need to be informed and make your voices known on the issue of the impending military build up of Guam. (I will absolutely have more on the conference soon)

At the conference we passed out comment forms which the military is distributing to the public on Guam in hopes of convincing us that we have a say in the process and that our concerns will be taken seriously. In one way, we can look at this act and think that they are trying to fool us, trick us into thinking we have more power in this situation than we really do. Even if we sent a million letters to them telling them to stop this increase, they would do it anyway. There is unfortunately alot of truth to this, however, we also need to see the vulnerability and anxiety of the military in their offerings of transparency.

The movement of Marines to Guam is amongst other things, because of the both the invisibility of the island and the patriotism and willingness of the island's residents and government to accept the military presence and cater to its needs and demands. The military, by repeatedly asking for our feedback and saying we have a say, might be doing so just to fool us, but might also be doing so simply because we do have some power in this situation. We do have the power, whether through protest, pressure on politicians, legal cases, or just changing the way we relate to the United States, to stall or stop this military increase, or to actually change the plans of the military to take into account the needs, interests and demands of Guam and its people.

It is for this reason, that I urge you to follow this link to the info page the Pacific Daily News has set up, and inform yourself about the realities of the military increase and then write and send in your concerns, your frustrations, your anger and your fears. The comment sheet is provided through a link on the PDN page. It is important not to be overwhelmed or swayed by the amount of information the military is throwing at us, and the feelings of community engagement, love, devotion, mutual respect and patriotism that they are covering their public outreach with. This aura of transparency and community partnership is a facade meant to cover up the ugly realities that military build ups anywhere mean environmental damage, economic shifts which tend to stress or obliterate housing and other markets while grossly benefitting the above ground and underground sex economies. The military is reaching out to us, hoping to win us over with these benevolent gestures of appearing to care about what we think, what we are worried about. This outreach amounts to alot of colorful papers graphs, powerpoints, factsheets and promises of BILLIONS of dollars in spending, all of which are meant to either dazzle us, make us kneel, and most importantly keep us from making any demands or asking any questions. When you fill out these forms, please be mindful to mention all the things the military intentionally leaves outside of their impact studies and scopes, which they nonetheless know will be heavily and most likely negatively impacted. Think about impacts on housing/rental prices, local businesses having to compete with new carpetbaggering businesses which are sprouting up all over, impact on schools, on roads, noise and environmental pollution, etc. There are so many things...and all I seem to hear from people is that BILLIONS of dollars are coming our way.

At present, the military is hoping for a public on Guam who says nothing, and merely waves American flags as thousands of trucks carrying bombs, missiles, Marines and spydrones roar by on Marine Drive. Our power in this situation will depend upon us shattering that illusion, and making clear that we on Guam are not simply content to wave flags, but have real concerns that MUST be addressed. Si Yu'us Ma'ase.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I pilan yanggen sumåhi, guaha magof gi sumahi-ña...

On April 16, 2007 at 11:18 a.m. after two days of trying to induce labor, and eleven hours of actual labor, a baby girl, Sumåhi Chan Bevacqua was born to myself and i nananpatgon-hu, Jessica Chan. I fine'nina na patgon-hu este, ya sen nina'magof yu'.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

From The Mouth of Fallon

Although I often say that Guam appears in empty ways in media representations at the national level, this doesn't mean that there is "nothing to see there." The absence of something is something which can and must nonetheless be interrogated.

In articles such as "Looking for Friendly Base Overseas, Pentagon Finds it Already Has One" or "Dot on Map Regains Strategic Stature" from newspaper such as The Los Angeles Times or The New York Times, Guam appears, sometimes with a history, sometimes tragically without it, but always because of the empty way it appears, as something which is purely an object or instrument of the United States. This emptiness is never simply reality or just simply a lack of knowledge about i bunita na isla-ta, but is always productive of something. Therefore, the structures of power can be felt in all of these texts, even if as we find too often in reports covering the "transfer" of 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam, Guam has no apparent presence in the article except for its mere mention.

For those who are interested in learning what the relationship is between Guam's colonial status and its military importance, you have to go beyond the simple logic that its pure geography and nothing more. To only critique or think in this framework gives the United States too much credit, basically absolves it of any dependencies and allows it to enjoy the fantasy of modern national sovereignty. To only think that the United States' relationship is Guam is one mediated solely through either the ability to strategic enjoy Guam's geographic value or to recognize the patriotism of Chamorros and others on Guam gives the United States a mastery over its existence and helps create that aura of elevation and floating above its subjects, which makes it appear as rightfully exceptional and morally and historically unique.

It means that when the United States engages with anything, whether it be Guam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Third World, etc. it can do so without needing anything from those it is interacting and exchanging with. One easy way that this can be discerned is in agency or aura of benevolence that nation-states can make use of in the apparently massive gulf between the imperialism/colonialism of yesteryear and the imperialism/colonialism of today.

Take for instance the interventions of first world powers into the “violent” politics of Third World countries from Asia to Africa to Latin America, such as American intervention in Bosnia. According to the “old” understandings of how imperialism works, such an expenditure of resource and national capital could only be for domination of land or securing of resources. But since representations of Bosnia indicate that it is a lawless and savage land with nothing other then ethnic violence and terror, the United States could not be intervening for either of these things. In the absence of evidence of older imperialistic forms, the only remaining explanation can be benevolence! Or to put it another way, Bosnia has nothing the US wants, so its intervention there must be altruistic. But as Noam Chomsky notes, the United States and different European powers had a huge interest in Bosnia, and it can be articulated to you by “your friendly neighborhood Mafia Don,” who beats the person who owes him a hundred dollars, not for the hundred dollars, but in order to “maintain credibility.”

The power of any nation-state today, at the global level is dependent upon how well it can makes its local thoughts, global actions, and yet somehow both dissociate such narrow intent and associate its actions with global good and peace. To do this, distance must be put or secured from its actions and any interests in the site of intervention. The United States global authority is (re)produced through its ability to act in the name of all in Bosnia, and have its actions seem to be without interest.

It was actually a debate between Noam Chomsky and William Buckley on Firing Line that first made this clear to me. In response to a recounting of acts of American imperialism over the past century by Chomsky, Buckley attempts to de-activate the Imperialism mention, by claiming that the actions of the United States in those instances were “dis-interested.”

Since Guam is so “small” and so “isolated” and “distant” it becomes difficult to pragmatically recognize how in the hell the United States would be dependent upon Guam or how this reliance would translate into something important critically. But fortunately for us, Guam is a banal colony of the United States, and so teasing out these elements is not difficult, what makes Guam so important and necessary to the United States isn’t hidden, but rather openly stated. With this last point we reach a fairly complete equation of why Guam is so important to the United States. 1. Geographic location on the edge of Asia. 2. Ambiguous political status. 3. Invisible and Banal on both national and international levels.

Admiral William Fallon, was up until recently the leader of the US Pacific Command, and is now the commander of the US Central Command in the Middle East. During the discussion for the military buildup of Guam over the next few years, Fallon made many disturbingly revealing and simple statements which have been very helpful for me in writing my prospectus for my dissertation and also helping explain to people the link between Guam's status as a colony and its importance to the United States.

You can find scattered statements by Fallon all over the internet, but one of the more juicy ones was written by Richard Halloran from Hawai'i and then republished in different papers throughout the US and Asia. To read the whole article just click here.

1. Why is Guam important to the United States?

According to Admiral Fallon, just "look at a map." He then continues on by describing what this position on the map means:

He pointed to the relatively short distances from Guam to South Korea, the Taiwan Strait across which China and Taiwan confront one another, and Southeast Asia, the frontier of terror in Asia.

US officers often talk about the "tyranny of distance" in the Pacific Command's area of operations, which runs from the west coast of North America to the east coast of Africa. Guam, when it is fully operational, will provide a base for land, naval and air forces that is closer to targets than to forces on the US mainland or Hawaii. Guam was a major air base during the war in Vietnam.

Most would isolate this importance as belonging strictly to military discourse and planning only and not have any real bearing on Guam's other relationships with the United States, except as a way we can prove how patriotic we are by supporting the military. But for anyone with even a decently honest understanding of Guam's recent history, they would know that this strategic military importance is the primary means through which the Federal Government understands and treats Guam and through which even the rest of the country barely knows it.

Take for instance the recent Congressional delegation which came through Guam. Like most delegations following World War II which aren't a part of the Department of Interior, the focus of the trip is military, and basically the only knowledge which any of the group arrives with deals with either Guam's military role protecting US regional interests or the patriotic luster that Guam's brown Chamorro and sometimes Filipino bodies bring to the red in the American flag. Speaking of any other issues, educational, politically, colonial, economic to these Congress people will ultimately be weighed, balanced and inputted into an equation of Guam's military importance versus to cost of helping Guam out. Or they will just be completely ignored.

This military importance is always there and never goes away (in fact, you could argue its been there since the Spanish era). It is the only reason that war reparations is even an issue. The possibility of Chamorros ever receiving compensation for their suffering during World War II will mainly depend on whether or not their island is worth the millions of dollars it will cost Congress. But in the meantime, its existence on the floor of Congress allows it to be used as sort of a historical fluff piece for American nation-building, maintaining and self-glorifying.

2. What does political status have to do with this?

According to Fallon, "Guam is American territory."

The island does not have the political restrictions, such as those in South Korea, that could impede US military moves in an emergency. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who has repeatedly taken an anti-American stance, has suggested that US forces could not be deployed from South Korea without his government's approval.

Again we can treat this point in a very narrow way, where we think of what Fallon is saying strictly in military terms. Such however is one of the most common ways we embody our colonization in Guam, by conceiving of our interests and the military's interests as the same thing.

Territory is of course a commonly accepted euphemism both in the colonies and the states for "colony." Rather then get into that silly debate however, which is fueled completely by the understandable fact that many people feel less American if Guam is a colony of the United States instead of a "territory." What we should focus on here is the empty notions that the term invokes, as if the land being describes is iyo-ta ha', taya' ha', and is ours to do whatever we wish with.

The value of Guam, in addition to its geographic location is the lack of restrictions, lack of oversight which is only enhanced by Guam's ambiguous and, as well as the incredible invisibility of Guam. This was first articulated to me several years ago by Nasion Chamoru member David Babauta Herrera:

"Why are we so important to them? It is because they can do things here that they can't at home and they can't do in other countries. We don't really have an say in what happens, if they want to do something."
Several years ago, a few months after 9/11, during a relatively polite argument with a group of white military serving on Guam, I was told by one of them that I should "go home," or "go back to whever you came from." It stunned me at the time, to conceive of that on my island, in the homeland of the Chamorros, I was being told to go back to whever I came from.
For a long time, this made absolutely no sense to me, that on Guam, where the military is a guest, those who were serving there for a few years, a few months, whatever, were telling me that they owned that island, owned the land and had the right to call it their own, simply because they were either white, American or serving in the Armed Forces. The reasons why they feel they can say that, and why so many people on Guam are willing to accept that the interests of the military are more important then our own, have become more and more clear to me as I have thought through what the invisibility and banality of Guam means. What it produces, stimulates and allows. What it means to be one of the six most important American bases in the world, yet at the same time be a base which the Pentagon can forget it already has. It means that can Guam can be one of the most important dots on the map linking together the various parts of the American empire, yet at the same time it is nonetheless a simple dot over which both the United States nation and the simple American service or even average American writer, journalist or internet surfer can make their own.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chamorro Public Service Post #6: Puti Tai Nobiu

After I got such a great response from people for my last Chamorro Public Service Post that featured the words to the song Apo Magi, I've decided to include another one.

Although not as famous I love this song even more about of the imagery it uses, which is uncommon in Chamoro music in this sort of sustained form. The metaphoric languages of flowers and the jungle are often dropped into Chamorro songs, but rarely stay away in this sort of way in order to entrance you.

The song for today is Puti Tai Nobiu, written I believe by Roque Mantanona, and sung by Flora Baza Quan. Johnny Sablan later responded with a male version called Puti Tai Nobia, but its nowhere near as intense or beautiful (in my opinion) as this one.

(bai hu dedicate este pa'go nu i nobia-hu Si Rashne, Si Yu'us Ma'a'se para todu i sinapotte-mu yan kinemprende-mu, este halacha na meses siha.)

Put Tai Nobiu:

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

Puti tai nobiu, ai puti tai nobiu
Milågron Si Yu’us Bunitån-mu
Puti tai nobiu ai put tainobiu
Mampos i pinalacha’-mu

Flores hao gi halom flores
Tumachu hao kalang kastiyu
Mit di hao kalang i Ninu
Lao i na’ån-mu gos piligro
I na’ån-mu ma adåhi
Sa’ sahnge hao gi batkåda
Puti tai nobiu na flores
Ai parehu estoria-ta

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

Flores hao gi halom flores
Maolekña ti hu mafañågu
Sa’ chatpa’go yu’ mohon
Ti hu padedesi este på’go
Embediosa yu’ nu Hågu
Put tai nobiu na flores
Sa’ yanggen hu konsedera
I bidå-hu ha’ tumånges
I bidå-hu ha’ tumånges

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

Manlaolaolao i kersaon-hu
Ai yanggen hu konsedera
Este tåya’ nai nobiu-hu
Maolekña mohon ti hu sottera
Puti tai nobiu na flores
Lastima i bunitå-hu
Sa’ tåya’ yu’ na ma espiha
Buente put i delikao-hu

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

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

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

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Why I Can't Take My Eyes Off of Arundhati Roy

I wish I could write more about Arundhati Roy today, but right now I'm getting ready for the possible birth of my baby tomorrow, and so my mind is a bit pre-occupied. Needless to say she makes so many important points for people who are engaged with struggles against neo-liberalism, imperialism, militarization, and nation-states which seem to have honed to perfection the art of violent indifference. Her responses to the idea that social change or the pursuit of justice should be prevented or stalled because of the possibility that what happens the "day after" will be either violent or uncomfortable is particularly important to those of us who stand on the fearsome edge of decolonization, overlooking an abyss of uncertainty should we ever choose to break with the warm comforting caress of the colonizer.

Published on Sunday, March 25, 2007 by Tehelka
On India’s Growing Violence:
‘It’s Outright War and Both Sides are Choosing Their Weapons’
by Arundhati Roy

The following is an interview with Arundhati Roy, conducted by Shoma Chaudhury of Tehelka.

There is an atmosphere of growing violence across the country. How do you read the signs? In what context should it be read?

You don’t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing Western countries, which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labor to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in independent India — the secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They’ve managed to commandeer the resources, the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines — supertoys for the new supercitizens of the new superpower. So it’s outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for structural adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the ‘friendly’ corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down people’s throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger strikes, satyagraha, the courts and what they thought was friendly media. But now more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the ‘growth rate’ and the Sensex are going to be the only barometers the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters, is this: the shit has hit the fan, folks.

You once remarked that though you may not resort to violence yourself, you think it has become immoral to condemn it, given the circumstances in the country. Can you elaborate on this view?

I’d be a liability as a guerrilla! I doubt I used the word ‘immoral’ — morality is an elusive business, as changeable as the weather. What I feel is this: non-violent movements have knocked at the door of every democratic institution in this country for decades, and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The nba had a lot going for it — high-profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to rethink strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it’s time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media? Are hunger strikes umbilically linked to celebrity politics? Would anybody care if the people of Nangla Machhi or Bhatti mines went on a hunger strike? Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for six years. That should be a lesson to many of us. I’ve always felt that it’s ironic that hunger strikes are used as a political weapon in a land where most people go hungry anyway. We are in a different time and place now. Up against a different, more complex adversary. We’ve entered the era of NGOs — or should I say the era of paltu shers — in which mass action can be a treacherous business. We have demonstrations which are funded, we have sponsored dharnas and social forums which make militant postures but never follow up on what they preach. We have all kinds of ‘virtual’ resistance. Meetings against SEZs sponsored by the biggest promoters of SEZs. Awards and grants for environmental activism and community action given by corporations responsible for devastating whole ecosystems. Vedanta, a company mining bauxite in the forests of Orissa, wants to start a university. The Tatas have two charitable trusts that directly and indirectly fund activists and mass movements across the country. Could that be why Singur has drawn so much less flak than Nandigram? Of course the Tatas and Birlas funded Gandhi too — maybe he was our first NGO. But now we have NGOs who make a lot of noise, write a lot of reports, but whom the sarkar is more than comfortable with. How do we make sense of all this? The place is crawling with professional diffusers of real political action. ‘Virtual’ resistance has become something of a liability.

There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgments that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away. A recent Supreme Court judgment, allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances, said in so many words that the questions of corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise! In the ERA of corporate globalization, corporate land-grab, in the ERA of Enron and Monsanto, Halliburton and Bechtel, that’s a loaded thing to say. It exposes the ideological heart of the most powerful institution in this country. The judiciary, along with the corporate press, is now seen as the lynchpin of the neo-liberal project.

In a climate like this, when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be eventually humiliated, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary — violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of the violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colors fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair, should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a dharna and sung songs, the West Bengal government would have backed down? We are living in times when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.

You have been traveling a lot on the ground — can you give us a sense of the trouble spots you have been to? Can you outline a few of the combat lines in these places?

Huge question — what can I say? The military occupation of Kashmir, neo-fascism in Gujarat, civil war in Chhattisgarh, MNCs raping Orissa, the submergence of hundreds of villages in the Narmada Valley, people living on the edge of absolute starvation, the devastation of forest land, the Bhopal victims living to see the West Bengal government re-wooing Union Carbide — now calling itself Dow Chemicals — in Nandigram. I haven’t been recently to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, but we know about the almost hundred thousand farmers who have killed themselves. We know about the fake encounters and the terrible repression in Andhra Pradesh. Each of these places has its own particular history, economy, ecology. None is amenable to easy analysis. And yet there is connecting tissue, there are huge international cultural and economic pressures being brought to bear on them. How can I not mention the Hindutva project, spreading its poison sub-cutaneously, waiting to erupt once again? I’d say the biggest indictment of all is that we are still a country, a culture, a society which continues to nurture and practice the notion of untouchability. While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people — human scavengers — earn their living carrying several kilos of other people’s shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some fucking superpower this.

How does one view the recent State and police violence in Bengal?

No different from police and State violence anywhere else — including the issue of hypocrisy and doublespeak so perfected by all political parties including the mainstream Left. Are Communist bullets different from capitalist ones? Odd things are happening. It snowed in Saudi Arabia. Owls are out in broad daylight. The Chinese government tabled a bill sanctioning the right to private property. I don’t know if all of this has to do with climate change. The Chinese Communists are turning out to be the biggest capitalists of the 21st century. Why should we expect our own parliamentary Left to be any different? Nandigram and Singur are clear signals. It makes you wonder — is the last stop of every revolution advanced capitalism? Think about it — the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Vietnam War, the anti-apartheid struggle, the supposedly Gandhian freedom struggle in India… what’s the last station they all pull in at? Is this the end of imagination?

The Maoist attack in Bijapur — the death of 55 policemen. Are the rebels only the flip side of the State?

How can the rebels be the flip side of the State? Would anybody say that those who fought against apartheid — however brutal their methods — were the flip side of the State? What about those who fought the French in Algeria? Or those who fought the Nazis? Or those who fought colonial regimes? Or those who are fighting the US occupation of Iraq? Are they the flip side of the State? This facile new report-driven ‘human rights’ discourse, this meaningless condemnation game that we are all forced to play, makes politicians of us all and leaches the real politics out of everything. However pristine we would like to be, however hard we polish our halos, the tragedy is that we have run out of pristine choices. There is a civil war in Chhattisgarh sponsored, created by the Chhattisgarh government, which is publicly pursing the Bush doctrine: if you’re not with us, you are with the terrorists. The lynchpin of this war, apart from the formal security forces, is the Salva Judum — a government-backed militia of ordinary people forced to take up arms, forced to become SPOs (special police officers). The Indian State has tried this in Kashmir, in Manipur, in Nagaland. Tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured, thousands have disappeared. Any banana republic would be proud of this record. Now the government wants to import these failed strategies into the heartland. Thousands of adivasis have been forcibly moved off their mineral-rich lands into police camps. Hundreds of villages have been forcibly evacuated. Those lands, rich in iron-ore, are being eyed by corporations like the Tatas and Essar. Mous have been signed, but no one knows what they say. Land acquisition has begun. This kind of thing happened in countries like Colombia — one of the most devastated countries in the world. While everybody’s eyes are fixed on the spiraling violence between government-backed militias and guerrilla squads, multinational corporations quietly make off with the mineral wealth. That’s the little piece of theater being scripted for us in Chhattisgarh.

Of course it’s horrible that 55 policemen were killed. But they’re as much the victims of government policy as anybody else. For the government and the corporations they’re just cannon fodder — there’s plenty more where they came from. Crocodile tears will be shed, prim TV anchors will hector us for a while and then more supplies of fodder will be arranged. For the Maoist guerrillas, the police and SPOs they killed were the armed personnel of the Indian State, the main, hands-on perpetrators of repression, torture, custodial killings, false encounters. They’re not innocent civilians — if such a thing exists — by any stretch of imagination.

I have no doubt that the Maoists can be agents of terror and coercion too. I have no doubt they have committed unspeakable atrocities. I have no doubt they cannot lay claim to undisputed support from local people — but who can? Still, no guerrilla army can survive without local support. That’s a logistical impossibility. And the support for Maoists is growing, not diminishing. That says something. People have no choice but to align themselves on the side of whoever they think is less worse.

But to equate a resistance movement fighting against enormous injustice with the government which enforces that injustice is absurd. The government has slammed the door in the face of every attempt at non-violent resistance. When people take to arms, there is going to be all kinds of violence — revolutionary, lumpen and outright criminal. The government is responsible for the monstrous situations it creates.

‘Naxals’, ‘Maoists’, ‘outsiders’: these are terms being very loosely used these days.

‘Outsiders’ is a generic accusation used in the early stages of repression by governments who have begun to believe their own publicity and can’t imagine that their own people have risen up against them. That’s the stage the CPM is at now in Bengal, though some would say repression in Bengal is not new, it has only moved into higher gear. In any case, what’s an outsider? Who decides the borders? Are they village boundaries? Tehsil? Block? District? State? Is narrow regional and ethnic politics the new Communist mantra? About Naxals and Maoists — well… India is about to become a police state in which everybody who disagrees with what’s going on risks being called a terrorist. Islamic terrorists have to be Islamic — so that’s not good enough to cover most of us. They need a bigger catchment area. So leaving the definition loose, undefined, is effective strategy, because the time is not far off when we’ll all be called Maoists or Naxalites, terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, and shut down by people who don’t really know or care who Maoists or Naxalites are. In villages, of course, that has begun — thousands of people are being held in jails across the country, loosely charged with being terrorists trying to overthrow the state. Who are the real Naxalites and Maoists? I’m not an authority on the subject, but here’s a very rudimentary potted history.

The Communist Party of India, the CPI, was formed in 1925. The CPI (M), or what we now call the CPM — the Communist Party Marxist — split from the CPI in 1964 and formed a separate party. Both, of course, were parliamentary political parties. In 1967, the CPM, along with a splinter group of the Congress, came to power in West Bengal. At the time there was massive unrest among the peasantry starving in the countryside. Local CPM leaders — Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar — led a peasant uprising in the district of Naxalbari which is where the term Naxalites comes from. In 1969, the government fell and the Congress came back to power under Siddhartha Shankar Ray. The Naxalite uprising was mercilessly crushed — Mahasweta Devi has written powerfully about this time. In 1969, the CPI (ML) — Marxist Leninist — split from the CPM. A few years later, around 1971, the CPI (ML) devolved into several parties: the CPM-ML (Liberation), largely centered in Bihar; the CPM-ML (New Democracy), functioning for the most part out of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar; the CPM-ML (Class Struggle) mainly in Bengal. These parties have been generically baptised ‘Naxalites’. They see themselves as Marxist Leninist, not strictly speaking Maoist. They believe in elections, mass action and — when absolutely pushed to the wall or attacked — armed struggle. The MCC — the Maoist Communist Centre, at the time mostly operating in Bihar — was formed in 1968. The PW, People’s War, operational for the most part in Andhra Pradesh, was formed in 1980. Recently, in 2004, the MCC and the pw merged to form the CPI (Maoist) They believe in outright armed struggle and the overthrowing of the State. They don’t participate in elections. This is the party that is fighting the guerrilla war in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The Indian State and media largely view the Maoists as an “internal security” threat. Is this the way to look at them?

I’m sure the Maoists would be flattered to be viewed in this way.

The Maoists want to bring down the State. Given the autocratic ideology they take their inspiration from, what alternative would they set up? Wouldn’t their regime be an exploitative, autocratic, violent one as well? Isn’t their action already exploitative of ordinary people? Do they really have the support of ordinary people?

I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that both Mao and Stalin are dubious heroes with murderous pasts. Tens of millions of people were killed under their regimes. Apart from what happened in China and the Soviet Union, Pol Pot, with the support of the Chinese Communist Party (while the West looked discreetly away), wiped out two million people in Cambodia and brought millions of people to the brink of extinction from disease and starvation. Can we pretend that China’s cultural revolution didn’t happen? Or that millions of people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were not victims of labor camps, torture chambers, the network of spies and informers, the secret police. The history of these regimes is just as dark as the history of Western imperialism, except for the fact that they had a shorter life-span. We cannot condemn the occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir while we remain silent about Tibet and Chechnya. I would imagine that for the Maoists, the Naxalites, as well as the mainstream Left, being honest about the past is important to strengthen people’s faith in the future. One hopes the past will not be repeated, but denying that it ever happened doesn’t help inspire confidence… Nevertheless, the Maoists in Nepal have waged a brave and successful struggle against the monarchy. Right now, in India, the Maoists and the various Marxist-Leninist groups are leading the fight against immense injustice here. They are fighting not just the State, but feudal landlords and their armed militias. They are the only people who are making a dent. And I admire that. It may well be that when they come to power, they will, as you say, be brutal, unjust and autocratic, or even worse than the present government. Maybe, but I’m not prepared to assume that in advance. If they are, we’ll have to fight them too. And most likely someone like myself will be the first person they’ll string up from the nearest tree — but right now, it is important to acknowledge that they are bearing the brunt of being at the forefront of resistance. Many of us are in a position where we are beginning to align ourselves on the side of those who we know have no place for us in their religious or ideological imagination. It’s true that everybody changes radically when they come to power — look at Mandela’s ANC. Corrupt, capitalist, bowing to the IMF driving the poor out of their homes — honoring Suharto, the killer of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Communists, with South Africa’s highest civilian award. Who would have thought it could happen? But does this mean South Africans should have backed away from the struggle against apartheid? Or that they should regret it now? Does it mean Algeria should have remained a French colony, that Kashmiris, Iraqis and Palestinians should accept military occupation? That people whose dignity is being assaulted should give up the fight because they can’t find saints to lead them into battle?

Is there a communication breakdown in our society?


copyright © 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Act of Decolonization # 5: Filosofia Famoksaiyan

With the upcoming Famoksaiyan conference fast approaching (April 20-22, 2007 in Berkeley and Oakland), I thought I'd post something I wrote up last year and later presented in Guam at the Decolonizing Our Lives Forum.

Over the past few years, I am often asked "what exactly is decolonization?" This is a question I am always seeking new ways to answers and to open up for larger discussion. In Guam, from nearly all points in the political spectrum decolonization is one of three things.

First: it is a formal process of political status change, and comprised most prominently of political status votes in which those who have been historically denied the right to self-determination, are allowed to vote to decide the island's political existence. If you go to the office of the Commission for Decolonization in Anigua', this is the type of decolonization that they will describe to you and give you pamphlets about.

Second: it is suicide. It is a risky and careless weakening of the "glorious" presence of the United States in Guam. Because of the ways (through colonization) that life in Guam is to often structured around elevating America to the status of being responsible for the creation, maintenance and importation of nearly all positive/desirable things in life, decolonization because of the way it either implicitly or explicitly contests that dominance or that monopoly of all things good in life, weakens the American aura in Guam, and can appear to those who cling to that aura for their identities and for their meaning in life, like suicide. If you ask most random people on Guam what decolonization is, then their frightened responses such as "how can we run a government with loincloths?" is basically a fearful invocation of this form of decolonization.

Third: it is a primarily cultural endeavor, which involves a re-balancing, harmonizing and re-ordering of one's cultural life. From this perspective, colonization was basically a shattering of the native culture, a breaking of it to pieces and then a scattering of them to the winds. Decolonization is therefore the concerted and determined collecting, recovering and re-learning what was thought to be lost or per the orders of the colonizer, meant to be lost. You can find this theory in action in different cultural/performing groups in Guam, but also invoked throughout everyday life when making claims about which "culture" owns what, or where the origins of "culture" lies. The problem, as I often discuss with this form of decolonization is that it can leave unattended to to the structures of colonization, by basically claiming that the Chamorro only belongs in this particular realm, this cultural realm, and that it is free within that realm. By default, so long as it is loyal and true to this cultural realm, it can do whatever it wants elsewhere, so in terms of its politics, it can say the most insane things or have completely unproductive positions, but it doesn't matter to long as there is a fidelity to that "cultural" Chamorro. (you find this manifested in the simplistic and stupid argument that Chamorro is my ethnicity and American is my nationality)

The scary part is that this "cultural" realm is too often produced by anthropology and other less than friendly discourses to indigenous people and natives, and so if you accept this premise for decolonization, you accept, regardless of how passionate you might be, that Chamorros are always already dead.

My intent for writing this philosophy for Famoksaiyan was to sort of straddle, draw from, combine and contest in different ways each of these, and try to bring them in such a way that a theory of decolonization is clear, but also that what I am proposing already mirrors what people are doing and what people know needs to be done. Often times what holds people back is simply the label and the limiting notion that "decolonization" is so horribly anti-American, and so we can't do that! The "anti-Americaness" of decolonization is irrelevant to me, what matters to me is ultimately the interests of Guam versus the interests of the United States and its military. Sometimes they might be the same, others times night, and decolonization within this framework is a commitment to placing the interests of Guam first, and breaking the idea the future is possible only through the subservient begging and hitching of ourselves to the ship of American manifest destiny.


Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Famoksaiyan Mission Statement Draft
September 1, 2006

An invisible minority in the United States, their island of Guam one of the world’s last “official” colonies and recently christened the tip of America’s military spear in Asia, with the proposed transfer of 8,000 new Marines, the future of Chamorros and their islands seems inevitably entangled with that of the United States and its strategic military interests. Is this the fate of Chamorros and the Marianas, to be forever linked to the United States in this way, and do little other than follow and attempt to live up to as well as within its mandates, its examples and its dreams? In seeking to improve their lives and communities, is the only hope for Chamorros to follow the advice of the Bush Administration and “let go” of their cultures that hold them back and at last seize the American dream?

Derived from the diaspora and dispossession of this socio-political existence, Famoksaiyan is a grassroots network of activists, scholars, students, community leaders and artists who seek to push a progressive political, economic and social agenda for Chamorros and their communities at the local, national and international levels.

What does this progressive agenda entail? At its core is a commitment to the decolonization of Chamorro lands and lives.

Decolonization of land refers to the altering of Guam’s current colonial status as an “unincorporated” territory of the United States. The impact of Guam’s colonial status and the inequitable and exploitative status it creates range from stifled economic growth, no control over American military increases in Guam, the poor situation of all Federal laws applying to Guam without it being given so much as a vote in Congress or for President, and also the rejection of Guam from international and regional communities because of their ambiguous political status. Whether it be at the United Nations, in the local or national media, mayor’s offices or internet message boards, Famoksaiyan is dedicated to pushing for an improvement in Guam’s political status and an end to more than 300 years of colonial rule.

The decolonization of Chamorro lands and lives also extends to the changing of perceptions and possibility with regards to space, place and geography. A mix of US policies and Chamorro dreams of American opportunities has created a diaspora whereby more Chamorros can be found scattered in the United States and its network of global military outposts, then in their home islands of the Marianas.

As more Chamorros leave the islands and more and more Chamorros grow up in the States, their islands, culture, language and history often kept cruelly from them, diasporic interventions designed overcome and rethink these distances are vitally necessary. To this end, Famoksaiyan is dedicated to decolonizing notions of geography and home, by decolonizing the mentality of smallness and un-sustainability that plagues most Pacific Islands thereby leading them to believe that development and the future is dictated merely by landfalls of destiny. To do this means reversing the longstanding colonizing gaze which perceives the oceans around us as barriers that divide us and instead asserting the Pacific as a sharing of consciousness and history that has tied islands together in both time and space for millennia. Along these lines we must develop networks of information and solidarity exchange, which through the production of shared political wills and power which in the movement across oceans and continents can help us rework the meaning of “home,” to include those who cannot physically be in our islands, but wish to continue to fight for our lands and our people.

Furthermore, the decolonization of Chamorro lives entails a radical re-telling of Chamorro histories and a re-directing and self-determining of their futures. Crucial to this re-telling and re-directing is the work of our artists, whose most important task is the positive and critical shaping of our history and our memory through their work.

Multiple generations of American compulsory education, a century of economic underdevelopment and 32 months of occupation by the Japanese in World War II has Americanized the memories of Chamorros and pushed us to conceive of ourselves as eternally dependent upon the United States for progress, for comfort, for existence. Helping to preserve this ambiguous colonial existence is the fact that for more than three centuries Chamorro history has been the purview of Guam’s colonizers, who have produced dull, barely perceptible almost skeletal outlines of where we have come from, which through their incredible historical gaps and silences, indicate that if Chamorros exist at all, we are not going anywhere.

Famoksaiyan is meant to be a space where the creativity, passion and political commitment of Chamorros can come together to reverse these trends and work to forge new means of connecting Chamorros to their islands, their histories and each other, by actively participating in the processes of cultural preservation and re-vitalization. To this end, it is the task of Famoksaiyan to promote Chamorro creativity in theatre, visual arts, music, poetry, fiction, traditional arts, etc. which refuses to accept the themes of cultural death and anthropological loss which have long haunted our people, and instead paint the long history of our people in vibrant and lively tones that testify to our strength, our struggles, our endurance and our persistence in the face of three different empires.

Central to this aesthetic impetus is a commitment to the revitalization of Chamorro language. The process of decolonization is the re-invention of a form, an identity, or a place in relationship to something once conceived of as lost or gone. Over the past two generations the language loss amongst Chamorros on Guam has been terrifying. Anti-Chamorro language policies propagated by both emissaries of the United States and Chamorros themselves have both linked speaking perfect English and ridding of the Chamorro language and accent to better chances at economic prosperity and therefore happiness. As Chamorros of the most recent generation contend with their own language loss, which was either forced from their mouths when they were children or kept hidden from them entirely, what is to be the relationship we define to that loss? Do we accept this loss as American education planners perceived it, as natural death and the only route to progress and the future? Or is decolonization the reversing or the disrupting of this very natural flow by which the path forward is followed? A redefining of what the future can and should be, based on in this instance, what language we will use to meet it, to describe it, to live it?

As the importance of language goes beyond communication alone and extends into the realm of expression and beauty of a world view, the overall process of decolonization is not complete without a revitalizing of Chamorro language, whether in public discourse, everyday conversations, or the arts.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Famoksaiyan Flyer

I'm heading back to Guam tomorrow hopefully to catch the birth of my baby, not sure when I'll be posting again regularly, but in the meantime here's the flyers for the upcoming Famoksaiyan conference. You can also view and download the flyers by clicking on these links

Famoksaiyan Flyer Front
Famoksaiyan Flyer Back

Si Yu'us Ma'ase nu Si Kie Susuico, Victoria Leon Guerrero yan i pumalu siha para i che'chon-niha

Friday, April 06, 2007

Kiss Kiss Bangalore

Buente este un tungo' put i guinaiya-ku nu i Simpsons yan kontodu nu i bailan yan kachidon Bollywood. Pa'go hu fakcha'i este na kachido, ni' muna'unu i dos na guinaiya-ku siha.

Ti hu tungo' manu na klasin yu'us chumaolao i diniseha-hu, lao hu gof agradesi i fina'tinas-mu!

Gaige yu' pa'go giya New York, para bei fama'nu'i tinige'-hu gi i Association of Asian American Studies Conference. So not much to post until I'm back in San Diego.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Probably won't be able to post for a little while so I thought I'd show you one of my paintings instead. Na'magof hao, ya asi'i yu' put fabot put i tinaigue-ku yan ginagu-hu.

One more thing before I go, I'm slowly but surely tagging all of my posts, and so instead of using the categories which run down the right side of the blog, you can now surf through my blog more easily by clicking on any of the post categories at the end of each post.

Monday, April 02, 2007


When the French philosopher Jacques Derrida died in October of 2004, I had intended to write something about it on my blog. Unfortunately I never got around to it.

I was reading an interview with Gayatri Spivak the other day and I was reminded about how I hadn't written anything about Derrida yet. Like most people I have had a back and forth, regularly conflicted relationship with the work of Derrida. When I first read Of Grammatology many years ago, my first reaction was "bulls*it!" From the perspective of someone who is from a "non-modern" culture, the idea that Derrida proposed that in European philosophy "speech" is privileged over "writing" was not just wrong, it was insulting! The reason that a text like Destiny's Landfall which is extremely comprehensive, bringing together most all acknowledged sources on Guam's history can nonethless be problematic and often written atop racist assumptions, is simply because for the writing of indigenous people's histories outsiders, written sources are privileged well and above spoken sources.

When I returned to Derrida years later, I realized that I had actually (like most people) misread his argument. Deconstruction was not about arguing that writing is better than speech, or even vice versa, but only that the elevating of one over the other, because of its obvious or natural closeness or essential proximity is never certain or closed, but always remains open for reversal, contestation and critique.

Speech, in the theories of philosophers such as Plato is privileged as being infused with a higher order of truth, a more fuller presence/essence of being. If we think of what is to be written or communicated as originating in the mind, then speech is one act removed from the true intent or essence of what was to be said, whereas writing exists as a mere copy, a fake, corrupted form. Twice removed from the source of meaning, and a mere duplicate or copy of speech.

Derrida's point isn't simply that writing is better than speech, or that speech is better than writing, although this reversal and flipping of binaries is part of the deconstructive process. What Derrida's point here is that writing and speech, regardless of where we see them in relation to the origins of thought, meaning or truth, or what hierarchies we create to make one seem better than the other, they both follow the same rules of meaning possible only through a system of differences, which means they are both always open for contestation and plagued with indeterminancy and victim of a distance to "truth" and "essence" which can never be overcome.

If the paragraph above made no sense, then you might agree with the tone of this interesting obituary of Derrida from The New York Times, which sounds like an undergrad frustrated at the uselessness of Derrida's text. For those searching for a "traditional" form of clarity, Derrida is not your best friend. To those who seek to know which is closer to the "truth of things" speech or writing, Derrida will only confuse you, by reminding you that such a quest, while possibly inevitable and necessary, will always end in failure.

Before going I just wanted to note that one of the easiest ways for getting into the life, theories and impacts of Derrida, is the documentary film that came out several years ago. It has some nice interviews with him, as well as people in his life, and excerpts from his texts. I just thought I'd share in his honor, one of the more cute and funny moments from the film:

Guaha un “na’chalek” na scene gi i kachido put Derrida, na’ån-ña Derrida.

I film crew ma dalalaki Si Derrida påppa’ para i fanleployan gi i gima’-ña. Anai manhuyong siha ginnen i gua’ot, ma fa’nu’i hit i mineggai na lepblo-ña Si Derrida. Gi minagahet nina’manman yu’ nu ayu siha, sa’ kulang manmasohmok este na kuato ni’ lepblo siha.

Ginnen i ineppen i crew, annok lokkue na manhinegef.

I bulaka (palao’an na balaku) ha faisen Si Derrida, “Kao un taitai todu este siha na lepblo?”

Chumiche’ didide’ Si Derrida annai ha oppe, “Ahe’, buente kuatro pat singko ha’.”

Todu mañalek, sa’ dipotsi na este na taotao, gof malåte yan fåyi (pues pon po’lo siempre na i tinaitai-ña siha ti tifung’on)

Lao ti munhayån i essitan-ña Si Derrida. Annai hokkok i chinatge siha, ilek-ña, “Lao ayu na kuatro, hu gof’f’f taitai.”

The Civilized World At Its Finest

The article, from The Guardian, below provides some perspective on the "treatment" of prisoners, with a good bit of truthful humor mixed in.

It is only the belief in American inherent "exceptionalism" and unbreakable moral goodness, and therefore thay they posess alone the right to dictate and determine the nature of the world, that allows people in this country uncritically condemn the treatment of these 15 British prisoners by Iran, despite an incredible amount of evidence, from extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo Bay, which shows clearly that the that the only thing that makes the United States "exceptional" in this regard, is the way its Government and most of its population can remain blind to the violence it perpetuates at home, abroad and in a "no man's land" like GITMO.


Published on Saturday, March 31, 2007
by The Guardian/UK
Call That Humiliation?
No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings.
These Iranians Clearly Are a Very Uncivilised Bunch
by Terry Jones
I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God’s sake, what’s wrong with putting a bag over her head? That’s what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it’s hard to breathe. Then it’s perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can’t be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn’t be able to talk at all. Of course they’d probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn’t be humiliated.
And what’s all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It’s time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That’s one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.
The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn’t rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it’s just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What’s more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting “stress positions”, which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It’s all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is “unhappy and stressed”.
What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her “unhappy and stressed”. She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer - whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.

Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python
© 2007 The Guardian


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