Sunday, September 30, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Maybe in time, this feeling that I have will fade or will seem stupid, but for now, I always find myself obsessing over ways that my baby is the bestest, smartest, fattest, loudest, friendliest, meanest, or most aggressive. Anyway that I can set my daughter above, apart and away from the rest of the babies is so incredibly coveted, its almost ridiculous. Although the movie Kicking and Screaming with Will Ferrell was funny when I first watched it, taipatgon, its almost tragic funny now that I think about the crazy competitiveness of parents. I beam with pride even when people acknowledge and congratulate me on things that I don't actually have any control over or even probably have the ability to intentionally affect, such as Sumåhi's weight, height, social comfort level, chubby cheeks, dinakngas, or eye color and eye shape.
So, even though I don't have a soccer team of parents and famagu'on to compete with, I'm still finding ways of asserting that my child is the mas maolek, mas bunita, mas malate', mas yommok na nene gi hilo' tano'! Since Sumåhi is still only five months old, I have to get creative, which I'm more than happy to do. As soon as I left Sumåhi and her mother in April, just 19 hours after she was born, I was already writing a poem to celebrate her birth, which is titled Sumåhi. Soon, I'll tell everyone about the "Sumåhi for Governor" campaign that I'll be starting soon. In the meantime though, I want to share the gift that me and Jessica have made for Sagua Managu. Its a simple but cute thing. It features an image of the beautiful nene in question, as well as a short poem that I wrote for her inspired from the lyrics to Dalai Nene, the Chamorro song from which I first heard her name. The image of her was taken several weeks ago at an art exhibit opening at the Bank of Guam in Hagatna. She is sitting atop the karabao that they have on their first floor, which in contrast to the other plastic/ceramic karabao you find scattered throughout the island and painted in a diverse number of ways, this one is meant to look somewhat like a regular karabao.
I'm pasting the image here, and for those of you who have trouble reading the poem, I'll also paste the words below. The version your seeing is a reduced size version, the real one is much larger.
Ha i’ina ham i gatbo-ña
Sen ma’lak i matå’-ña
Ya i na’ån-ña Si Sumåhi
Dalai Nene, sa’ ti hu hohongge
I tinahdong i kinute-mu nu Guahu
Dala Nene, sa’ ti un siesieñte
I guinaiyan i mañainå-mu nu Hågu
Kumahuhulo’ ta’lo i atdao
Ya muma’ma’pos esta i lamlam-mu
Lao ti i ha’ani ni’ sumasakke’
Hu hohokka’ todu gi kerason-hu
For instance while the military is always more than willing to throw around figures like $15 billion, they are very hesitant and unwilling to tell us what exactly that number is supposed to mean, and how it will be divided up. There is more than ample evidence that this gigantic sum of money will not be used locally, but will either be under the control of the Japanese Government or simply be doled out to American contractors and firms. However, whenever I have heard representatives of the military (and I include Madeleine in this group) being addressed precisely this question, of how much, the answer is always the same, there's plenty of time, things haven't been decided yet. It is a shocking disconnect, that when it comes to selling off the island and welcoming any outside business to come and plunder the island, we cannot waste anytime, everything must be done now! The evidence of this is of course the numerous real estate and business forums which are being held on Guam and elsewhere, to exhibit for these sorts of vultures and carpetbaggers the beauty of our island, which is innocently and defensivelessly waiting to be taken advantage of. When it comes to wanting to know more, making demands of the military, and asking them to simply be up front about their plans, or as Senator Ben Pangelinan put it, when we seek to simply trust, but verify, we are told to be patient to wait, things haven't been decided yet, things are still being worked out.
But above all of this, that $15 billion dollars looms over the island, and those who believe and want more military, suggest very forcefully, patriotically, and rather ignorantly that this looming number is the answer to all of our island's problems, another liberation that the island desperately needs. But just as with the previous "liberation" of our island, it brings solutions, it solves problems, but also destroys so many things. There is no liberation when the liberators intend to stay, and destroy a culture, a language and a way of life, and seize almost an entire island to do this. Around the world, so many others know this, but sadly few Chamorros recognize this hypocrisy.
Needless to say, when I saw these videoes on Youtube, I was distressed that, despite being posted on the site since February, none of them have been viewed more than 100 times! If you care about Guam, whether you live there or not, but if you call the island home, and worry over its future, then inform yourself about its future, and become active in shaping it!
Monday, September 24, 2007
Guam faces a terrifying future. On the horizon, we are being told by so many sources, Federal, local, military, Chamber of Commerce,( puru ha' atmariao), that there is nothing but fantastic prosperous shores ahead with the impending American military build-ups the island is confronting. The only snag that we could possible hit, is if we screw it up by not being ready to take all the billions of dollars the Feds, the Japanese, the military and Home Depot are just dying to give to us. Lying in wait however are things which not enough people are talking or thinking about. Also looming on the horizon is even more environmental damage which the military increase promises, which will pile on top of the toxic mess that we already live with. Housing prices and utilities are threatening to soar, as those that have the means prepare to develop their resources or sell them, and those with little or nothing, merely hope to survive all the economic health that is about to ravage the island. Decolonization in general seems to move further and further away from the consciousness of Chamorros and others on Guam, as a flood of American carpetbaggers, corporations and military personnel all seem to signify a "prosperous and cheery" re-colonization of the island.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
The past few days have been slightly strange, because my brain has been a muddled mess of two very different songs, and the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup. The first song is "You Can Find it On TV" performed by Brian and Stewie from the show Family Guy, which was presented at the Emmy's last week. The second song is "Dil Deewana Bin Sajni" from the film Maine Pyar Kiya, the 1989 breakout hit for the Bollywood actor Salman Khan. As these two very different songs become entangled inside of my mind, they become the soundtrack for the enthralling and exciting matches currently taking place in South Africa at the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup. So as Salman Khan's character Prem is singing to the love of his life, holding a set of wedding bangles, trying to melt both the hearts of her and her father, he is constantly, rudely interrupted by Stewie and Brian, who are irrevently teasing Scrubs as not funny and the women of Desperate Housewives as being 65. But these lyrics and tunes are clashing above a thrilling cricket match! Such as the one between India and England the other day, in which Yuvraj Singh scored six sixes in an over! An un egga' i kachido, kalang ti hongge'on, gof fotte yan kapas este na lahi. Gi ayu na momento, taiparehu!
Needless to say, its been a weird week so far. And for those interested in tasting even a little bit of this weirdness, click the videos below, all at the same time.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Hiningok-hu lokkue, na este na mås ya-ña na kanta i Maga’obispo Si Anthony Apuron.
Hågu i inan i langhet
O pulan klåru yan gåtbo
Ai na’silensio na puengge
Un alibia, un alibia i piniti-hu
Yanggen triste hao gi puengge
Atan hulo’ ya un li’e
Hågu siempre un konsigi
I minagof i alibio para siempre
Ayu na mineggai puti’on
Manma’lak yan ti tufong’on
Lao meggaiña ti li’e’on
Mas ki sien mit, mas ki sien mit miyon
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Banality of Evil Revisited
by Bud McClure
Hannah Arendt was exactly right in 1963 when she had an epiphany while writing about Adolph Eichmann, realizing in a profound moment of clarity that the great evils in the world are not the work of a few sociopaths, but are committed by ordinary people who accept what they are told by their government and then proceed to normalize whatever actions they might take. Sadly, under the right circumstances, we are easily persuaded to do the bidding of the state when it comes to killing.
Six years ago we were rabid for revenge and war making. Many thought that killing bin Laden and his protectors, the Taliban, would settle the score for the attack on our country. However, the President and his men wanted a wider battle, so they used lies and propaganda to sell a war with Iraq. Through the power and resources of the state, war making with Iraq was promoted as honorable, clergy gathered to anoint it a just cause, and most people accepted without question what they were being told. They responded with the shameful flag waving and nationalism that masqueraded as patriotism. Those that urged restraint and voiced opposition to the war were savaged as traitors.
But after five years, support for the war has plummeted, because the war people got was not the one they were sold. People believed, like Bush, it would be a war on the cheap, quick, requiring no sacrifice or human cost, a real feel good kind of war. But it has been anything but cheap. In seeking to atone for being bamboozled by Bush they recently elected enough Democrats to cut off funding and end the war. But they got fooled again. Ironically, the Democrats would rather appear weak and helpless when dealing with Bush so as not to appear weak and helpless on war making. In response, many people feel resigned to continue what appears to be a never-ending war. They have moved on in their lives choosing to ignore the atrocities committed in their names.
Over time the normalization of behaviors even extends to officers of the state who had a hand in promoting the war. Nowhere was that more on display this week than during the congressional hearings on Iraq. In the dulcet tones of civility, men and women went about carrying out their state duties in hearings ostensibly designed to find out some truth about a monstrous war. Far removed from the carnage they have created in Iraq and the stench of rotting bodies, they calmly chatted about the minutiae of their war. With no display or even any sense of outrage they quietly listened as the General smoothed over any rough edges that might cause them to lose the least little bit of sleep in their comfortable beds at night.
The only bit of reality and dignity that was interjected into any of the hearings were the shouts from the anti-war protestors who were quickly silenced when they were removed from the room. Their truth is that we murdered a lot of people, destroyed a country for nothing, and have created more hatred and animosity in the world that will surely come back like a rushing tide and wash over us in the years to come. But that reality does not exist within the vocabulary of the state and our elected representatives were careful not to stray from their script.
Two days after the hearings ended, President Bush, propped up in the background by the symbols of state, spoke to the nation. Like Eichmann, the consummate bureaucrat carrying out his duties, Bush too demonstrated once again that he lacks the necessary imagination to understand the morality of what he is doing and the human costs involved. Weeks earlier, in another carefully staged event, Bush spoke to a national VFW convention full of old men. He led them in cheering the war and as such the slaughter and maiming of the next generation of young servicemen and women. Just last week we learned that he told the Australian prime minister that we were “kicking ass” in Iraq. Perhaps the best example of the banality of this man occurred during a recent interview with his biographer. When asked what he will do when he leaves office he responded, without the least sense of shame, that he was interested in making money to replenish his coffers that had been depleted during his years in office.
However, Bush is only a co-conspirator in this ongoing drama along with the plotters and planners, the technicians and bureaucrats, the generals and soldiers who all go about their daily duties unfazed by the consequences of their actions doing just what they are told to do. Meanwhile our elected officials sit in leather bound chairs pontificating about trivia. They wonder aloud whether or not troop levels should be reduced by a few thousand soldiers over the next year, all the while raiding the treasury to continue funding this immoral war. Even John Boehner, the house minority leader, dismissed the bloodletting and human carnage as insignificant to the greater mission of the state.
And what about the rest of us, those who championed this war from the outset and those of us who knew better? What is our responsibility for this evil? Decades from now will our grandchildren wonder how we could have allowed this carnage and will they question why we stood by and did nothing?
Bud McClure is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota Duluth and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Outside of Japan though, the process of getting mangas translated can take a while, and sometimes the publishing in Japan will be years ahead of what it is elsewhere. Apparently, in a million instances of caring for their fellow fans and geeks, there are people out there who fanslate, or take the comics in Japan and scan them, and actually type in translations from the Japanese into their language of choice.
When Marianna had first told me about these, being someone very interested in re-vitalizaing the Chamorro language and speaking to someone who obviously knew about these sorts of issues, my first question was, "are there fanslations in Chamorro?" Marianna's response was dejected but expected "no."
(And to Marianna, despensa yu'. I know I'm supposed to be influencing and corrupting the Chamorro social networks until the point that your family name will become "Bleach." Ai gi este na maloffan na sakkan, mampos tinane' yu' gi eskuela, gi activism yan ko'lo'lo'na put i patgon-hu. Lao gigon na sumasaga' yu' ta'lo giya Guahan, bai hu tutuhun i che'cho' i fina'na'an-mu).
Since then, I've waited patiently until I could find the time and energy to actually create a Chamorro fanslation. At last, over the summer, while I was flying back to the states, I found some time and actually did it. The manga I chose is Kekkaishi, which you can read more about by clicking here, and the chapter I chose to translate, is a beautiful one, which is much less action packed than most people would hope or expect.
My impetus for doing this now, and not simply waiting another two years, is because since my daughter Sumåhi was born, I have been speaking Chamorro to here regularly, whether in person, over the phone, or by recording CD's where I talk and read to her. My hope is that she be fluent in Chamorro, and not simply use the language as a secondary thing, which makes her cooler than other people, but that she actually use it as a primary language, to communicate all the important things of life, love, hate, dreams, pain, etc. But on an island which seems determined to rid itself of the Chamorro language, except for what is "cute" for tourists, this is easier said than done.
Although I have often written that the Chamorro language is declining, because young people are not learning it, retaining it, and older fluent people are not passing it on, or seem to enjoy more teasing people about it, rather than teaching it, I saw many things over the summer which gave me some hope. I spent some time at the Hurao Cultural Camp, and I also saw activists and artists working on building up the Chamorro Cultural Center at Oka' Point. There is alot of hope for the future of the Chamorro people, culture and language, but it will take so much work to bring back the language. One obstacle that we face is the notion that teaching or passing on a language is a simple "gift" gesture. We give it to young kids, teach these kids the language when they are young, make them fluent in it and they have it all their lives. If we look at the language landscape of Guam today, and the landscapes that young children are frequenting, then we must seriously ask ourselves, "what is the point of simply giving a gift to our children." As the world of the internet, schools, malls, homes and churches becomes so shamefully devoid of the Chamorro language, then simply making sure that children can speak it won't revitalize it.
For instance, with the children from the Hurao Chamoru Cultural Camp, it was so inspiring to see them speaking Chamorro at camp, with each other and with their instructors. But when I bumped into some of those same kids at the mall or at Whimsy's, the Chamorro is almost completely gone from them. They weren't able to understand me or respond to me, and with their friends and cousins, simply used English.
To bring back Chamorro, to make it a real and vital language, means not giving one gift, but giving the gift of the Chamorro language, over and over, in as many forms, places and spaces as we can. It means not simply teaching children to know and speak Chamorro, but speaking along with them all their lives and not simply leaving it up to others to do so. It also means, ensuring that they have things to read, to talk about, to listen to. It means filling their life with things which let them know that the language is alive, and there are others speaking it, there are others that they can speak to, and there are plenty of things they can speak about. To simply teach kids in school, or teach kids in camp, or even teach them at home, carries the likely risk that once they leave the home, the prevelance and power of English will simply overwhelm them, and Chamorro will remain a secondary language, used only at the camp, home or school, and nowhere else.
This fanslation of Kekkaishi, is simply one of my many attempts to make sure that the language can be maintained. That perhaps some who don't speak Chamorro, but are interested will see this translation and become more interested, hopefully more committed. Or maybe for some who are trying to learn Chamorro, but struggling, will be able to practice from translations like this. Or maybe one day when Sumåhi is older and she is speaking Chamorro in ways I can even imagine, she'll come across this, and it won't be anything special. Perhaps at that time, they'll be thousands of things written in Chamorro and thousands of kids just like her speaking it everyday and everywhere.
Este i guinife-hu, ya kada ha’åni, gi todu chine’gue-ku, he kekena’fanhuyong este. Para Guahu, para i hagga-hu, yan para todu i taotao Chamorro.
Anyways, I'll have the fanslation done pretty soon, and will distribute it on this blog and probably through Minagahet as well. Email me if you are interested in receiving it, and I'll be sure to get it to you.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
As should be obvious from my current Blogger profile image, I am a cricket fan.
I haven't been one long. Gi espiritu, ya-hu cricket desde hu egga’ Lagaan, noskuantos na sakkan tåtte na tiempo. Lao gi minagahet, kasi un sakkan ha’maloffan desde hu tutuhun ya-hu manegga’.
The Age of Disaster Capitalism
by Naomi Klein
The following is excerpted from Naomi Klein’s recently published book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism:
As George Bush and his cabinet took up their posts in January 2001, the need for new sources of growth for US corporations was an urgent matter. With the tech bubble now officially popped and the DowJones tumbling 824 points in their first two and half months in office, they found themselves staring in the face of a serious economic downturn. John Maynard Keynes had argued that governments should spend their way out of recessions, providing economic stimulus with public works. Bush’s solution was for the government to deconstruct itself - hacking off great chunks of the public wealth and feeding them to corporate America, in the form of tax cuts on the one hand and lucrative contracts on the other. Bush’s budget director, the think-tank ideologue Mitch Daniels, pronounced: “The general idea - that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided - seems self-evident to me.” That assessment included disaster response. Joseph Allbaugh, the Republican party operative whom Bush put in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) - the body responsible for responding to disasters, including terrorist attacks - described his new place of work as “an oversized entitlement programme”.Then came 9/11, and all of a sudden having a government whose central mission was self-immolation did not seem like a very good idea. With a frightened population wanting protection from a strong, solid government, the attacks could well have put an end to Bush’s project of hollowing out government just as it was beginning.
For a while, that even seemed to be the case.”September 11 has changed everything,” said Ed Feulner, old friend of Milton Friedman, the guru of unfettered capitalism and president of the Heritage Foundation, 10 days after the attack, making him one of the first to utter the fateful phrase. Many naturally assumed that part of that change would be a re-evaluation of the radical anti-state agenda that Feulner and his ideological allies had been pushing for three decades, at home and around the world. After all, the nature of the September 11 security failures exposed the results of more than 20 years of chipping away at the public sector and outsourcing government functions to profit-driven corporations. Much as the flooding of New Orleans exposed the rotting condition of public infrastructure, the attacks pulled back the curtain on a state that had been allowed to grow dangerously weak: radio communications for the New York City police and firefighters broke down in the middle of the rescue operation, air-traffic controllers didn’t notice the off-course planes in time, and the attackers had passed through airport security checkpoints staffed by contract workers, some of whom earned less than their counterparts at the food court.
The first major victory of the Friedmanite counter-revolution in the United States had been Ronald Reagan’s attack on the air-traffic controllers’ union and his deregulation of the airlines. Twenty years later, the entire air transit system had been privatised, deregulated and downsized, with the vast majority of airport security work performed by underpaid, poorly trained, non-union contractors. After the attacks, the inspector general of the department of transportation testified that the airlines, which were responsible for security on their flights, had skimped significantly to keep costs down.
On September 10, as long as flights were cheap and plentiful, none of that seemed to matter. But on September 12, putting $6-an-hour contract workers in charge of airport security seemed reckless. Then, in October, envelopes with white powder were sent to lawmakers and journalists, spreading panic about the possibility of a major anthrax outbreak. Once again, 90s privatisation looked very different in this new light: why did a private lab have the exclusive right to produce the vaccine against anthrax? Had the federal government signed away its responsibility to protect the public from a major public health emergency? Furthermore, if it was true, as media reports kept claiming, that anthrax, smallpox and other deadly agents could be spread through the mail, the food supply or the water systems, was it really such a good idea to be pushing ahead with Bush’s plans to privatise the postal service? And what about all those laid-off food and water inspectors - could somebody bring them back?
The backlash against the pro-corporate consensus only deepened in the face of new scandals such as that of Enron. Three months after the 9/11 attacks, Enron declared bankruptcy, leading thousands of employees to lose their retirement savings while executives acting on insider knowledge cashed in. The crisis contributed to a general plummeting of faith in private industry to perform essential services, especially when it came out that it was Enron’s manipulation of energy prices that had led to the massive blackouts in California a few months earlier. Friedman, aged 90, was so concerned that the tides were shifting back toward Keynesianism that he complained that “businessmen are being presented in the public as second-class citizens”.
While CEOs were falling from their pedestals, unionised public sector workers - the villains of Friedman’s counter-revolution - were rapidly ascending in the public’s estimation. Within two months of the attacks, trust in government was higher than it had been since 1968 - and that, remarked Bush to a crowd of federal employees, is “because of how you’ve performed your jobs”. The uncontested heroes of September 11 were the blue-collar first responders - the New York firefighters, police and rescue workers, 403 of whom lost their lives as they tried to evacuate the towers and aid the victims. Suddenly, America was in love with its men and women in all kinds of uniforms, and its politicians - slapping on NYPD and FDNY baseball caps with unseemly speed - were struggling to keep up with the new mood.
When Bush stood with the firefighters and rescue workers at Ground Zero on September 14 he was embracing some of the very unionised civil servants that the modern conservative movement had devoted itself to destroying. Of course, he had to do it (even Dick Cheney put on a hard hat in those days), but he didn’t have to do it so convincingly. Through some combination of genuine feeling on Bush’s part and the public’s projected desire for a leader worthy of the moment, these were the most moving speeches of Bush’s political career.
For weeks after the attacks, the president went on a grand tour of the public sector - state schools, firehouses and memorials, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention - embracing and thanking civil servants for their contributions and humble patriotism. He praised not only emergency services personnel but teachers, postal employees and healthcare workers. At these events, he treated work done in the public interest with a level of respect and dignity that had not been seen in the US in four decades. Cost-cutting was suddenly off the agenda, and in every speech the president gave, he announced some ambitious new public programme.
But far from shaking their determination to weaken the public sphere, the security failures of 9/11 reaffirmed in Bush and his inner circle their deepest ideological (and self-interested) beliefs - that only private firms possessed the intelligence and innovation to meet the new security challenge. Although it was true that the White House was on the verge of spending huge amounts of taxpayer money to launch a new deal, it would be exclusively with corporate America, a straight-up transfer of hundreds of billions of public dollars a year into private hands. The deal would take the form of contracts, many offered secretively, with no competition and scarcely any oversight, to a sprawling network of industries: technology, media, communications, incarceration, engineering, education, healthcare.
What happened in the period of mass disorientation after the attacks was, in retrospect, a domestic form of economic shock therapy. The Bush team, Friedmanite to the core, quickly moved to exploit the shock that gripped the nation to push through its radical vision of a hollow government in which everything from war fighting to disaster response was a for-profit venture.
It was a bold evolution of shock therapy. Rather than the 90s approach of selling off existing public companies, the Bush team created a whole new framework for its actions - the war on terror - built to be private from the start. This feat required two stages. First, the White House used the omnipresent sense of peril in the aftermath of 9/11 to dramatically increase the policing, surveillance, detention and war-waging powers of the executive branch - a power-grab that the military historian Andrew Bacevich has termed “a rolling coup”. Then those newly enhanced and richly funded functions of security, invasion, occupation and reconstruction were immediately outsourced, handed over to the private sector to perform at a profit.
Although the stated goal was fighting terrorism, the effect was the creation of the disaster capitalism complex - a fully fledged new economy in homeland security, privatised war and disaster reconstruction tasked with nothing less than building and running a privatised security state, both at home and abroad. The economic stimulus of this sweeping initiative proved enough to pick up the slack where globalisation and the dotcom booms had left off. Just as the internet had launched the dotcom bubble, 9/11 launched the disaster capitalism bubble. “When the IT industry shut down, post-bubble, guess who had all the money? The government,” said Roger Novak of Novak Biddle Venture Partners, a venture capitalism firm that invests in homeland security companies. Now, he says, “Every fund is seeing how big the trough is and asking, ‘How do I get a piece of that action?’”
It was the pinnacle of the counter-revolution launched by Friedman. For decades, the market had been feeding off the appendages of the state; now it would devour the core.
Bizarrely, the most effective ideological tool in this process was the claim that economic ideology was no longer a primary motivator of US foreign or domestic policy. The mantra “September 11 changed everything” neatly disguised the fact that for free-market ideologues and the corporations whose interests they serve, the only thing that changed was the ease with which they could pursue their ambitious agenda. Now the Bush White House could use the patriotic alignment behind the president and the free pass handed out by the press to stop talking and start doing. As the New York Times observed in February 2007, “Without a public debate or formal policy decision, contractors have become a virtual fourth branch of government.”
And so, in November 2001, just two months after the attacks, the department of defence brought together what it described as “a small group of venture capitalist consultants” with experience in the dotcom sector. The mission was to identify “emerging technology solutions that directly assist in the US efforts in the global war on terrorism”. By early 2006, this informal exchange had become an official arm of the Pentagon: the Defence Venture Catalyst Initiative (DeVenCI), a “fully operational office” that continually feeds security information to politically connected venture capitalists, who, in turn, scour the private sector for start-ups that can produce new surveillance and related products. “We’re a search engine,” explains Bob Pohanka, director of DeVenCI. According to the Bush vision, the role of government is merely to raise the money necessary to launch the new war market, then buy the best products that emerge out of that creative cauldron, encouraging industry to even greater innovation. In other words, the politicians create the demand, and the private sector supplies all manner of solutions.
The department of homeland security, as a brand-new arm of the state created by the Bush regime, is the clearest expression of this wholly outsourced mode of government. As Jane Alexander, deputy director of the research wing of the department of homeland security, explained, “We don’t make things. If it doesn’t come from industry, we are not going to be able to get it.”
Another is Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa), a new intelligence agency created under Donald Rumsfeld that is independent of the CIA. This parallel spy agency outsources 70% of its budget to private contractors; like the department of homeland security, it was built as a hollow shell. As Ken Minihan, former director of the National Security Agency, explained, “Homeland security is too important to be left to the government.” Minihan, like hundreds of other Bush administration staffers, has already left his government post to work in the burgeoning homeland security industry, which, as a top spy, he helped create.
Every aspect of the way the Bush administration has defined the parameters of the war on terror has served to maximise its profitability and sustainability as a market - from the definition of the enemy to the rules of engagement to the ever-expanding scale of the battle. The document that launched the department of homeland security declares, “Today’s terrorists can strike at any place, at any time, and with virtually any weapon,” which conveniently means that the security services required must protect against every imaginable risk in every conceivable place at every possible time. And it’s not necessary to prove that a threat is real for it to merit a full-scale response - not with Cheney’s famous “1% doctrine”, which justified the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that if there is a 1% chance that something is a threat, it requires that the US respond as if the threat is a 100% certainty. This logic has been a particular boon for the makers of various hi-tech detection devices: for instance, because we can conceive of a smallpox attack, the department of homeland security has handed out half a billion dollars to private companies to develop and install detection equipment.
Through all its various name changes - the war on terror, the war on radical Islam, the war against Islamofascism, the third world war, the long war, the generational war - the basic shape of the conflict has remained unchanged. It is limited by neither time nor space nor target. From a military perspective, these sprawling and amorphous traits make the war on terror an unwinnable proposition. But from an economic perspective, they make it an unbeatable one: not a flash-in-the-pan war that could potentially be won but a new and permanent fixture in the global economic architecture.
That was the business prospectus that the Bush administration put before corporate America after September 11. The revenue stream was a seemingly bottomless supply of tax dollars to be funnelled from the Pentagon ($270bn in 2005 to private contractors, a $137bn increase since Bush took office), US intelligence agencies and the newest arrival, the department of homeland security. Between September 11 2001 and 2006, the Department of Homeland Security handed out $130bn to contractors - money that was not in the private sector before and that is more than the GDP of Chile or the Czech Republic.
In a remarkably short time, the suburbs ringing Washington, DC became dotted with grey buildings housing security “start-ups” and “incubator” companies, hastily thrown together operations where, as in late-90s Silicon Valley, the money came in faster than the furniture could be assembled. Whereas in the 90s the goal was to develop the killer application, the “next new new thing”, and sell it to Microsoft or Oracle, now it was to come up with a new “search and nail” terrorist-catching technology and sell it to the department of homeland security or the Pentagon. That is why, in addition to the start-ups and investment funds, the disaster industry also gave birth to an army of new lobby firms promising to hook up new companies with the right people on Capitol Hill - in 2001, there were two such security-oriented lobby firms, but by mid-2006 there were 543. “I’ve been in private equity since the early 90s,” Michael Steed, managing director of the homeland security firm Paladin told Wired, “and I’ve never seen a sustained deal flow like this.”
Like the dotcom bubble, the disaster bubble is inflating in an ad-hoc and chaotic fashion. One of the first booms for the homeland security industry was surveillance cameras, 30m of which have been installed in the US, shooting about 4bn hours of footage a year. That created a problem: who’s going to watch 4bn hours of footage? So a new market emerged for “analytic software” that scans the tapes and creates matches with images already on file.
This development created another problem, because facial recognition software can really make positive IDs only if people present themselves front and centre to the cameras, which they rarely do while rushing to and from work. So another market was created for digital image enhancement. Salient Stills, a company that sells software to isolate and enhance video images, started by pitching its technology to media companies, but it turned out that there was more potential revenue from the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies. And with all the snooping going on - phone logs, wire-tapping, financial records, mail, surveillance cameras, web surfing - the government is drowning in data, which has opened up yet another massive market in information management and data mining, as well as software that claims to be able to “connect the dots” in this ocean of words and numbers and pinpoint suspicious activity.
In the 90s, tech companies endlessly trumpeted the wonders of the borderless world and the power of information technology to topple authoritarian regimes and bring down walls. Today, inside the disaster capitalism complex, the tools of the information revolution have been flipped to serve the opposite purpose. In the process, mobile phones and web surfing have been turned into powerful tools of mass state surveillance by increasingly authoritarian regimes, with the cooperation of privatised phone companies and search engines, whether it’s Yahoo assisting the Chinese government to pinpoint the location of dissidents or AT&T helping the US National Security Agency to wiretap its customers without a warrant (a practice that the Bush administration claims it has discontinued). The dismantling of borders, the great symbol and promise of globalisation, has been replaced with the exploding industry of border surveillance, from optical scanning and biometric IDs to the planned hi-tech fence on the border between Mexico and the US, worth up to $2.5bn for Boeing and a consortium of other companies.
As hi-tech firms have jumped from one bubble to another, the result has been a bizarre merger of security and shopping cultures. Many technologies in use today as part of the war on terror - biometric identification, video surveillance, web tracking, data mining - had been developed by the private sector before September 11 as a way to build detailed customer profiles, opening up new vistas for micromarketing. When widespread discomfort about big-brother technologies stalled many of these initiatives, it caused dismay to both marketers and retailers. September 11 loosened this log jam in the market: suddenly the fear of terror was greater than the fear of living in a surveillance society. So now, the same information collected from cash cards or “loyalty” cards can be sold not only to a travel agency or the Gap as marketing data but also to the FBI as security data, flagging a “suspicious” interest in pay-as-you-go mobile phones and Middle Eastern travel.
As an exuberant article in the business magazine Red Herring explained, one such program “tracks terrorists by figuring out if a name spelled a hundred different ways matches a name in a homeland security database. Take the name Mohammad. The software contains hundreds of possible spellings for the name, and it can search terabytes of data in a second.” Impressive, unless they nail the wrong Mohammad, which often seems to happen, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the suburbs of Toronto.
This potential for error is where the incompetence and greed that have been the hallmark of the Bush years, from Iraq to New Orleans, becomes harrowing. One false identification coming out of any of these electronic fishing expeditions is enough for an apolitical family man, who sort of looks like someone whose name sort of sounds like his (at least to someone with no knowledge of Arabic or Muslim culture), to be flagged as a potential terrorist. And the process of putting names and organisations on watch lists is also now handled by private companies, as are the programs to crosscheck the names of travellers with the names in the data bank. As of June 2007, there were half a million names on a list of suspected terrorists kept by the National Counterterrorism Centre. Another program, the Automated Targeting System (ATS), made public in November 2006, has already assigned a “risk assessment” rating to tens of millions of travellers passing through the US. The rating, never disclosed to passengers, is based on suspicious patterns revealed through commercial data mining - for instance, information provided by airlines about “the passenger’s history of one-way ticket purchase, seat preferences, frequent-flyer records, number of bags, how they pay for tickets and even what meals they order”. Incidents of supposedly suspicious behaviour are tallied up to generate each passenger’s risk rating.
Anyone can be blocked from flying, denied an entry visa to the US or even arrested and named as an “enemy combatant” based on evidence from these dubious technologies - a blurry image identified through facial recognition software, a misspelled name, a misunderstood snippet of a conversation. If “enemy combatants” are not US citizens, they will probably never even know what it was that convicted them, because the Bush administration has stripped them of habeas corpus, the right to see the evidence in court, as well as the right to a fair trial and a vigorous defence.
If the suspect is taken, as a result, to Guantánamo, he may well end up in the new 200-person maximum-security prison constructed by Halliburton. If he is a victim of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” programme, kidnapped off the streets of Milan or while changing planes at a US airport, then whisked to a so-called black site somewhere in the CIA’s archipelago of secret prisons, the hooded prisoner will likely fly in a Boeing 737, designed as a deluxe executive jet, retrofitted for this purpose. According to the New Yorker, Boeing has been acting as the “CIA’s travel agent” - blocking out flightplans for as many as 1,245 rendition voyages, arranging ground crews and even booking hotels. A Spanish police report explains that the work was done by Jeppesen International Trip Planning, a Boeing subsidiary in San Jose. In May 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union launched a lawsuit against the Boeing subsidiary; the company has refused to confirm or deny the allegations.
Once the prisoners arrive at the destination, they face interrogators, some of whom will not be employed by the CIA or the military but by private contractors. According to Bill Golden, who runs the job website IntelligenceCareers.com, “Over half of the qualified counter-intelligence experts in the field work for contractors.” If these freelance interrogators are to keep landing lucrative contracts, they must extract from prisoners the kind of “actionable intelligence” their employers in Washington are looking for. It’s a dynamic ripe for abuse: just as prisoners under torture will usually say anything to make the pain stop, contractors have a powerful economic incentive to use whatever techniques are necessary to produce the sought-after information, regardless of its reliability.
Then there is the low-tech version of this application of market “solutions” to the war on terror - the willingness to pay top dollar to pretty much anyone for information about alleged terrorists. During the invasion of Afghanistan, US intelligence agents let it be known that they would pay anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 for al-Qaida or Taliban fighters handed over to them. “Get wealth and power beyond your dreams,” stated a typical flyer handed out by the US in Afghanistan, introduced as evidence in a 2002 US federal court filing on behalf of several Guantánamo prisoners. “You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces…This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life.”
Soon enough, the cells of Bagram and Guantánamo were overflowing with goat herders, cab drivers, cooks and shopkeepers - all lethally dangerous, according to the men who turned them over and collected the rewards.
According to the Pentagon’s own figures, 86% of the prisoners at Guantánamo were handed over by Afghan and Pakistani fighters or agents after the bounties were announced. As of December 2006, the Pentagon had released 360 prisoners from Guantánamo (out of 759 held between 2001 and the end of 2006). The Associated Press was able to track down 245 of them; 205 had been freed or cleared of all charges when they returned to their home countries. It is a track record that is a grave indictment of the quality of intelligence produced by the administration’s market-based approach to terrorist identification.
In just a few years, the homeland security industry, which barely existed before 9/11, has exploded to a size that is now significantly larger than either Hollywood or the music business. Yet what is most striking is how little the security boom is analysed and discussed as an economy, as an unprecedented convergence of unchecked police powers and unchecked capitalism, a merger of the shopping mall and the secret prison. When information about who is or is not a security threat is a product to be sold as readily as information about who buys Harry Potter books on Amazon or who has taken a Caribbean cruise and might enjoy one in Alaska, it changes the values of a culture. Not only does it create an incentive to spy, torture and generate false information, but it creates a powerful impetus to perpetuate the fear and sense of peril that created the industry in the first place.
When new economies emerged in the past, from the Fordist revolution to the IT boom, they sparked a flood of analysis and debate about how such seismic shifts in the production of wealth were also altering the way we as a culture worked, the way we travelled, even the way our brains process information. The new disaster economy has been subject to none of this kind of far-reaching discussion. There have been and are debates, of course - about the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, about indefinite detention, about torture and extraordinary rendition - but discussion of what it means to have these functions performed as commercial transactions has been almost completely avoided. What passes for debate is restricted to individual cases of war profiteering and corruption scandals, as well as the usual hand-wringing about the failure of government to adequately oversee private contractors - rarely about the much broader and deeper phenomenon of what it means to be engaged in a fully privatised war built to have no end.
Part of the problem is that the disaster economy sneaked up on us. In the 80s and 90s, new economies announced themselves with great pride and fanfare. The tech bubble in particular set a precedent for a new ownership class inspiring deafening levels of hype - endless media lifestyle profiles of dashing young CEOs beside their private jets, their remote-controlled yachts, their idyllic Seattle mountain homes. That kind of wealth is being generated by the disaster complex today, though we rarely hear about it. While the CEOs of the top 34 defence contractors saw their incomes go up an average of 108% between 2001 and 2005, chief executives at other large American companies averaged only 6% over the same period.
Peter Swire, who served as the US government’s privacy counsellor during the Clinton administration, describes the convergence of forces behind the war on terror bubble like this: “You have government on a holy mission to ramp up information gathering and you have an information technology industry desperate for new markets.” In other words, you have corporatism: big business and big government combining their formidable powers to regulate and control the citizenry.
Naomi Klein’s new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is now available.
Monday, September 10, 2007
In this whole discussion of fantasies in the 1990's of the American military limping, its feelings so mortally wounded by the protests signs of Chamorros, as well as the general powerlessness of all people on Guam in the most recent slate of intended military increases to Guam, there are two difficult, but crucial lessons to be learned here.1. The military is becoming very adapt at invoking publicly to the community of Guam the language of “partnership” in hopes of stirring up governmental and public support for their increases. Images of the military and Guam, working together as they always have, to bomb Japan and Vietnam, to defend freedom, to barbeque and help civilize the world. Its almost as if the military is coming back to us now, they’ve learned the lesson of treating us like partners, and we are learning the lesson that we cannot live without them, and that it was very hurtful, painful and traumatic to have them go and take so many good-paying jobs with them. When Bordallo or Camacho or anyone else use this piece of Guam’s history to claim that we need more military or that we need to treat the military better since fihu manlayo’, it makes sense to most people because of the way the landscape of thought and the cliffnotes for everyday history in Guam are being written. The loss of part of the military in the 1990’s becomes this incredibly traumatic event, which we must not let happen again, and so the lesson we should learn here is that we must welcome with open arms, and accept the military as part of our community and accept their gestures to be partners with us.
The reality of the trauma of the 1990’s is not this at all however, and in fact if we acknowledge the true reason that the base closings and the outsourcing/privitazing of civil service jobs were felt so strongly and intensely on Guam, then we would be better positioned today. The trauma that still lingers today was not caused by the simple economic hurt of the island, but rather emerged because of the shattering of a very powerful but tragic illusion. The base closings, as a unilateral decision made in Washington D.C., which fundamentally had very little to do with anything on Guam, whether it be protests or offerings of free massages for servicemen, forced a very intense disintegration of the myth which the military is working to create once again. Namely that Guam and its people exist in partnership with the United States military, that they are equal and live in a mutual sort of co-existence with the military. The trauma of this period of time was precisely that the lies we constantly tell ourselves were simply flat out proven to be true, the activists, the maladjusted Chamorro Nation types were all right, we are not partners, we truly are powerless.
2. But this leads me to an almost contradictory point, namely that we are not at all powerless in our situation, we just don’t have the power that we think we have, or are colonized to dream and hope that we have.
As a colony, in Guam we basically actively work to give up as much power and authority over our lives as we can, since we are always intimately attached to a political entity and creature who is much better and smarter at everything then we are. We don’t perceive ourselves as having any abilities, any power, and in fact we actively fight attaining such sovereignty, since Guam and Chamorros are thought to be the sources of incredible unending corruption and destruction. Here I am, again discussing the impossibility of the Chamorro, and the need for it and Guam to be constantly liberated by the United States, who appears from the vantage of Guam, to have all the power and control, to have everything needed for life.
In this drama over military increases and lessons learned from protests in the past, we see interestingly enough, how Guam is being discussed as having some sort of power in this context. A power though which either doesn’t exist and must be created, or must be given up, in order for the island to prosper.
There are many lessons that we can learn from the way this military increase is being planned and handled, many of them terrible, but some of them inspiring. The military is planning for more than they are admitting, we have already seen evidence of this in the ways plans are “accidentally” released and then taken back and said that they are proposed only, one of many options. For instance, the “proposed” live fire training that the military would like to have in the Northern part of the island will most likely prevent fishing, swimming and hiking north of Tanguissan and Shark’s Pit. After it became obvious that this would be the case, the military took the plans off of its website and claimed that these were just preliminary ideas and that “nothing has been decided.”
One lesson which we should not assume we have learned is that the military’s openness or making binila’ na information available to the community, is because they love us and care for us, or because they care about our opinions and genuinely want to include the Government of Guam or the people of Guam in the planning process. The colorful fliers and handouts, and Chamorro interpreters, are not being disseminated or hired because our input really matters. These things are being made available and this whole spectacle of scoping meetings, hearings is being carried out precisely to prevent the power that we might have from growing or from emerging.
The intended effect of these meetings is to neutralize the public, to neutralize its voice, and the power we might have or demand in this process. It can do this by lulling us into false senses of confidence, complacency and trust. If we feel that our interests are being respected or being protected, or worse yet, if we assume and believe that our interests are the same as the military or that it is already taken care of them, then we will demand nothing, ask for nothing, and receive nothing except that which the military intends or is willing to give.
Its important to remember, and I constantly reiterate it on this blog, that part of our value to the United States military, is that we are the most valuable piece of real estate in their empire, which can be taken for granted.
First, despite Guam’s colonial status, basically no one, in the world, including those on Guam contest the right and authority of the United States to control Guam and to do “whatever it wants with it.” Second, the people on Guam, primarily Chamorros, but others as well, despite the fact that all feel as if they are second-class citizens, and regularly mistreated by the United States, its military and its unwitting emissaries in Guam, can all be placated or subdued by making them feel as if they are American. This is of course the most intriguing thing that I found in the book The Secret Guam Study. Guam being screwed over on political status is nothing new, that’s been happening since 1898. But in the recommendations made by the study on how to keep and control Guam, they make explicit references to the identity of the island and of its people. They basically recommend that if you want to keep Guam, and don’t want to lose it, then make the people feel as if they are American, promote an American identity for them.
The spectacle of suggestion boxes, public meetings, and task forces is all about keep this “advantage” this “bonus” intact, about insuring that Guam does not become like places such as South Korea, the Philippines or Okinawa, where popular protest or national sovereignty makes the presence of the military there difficult or cumbersome.
During the first months after the transfer of the Marines was initially announced, I had a conversation with a former Maga’låhin Nasion Chamoru. Naturally, the tone of the talk was grim, because the movement of this much military into the island would make so many bad situations worse, socially, politically, environmentally, etc. But at the same time, there was hope, from the moment the move appeared in print, official and unofficial envoys from the military were reaching out to Nasion Chamoru, asking for private meetings to hear their feedback and their concerns.
While for most of you this might not seem like much, but if you think of it in contrast to the way Nasion Chamoru was imagined in the 1990’s, by both the Federal Government and most people on Guam, we are talking about a carthographical shift the size of that which created the Marianas Trench, Sen dongukålo yan sen fotte. During the height of Nasion Chamoru protest activism, you had CIA on island infiltrating them, you had police and military speaking as if they were preparing for war, against activists and dissidents. You even had a Mayor of a Guam village sending a letter to the Secretary of Defense pleading with him to treat the people of Guam better, because their indifference to the demands of Guam threatened to turn the island Communist. The idea of the military interacting with Nasion Chamoru, outside of a courtroom or a jail cell, was ridiculous.
For this Maga’låhi, the fact that the military was reaching out to them, meant that Nasion Chamoru, and by extension the general activist community had become a branch of the government. They had built up enough support, had enough victories, and made enough of an impact on the order of things in Guam, that even if they were divided, or heterogeneous, at the level of “how things were done on Guam,” they were a force that had to be reckoned with, and could not be ignored.
It is interesting here, to see the power and play of recognition as work. In one instance we see recognition as something which can take our power away, but, in another we see it as something which can give it to us, or more accurately, push us to create it.
Our power here is not the power of “suggestion,” or of “democratic American participation. Nor is it that power of a formal vote from a Senator of a Congresswoman. Our power in this powerless situation is not already there, it must be created, and anything, whether it be flyers or powerpoint presentations that tells us otherwise, is probably lying to us. We do not, because of our small size, our colonial status, and our willingness to be mistreated as long as we are mistreated as Americans and not anything else, does not give us any formal or actual voice in this process, this movement of incredible amounts of military to Guam. But rather, if we make demands, stand up and protest, we can create a voice which cannot be ignored, which cannot be dismissed or cast aside. That is the power that we have, and the one which people fear will ruin the military, and chase them away again.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
In her recent trip to Guam in August, where she facilitated a number of CNMI and Guam related hearings and meetings with Donna Christensen the non-voting delegate from the Virgin Islands, Guam’s Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo was very much invested in using this idea though to deflect any criticism or questioning of the positive impacts of this military buildup. She was very careful however not to outright yell kulang machålek that the “activists” and the “anti-military” people screwed up, but instead took a clear, but ambiguously passive position of Guam as a poor helpless thing which has at last “learned” about the value and necessity of the United States military.
It is truly bubulao and terrifying that the people who are in contact the most with the military about what Guam needs, what Guam wants or doesn’t want in terms of the military increases the island is already facing, are two of the people who have made it clear that we shouldn’t say, do or demand anything, but should merely wait patiently for the 15 billion dollars worth of solid gold bars to fall from heaven (Ya ta fandiseha todu na ti mangekematai). Both Congresswoman Bordallo and Governor Felix Camacho are playing the waiting, fawning, praying game, and doing little else. What kind of leadership can we really expect or hope for from these two, when Camacho’s official statement after the initial announcement of the transfer of 7,000 Marines included the very adult-sounding statement, “We really want them here.”
Congresswoman Bordallo’s position over the past month, in her scores of public statements responding to far more negative feedback and questioning than she probably anticipated from Guam’s community, has been “Nangga nå’ya. Guaguaha ha’ tiempo.” Her position has basically been a paradoxical call for action and inaction. To the business community of Guam and to the people who are poised to make billions from this military increase, she is clear that we need to move now, there is no time to waste or spare, we need to take advantage of every opportunity! Laguse’! Fanå’gue enao na katpenteru siha! Bende todu enao na tåno’ siha! Lachaddek!
To those of us who want her to make demands to the military, who know better than to imagine the military as our mas mafñot na ga’chong, or who just want our Congresswoman to provide some sort of fake non-voting oversight to make sure the island isn’t poisoned, damaged or destroyed anymore than the military has already helped make happen, her response is a cautious and quiet plea for patience and for people not to jump to any conclusions and not think anything or do anything yet, since the military move is still several years away! Her position is a frustrating, “Nothing has been decided, don’t worry about anything.”
I’ll return to the scariness and the intriguing quality of our Congresswoman’s stall tactics in a moment, but first let me return to the base closings of the 1990’s, and what that can tell us about the “powerful” and “powerless” position of Guam today. The argument as I’ve mentioned before is that we need to welcome the military now, because in the past we made the mistake of cursing them, biting the hand that feeds us, and then paid the price when they left us to give Middle Class jobs and chances for the American dream to people who are more patriotic, more military loving and have higher rates of American flags on clothing and in front yards.
This argument, because our relationship to the United States on Guam is ultimately an emotionational one, meaning it is fraught with burning desires to be American, is always a tempting one, because it transforms the way we exist in relation to the United States, not as one between colonized and colonizer, territory and owner, or even tip of spear and Valiant Shield and Spear holder, but rather one which is felt more as a drama, or a soap opera. This argument however that people on Guam caused the closing of Naval Air Station by rejecting the military or by saying bad things about it, is frankly stupid, but nonetheless something which we should investigate more because of the twisted fantasy that this idea is based on. Think carefully the next time you hear this mentioned in a letter to the editor of the PDN, or even just some of the ngokngok comments that people post on its website, or even during the tirade of a caller to KF7 and you can trace out this peculiar fantasy. Guam, is an island which both locally and nationally is everyday referred to as powerless, insignificant, small, backwater, corrupt, nothing truly important save for how it is used by the US military, but for some reason when people drink this fantasy in (ya kalang mambileng), this tiny little territory somehow becomes big and hulking enough to not just hurt and wound the world’s last remaining superpower, but also possesses the sudden incredible ability to chase away its massive military with nothing but protest signs and Kephua haircuts!
It is important to be wary of moments like these, where things like the military which are incredible powerful, are suddenly painted to have no power. The reason for this is because these sorts of strange refocusing of power, responsibility and victimization are the moments where authority is maintained, where the worst forms of self-aggrandizement and privileged protection take place. In Sherene Razack’s important book, Dark Threats, White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping, and the New Imperialism, she discusses this dynamic in terms of First World victimization through humanitarian efforts in Africa. She makes a number of very insightful points, but I don’t want to go too much into them here, I highly recommend the book to everyone though. One of her main insights however, is discussing the ways in which through stories of the humanitarian greatness of the First World, stories of liberation and stories of black, native betrayal against the pure, white intentions of Americans or Canadians, the most powerful nations in the world somehow in the continent of “victims” become the victims of the tragedy. (Black Hawk Down, Shake Hands with the Devil)
Connecting this to Guam and its power against the United States, the point is that power is maintained here by appearing to be powerless, to be the victim. As the victim, there is no question of motives, only well-intended innocence. For the perpetrator, who may have nothing (in terms of money, in terms of resources, in terms of military) in comparison to this newly christened victim, all the advantages suddenly appear to be theirs, they have all the power in the world, and have used it in this moment to wound and hurt the poor United States.
For instance, I often receive annoying comments and emails from people in the United States who yell at me condescendingly about all the pathological waste and corruption of Guam, and how it is given SO MUCH money from the United States, but can’t do anything else but squander it all and give it all to their cousins and their relatives. In almost all of these emails, the United States is positioned as a helpless, innocence thing, perfekto Tihun Sam. The United States is a kindly old man, who cannot help but give away money, and always seems to be cheated by Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Third World countries that it gives SO MUCH MONEY to (para u fanmanmåhan paki siha). But because he is always so nice, innocent and bumpkinish, the money keeps flowing and the poor bihu is continually taken advantage of by scheming natives, greedy dictators yan i manngekematai yan i manmamataiñålang. To these people, the innocence and good-natured and well-intended thoughts of the United States are the central issue, and because of the way this is being taken advantage of by corrupt and pathological Chamorros, this abuse of Federal money is the height of injustice! The most insane and destructive thing in the world!
Most here would respond, well some money is lost, wasted, or bribed away, but there’s corruption everywhere. This weak response leaves us in the same place, with the United States somehow victimized by the greedy and all-powerful Government of Guam! Oh, ai adai, kao siña un imahina? First it kicks the military about of Tiyan and then it takes all of its lunch money!?!?! Whoa che’lu, kulang un fotte’ gå’ga ayu na Guahan, no?
The point here is to insist on some perspective, and to not let the strategic victimization of the United States take place, especially at our expense. Here is one such response that I wrote to a comment which was entangled in this dynamic:
In the past few years, the United States government through is Iraq policies alone has squandered and wasted billions of dollars, which intensified through so many ugly layers of American corruption have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans, and basically destroyed a country. I for one, feel very comfortable with Guam's level of corruption, because at least we don't invade countries, tell them we are liberating them and then take over their economy and basically turn them into client states for our own strategic and economic purposes.
The idea that both the United States and Guam have corruption cannot be the end, and if you stop the conversation there, then you basically allow that self-aggrandizing ploy to continue unscathed. The United States, its Government and its military are some of the most powerful, corrupt and violent entities in the world and to allow even for a moment, the Government of Guam to appear in this scene as their violator is ridiculous and masks and naturalizes their power. I am of course not endorsing per se Government Corruption, but only saying that you must be wary of those who are pathologizing you, those who are telling you what is wrong and what is right, and how you must exist and what you are doing. This is especially so, if they are your colonizer, and seek nothing more than making you responsible for everything they have done and they do.
I will continue this post later, and discuss more about what power we on Guam do and do not have in relation to this military increase.
Gof yayas yu' ya guaha miteng-hu agupa' gi i Club Chamoru guini giya San Diego.