Thursday, August 20, 2009

Act of Decolonization #14: Sota i Manmapongle

As I wrote in my master's thesis in Ethnic Studies, sometimes the key to making decolonization possible, is simply being able to talk about it without one's brain exploding. It is about talking about what sorts of rational things would happen if Guam changed its political status and its political relationship to the United States. As Guam is mired in the decolonial deadlock, most resist vehemently the idea of Guam being decolonized, or being changed at that level. They resist discussing decolonization to keep things from changing, to prevent and preclude even those discussions.

Often times, the strategies in order to prevent the discussion of decolonization from taking place, is to ask questions. They appear on the surface like serious questions, they can be about health care, economy, defense. They are all tied to things which are thought to be essential to life, basic things, and all the person appears to be doing on the surface is asking questions about how things would function or what would people do if some sort of drastic political change took place.

The surface of these interventions are covered with the innocence of a question, but as I've often discovered, no matter how you respond, the question was never meant to meet a response, it was never meant to be answered, but asked only to make clear and obvious that nothing should change, nothing can change. So when someone asks, "how would we run an economy with the United States?" they don't really want to know the answers to the question, but their question already assumes that there is nothing that can be done outside of the United States. The question is asked in such a way that it is meant to provoke an affirmative response, one which totally agrees with the obvious commonsense of the question. "Of course there's nothing we could do economically without the United States!" Its not a real question, but one asked precisely to prevent the actual considering of the question they are asking.

I recall numerous interactions over the years, when the issue of Guam's possible independence comes up, where this was exactly the case. Where a discussion was taking place about whether or not independence was feasible, and in order to try to dispel my claims, I am branded as an idealist, gaige i ilo-hu gi i mapagahes, somebody who has plenty of dreams, but no real plans. Thus, in order to defeat me they start asking those deadlock style questions, meant to appear as if they are merely part of the debate, when in reality, they are meant to stifle it. Hoping to seal the deal and place the final few nails in my coffin, they will start talking about the mechanics of independence, how would utilities work? How would school work? How can we defend ourselves with just BBQ tongs and sling stones? How can we manage our resources when Chamorros destroy their island and leave trash and broken cars everywhere?

The Guam military as fighting off foreign invaders with BBQ implements and Ancient Chamorro artifacts is a particularly common and instructive remark. It really shows how little Guam trusts itself. People may say its a few radicals, racists, or politicians that they don't really trust, but their resistance to talking about the idea of Guam supporting or sustaining or determining itself, all stems from the idea that Chamorros and others on Guam, cannot function, cannot control themselves, cannot handle anything unless Uncle Sam is looking over their shoulder, or they are using to govern and manage themselves with things perceived to come from Uncle Sam.

In any colonial situation, there are divisions that pierce each and every person as well as the world around them. The world is divided into things that belong to the colonizer and that are stuck to the colonized. There is no single way these things are divided, some things signify multiple things, are claimed by different people, but in a colony which is not in the throes of a decolonial struggle, the world tends to be divided by positive and negative, with the colonizer on one side and the colonized on the other. The things which the colonizer claims are those which provide order, progress, which run the world, make it safe, make it successful, which can stand on their own. Those which stick to the colonized are the ones which may be beautiful and exotic, but don't provide security, safety or prosperity, they don't provide order, in fact if you leave things to them, things fall apart, there is nothing but chaos.

From this perspective in Guam, most people resist decolonization because it appears to be letting the particular take over for the universal, letting the chaos overturn order, letting the crazy, lazy useless Chamorro take over what the hardworking American has built for Guam.

So although people may ask someone like myself, what sort of plans I have for decolonization, they often times never hear me, they can't hear me, because in their minds, there can be no plans. It is simply not possible, it goes against the fabric of reality. But it is for this reason, that the mere planning, the mere discussing of decolonization and what it might entail, can be a radical act. It dares to imagine the possible order in this chaos that all assume. It provides very common sense answers to the insane questions that people ask or assume. A Guam military need not fight with slingstones, a Chamorro or a decolonized Guam need not be limited only to those things which aren't "modern" or aren't "American." A decolonized Guam or a decolonized Chamorro represents a blending of the past and the present, a blending of new and old ideas, a claiming and reclaiming of things, all not for the benefit of the United States, but rather Guam.

It is for this reason, that I was glad to find the letter to the editor of The Marianas Variety pasted below. It takes this position and argues it very well. It lays out that decolonization in a political sense has nothing to do with returning to the past, but rather staking a claim, in your own name, for your own benefit to the future. Part of that claim might be reviving or revitalizing things, it might be upsetting the current order a little bit, it will mean thinking clearly about what you can do, what you should do, free from the idea that the current moment, the current way in which the world is perceived, should be the only way things can be done.


Guam on its own
Monday, 10 August 2009
Letter to the Editor

THIS is the picture of an independent Guam that I have in my mind. The United States keeps Anderson Air Force Base here simply as a military outpost in the Pacific and as our security. All other lands in military inventories are reverted to GovGuam, being distributed and used at our discretion.

American dollar remains to be our currency, like other independent Pacific nations that have this form of security and currency arrangement. With a stable government and currency comes investors’ confidence. All existing free enterprises continue. All jobs are retained. Mortgages and bills get paid. Now we invest in our selves.

We can take advantage of our proximity to the ocean. We can invest and develop the following initiatives:

A storage facility to accommodate fish harvests from the entire Micronesian region;
A fish cannery;
A transit point for distribution of Micronesian fish to the world;
A fueling and replenishment point for the fishing fleets. In addition to fueling, vessels can replenish supplies such as food, fishing inventory and labor.

Because of our proximity to Micronesia and Asia, these ideas are feasible and will stimulate the development of more businesses. Thousands of new jobs will be created and new monies will be infused into our economy. With new monies we will live better.

Our hospital, utilities, roads, trash and other services will be better maintained. And the domino effect will touch individual lives.

I am not talking about going back to coconut huts and grass skirts. We can leave those for the tourists to marvel at. I like my computer, cell phone, the mall, movies and my car, but I also feel that it is our destiny as a people to decide our fate, for better or worse. It is our birth right.

Caged things must be set free at some point. As with our children, even with all our investment, time and love, there comes the time when we have to let them seek their own path.

Ben “Sinahi” del Rosario

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