Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Act of Decolonization #15: A Simple Question

Continuing off the discussion from last week's post Sota i Manmapongle, the column below is from the blog The Western Confucian, and asks a simple but very relevant question, that any colony, which is serious about itself, should consider very carefully. What would you do without the colonizer? And when I say consider carefully, I mean really actually think about it, and really analyze and hopefully free yourself from the everyday dependencies which you take for granted and sometimes treat as if they are God's will.

The Western Confucian deals with the question, What Would Asia Do Without America? and critically reverses it, to as What Would America Do Without Asia? It is easy to live in commonsense, it is even easier to stew in colonial commonsense, because it comes with extra comfort and illusions.

That is the space of decolonization, once you get past the desolate wasteland of dependency, which intimates to anything that doesn't have the United States' stamp, bandera or military covering it, as being a chaos bomb, something which unravels the world, brings about the abyss of its night, is something along capable of bringing disorder and chaos and nothing more. The space of decolonization is one where you can look upon the world around, with clear eyes, with a clear mind, and wipe away the fog of dependency that settles over things. The haze which covers something like happiness, electricity, prosperity, and makes you feel that if the United States didn't exist, I could never have these things.

Decolonization is in the most practical, fundamental sense, this ability to simply see things. As I put it last week, it is being able to ask simple questions about what works, and what doesn't work, how can things change. It means not running your life from the perspective that if the America flag was ever to not fly over Guam, then the world would descend into chaos, merely because Uncle Sam wasn't around. It also means, not accepting the logic of colonialism, whereby the rules and the world (language/culture) of the colonizer creates order, prosperity and progress, and the world of the colonized, leads to chaos, dissolution, disorder. Decolonization means giving yourself the strength to make decisions for yourself. It means to sift through the current order and decide, not based on any crippling dependency, but on a clear assessment of what your needs, desires and interests are, what you should do, what your destiny should be.

If I were a leader on Guam, I would constantly remind everyone, that the question we need to always ask ourselves is "What would we do without the United States?" If you can provide real answers to that question, and not moronic fantasies of how everything will suck or be ruined, then you can govern yourself, you can manage your own affairs, you are somebody who can pick and choose what will protect them, hurt them, what will help you prosper or not. You will know what from America you really need, and what you don't, what serves you and your island best, and what can be changed or thrown away. You will be one who can interact with the United States and what it offers, with a clear and pragmatic mind, not someone who carasses and loves the leash around their neck, and then pretends they are thinking clearly, when they lived ruled by fear of that leash, it being yanked (maatgoya) or it being released (masota).

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What Would Asia Do Without America?

Three billion Asians are thanking whatever gods they worship that they won't have to ponder the question posed in this article’s title, or so the American Secretary of State seems to think – 'US is back in Asia'. "The United States is back," triumphantly announced Madam Secretary on Wednesday in Bangkok. "President Obama and I are giving great importance to this region... I believe strongly the United States has to be involved in this region."

Of course, with her comments, Mrs. Clinton "reiterated Obama administration concerns that North Korea… is now developing ties to Myanmar's military dictatorship." But those are American concerns (or better said, we are told that those are American concerns), not really Asian concerns, even if they concern Asians. Living in South Korea, I can say that the only threat South Koreans feel from North Korea is that it will collapse and place a burden on the South’s economy. ASEAN nations are so threatened by Myanmar that they have included her as a member.

About Mrs. Clinton’s announcement that "[t]he United States is back" and is not only again "giving great importance to this region" but also "has to be involved in this region" I have four thoughts.

First, I hadn't realized we had left. I live in a country with a sizable American military presence. American forces have been here in Korea the whole time since I arrived a dozen years ago. Across the sea, in Japan, the American presence is even bigger. Sure, here in Korea, some American soldiers have left, but mostly they’ve been shifted to other parts of Asia, namely Iraq and Afghanistan.

Second, doesn't Madam Secretary realize that such statements are not only laughable but also deeply insulting? She's lucky Asians are known for their politeness or she would have faced some choice words. Upon hearing that "[t]he United States is back," are the peoples of this region supposed to be grateful? Asians got along quite well in our "absence," not only the fake one Madam Secretary refers to but the one that lasted several millennia before our gunships "opened" Japan to trade in the mid-nineteenth century. The hubristic comment from Mrs. Clinton’s husband’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright, that "America is the indispensable nation," comes to mind. Does our government really think that these kinds of statements will be received by foreigners with anything other than scorn of derision?

Third, just why are we are "giving great importance to this region" and why is it that "the United States has to be involved in this region?" How about "giving great importance to" and being "involved in th[at] region" sandwiched between Canada and Mexico? Most Americans would not like the idea of China being greatly involved in our region, and most Central and South Americans, patriots of their own republics, would feel the same way. Why should our involvement in the affairs of Asia extend beyond the free exchange of goods and ideas?

Fourth, how is our bankrupt country supposed to finance our "return" to the region? Are we going to go into deeper debt to the Chinese and other Asians for the privilege of being "involved" in their region? Our government seems to see our involvement in Asia and the rest of the world as a kind of twenty-first century white man’s burden (sorry, Mr. President) that is not only our birthright, but our honor-bound obligation to uphold, no matter how much it costs our country. I suppose those in power need the self-satisfying illusion of indispensability so badly that they are willing to forfeit our future by sinking our country deeper and deeper in debt to maintain it.

Never "misunderestimate" the stupidity of the American government (thank you, Messrs. Mencken and Bush). Perhaps we should reverse the question posed in the title: What would America do without Asia? Even better, let us rephrase the question: What would both America and Asia do without the "entangling alliances" Thomas Jefferson warned us against but with instead the "peace, commerce, and honest friendship" he advised? The answer is that both America and Asia would get along quite well and be more prosperous and peaceful places.

An American Catholic son-in-law of Korea, Joshua Snyder lives with his wife and two children in Pohang, where he lectures English at a science and technology university. He blogs at The Western Confucian.

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