The image above is from the manga Berserk. As you can guess just from this image alone it is a fairly violent manga, with plenty of blood, guts, gore, depravity, etc. But every once in a while, when the main character (featured above) Guts is particularly enraged and actually does go berserk, the artist Kentaro Miura will draw a simple but ghastly image.
These images set the tone for the carnage that follows. It is for this reason that they are almost more violent then the actual depictions of creatures and people being sliced in half. The stark black and white image, has a way of not only powering up the images that follow, but the reader as well, preparing their gaze, communicating through what are sometimes the most simplistic of images, the pure, sublime emotion that is about to be released. Something primal, something hopelessly beyond words, which in my mind comes closest to that impossible representation, as a splattered and spat out, frenetic Japanese hiragana character.
When I was thinking about the past few months and the crazy pace at which I have been living and working, and the emotions which regularly boil and bubble up within me, I tried to find an image, any image which would best convey the turmoil that my mind has sometimes been feeling. For some reason, this image felt the most suitable, the most right. Uminos este yan i siniente-ku siha.
Of course, we are talking about emotional turmoil here and so nothing so shocking or appalling has taken place recently, but nonetheless parts of my life have been a constant frustrating struggle lately. And so, there are plenty of times, when I find myself at the point of Guts in the above image, on the verge of uttering that depthless shriek, that cry that is an ugly mix of frustration, despair and rage.
It’s important to note, that the scope and the breadth of our emotions is always limitless in as much as it remains unarticulated. In what we feel, we reach so many different levels, negative and positive. We can and sometimes do feel connected to everything and disconnected to everything. The world of our pain and our happiness is a completely separate universe from what we might call reality or the world around us. It is for this reason, that what might, to the world around us, appear to be nothing more than a mere prick on the finger, or a tap on the shoulder, can in our hearts, somehow become an internal firestorm, a maelstrom, un chubasko gi i ha’of-ta, which can push up and out of our mouths, a bewilderingly disproportional cry of pain and emotion! Once we attempt to transform into words, or start trying to use this limited thing we call language to try to communicate the depths of our feelings, we start to see in the eyes of the other, the limits of the outside world. The way that it can’t ever accommodate what we feel or what we want to say, that it will always leave us mafulot, with a dizzying taste of inadequacy in our mouths. While I may be a tortured and suffering God on the inside, I probably just sound like an idiot on the outside.
I am mindful of this, as start to consider what exactly are the things in my life which have made me want to scream in such an intense way over the past few months. In my mind, I scream and shout about whatever I want, but once you start to submit those thoughts for external review, suddenly there are other issues to consider. Such as whether others would understand, would care, and most importantly, does what I am angry or upset about meet the threshold or meet the prevailing metrics for screaming and shouting about something? Do you have sufficient evidence in your life to argue convincingly that you can use this sort of language to describe what you’re going through?
I have a laundry list of things which have been enraging me, irritating me and frustrating me, and most of the time, I admit that I don’t have much difficulty managing them, or keeping them from overwhelming me and pushing me towards feeling a need to go berserk. But sometimes, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed, and be inundated with this horrible mixture of feeling like everything is stupid, that there’s nothing that can be done, and that I’m not doing enough. When I reach that point, that is when I wish I was a sketch from Berserk, and that Miura (or one of his assistants), could take my face, body and emotions, and draw and paint me until I became one of those cathartic intense and ghastly images.
The military buildup continues to loom on the horizon, and even though people seem to be more engaged and concerned now than ever before, it is still so frustrating. The DEIS process is a strange combination of being hopeful and ridiculous. The document itself is a massive maze of damages, impacts, wishful thinking and bouts of optimism which can only be drug induced. It is a system that you can work with, but also one which is meant to distract you, meant to keep your attention focused in a particular way, make it seem as if there is only one way to respond, that you must always work within the system.
Then there are struggles amongst and between activists, and my own fleeting role as a possible “leader.” More and more time is put into projects and actions, for which there is no money, very little support and always plenty of attacks. I (like so many others) see my own solutions to so many of the problems activists are having in terms of capacity, time, resources, messaging, working together, but I find that I don’t have the time or means to implement them. Chamorro and grassroots activism on Guam has been undergoing serious changes since the late 1990’s, and has yet to become established as a firm and active force in the governing and changing of Guam, and I know that we all can play roles in helping that happen, but do we have the strength and the time to make it a reality?
If all this wasn’t bad enough, guaha un botasion maga’låhi gi i otro såkkan ya ti malålagu i gayu-hu. Fihu ma faisen yu’, “håyi pon såpotte?” pat “Håyi i gayu-mu?” Todu guini giya Guahån siña manakonfotme na gof impottånte este mamaila na botasion. Siña un alok na i mas impottånte na botasion gi i halacha na estoria. I maga’låhi ni’ mailihi gi i otro såkkan, guiya pau giniha i isla gi halom i military buildup. Guiya para u sinatba hit, pat binende hit para i Estados Unidos yan i militat. Para Guahu, ti anggokuyon i dos bulåku na gåyu siha, ya ti meggai tiningo’-hu put i otro ni’ esta ha alok na pau falågu.
Then there are struggles with teaching, in particular teaching English Composition, as I’ve been doing for the past four months. I loved my students and appreciated the fact that they put up with (and seemed to enjoy) my constant problems and difficulties with figuring out how to teach them how to write. But I feel like my life and time is being wasted on grading for grammar and spelling, when I know that I am not the best qualified for this job. Then there are uncertainties about my job and my future. I have been waiting months to hear about a tenure-track position I applied for at UOG, and I’m disappointed to have not heard yet about the results. I’m also disappointed because I have this very real feeling that I won’t get the job, which means that I will have to teach English Comp again in the spring semester.
As I scan through my email inbox and see all these incredible opportunities for conferences and for submitting to journals or anthologies, I constantly have to check myself and step back. I know that while I’m on Guam, I am not really as isolated as I might sometimes feel, but the reality of flying elsewhere to engage in academic conversations or work is very limiting. There are times when I miss that level of academic and intellectual engagement. But this feeling is also tied to job insecurities. While I do feel lucky that I will have a teaching job at UOG next semester, and that if I was somewhere else (for instance in California teaching at a public university), I might not, I also cannot help but feel like I should give myself more options. I long dreamed of teaching at UOG, and it has been fun so far, but when I see my paycheck and hear about the paychecks of my friends in the states (or even in Canada), and when I look at my class load and then hear about the class loads of others, I cannot help but feel like I’m missing out on something.
This is not to say that I don’t want to teach at UOG, I plan to stick around and wait until I get hired permanently somewhere there. But the longer I stick around without getting a real tenure-track position, the more the idea will eat away at my tilipås that I might need to look at other options.
On top of this, there are the everyday struggles with being a good grandson and being a good father. My grandfather has been ill for two months now. He spent close to a month in the hospital and a month after that bed-ridden at home. He is improving everyday and can already walk with the help of a walker. But the past two months have been draining, because each day is divided into shifts whereby myself and other family members have to watch over grandpa.
Then there is the love and hate relationship that I’m developing with my daughter. She is my pride and joy 90% of the time. A source of such happiness, the cutest and most beautiful thing in the world, and the thing I love more than anything else! But then, there is the 10% of the time, when I am trying to work or get something done, when she interrupts me, and prevents me from doing anything. I know that part of being a good parent is finding a way to block out time for parenting and then block out time for working. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found a way to do that and set aside time so I can get things done. As a result over the past few months, I’ve gotten closer and closer to my daughter (ya på’go Guiya i kiridå-hu, yan Guahu i mas kiridu na sainå-ña), but have fallen behind on almost everything else I have to do.
Speaking of which, finally, the big freaking damang digging into my gut, is the fact that my dissertation is still not finished! I have plenty of reasons to explain or justify why its not finished, but it frustrates me, because for more than a year, I’ve been looking forward to finishing the graduate student phase of my life on moving on to the adult academic stage. I am using the Christmas break to try and finally finish my 1,000 + footnotes and put together my bibliography, and I am praying, to whatever Gods or saints care about peoples’ dissertations, that I please be given the spiritual, mental and physical strength to finally finish this arduous task.
As I write this here however I should note that I’m not really looking for sympathy, or even for advice. But for me, this blog post, gi este na momento, is meant to be a space for screaming. A blank page upon which I can write out that agonizing yell.
With all this being said, I’d like to end this post with a different image from Berserk. Now that the semester is over and I have a few weeks to work on finishing my dissertation, I am feeling some relief, some hope again. This image of Guts, bloodied and bruised (as usual) after a fight with a fearsome supernatural foe, represents nicely how I feel right now. Tired, unnerved, stressed, all of these things yes, but with a trace of a smile, just a hint at the possibility that things might get easier, or might get better.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
The image above is from the manga Berserk. As you can guess just from this image alone it is a fairly violent manga, with plenty of blood, guts, gore, depravity, etc. But every once in a while, when the main character (featured above) Guts is particularly enraged and actually does go berserk, the artist Kentaro Miura will draw a simple but ghastly image.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The article discusses a centuries old injustice and violence committed against hundreds, perhaps thousands of different Native American groups, and is a perfect case study in how injustice operates and is perpetuated and maintained over time.
Native American tribes tired of waiting for the U.S. government to honor centuries-old treaties are buying back land where their ancestors lived and putting it in federal trust. Native Americans say the purchases will help protect their culture and way of life by preserving burial grounds and areas where sacred rituals are held. They also provide land for farming, timber and other efforts to make the tribes self-sustaining.The article begins with these sentences, describing how from 1998 - 2007, Native American tribes put close to a million acres in trust. These acres are all purchased in the hopes of rebuilding the land base of tribes and also protecting their ability to practice their religious ceremonies and ensure that they have access to resources and housing. There is a movement on Guam at present to turn Chamorros into a Federally-Recognized tribe, and while in the abstract that proposal might seem tempting or maolek, in reality of Native American tribes and the predatory way in which state and Federal governments treat them, basically amount to benevolent paternal colonialism.
In the opening line of the article it discusses, in a very banal and off-hand way, the centuries-old treaties that the United States government signed, but never ever had any intention of truly honoring. The article was very informative in covering an issue I know some about, but nowhere near the specifics they cite about what activities in terms of sustaining and developing themselves different tribes are undertaking. But for me, as an Ethnic Studies scholar, the most important part of this article is in that first line and the banality with which the legacy of genocide and massive amounts of displacement are discussed.
When an injustice takes place such as the violent displacement of indigenous people and the taking of their land, it can never ever be reduced to a single act or moment. It can never and should never be conceived of in that way. Although you could argue that a particular movement exists in which the violence or the displacement is at its peak or has manifested in the most clear and inexcusable way, the violence itself is only part of an always growing and always expanding foundation. The displacement itself it only the beginning and as it leaves necessary traces of that violence, a universe thus proceeds to form around it, which for those who benefit or profit from it (whether they know it or not) has the ability to insulate them from that violence.
The violence itself is always too revealing, says too much about the lack of civility, lack of morality of those who committed it. It is too revealing in the sense that it can leave in question what was gained through it. It can potentially taint the enjoyment and the profit that is derived from it and implicate those who inherit that power. It is for this reason, that the violence and the traces that will always persist, have to be shrouded in tangles of discourse, tangles of racist assumptions, a web of legal cases, and even perhaps a canon of supporting anthropology. All of these things can congeal together to sustain that violence, to make it seem less violent than it really was, to make its traces that are still around seem less important, to make it seem like that violence was necessary to help someone or to build something greater than before. The result of this is of course that the primal or the original act of aggression can never really be touched, there can never be any justice or restitution for it, as it will always remain beyond this impenetrable mass of discourse that in so many ways says that what is past is past, or that to revisit this violence would destroy everything, or that if some form of restitution would take place, those who would receive it would only squander or ruin it.
The result of this banalization is that eventually that violence can be invoked, but without any twinge of ethical crisis. That you can talk about, as this article does, the way in which the United States has screwed over Native Americans, and how they are now forced to buy back land which was once their's, or land that by so many legally-binding treaties is still their's, and yet that violence which is the source of this tragedy, is someone just a mere footnote to the story.
The creation of this mass of discourse is also ideal in terms of protecting that violence should any process of reparation, restitution or even decolonization ever began or ever be proposed. With this layering and sedimenting, any level can potentially stand in as the site through which decolonization or some form of restorative justice can be focused, and depending on the context, this layer can end up far far away from the violence in question. It is for this reason that so often these sorts of historical injustices are twisted into a depressing and ironic argument that they are about recognition. That rather than land being given back, that rather than reparations being made, or rather than treaties being honored, what needs to happen is that their suffering needs to be recognized.
It is for this reason that any attempts at justice or decolonization must be sedimented and multi-layered in how they attack and change things, in the same way in which an injustice is sedimented in order to defend it.
Indian tribes buy back thousands of acres of land
By Timberly Ross, Associated Press Writer
Sun Dec 27, 1:42 pm ET
OMAHA, Neb. – Native American tribes tired of waiting for the U.S. government to honor centuries-old treaties are buying back land where their ancestors lived and putting it in federal trust.
Native Americans say the purchases will help protect their culture and way of life by preserving burial grounds and areas where sacred rituals are held. They also provide land for farming, timber and other efforts to make the tribes self-sustaining.
Tribes put more than 840,000 acres — or roughly the equivalent of the state of Rhode Island — into trust from 1998 to 2007, according to information The Associated Press obtained from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act.
Those buying back land include the Winnebago, who have put more than 700 acres in eastern Nebraska in federal trust in the past five years, and the Pawnee, who have 1,600 acres of trust land in Oklahoma. Land held in federal trust is exempt from local and state laws and taxes, but subject to most federal laws.
Three tribes have bought land around Bear Butte in South Dakota's Black Hills to keep it from developers eager to cater to the bikers who roar into Sturgis every year for a raucous road rally. About 17 tribes from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma still use the mountain for religious ceremonies.
Emily White Hat, a member of South Dakota's Rosebud Sioux, said the struggle to protect the land is about "preservation of our culture, our way of life and our traditions."
"All of it is connected," White Hat said. "With your land, you have that relationship to the culture."
Other members of the Rosebud Sioux, such as president Rodney Bordeaux, believe the tribes shouldn't have to buy the land back because it was illegally taken. But they also recognize that without such purchases, the land won't be protected.
No one knows how much land the federal government promised Native American tribes in treaties dating to the late 1700s, said Gary Garrison, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. The government changed the terms of the treaties over the centuries to make property available to settlers and give rights-of-way to railroads and telegraph companies.
President Barack Obama's administration has proposed spending $2 billion to buy back and consolidate tribal land broken up in previous generations. The program would pay individual members for land interests divided among their relatives and return the land to tribal control. But it would not buy land from people outside the tribes.
Today, 562 federally recognized tribes have more than 55 million acres held in trust, according to the bureau. Several states and local governments are fighting efforts to add to that number, saying the federal government doesn't have the authority to take land — and tax revenue — from states.
In New York, for example, the state and two counties filed a federal lawsuit in 2008 to block the U.S. Department of Interior from putting about 13,000 acres into trust for the Oneida Tribe. In September, a judge threw out their claims.
Putting land in trust creates a burden for local governments because they must still provide services such as sewer and water even though they can't collect taxes on the property, said Elaine Willman, a member of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance and administrator for Hobart, a suburb of Green Bay, Wis. Hobart relies mostly on property taxes to pay for police, water and other services, but the village of about 5,900 lost about a third of its land to a trust set up for the state's Oneida Tribe, Willman said.
So far, Hobart has been able to control spending and avoid cuts in services or raising taxes, Willman said. Village leaders hope taxes on a planned 603-acre commercial development will eventually help make up for the lost money.
The nonprofit White Earth Land Recovery Project has bought back or been gifted hundreds of acres in northwestern Minnesota since it was created in the late 1980s. The White Earth tribe uses the land to harvest rice, farm and produce maple syrup. Members have hope of one day being self-sustaining again.
Winona LaDuke, who started the White Earth project, said buying property is expensive, but it's the quickest and easiest way for tribes to regain control of their land.
Tribal membership has been growing thanks to higher birth rates, longer life spans and more relaxed qualifications for membership, and that has created a greater need for land for housing, community services and economic development.
"If the tribes were to pursue return of the land in the courts it would be years before any action could result in more tribal land ... and the people simply cannot wait," said Cris Stainbrook, of the Little Canada, Minn.-based Indian Land Tenure Foundation.
Thirty to 40 tribes are making enough money from casinos to buy back land, but they also have to put money into social programs, education and health care for their members, said Robert J. Miller, a professor at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who specializes in tribal issues.
"Tribes just have so many things on their plate," he said.
Some tribes, such as the Pawnee, have benefited from gifts of land. Gaylord and Judy Mickelsen donated a storefront in Dannebrog, Neb., that had been in Judy Mickelsen's family for a century. The couple was retiring to Mesquite, Nev., in 2007, and Judy Mickelsen wanted to see the building preserved even though the town had seen better days.
The tribe has since set up a shop selling members' artwork in the building on Main Street.
"We were hoping the Pawnee could get a toehold here and get a new venture for the village of Dannebrog," Gaylord Mickelsen said.
Monday, December 28, 2009
For those of you out there who are looking for helping in navigating the Draft Environmental Impacts Statement about the military buildup, then head over there. For example, click here to read some notes on Volume 2 Chapter 16 of the massive tome.
Also, if you do want to get involved, there's information there on how you can.
Yesterday, an interesting post appeared there which I wanted to repost here. It was a list of 198 Ways to Resist the Guam/CNMI Military Buildup. The list comes from the Albert Einstein Institute and it literally does gather together 198 ways in which people have historically resisted things in peaceful and non-violent ways. The logic behind putting this list together is to not only give people an array of options or actions/tactics which have worked for people before and might work again. The logic is also about informing people and helping convince them that they do have options. Too many people on Guam say that they aren't informed or aren't involved in this process, either knowing about the buildup or resisting it, because they don't feel like it would make any difference. The colonial powerlessness of Guam quickly becomes a conveinient apathy, a way of excluding oneself from the discussion yet again, a tragic way of amplifying your own lack of power.
But when you read through this list and see all of the creative, radical, everyday ways in which people can resist things, critique things, inform people, challenge power, the hope is that your mind will be stimulated. That you might find your own way of integrating a necessary activist sentiment, a concern for your community and a willingness to do something about it, into your own life. In this tapestry of social and political activism, there has to be a number of things which anyone could draw from in order to find a way to transform their life or at least parts of their life in order to work towards a larger progressive goal. This list is not only relevant to the military buildup, but to Guam and the world in general. It is all about ways that people have spoken to power or strategies for getting a community to see a truth and to change based on it.
Some of the points will seem very familiar and almost mafnas yan taibali from over-use. The same old tricks from every activist you've ever bemoaned the existence of. But others will appear almost surreal or magical in the way they might indicate a weakness or a possibility in something in the world. The way in which some power or some institution or some force that you feel cannot be challenged, might be seen in a new light, might be seen now as something with a weakness or a chance to be challenged. This is the essence of social change and of revolution, is bringing about that individual and collective moment where something which was once incontestable and invincible, becomes something which not only can be contested, but must be. Something which at one moment seemed so eternal and that the world could not exist without it, and therefore it had to remain unchallenged or else risk the collapse of everything, appears to be heading towards it demise, or that it is only a matter of time before it is replaced or that it disappears.
I hope that when you scan through this list, if you are looking for answers or your own way of becoming engaged and involved, that something will sokkai a corner of your mind, and that something will click in your head. That a list of items or perhaps even a single item will help activate you, and help by not only giving you a shred of hope or empowerment, but by helping you move forward and work for a better island.
The Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions
Communications with a Wider Audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
17. Mock elections
Symbolic Public Acts
18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures
Pressures on Individuals
31. "Haunting" officials
32. Taunting officials
Drama and Music
35. Humorous skits and pranks
36. Performances of plays and music
40. Religious processions
Honoring the Dead
43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places
47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
Withdrawal and Renunciation
53. Renouncing honors
54. Turning one’s back
The Methods of Social Noncooperation
Ostracism of Persons
55. Social boycott
56. Selective social boycott
57. Lysistratic nonaction
Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions
60. Suspension of social and sports activities
61. Boycott of social affairs
62. Student strike
63. Social disobedience
64. Withdrawal from social institutions
Withdrawal from the Social System
66. Total personal noncooperation
67. "Flight" of workers
69. Collective disappearance
70. Protest emigration (hijrat)
The Methods of Economic Noncooperation: Economic Boycotts
Actions by Consumers
71. Consumers’ boycott
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
73. Policy of austerity
74. Rent withholding
75. Refusal to rent
76. National consumers’ boycott
77. International consumers’ boycott
Action by Workers and Producers
78. Workmen’s boycott
79. Producers’ boycott
Action by Middlemen
80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott
Action by Owners and Management
81. Traders’ boycott
82. Refusal to let or sell property
84. Refusal of industrial assistance
85. Merchants’ "general strike"
Action by Holders of Financial Resources
86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
89. Severance of funds and credit
90. Revenue refusal
91. Refusal of a government’s money
Action by Governments
92. Domestic embargo
93. Blacklisting of traders
94. International sellers’ embargo
95. International buyers’ embargo
96. International trade embargo
The Methods of Economic Noncooperation: The Strike
97. Protest strike
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)
99. Peasant strike
100. Farm Workers’ strike
Strikes by Special Groups
101. Refusal of impressed labor
102. Prisoners’ strike
103. Craft strike
104. Professional strike
Ordinary Industrial Strikes
105. Establishment strike
106. Industry strike
107. Sympathetic strike
108. Detailed strike
109. Bumper strike
110. Slowdown strike
111. Working-to-rule strike
112. Reporting "sick" (sick-in)
113. Strike by resignation
114. Limited strike
115. Selective strike
116. Generalized strike
117. General strike
Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures
119. Economic shutdown
The Methods of Political Noncooperation
Rejection of Authority
120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
121. Refusal of public support
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance
Citizens’ Noncooperation with Government
123. Boycott of legislative bodies
124. Boycott of elections
125. Boycott of government employment and positions
126. Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies
127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions
128. Boycott of government-supported organizations
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions
Citizens’ Alternatives to Obedience
133. Reluctant and slow compliance
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
135. Popular nonobedience
136. Disguised disobedience
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
141. Civil disobedience of "illegitimate" laws
Action by Government Personnel
142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
143. Blocking of lines of command and information
144. Stalling and obstruction
145. General administrative noncooperation
146. Judicial noncooperation
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
Domestic Governmental Action
149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units
International Governmental Action
151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
154. Severance of diplomatic relations
155. Withdrawal from international organizations
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
157. Expulsion from international organizations
The Methods of Nonviolent Intervention
158. Self-exposure to the elements
159. The fast
a) Fast of moral pressure
b) Hunger strike
c) Satyagrahic fast
160. Reverse trial
161. Nonviolent harassment
168. Nonviolent raids
169. Nonviolent air raids
170. Nonviolent invasion
171. Nonviolent interjection
172. Nonviolent obstruction
173. Nonviolent occupation
174. Establishing new social patterns
175. Overloading of facilities
178. Guerrilla theater
179. Alternative social institutions
180. Alternative communication system
181. Reverse strike
182. Stay-in strike
183. Nonviolent land seizure
184. Defiance of blockades
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
186. Preclusive purchasing
187. Seizure of assets
189. Selective patronage
190. Alternative markets
191. Alternative transportation systems
192. Alternative economic institutions
193. Overloading of administrative systems
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
195. Seeking imprisonmen
196. Civil disobedience of "neutral" laws
197. Work-on without collaboration
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government
Source: Sharp, Gene. The Politics of Nonviolent Action (3
Vols.), Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973. Provided courtesy of
the Albert Einstein Institution
Friday, December 25, 2009
What irritates me the most is the songs! Once Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas songs start flooding into the airwaves, appearing everywhere you go. After a while it seems like there is a cabal out there of people who are making different versions of 12 days of Christmas just to torture me!
But this morning, I found in my email inbox a Christmas song that I wasn't so irritated to listen to. It comes from the group MoveOn.org and features one of their grassroots councils in Minnesota visiting Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison to talk to him about ensuring that the Health Care reform bill in Congress is as progressive as possible, and to sing him a Health Care themed Christmas tune.
I've been following the Health Care battle in the United States as closely as I can. Naturally, any "national" debate takes a different character in the colonies, since at stake is always whether or not we are included in this reform or not. I know that there are some ways in which Guam will get increased funding for certain Federal programs such as Medicare, but I also know that some versions exluded the territories as well. I don't know where Guam sits in terms of both final bills that have been passed in the House and Senate, but I'm hoping that it'll be eventually become clear. Life in the colony that is Guam can be a bit strange sometimes. Whenever a dollar or two comes from some random Federal source, its celebrated in the newspaper as if God himself, has beamed down to earth and will be personally handing it to Governor Felix Camacho. Whenever Guam is left out or disrespected there meant be some mention here or there, but it never receives the same amount of attention. The same sort of discursive weight, which is meant to imply that this is something which you should pay attention to, because it tells us something fundamental about who we are.
I also wanted to paste this article below from The National Journal. My first instinct from what I read about both the bills in the Senate and the House, is that Obama and Democrats basically caved on this issue, and compromised too much, despite being the party in power, and having a very large public mandate for some broad and aggressive reforms. But at other points, the more politically pragmatic part of me will come across articles like the one below, which provide a different lens for viewing the idea of Health Reform or focus in on certain things which the bills will help with, and I take a step back. I do think that Obama is not being the leader that he advertised he would be on this issue. I think that he's gotten this far, by working and compromising with so many of the people who should be made slightly less comfortable by whatever reform takes place. Every indication however from Republicans to Health Insurance companies indicates, that they frankly love this bill, whether because it means giving them millions more customers, billions more in subsidies, or provides an issue to win in elections next year. But at the same time, I would like to believe articles such as the one below, which claim that the bills still have some progressive potential and that they can still perform some of the changing and improving that we've all hoped for. I guess in the absence of real leadership, this sort of gradualism is the best you can hope for.
The Left's Fatal Abstraction
Critics Of Health Reform On Obama's Left Have Largely Focused On Symbolic Issues
by Ronald Brownstein
Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009
With the Senate's passage Thursday morning of sweeping health care reform, President Obama took another giant step toward the biggest legislative achievement for any Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson muscled Medicare into law in 1965.
Comprehensive health care reform has defeated every president who has pursued it, from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. But, even with some hurdles remaining, Obama is now on track to sign legislation early next year moving the U.S. toward universal coverage. Though the bill bears all the scars and imperfections of its arduous advance, it's likely to stand as the signal domestic accomplishment of his presidency, even if he serves two terms.
And so, naturally, the reaction of the most visible component of the Democratic base has been to link arms with congressional Republicans and the conservative grassroots to insist that the bill be killed. Even as conservatives denounce the bill as an ominous extension of government's reach, leading lights of the Internet-based digital left like Howard Dean, MoveOn.org, Markos Moulitsas and Arianna Huffington are portraying it as a Christmas gift to special interests. One side sees a socialist taking America on a sleigh ride toward Sweden; the other a sell-out surrendering to big business and reactionary "ConservaDems." Who says no good deed goes unpunished?
The right's fury is easy to understand. It has opposed universal coverage for generations both on policy (excessive federal intrusion into the marketplace) and political grounds. Though conservatives are now confidently predicting a short-term backlash against the legislation, the right's shrewdest strategists have long worried that if government-guaranteed health care ever takes root, Americans would become more inclined to look to Washington for economic security, which would weaken conservative anti-government arguments.
The left's outrage is more puzzling. The bill has been wrenched by many compromises. But it imposes on the insurance industry tough rules long sought by liberals, including a ban on the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Once fully phased in, it would spend nearly $200 billion annually to help more than 30 million uninsured Americans obtain coverage. Yet it squeezes enough savings from inefficiencies in current health spending that the Congressional Budget Office projects it will reduce the federal deficit in the near- and long-term, and the independent Medicare Actuary calculates that it will vastly extend coverage while increasing total national health care spending (by business, government and individuals) by less than a penny on the dollar through 2019. And it advances almost all the ideas that cutting-edge reformers consider essential to slowing long-term cost growth by nudging the medical system away from fee-for-service medicine toward approaches that more closely tie provider compensation to results for patients.
Against all that, the aggrieved left has mostly focused on two concessions made to centrist Senate Democrats: restrictions on abortion coverage and the abandonment of a public competitor to private insurers. But each is a largely symbolic dispute: There's little evidence the legislation would seriously constrain access to abortion, and the CBO has estimated that only about 6 million people would choose a public option. (It was equally irresponsible for the Senate centrists to threaten to sink the bill over such tangential provisions.) Even political scientist Jacob Hacker, widely considered the father of the public option, wrote this week that it "would be wrong" to derail the bill because it still contains "vital reforms."
In some respects, the left's discontent may be unavoidable. Perpetual dissatisfaction is the nature, and arguably the role, of activists. It's easy to forget that not only did liberals issue similar complaints about Clinton, but conservatives like Newt Gingrich groused that Ronald Reagan cut too many deals with Democrats.
The new Internet-based left, because it is so heavily reliant on college-educated whites generally less exposed to the economy's storms, also has a blind spot on kitchen table issues. According to the Census Bureau, just 6 percent of college-educated whites lack health insurance, for instance, compared to 19 percent of African-Americans and 31 percent of Hispanics. But the idea that Democrats should just press restart after the grueling struggle to reach this point carries an air of fatal abstraction: If health reform fails now, the next chance for big change probably wouldn't come for years, if not decades. "The universal rule of health care -- there are no exceptions -- is you get what you can," says Brown University political scientist James Morone, co-author of The Heart of Power, a recent history of health care politics.
Still, the left is raising one legitimate concern: the risk that Republicans will seize on the deals the White House cut to secure support from individual senators or key constituencies like drug manufacturers "to rebrand Obama and the Democrats as the party beholden to special interests," as Huffington wrote. The left's prescription for that problem -- junk the health care bill -- is batty, but that doesn't mean its diagnosis is wrong. With a populist wave building against all large institutions, Obama could find himself deluged if he doesn't learn to surf.
The president's strategy of enveloping potential opponents has brought him to the brink of an historic health care victory. But if Obama is to keep his head above water next year as he moves to issues like financial regulation and climate change, he may need to tilt his dial from conciliation toward greater confrontation with the powerful interests blocking his way.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
HAPPY US IMPERIALISM DAY GUAM!
But how could this not be expected, really? Considering that our, and therefore Guam’s value to the US has always been military in nature. And the most influential and jarring event in Guam’s recent history was the second world war, and I Tiempon Chapones. And even after the war, the military became a ticket off the island, or a paycheck to find that better life, after so many lands were stolen/taken and even more livelihoods disrupted. Today, the idea of war is much closer to your average Chamorro, than it is to your average American, for three reasons; one: the impact of the sufferings of i manamko’ lives on in our daily discourse through regular constructions like “before the war” and “after the war.” Two: The fact that close to 1/3 of the island is held by the US military. Three: That every Chamorro has several relatives who are members of the armed forces. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the military is a big part of Chamorro culture.
When the United States was mobilizing for the “war” in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of men and women around the country shouted and protested “no!” Around the world, millions more echoed the same. On Guam however, while many may of felt that the war was wrong, there was no organized dissent, no shouts for "no war for oil" and so on (I only remember one protest, and it was small, organized by some UOG professors and mostly Academy girls). The loudest voices and the ones which ended up in the PDN or on KUAM all said it was our patriotic duty to support our troops, or that this was good news, because it would surely help our economy.
One of those arguments doesn’t make sense, and the other says the wrong things. “Support our troops?” I have always been of the mind that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home, and most people not standing underneath an American flag or attending a NRA meeting would feel the same way. What really scares me is the economic excitement over war that we all, not just Chamorros tend to get on Guam when we hear more troops are coming in, or maybe a ship will home port here. Are the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Middle East, as well as the hundreds of US and Coalition deaths worth the construction contracts Black Construction gets for new hangars or readiness centers? Most people would say yes probably, as long as the war was just, or necessary or in the interests of our defense.
Good wars or just wars?
Most American justifications for wars or interventions in other countries come from their romantic memories of wars such as the American Revolution which was fought against colonialism. Or the Civil War which was fought to end slavery. Or the Second World War, which was fought to stop Hitler and save the Jews from the Holocaust. And besides, America's not bad, they only jumped in after they were attacked at Pearl Harbor. I guess if these justifications were all true, then Americans would have the moral high ground in terms of war, all the wars they fought were good ones, because they were for good reasons. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, and on Guam, the real nature of these wars and war in general is a vital distinction that we need to digest.
The Revolutionary War didn’t save the world from colonialism, as Guam and many others are still very much American colonies. The Civil War wasn’t fought to end slavery, as Lincoln very clearly said that if he could save the Union without freeing any slaves he would do so, and the racism that drove the slave trade, now ensures that some minorities and African Americans remain underclasses. And World War II? This is where Guam fits into the American picture, and this is the point with which we must begin.
Pearl Harbor is thought of as an unprovoked attack on the United States. And the US because of blatant Japanese aggression is brought into the war. At the same time Japanese planes from Saipan attacked Guam, bombing Hagatna and Sumay. A few days later the Japanese invaded and the occupation began. The US saves the world from the brutality of the German, Italians and the Japanese, and starts a new world order in which idea of freedom, liberty, capitalism and democracy are spread through the world, like the gospel. With press like that, it would be hard to imagine that war is a bad thing. In fact, it is because of this overwhelming propaganda effort that the US media has termed the Second World War, “the good war,” and refer to its soldiers who served overseas and helped keep the economy alive at home as the “greatest generation.”
Since the war has played such a large role in shaping our people to this very day, it is vital that we look at it with clear eyes and heads, and not become consumed by the patriotic propaganda. Because if we are to actually look back at the beginning of the war, with Pearl Harbor, and reread what unfortunately became our history, when we accepted the red, white and blue, we can see very clearly that the Untied States not only expected war, but actually forced Japan into war.
Books such as President Roosevelt and the Coming of War published in 1941 and more recently Day of Deceit by Robert Stinnett chronicle the steps that the White House and President Roosevelt took to force Japan, and therefore America into the world war. One step was the imposing of economic sanctions on Japan, others were ultimatums and demands to the Japanese that they rescind their treaties with Germany and Italy and pull out of China and Indo-China. In other words, capitulate to American economic and political dominance and stop your imperialistic activities. The Japanese unofficial response was classic: We’ll stop our imperial activities as soon as you do; we’ll pull out of China, when you pull out of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Faced with an uncompromising imperial power such as the US, the Japanese were either to surrender or go to war (in the face of resource shortages, such as oil, they decided to go to war)
In his text Dreaming War, Gore Vidal discussed at length the intentions of Roosevelt in bringing about the war. For instance, if Roosevelt had actually wanted peace, he had plenty of chances to pursue that route. In the year before war, there was a Peace Party in Japan, led by Prince Konoye, who repeatedly asked President Roosevelt that they meet and discuss a plan for peace. Roosevelt however, continually postponed their planned meetings, all the while meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and preparing for the upcoming war.
As for the idea that the United States was taken surprise by the attack, it most certainly wasn’t. By November 1941, the US had broken the Japanese diplomatic codes, but also most of their naval codes. And on November 15th, 1941, General Marshall, the US Army Chief of Staff called in several Washington newspaper bureau chief, and informed them that the Japanese attack would come in the first ten days of December.
Even the stories of America valiantly saving Europe from Hitler’s grasp, or of the US rushing in to save the Jewish people needs to be rethought. Hitler was a monster yes, but much like Saddam Hussein, he was allowed to be a monster by other industrial nations. Men such as Churchill and Roosevelt (like California’s current governor, ARNOLD) admired Hitler for his skills in re-energizing Germany’s economy, and for whipping his country into shape, at a time when much of the world was hurting from the Great Depression. They did nothing to stop his preparations for war, did little initially when he began expanding his empire, and despite reports of atrocities against Jews for years before Pearl Harbor, the US did nothing, as American businessmen were too busy making money off his war mongering.
What does all this mean for Chamorros? First of all, our ideas about Pearl Harbor and the war need to be rethought with this information. If the United States people were set up to go to war, because of the agenda of the President, then that means that the Chamorros on Guam, were set up as well. And in actuality we have known this for a long time, but never really acknowledged it.
The idea that the US abandoned Guam was never really given the credence it needed, because Chamorros were so happy to be “rescued” in 1944, but it is something that we should always remember, especially at the most patriotic times of the year, such as now. Chamorros then knew it, even if they didn’t openly discuss it, or talk about it. Nowadays you will find it spoken of, mostly by younger Chamorros, but occasionally by i manamko’ who still can’t understand how “the greatest country in the world” would just abandon and leave people to die like that?
All nations become imperial nations and empire when they become large enough and the United States is no different. The US has hundreds of army bases around the world, in Guam, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Great Britain, Japan, Germany (and now in Iraq and Afghanistan) and more. It has colonies in Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands and others. Through the CIA and other interventions it has installed or supported loyal dictators and puppet regimes in Congo, Indonesia, Chile, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, Haiti, Greece, Italy, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, South Vietnam and others. The United States is a global empire, and we on Guam are just a piece of that puzzle, nothing more. In broad and general terms, we are a pawn on the imperial chessboard, and to prove that we should think of these two things: first, if another island had a bigger harbor than Guam in 1898, the US would of taken that. Second, the US “liberated” Saipan first, which was a Japanese colony, rather than save their loyal subjects at Guam. Pieces on the board, nothing more.
The forcing of Japan into the Second World War shows that the interests of nations and empires go beyond mere human concerns. They are governed by other less rational concerns like hegemony, geo-political theories about dominoes and rogue states and so on. The United States stopped Japan, because it was forming an empire in Asia and the Pacific, similar to the one the US had in the Americas. The United States unofficially endorsed Hitler’s economic expansion and empire building, because of the economic benefits it brought, however they were forced to remove him, when it became apparent that he couldn’t be contained.
These are the true natures of war and of empires and governments. They care nothing for people, most especially people who don’t pay direct federal income tax, or have votes in Congress. And it is with this in mind that we must negotiate our place in America or our place outside of America. It is with this in mind that we must move forward into our future, not relying on the goodwill of a country that didn’t give us Constitutional protections because Chamorros were dark and spoke a different language, or won’t make us an equal part of the US because we are too small? But rather knowing full and well our history, and the fact that it is a colonial history and not one based on equality or altruism, but one based on exploitation and racism.
These are all things that you should remember the next time you wave that flag high. Happy US Imperialism Day!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Ti este mismo i mensåhin i Maga’låhi. Lao este un otro gof impottante na mensåhi ni’ debi di un taitai antes di un taitai i otro na mensåhi.
Put fabot i Taotao Guahan. Po’lo påppa’ i lapes-miyu yan i pluman-miyu. Puno’ i telebishon-miyu. Na’fanmaigo’ i famagu’on-miyu yan godde’ i ga
-miyu. Basta todu i buskabidan-miyu, put fabot fanngaha’ yan atan magi. Siempre ti mannina’desganao Hamyo ni’ este na mensåhi.
Esta hu tungo’ na meggai giya Hamyo ni’ ti yan-miyu i Maga’låhin på’go’. Esta gi fino’ Ingles “keyao na nganga” gui’. Pau tunok ginnen i ofisinå-ña gi i otro sakkan, ya put este na esta ti apmam na tiempo-ña, guaha nai kulang taibali gui’. Guaha nai an un atan i atadok-ña siha, na kamten gui’, esta o’sun gui’ nu este na lina’la’, ya esta listo gui’ para u dingu i ofisinå-ña.
Lao para på’go na momento, Guiguiya ha’ i ma’gås-ta, ya Guiya gumigiha gi este gof dongkulo na “military buildup.” Hu konfotme na guaha na biahi kalang binådu Si Camacho ni’ esta para u tinetpe ni’ kareta, lao debi di ta konfotme lokkue’ na gaigaige ha’ gi i korason-ña, i interes i taotao-ña, i taotao Guahan.
Gi este na gof impottånte na mensåhi, Si Camacho para u sangåni hit, put i military buildup, yan taimanu siña mannina’gaiprobecho hit. Hu diseseha na para en hingok i fino’-ña, ya para en kemprende i tinahdong i guinaiyå-ña para Hita, i tiguang-ña. Sen magåhet hafa ilelek-ña, hongge yu’ put fabot, annai ilek-hu na gof didok i kuentos-ña.
Sin otro mas kuentos, estague i ma’gas-ta, Si Honorapble na Maga’låhin Guahan, Felix P. Camacho.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Although her love for Youtube can be debilitating at times, since when I’m working on my computer Sumåhi can suddenly appear at my side, requesting that I put her on my lap and that she be allowed to watch something on my laptop. I don’t know how many times, I’ll be responding to student emails, and Sumåhi will suddenly appear and ask that I show her “kaballo” or horses.
But what I really do like about Youtube, is that the videos there have been a great way of helping me teach Sumåhi Chamorro and expand her vocabulary. As she watches a video, I constantly point out things on the screen and tell her what’s going on. This is particularly important with verbs and actions, so she can see what is entailed in the word I am using and therefore better associate it with what she sees around her.
So what I’ve decided to do is pick one of Sumåhi favorite Youtube videos, and then paste it below, and provide a list of the things which she yells out when she’s watching. If you don’t speak Chamorro but are interested in learning, this simple and somewhat silly exercise could help you.
Sumåhi really loves the treadmill video for OK Go’s “Here it Goes Again.” I don’t know how to say treadmill in Chamorro other than “makinan malalågu,” but the treadmills aren’t what makes Sumåhi interested in the video. What she really likes is the jumping around and dancing that people do in the video. The youtube version of this has more than 40 million hit and so embedding has been disabled, so what I'm pasting below is the video from the website Daily Motion.
Sulon: To slide, as in something slippery or to glide across something. When watching the video, where the members of the band, slide across the treadmills like they are ice-skating, Sumåhi says “sumusulon i taotao” or the man is sliding.”
Ta’yok: The most commonly used word in the video, it means to jump. During the course of the video Sumåhi regularly says “tuma’yok i taotao” or the man jumped, or she says “mana’yok i taotao” or the men jumped.
Yutyai: To swing your arms or pump your arms when dancing. When people throw their hands up in the air, Sumåhi yells out “yutyai yutyai!”
Paha: A child’s play word, used for playing with tulompo, that means when something is spinning. When people spin around Sumåhi will sometimes use paha to say that they are spinning, or sometimes she’ll accidentally use the word “galilek” which means to roll on the ground.
Channo: It means to walk with very large steps, or swing one’s arms while walking. At different points in the video, the band members intentionally talk very large and deliberately flamboyant steps, and so when Sumåhi sees this she says “Chumachanno i lahi” or the man is taking big steps.
Malågu: To run. Manmalalågu siha or “they are running” is the most common phrase you’ll hear Sumåhi say throughout the course of this video.
Ana’i singko: Literally “to give each other five.” While running two band members give each other five. This is one of the few things that Sumåhi will engage with people about even if she’s nervous or suspicious. If she doesn’t know you or trust you, she won’t talk to you, smile at you, or even look at you. But if you ask her to “na’i singko.” She usually will.
Ma hatsa kannain-ñiha: At the end of the video, there is a point where all four band members are running on treadmills, but suddenly stop and raise their hands in the air. As a result, they are slowly pulled off screen. When they do Sumåhi sometimes yells triumphantly that “ma hatsan i kannain-ñiha” or “they raised their hands!”
Friday, December 18, 2009
Fine’nina, gof ya-hu na put fin i Presidenten i Estådos Unidos, malate’. Esta mampos o’sun yu’ nu i chatlenguahin Si President George W. Bush. Guaha nai ti hu komprende taimanu tumaiguihi, na ayu na taihinasso na låhi, inilihi ni’ i taotao Amerikånu (Lao annai hu hasso put i hinasson i taotao Amerikånu, siña hu lakomprende).
Having an intelligent US President is not something to dismiss, but something to (even if just a little bit) cherish. When George W. Bush was in power, his rhetoric was very uneven, he was very one-sided and very divisive and very anti-intellectual in how he governed and even in how he would respond to simple questions. Listening to the final round of W. interviews before he stopped being the “Decider,” was particularly painful. What should have been a time of honest reflection for the President on the successes and failures of his tenure, became instead an exercise in being a dumb jerk. When thinking about what sort of mistakes he might have made in the conduct of the Iraq War, he responded that maybe he shouldn't have put that infamous "mission accomplished" banner up. Lana, ti hongge'on este na lahi.
When I say that Obama is intelligent or malate’, I don’t mean that he is smart and therefore he says everything I thing or I agree with everything ni’ humuyong ginnen i pachot-ña. I don’t also mean that him being intelligent means that his positions are vastly different then his predecessors. I wish this was the case, but it isn’t. As his Nobel lecture showed, he is not very different from Bush in terms of articulating a post-9-11 global/imperial framework for American security. But, his intelligence is manifested in the way he acknowledges differing opinions, incorporates counter arguments, and also lays bare a number of different narratives for how he has arrived at a position. The difference between Bush and Obama is that Bush constantly paraphrased, in almost everything he did that he is the decider, and his position as the sovereign (of un gumegera na nasion) meant that he never had to explain anything that he was doing. As Doonesbury made clear years ago, halfway through the Bush years, 9-11 operated for Bush like a bank, so long as he was allowed to keep going back to that bank, just about anything he desired could be bankrolled by the people and by other politicians.
With Obama as the President, you find much of the same heavy handedness and the same defensiveness of his power and of particular embedded American political and economic interests. You will also find, as he has made clear both in his Afghanistan speech and his Nobel Lecture, that he can go to the 9-11 bank as well in trying to legitimize his own policies. But the difference with Obama is that at least there is an opening, one which he actively creates. There are always several stories about how he came to this position, there are always conferences and meetings with people whom he both agrees and disagrees with.
As Jon Stewart on The Daily Show noted when Obama gave his speech in Philadelphia last year about race in the United States, it was as if a politician had for once spoken to the people of the United States about race, as if they were adults. I loved his speech, but loved it with a full awareness of how it was designed to manipulate people such as myself. That speech, while at times beautiful and challenging, was written in such a way to provide a little something for everyone, to appeal to a little bit in almost every type of person, even hard-core racists or radical ethnic studies students.
In a similar way, Obama’s Nobel lecture was meant to also provide a wide enough argumentative net, to provide some sections to appeal to people who want peace, others for people who love war, lots of American apologists and exceptionalists, lovers of multilateralism and internationalism, fans and detractors of the UN, and plenty for people who want a better and safer world. But there is a beauty to being able to pull off such a ridiculously complex task. Of course, no matter what you do, you can never fully convince anyone of anything, but it is nonetheless a work of art in and of itself, to attempt to create such a discursive tapestry, or ala the world of Harry Potter, a sort of discursive Mirror of Erised.
I found his parts on war to be a bit simplistic for my standards. By the standards of your average person’s knowledge and understanding of war, it might have come off as a grand philosophical treatise. For me however it sounded like a sort of Cliff’s Notes version of just war theory. Much more impressive sounding than any speech I’ve heard from Bush speaking on the topic (which he did many times (directly or indirectly)), but still saying basically the same thing.
One of the reasons however that I am not heavily criticizing the speech or condemning it, is because even if there were many parts I did not agree with, theoretically or ideologically, the pragmatic way in which approached certain intractable and impossible problems made me question some of my own ideas. Or perhaps question my own ideas isn’t the phrasing I want. A better way of saying it, would be that Obama’s speech made me consider what my positions would be, or would have to be in terms of certain problems, such as genocide. As Obama weaved together his vision of a better world, a safer world sustained by international cooperation and military intervention on certain issues such as terrorism and genocide, I was caught between ethical points, unsure as to which I truly felt, which one fit the best with what I want for the world. But as I considered the particulars of when its okay for one nation to invade another one, or several nations to invade another, it made me think of something else.
So much of our anxiety in the world, our conversations about what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, has nothing to do with the world itself. When we talk for instance about issues of war and peace and about going to war or intervening in places around the world, for millions of people in the Unites States and its colonies, the questioning of our questions or the articulating of our positions doesn’t have much to do directly with the violence that America’s military interventions cause. What we feel or what we say has a small and very miniscule effect on the policies of the American government, or the tactics of its military or the conduct of its soldiers. There are always possibilities for confluence or the butterfly effect, and that the things we say here affect things there, but most of the discussion which takes place about these issues isn’t mean to directly affect anything. This anxiety is instead tied to a desire to occupy the ethical gaze, or to be able to see the world from a comfortable position of ethics. The world, as Obama noted numerous times in his Nobel lecture is full of many problem which cannot be resolved, issues of violence and war which will never go away no matter what you do or don’t do. Despite this fact, we are always pushing and hoping for a world where those problems no longer exist, we are doing certain things to fight injustice, to improve human life, to prevent war, to fight evil, all of these wonderful things. But these sorts of things are actually exceptional in our lives, they are not the main ways in which we relate to these massive problems which stick out like traumatic gaping abysmal holes of nothingness in human life. Instead of seeking to resolve these problems we work to find the mythical ethical point in relation to them.
Obviously nationalism plays a big role in convincing you whether or not you’ve found this point. So can academic theories or religion. So can the presence of other people in your life who agree with you. But no matter what, you never reach that point, you can never really absolve yourself from both the positive and the negative meanings of the famous saying that “no man is an island.” That we are all connected in ways in which we can transform, bind together, work together, love, nurture and help each other. But we can also destroy each other, kill and torture, maim and denigrate, and worst of all we can and should feel guilty, not just for what we do, but for everything and anything that happens. This is the stain of the human condition, that we can (and sometimes should) feel responsible for everything that happens around us. We work and create an identity, and an ego in order to define who we are and what we are responsible for, what we can take credit for in life, what can be our fault and what cannot.
When Obama invoked the specter of Rwanda, as a failure of the world to intervene to prevent a genocide, I scrambled to find the best ethical gaze for myself. Even as I write this now my mind is still being tugged back and forth across different arguments. If a genocide is taking place, how do you stop it? And if you did want it to be stopped, wouldn’t it be better if it was a regional or an international effort? If you can argue that something like Rwanda would be an acceptable “just” intervention, then you’re just a few steps away from arguing that Afghanistan would be acceptable as well? Is the issue then one of remaining long after the intervention is over? Is that the real problem, not the aid or the assistance, but the ways in which countries and militaries lay the groundwork for exploitation or control? Should the basis here be that the only just intervention or just war is the one where all the soldiers actually return home and all the bases get shut down?
The power of Obama’s speech was that when Bush made the exact same points, and even weakly pushed for international efforts, to me it was imperial aggression, and the United States once again expanding its hegemony around the world. With Obama however, he provoked my thoughts, and although I still strongly disagree with his desire to escalate the fight in Afghanistan, he made me consider the issue of intervention in a very different way. He encouraged me to forsake the purity of the activist or the outsider, who considers him or herself to be without power and therefore seem to find the ethical gaze much easier, and instead consider my ethics from the position of having some power, or having some obligation to human life beyond the singing of its praises. I don’t think that Obama is fundamentally different than Bush when it comes to foreign policy, he hasn’t reduced the military budget, he hasn’t stopped the military buildup on Guam and he hasn’t started closing any bases with the exception of the detainee area of Guantanamo Bay. So it really can’t be anything but “hope” or “partisanship” then, when I say that when I hear Obama using longstanding American imperial rhetoric wrapped up on a shell of internationalism, strengthening peacekeeping or cooperation between nations, I actually believe that it might happen, or that in cases such as genocide, it might actually help stop them.
I mean it very sincerely when I say that Obama was using imperial rhetoric. But while Bush invoked this rhetoric in order to invigorate the United States, to call it to rise and meet its God given destiny, Obama does indeed appear to be a more reluctant global dominator. That doesn’t necessarily make the violence he exports any less imperial or immoral, but it does reveal a weariness which has been eating at the United States and its military since 2001. While most people in the United States can simply ignore the (open) wars the US is still fighting, its military can’t. Bush laid out an ambitious remapping of the world and Obama doesn’t have either the will or the interest in changing that design. But in his sleepiness when he speaks, his eyes closing and opening in much slower ways than two years ago, the hair visibly graying (it seems) as he speaks, the darkness under the eyes, we can all see that there is a futility to that imperial quest. That if he is serious about redefining security in an international context in favor of global peace, then his power and his military are the biggest obstacles. The very wars that he justified early in his speech, the military power of his country that he sought to defend and protect as being exceptional and something only wielded for justice, these things are useless for the world he invoked at the end of his speech. From the imagery of the speech, I imagined the United States as a ferocious and menacing sword, drawn laying quietly on an empty battlefield. Once so deadly, but now simply pointless.
When I heard Obama trot out all those same imperial tunes, I immediately remembered a passage from the manga Berserk. I won’t give any background on Berserk, since I’ve written about it on this blog several times, I’ll just say that it is definitely not a manga about peace. In the Conviction Arc, in the Birth Ceremony chapter, an issue titled “Cracks in the Blade,” Guts, the main character is speaking to Goddo, the blacksmith who makes his armor and his monstrous sword. Goddo asks Guts why he left his friends Casca and Ricket who have been staying there, and instead chose to go out into the world and seek revenge against the inhuman foes who killed off all of their friends known as the Band of the Hawk. Guts talks about revenge about needing to get revenge against the one’s who slaughtered the only family he ever knew. Goddo, who is an aged man, lying close to death in his bed, after a long life of making implements of death and defense, tells Guts that he is wrong, that he shouldn’t have gone and that he abandoned the only things which matter to him, because it was safer and simpler to seek revenge and attack rather than defend and love what matters to him. Goddo says that Guts reminds him of a sword lying useless and about to break on a battlefield.
Estague i palabrås-ña:
Kalang un sapbla hao gi i edda’ gi i fanmumuyan.
Esta meggai mafte’, masmai ni’ hagga’ yan tinatake’.
Giage un ka’ka’ buena
Este un sapbla, esta para u mayaya
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Climate Change to Force 75 Million Pacific Islanders From Their Homes
by Bonnie Malkin in Sydney
A report by the charity Oxfam said Pacific Islanders were already feeling the effects of global warming, including food and water shortages, rising cases of malaria and more frequent flooding and storms. Some had already been forced from their homes and the number of displaced people was rising, it warned.
"The Future is Here: Climate Change in the Pacific" predicted that many Pacific Islanders would not be able to relocate within their own countries and would become international refugees.It urged neighbouring wealthy countries to take urgent action to curb their carbon emissions to prevent a large-scale crisis.
Half of the population of the Pacific live less than 1.5km from the coast and are incredibly vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather. But as well as moving out, the report found that some countries had started adapting to the changing climate.
Fiji is attempting to "climate-proof" its villages by testing salt-resistant varieties of staple foods, planting mangroves and native grasses to halt coastal erosion in order to protect wells from salt water intrusion, and moving homes and community buildings away from vulnerable coastlines.
In the Solomon Islands officials are looking for land to resettle people from low-lying outer atolls, and those living in the outer atolls of the Federated States of Micronesia were also moving to higher ground. The tiny nation of Tuvalu also recently pledged to become carbon neutral by 2020.
Andrew Hewett, Oxfam Australia Executive Director, said it was vital that Australia started working with Pacific governments to plan for the impact of climate change.
As the wealthiest country in the region and the highest per capita polluter, Australia "must prevent further climate damage to the Pacific by urgently adopting higher targets" - reducing emissions by at least 40 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020 - and urging other developed countries to do the same, the report said.
The Australian government's commitment of $150 million (£75m) to help Pacific Islanders adapt to climate change needed to at least double, it said.
"It would be in Australia's interests to act now because, as the situation worsened, it would be called on to respond to more emergencies in the region," Mr Hewett told the Sydney Morning Herald.
With only months to go until the crucial UN negotiations in Copenhagen in December, Australia needed to show Pacific leaders it was willing to do its fair share to address one of the most pressing challenges in the region, he said.
"People are already leaving their homes because of climate change, with projections that 75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region will be forced to relocate by 2050 if climate change continues unabated. Not all will have the option of relocating within their own country, so it's vital that the Australian Government starts working with Pacific governments to plan for this now."
Pacific leaders will raise the issue of climate change with Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, at the Pacific Islands Forum on Aug 4.
Vulnerable Nations at Copenhagen Summit Reject 2C Target
Alliance of Small Island States say any deal that allows temperatures to rise by more than 1.5C is 'not negotiable'
by John Vidal in Copenhagen
The 2C figure, which was included in the leaked draft negotiating text prepared by the summits host Denmark has emerged as the figure favoured by large economies and the likeliest to be adopted. But the poorest countries say that latest science implies that a 2C warming would lead to disastrous consequences – for example from sea level rise.