Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #3: The Boonie Stompers

Most people think that a successful social movement or coalition is dependent upon people thinking the same things, coming from the same places, or being on the same page. Its easy to believe this sort of thing, since if let's say we're all Chamorro in a group, or we're all students, or we're all people who play World of Warcraft, we'd all understand each other better and get along better.

Commonsensically, este i minagahet. Yanggen mamparehu i taotao siha, siempre manakonfotme siha. But, when we are talking about a social movement, a public collection of people who are working towards tearing something down, building something and changing a society, the opposite is actually true. Your movement is stronger, the more different types of people are involved, and the more open your group appears to be.

One of the weaknesses of activism on Guam is the impression that those who are involved in it all comes from same place, are all culled from the same social source. They are all people who just want land. They are all people on welfare. They are all just crazy Chamorros. As a movement which seeks to change something, you are weakened by this perception, because in terms of gaining support for whatever you are fighting for, it is easy to dismiss your movement as a mere slice of life. Not a substaintial group, not really representing Guam as a whole, but just un kaduku na patte. Manmafa'sahnge hamyo, ya ti mamparehu yan i manmagahet na taotao Guahan. Robert "the Awesome" Underwood wrote about this in his seminal essay "The Consciousness of Guam and the Maladjusted People," in the equally seminal anthology Chamorro Self-Determination.

An effective social movement works on the same principle as an effective political party, the more inclusive it is, the more it appeals to a wide range, and the more it is perceived as being diverse and an "open tent," the stronger it is. If we think back to the trauma of being a child and the way we divide ourselves into cliques and groups, we may all want to be in an exclusive group where, where we can feel like our identity is secure and safe. But in truth, these are not the groups that we would all actually join. It is established and open groups and movements which draw the most people, partially because of the ease of joining, but also because there is less threat to the identitiy of the one joining. If we think about this, why are Democrats and Republicans the powerful political parties on Guam? Its not because they have hardcore diehard believers or that their ideological principles are carved into stone and may not be deviated from for fear of mau'utot i ilu-mu. Democrats and Republicans are the big popular parties on Guam because they are open, because there is no social or personal cost to join them, you simply join them. You don't have to pledge allegaince to anything, you don't have to attend meetings, you don't all need to believe the same thing. The party and the loose forms of ideology just sit around and it is up to you to make use of it in your life.

Now neither of these political collections might be very useful for really changing the island, but any attempt to form a coalition of people to seek reform or revolution, must still take this principle of joining and interpollating seriously. When I talk about decolonization I always try to infuse these ideas into how I approach the concept and its politics. In order to get the majority of Guam's people involved, it is not about manipulating people to get involved, but carving out spaces for Chamorros and non-Chamorros alike to feel like then can be involved first, and second that they should/must be involved. So for instance, for me, the success of any efforts to decolonize the island (especially politically) isn't about building consciousness in Chamorros, but about creating that political coalition which can make it possible. That means, attempting to bring in as many people as you can. As I wrote last October in most post Yobimizu:

For me decolonization is not something which only "crazy" activists are out caring about, or some abstract idealized spiritual/cultural process, its not even some kernel of consciousness which you can claim to have through the retelling of Angel Santos stories. It is something that I not only play a role in bringing about, but that I play a role in shaping, and its for that reason that I take it very seriously. And one of the issues which I feel is so important in making different kinds of decolonization a reality, is confronting those questions of Guam's political identity and where the island's indigenous people fit. As I'm sure I've talked about before on this blog and will talk about again, political decolonization rests on carving out that place for non-Chamorros. And by place I don't mean letting them vote in a plebiscite or simply coming up with a good argument as to why someone from the Philippines or Korea should support Chamorro self-determination. It means actually building a new community, it means reclaiming Guam in a radically different spirit, not on bred through the apathy of American colonialism and dependency, but something else.

The island is absolutely fired up right now and that is very exciting. Guaha mansinisilo' put este. Guaha manmumumu. Guaha mangueguentos a'gang. But in order to judge the political effectiveness of what is going on, we have to be able to perceive how many different types of identities are within this public movement. What is drawing people to this? What are they invested in? How long will they stay? The more answers that you can come up with to why people are becoming involved the stronger, but also more delicate the movement is. People still feel the pull that those who I am in a struggle with, I must be able to trust, I must know them, we must believe the same things. This is the core struggle of building coalititons is balancing particular interests of parties involved, but still maintaining that large tent of identity, so your larger message can still be a strong public force, can still gain momentum and be seen as a vehicle for changing or running society.

I've been heartened in recent weeks by the fact that The Guam Boonie Stompers, who lead regular hikes around Guam have gotten involved in critiquing the buildup. Most people would perceive The Guam Boonie Stomper crowd to be very different than the Chamorro activist crowd, and I wouldn't necessarily disagree with this. But since there is a very key shared interest that these groups hold about the buildup, namely the protection of certain public, historic and beautiful natural sites, and the ensuring that the public still has access to them, why shouldn't they work together? Or why shouldn't they become part of the same coalititon?

The Boonie Stompers have even gone so far to purchase ads in the Pacific Daily News which call upon the people of Guam to resist the aspects of the buildup which will cut off access to sites such as Pagat, Ague Cove, Laguna, Mount Lamlam and the island's Southern Mountains. They have also organized a list of hikes taking place in January and February of this year, which will take people on key hikes that the buildup could either permanently or partially cut off access to. I've included a list and schedule of their hikes below.
On January 2nd, a coalititon that I'm part of called We Are Guahan ended up organizing a hike to Pagat Cave on the same day and time as a Boonie Stompers hike. All in all, more than 100 people that day hiked around the Pagat area experiencing its contemporary beauty and its historic significance. The combined impact of both hikes, of one being a youth radical mainly Chamorro hike, taking part in something with the Boonie Stompers, which is perceived to be older and made up of military or non-locals looking to get to know Guam better ended up creating alot of buzz and exposure and helped both our groups individually, as well as our shared causes.

The BOONIE STOMPERS Hikes for Public Access

The Boonie Stompers will lead hikes to three areas where the public will not be able to access after military buildup. It will also lead hikes to two places where access could be limited. Boonie stompers meet at 9 a.m. Saturdays at the Chamorro Village food court area.

•Pagat Cave -- Jan. 2

The hike: Stompers will travel to a candlelit underground swimming pool, an ancient Chamorro village and a scenic coastline. Medium difficulty; three hours for 1.3 miles

Buildup impact: Cave sits inside a large portion of land the military will reserve for a new firing range. Learn more in Volume 2-12 at www.guambuildupeis.us.

•Ague Cove -- Jan. 9

The hike: Stompers will descend a modest cliff line off Guam's northwest shore to access a cove ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Medium difficulty; three hours for 1 mile.

Buildup impact: Ague Cove and the trail that leads there will be inside a new military facility. The Draft EIS states the public won't be able to access a popular trail in the area. Learn more in Volume 2-12 at www.guambuildupeis.us.

•Lajuna -- Jan. 16

The hike: Stompers will descend a cliff line along the northern coast and head north to view a massive landslide leftover from an earthquake in 1993. Difficult; More than four hours for 4 miles

Buildup impact: This is also inside the land reserved for the military's new firing range, so it will face the same restrictions as Pagat Cave.Learn more in Volume 2-12 at http://www.guambuildupeis.us/.

•Mount Lamlam -- Jan. 23

The hike: Stompers will explore the ridgeline of Guam's tallest peak. Difficult; four hours for 3 miles.

Buildup impact: Mount Lamlam is inside a large tract of Department of Defense land that will become a training ground for Marines three months a year. The Navy has stated it will allow hikers there as long as the Marines aren't there.Learn more in Volumes 2-2 and 2-12 at www.guambuildupeis.us.

•Southern Mountains to Inarajan Falls -- Jan. 30

The hike: This trek cuts through the southern third of the island, over a series of mountains. Very difficult; seven hours for 9.8 miles.

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