Monday, December 20, 2010

Act of Decolonization # 18: Rejecting Colonial Logic

One of the things which has frustrated me about the Chamorro language, as someone who uses it everyday, writes in it and is passionate about its revitalization is how weak our general usage of the Chamorro language is. And when I say weak, I mean how superficial it is. The Chamorro language is a social thing, something used for casual talk, even emotionally important talk, connecting to old friends or elders, but something which fills the time with chatter and banter until people switch to English to talk about more important things.

I often say that we can see the colonization of Guam, its effects in our lives through the way we divide things into the limited and supplementary local and the essential and central colonial. So as I wrote in my masters in Micronesian Studies, even if things are constantly blurred in our lives, there are moments when we make clear distinctions and take strong stands on what is Chamorro and what is not Chamorro. What is local and not local. What is American and not American. For instance most Chamorros or people on Guam may never consider the laptop that I am typing on right now through any racial or political lens. It is technology, it has no inherent racial or national value. But, there are moments where something such as this does start to assume a clear value. For my masters thesis that moment was around discussions of decolonization. For most people on Guam, the laptop has no particular political meanings, but for some when the topic of decolonization is discussed, suddenly this laptop becomes part of the privileges and enjoyment of being a colony of the United States. Once decolonization is mentioned, then my access to this laptop and all other things which I secretly or implicitly associated as coming from the US and being derived from or made possible by the US controlling my island is threatened. In this moment, people began to feel those colonial divisions like a knife jammed between your ribs. They tend to cringe and plead for the access to America to not be threatened, that the discussion end since it will lead to insane things happening; time traveling, becoming savage primitives again, not being able to live happy and comfortable lives.

The US proposes itself as the thing which makes this island possible, whether through its influence, its control, its military, its benevolence, and Guam as a "good" colony accepts that as true and as a necessary subordination in order for us to survive. This means that the future of the island is also always seen through the lens of the US and how our future gets brighter or dimmer, more hopeful or full of horror and chaos depending on how much America is involved in getting us there.

It is a cycle of crippling dependency. When you back you see a richness which always seems to be stuck in the past, too rooted in the particular moment you find it and so pointless for the present and for the future. It is for that reason that Frederico Garcia, a Chamorro living in Southern California once asked on his KUAM blog why activists on Guam are looking to the naked men of 500 years ago and their ideas or their lives in terms of arguing what Chamorros or Guam should be like today. He then went on to ask "are we looking to progress or regress?" As I've written about many times already, part of the problem here is the stuckness of indigenous and colonized people. Where the colonized only authentically exists in the pre-colonial past, the distant past, beautiful in that authenticity, but limited and paralyzed in any other moment.

The perceived gifts from the US or the colonizer are given an incredible permanence an elasticity that the Chamorro, the native, the colonized struggles to match. Even if we could argue very forcefully that capitalism as an economic framework has failed in some of the most spectacular ways, it is still understood as being the future, the best. If you were to try to argue that Chamorros should focus their economy in ways drawn from their past, you would be met with sneers and jeers about trading shells and how Guam can't grow an economy on coconuts and stone money (achokka' ginnen Yap este). Even though we can see the world moving towards being more sustainable, which is opposed to most modern theories, this doesn't release indigenous or colonized peoples from that burden of them and their cultures being stuck in time and not able to mean much  in today's world.

Take for instance Guam today. Although the Government of Guam is full of Chamorros, it is not a Chamorro entity. It exists to prop up and promote the United States. The same can be said about most things on Guam, that they were set up, not to fit Guam or match Guam or draw from Guam's history or reality, but instead they were imported because it was simply understood that this was how America does things and Guam should just follow its example. Although the health care system on Guam is plagued with problems, there is no push to reform it in anyway based on what a Guam-based health care system, influenced by Chamorro culture might look like. Most would snicker that we can't have suruhanus taking care of everything and everyone and so a Guam-style health care system would be pointless, but that joke is based on the limited notions of possibility for the colonized. In truth, if we were to stray away from the expensive, profit motivated, health care is a privilege not a right framework that we get from the US, how might we instill a very different set of values into a Guam health care system? How could it be different if we were to reject the idea that just because America does it, we should too?

Life in Guam is all about that dance between the assumed valuelessness of Chamorro or local things and the assumed abundance of value in things perceived to have derived from the US and its influence/presence. The central things, the truly important things must come from the US, must be imported, while other less important things, can come from Guam or somewhere else. As a result, we are hooked and hopelessly dependent on the US because we see it at the center of everything. In my masters thesis I gathered so much of that dependency discourse, the feelings that if the US were not here, Guam could not be prosperous, could not have education, an economy, safety, security, everything. So therefore the US and its influences must sit at the center of everything, it must be protected there, it cannot be challenged or threatened.

Nowhere is this more clear than how the English language is used in Guam, and Chamorro made a pathetic supplement to it. Chamorro language is part of the flavor of life on Guam, it is not part of its blood anymore, not part of what makes it live and breathe. That is why as we have seen, there is more emphasis on "sounding" Chamorro, than speaking Chamorro. You are more authentic if you have some sort of thick Chamorro accent as opposed to actually speaking the language. The superficiality of the language in relation to one of the island's to which it was home becomes mirrored in our expectations of the language itself. If you speak in Chamorro, less people can understand you, and you are always limited by that feeling of Chamorro belonging to a small people, an old time, not the big modern present. That is why using the Chamorro language for things which people might say we aren't supposed to, is so important. We maintain that colonial logic when we accept that Chamorro is just for the edges of things, the spices of something, never the core, the main dish, just something which is supposed to be doled out in hints or dashes.

I was impressed several months back when I came across a column of Chetta' Galaide by Professor Peter Onedera in the PDN, which illustrated well my point today. In this particular column Onedera addressed the issue of self-determination and whether or not Guam should start to seek independence from the US because of the way the island has been treated over the years. Self-determination and decolonization are common topics in Guam nowadays, but what made this different was that the column was in the Chamorro language. Onedera was talking about decolonization in a language which almost everyone, even those who speak Chamorro, struggle to imagine it in. Onedera's columns, even on other topics are crucial because they give us a sense of the other side of that colonial logic, the possibility which is so obvious, yet so many people still assume cannot and should not exist. Chamorro can be used to talk about anything and it should be.

For those who are interested, I've pasted Onedera's column below.

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Kao esta måtto i tiempo para ta hassuyi Indipindiente?
By Peter R. Onedera
GUAM PDN
September 21, 2010

Ha sangåni yu' si nanå-hu gi i dinikike'-hu, na gi i tinituhon i gera, ha lakngos i Estådos Unidos i militåt-ña giya Guåhan ya ha bira siha tåtte para i sanlagu. Ti hu komprende este guihi na tiempo sa' hagas di hu pega gi i hinasso-ku na maneståba ha' i militåt todu i tiempo ya siha manma espipiha nu i sendålon CHapanes, lao in fin, tumunok asta unu ha' na taotao, si George Tweed, marinon Estådos Unidos.

Taimanu na manggof metgot siñenten-ñiha i Mañamoru put iya Estådos Unidos sa' annai manmåtto ya ma na'fanlibre i tinaotao, meggai na silebrasion gi enteru i isla. Kantidå na estoria siha ginen as nanå-hu yan i manachaiguå-ña ya manmåtto di manggof dibotu para håfakao na Amerikånu ni'rumiprisesenta iya Estådos Unidos. Simbolo i banderan Gloria para ayu na linibre ni' mumalingu gi durånten i gera.

Annai umåmko' yu', ma iduka yu' mås put i presion inapåsi ginen i Mañamoru para ayu na linibre yan på'go kulan ti siguru yu' esta put i entension iya Estådos Unidos ni' tratamento-ña nu hita tåtkumu tiritoriåt taidinanña' (ti akomprendiyon este). Mistet buente bai hu patriåtku sa' magof yu' ni' salåppe' Amerikånu yan i kombiñenten ayu na kostumbre, desdeki sesteman idukasion asta guatu gi i sinostienen lina'la', ya ha na'fanhahasso yu' nu i hinanånao-ta, piot i hinatsanhulo' militåt, kao båli håfa bidadå-ña iya Estådos Unidos nu hita.

Gi kinahulo'-hu, tåya' yu' na hu fattoigue otro båndan kollat gi iya NAS Hagåtña, ni', gi lahihot para songsong-hu, iya Espitåt Marinu yan i sagan ginima'-ñiha gi iya Tutuhan. Ayu dångkolon tiningo'-hu na guaha kumunidåt entre sanhalom kumunidåt gi ayu mismo na lugåt ya probidu para bai in hatme. Bula kuestion-hu siha guihi na tiempo ya tåya' siña hu faisen sa' tåya' tiningo'-hu na taotao militåt.

Annai sumaonao i che'lu-hu låhi gi i marinu gi ittemon 50 na såkkan, fihu ha' taigue ya yanggen lumibettå gui' ya måtto tåtte, tåya' tiempo-ña para guåhu maya sa' tinane' yu' ni' bishion famagu'on lokkue'. Fueradi i setentai singko pesos na alåtmen chek kada mes ni ha risisibi si nana-hu, tåya' ha' tiningo'-hu put militåt.

Lao på'go sa' 2010 ya desde i Estetmenten Pinachan Uriyan Lugåt Finetma ni' ha yåma i isla kantidån simåna siha asta i ittemo-ña guini gi alacha, guaha ta'lo atborotu put i Rekot Disision para hinatsanhulo' militåt ginen iya Washington.

Put mås, humåhnanao ha' ta'lo ti ma ekungok i taotao Guåhan ya duda yu' kao u fanma ekungok ha' ta'lo achokha' ginen i Ufisinan Prugråman Guåhan Dinanña' ni' gine'helulu'i as Hiniråt Mayot Ritirao David Bice asta guatu gi i Dipåttamenton Difensot osino håyi ni' responsåpble nu i finatton marins siha ginen Okinawa.

Para u ma tulaika fåson Guåhan gigon ma chule' ta'lo kantidån tåno' siha ni' para u fanma na'fañahnge para guma' militåt yan i familian-ñiha, yan ginima' ta'lo para i hotnaleru siha ni' para u fanma konne' mågi para u ma "håtsa dinuebu" Guåhan. Ta'lo, para u ma desmurona iya Pågat yan iya Bahihan Åpla' ya esta nahong na difekto ni' ma estira imahinasion piot sa' para u inafekta senhassan gå'ga' siha taiguihi i sihek, i ke'ko', i pulattat, i aga, i fanihi, i chachaguak, i haggan siha yan i ababang Guåhan.

Håyi para u tåtte? Kao para i mismo CHamoru? Sa' put esta hit manma midi ni' pineddong linahyån-ta, kao para hita gi ti åpmam na tiempo? Kuånto tetehnan para ta nangga?

Hu hongge na ti u nå'i hit iya Estådos Unidos opottunidåt para ta fanma dikålonisa. Achokha' duru i Nasion Estådos ha eppok pumalu siha na gubetnamento para u fanma nå'i ayu siha na lugåt ni' este na opottunidåt, ti malago' ha sotta hit iya Estådos Unidos. Hagas di ta nå'i siha ni' nisisidat-ñiha desdeki 1898 na såkkan. Fuera di annai manaigue kuåtro åños gi durånten i gera, despues ma dispensa iya Hapon put i manailayen-ñiha, kastigon-ñiha, inestanen-ñiha nu i famalao'ån-ta, yan i manma puno' taotao-ta.

Hagas di bishion Estådos Unidos ni' ma kontenunuha ha' desde på'go, ni' ngai'an na u fanma konsutta osino u fanma faisen i manma'gås-ta Mañamoru put siñente osino hinasso. Manaibali hit para konsederasion achokha' håfa. Sigi ha' hit manma disatende. Ni' ngai'an na ta fanma kombida para i lamasa para deskutasion osino nigosiasion. Tinaotao ha' hit ni' siña ta fanma chånda yan manma honño' lao petlas i tano'-ta para iya Pasifiku yan entråda para Åsiha.

Meggai iya Estådos Unidos para meggai na taotao. Ginen un tiempo ha na'sesembanidosu yu' este na nasion yanggen ume'egga' yu' sirimoñas Olimpiks yan huegu siha osino dångkolon huntan pulitikåt yan ta'lo hu lili'e' matan sendålu siha gi noskuåntos mundo desdeki Vietnam asta guatu Afghanistan yan iya Iraq. Lao esta ti fitme yan siguru siñente-ku. Hu lili'e' taisiñente nu hita ginen i fidiråt yan i tratamento-ña nu hita.

Gof tåddong riniparå-hu piot på'go ni' kulan chenglong ta'lo i priniponen riparasion gera gi iya Senåt. Hu pega gi i sanhalom kurason-hu na ni' ngai'an hit na ta li'e' este na priniponi guatu giya hita. Hu senhongge lokkue' na ni' ngai'an iya Estådos Unidos na u nå'i hit estao estådu. Hu senhongge lokkue' na ya-ña iya Estådos Unidos na para ta fanaiguini ha' todu i tiempo, ya siha ha' la'mon nu hita achokha' tiempon gera osino tiempon pås. Fabot ha' na manma nå'i hit nu i estao siudadånon Estådos Unidos.

Ya olåha mohon ginen as Yu'os, na yanggen måtto gera ta'lo gi iya Guåhan, ti bai hu chalamlam babale'-hu yanggen ha lakngos ta'lo iya Estådos Unidos i militåt-ña ya manma abandona hit. Ginen ha susedi este gi fine'nana na biåhi.

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