Monday, March 28, 2011

Protecting the Peace

Victoria Leon Guerrero, Leevin Camacho and myself will be speaking at a teach-in at the University of Guam this Thursday on the importance of protecting the historic Pagat region here on Guam, which if the Department of Defense gets is way, will have five live-fire training ranges built on the bluff above it. The teach-in is being organized by UOG's F.I.T.E. Club a student organization which stands for Free Inquiry Towards Enlightenment.

The poster for the meeting is below. Yanggen sina hao gi este mamaila na Thursday, put fabot fatto.

5:30 pm, Room 306 in the HSS Building at UOG.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guam is a Colony

Guam is a colony. Anyone who says otherwise simply doesn't want to confront the truth.

One of the mistakes that people often conveniently make when discussing the veracity of Guam's contemporary colonial status is making the assumption that in order to call something colonial, it must be the worst and most horrible thing in the world. Make no mistake, Guam is a colony and it is an unjust and immoral fact, but it is not the worst place in the world because of it. But interestingly enough so many people attempt to argue that Guam isn't a colony, just because it it's political status today isn't that bad. They argue that because it's better than before or because it's not as bad as forms of colonialism from time's past, you can't call it a colony.

Part of the problem with this is the simplicity through which people are arguing for something. Simplicity and plain-spokenness is one of the easiest ways to appear to be speaking the truth or speaking of something in both a profoundly important and real sense, while also making your argument appear to be obviously, commonsensically true. So many who argue Guam isn't a colony will say to look at other places which have decolonized and how horrible and disgusting they are, and you shouldn't call Guam a colony because it's better to be a pathetic footnote to the United States, then your own sad sovereign basket case of a story. Others will argue that because Guam has so many privileges and is such a great place that it can't be called a colony. While these sorts of things could be evidence for making an argument about what sort of colony Guam is, or what its experience of colonialism is, they have no effect on saying that Guam is not a colony.

For many years, editor and columnist for the Pacific Daily News Joe Murphy pioneered this way of speaking about Guam's political status. It was a way of not really addressing the issue, while asserting that you were summing up the entire issue in such a commonsensical and clearly obvious way because of how plainly you were speaking about it. Alot of times this happens through references to what "the people" or "most people" think or want. Whenever you use this sort of phrase, it is a way of trying to root what you are saying in something real or true. The folks, the populace, the real people, or the majority of the people, or the people that actually matter and not some troublesome minority feel this and therefore it must be true.

I find this rhetorical tactic interesting. You are shrouding your lack of analysis through the aura of people believing or feeling something. It is similar to the way in which people argue very wrongly that the buildup will be good for Guam because for a long time so many people seemed to support it. The idea that alot of people think something is good is still very far away from something actually being good. It could be an indicator that something is good or it could just be an indicator of what people think or feel and nothing more. It could be more an indication of how stupid and detached from reality people are just as much as how in tune with it they are.

Defining colonialism is not about whether or not people like their situation or whether or not it is the worst or the best situation, it is instead a simple matter of stating what level of self-determination or sovereignty self-government a community has. It is a category which indicates that a community, a polity exists in a fundamentally unequal relationship with another. Where one community holds a gross amount of power over another and there is an absence of any formal and uncoerced acceptance of that situation that is colonialism. It doesn't have to be brutal or nasty, it can be banal and naturalized, and in fact that it is precisely what every colonizer wants, to hold excessive power over a place from which their restrictions or limitations pale in comparison. To have a place where your control which does not make any rational or moral sense over the land or the people there is justified.

One of the main ways in which you can perceive Guam's colonial status today is through the Insular Cases and much Federal-Territorial case law which has developed over the years. The initial decisions of the Insular Cases which argued that the territories of the United States have no inherent rights other than that which the US Congress gives them continue to be the law of the land for the US as of today. The Insular Cases has an interesting way of expressing the most basic way of perceiving colonialism. The Insular Cases do not argue that the people of the territories should be treated well, and neither do they argue that the people in the territories should be treated like crap. What they fundamentally argue is that it is not up to the people of the territories what happens to them, but the Federal Government of the United States. It is the choice of the Federales what they want to do. If they want to treat the people of the territories like they are regular garden-variety Americans, they can do that. If they want to segregate them or treat them differently they can. One of the things which makes this muddier now is the fact that people who are from the territories with the exception of American Samoa are US citizens, and so there remains an unresolved issue of whether or not this absolute authority extends to both the land and the people or only the land.

What we do know is that in terms of fixing Guam's colonial status, meaning the island finally undergoing a process of decolonization, Presidents and Cabinets and Congresses for decades have been very clear in how they would "allow" this to happen. That although territories are not fully within the circle of American political belonging, this exceptionalism is not supposed to afford them any extra rights, not even in terms of their decolonizing. This is where we can see colonialism in the way it usually appears in Guam's case, as a stupid joke. Guam is allowed to decolonize so long as it always remains within the authority over the colonizer, it is not allowed to decolonize in anyway which extends beyond what the colonizer wants or is willing to allow. This is of course hypocritical, immoral, wrong and all of those things and in the case of Guam all of the nice things or great feelings of Americaness that people feel do nothing to affect this simple fact. Guam is a colony and it will remain so until this is changed, and making excuses that colonialism doesn't exist or is somehow the best thing for Guam doesn't do much except implicitly articulate that Guam is one of those unique places in the world which should not have any control over its future.

It is interesting how the arguments against a place such as Guam being decolonized are built upon a quiet and unspeakable assumption that huge swaths of the world would be better off colonized and that it was a mistake for them to be decolonized. When I say unspeakable it is something which so many people feel (in both the former colonized and colonizing world), but thankfully has come to the point where it cannot really be spoken of since the arc of the moral universe has been bent to the point where it can be universally accepted as being wrong. The world is still gray on whether or not colonialism was right, since even those who have suffered feel like their identities or their existence is impossible without the violent disruptions of colonialism, but all can agree that it should not exist anymore. A contemporary colony such as Guam, while being in the periphery of the current world order, nevertheless feels the full weight of the center of this imperialist nostalgia. I find it interesting that when the topic of decolonization is proposed or discussed in Guam, even amongst so-called learned and intelligent people, it is still nearly difficult for a learned or intelligent conversation to take place. The weight of that unspoken belief that the world was better when it was colonized and that when people were under the heavy or imperceptible thumb of another things were more prosperous and more stable it inundates life in Guam even if people don't know it or feel it. The spectre of third world chaos and of not having access to the dreams the colonizer has long dangled before the widening eyes of those it has colonized feel more strongly than ever.

When people refuse to talk about decolonization or demonize it, they feel this pressure and therefore make their arguments (or lack thereof) as if they are doing the public good. Decolonization is a dangerous proposition which can only lead to Guam no longer being a Third World colony of a First World country, but simply a Third World country. The subordination and the rank dependency is a necessarily evil in order to keep Guam from joining the league of disastrous economies and tragic societies that is the formerly colonized and eternally developing world. But as I said earlier, even if many people believe this, you cannot really say it out loud. It is a thinking based on racism, not reality. It doesn't matter what pathetic little tokens you can point to which colonization brought to this society or that. Colonies were hardly as rich, as secure or as nice as people remember them to be, on both ends of the spectrum. They were and are always in some way sites of racism, imperialism and exploitation.

In the case of Guam's colonization, if the United States came to Guam in 1898 and set forth a proposal to the Chamorro people that they were going to colonize their island, deprive them of any rights for 50 years, attempt to dismantle their language and culture and then later transform their island into what they hope to eternally be their tip of the spear in the Pacific, it is safe to say that very few Chamorros, if they were given the choice, would have taken the offer. This is why you can rarely, openly argue in favor of colonialism, even if so much of the rhetoric about it as a system is that it is ultimately good for the people who are oppressed by it. It is, on its surface so commonsensically wrong, and so that is why it becomes so difficult to even find a way to nicely articulate it, which doesn't sound like you are saying that non-white people should forever be shackled to white countries in order to civilize and take care of them. Guam suffers from the fact that you can make that argument proactive, presumptively, and can argue in favor of colonization, without mentioning it, but by only invoking the specter of savage and hopeless decolonization in order to prop it up.

Even if you love the United States and want Guam's relationship with it to be permanent you still cannot deny that Guam is a colony, and in the long run it does Guam no good to think otherwise. Those who deny the clearly obvious nature of Guam's colonial status are doing the dirty work of those who would want to argue that the world was better off when the majority of it was colonies run by colonizers. They may not make this argument clearly, but they draw from the same well of racial logic.

The impetus for this post came from the letter to the editor of the Marianas Variety below written by Ed Benavente, former Maga'lahi of the group Nasion Chamoru and also former director of the Decolonization Commission for the Government of Guam. The letter was written in response to several columns by UOG professor Ron McNinch who has a piece every Thursday in the paper.

On Guam as a colony .
Friday, 18 March 2011 03:40
Letter to the Editor
Marianas Variety

I found Dr. Ron McNinch’s recent column, “Politics and Status” quite interesting. (Marianas Variety Guam March 10, 2011.)

I just find it amusing that he would use one issue, although significant, to be the wake- up call for our leaders to realize we’ve been ignored for a long time.

The political reality is that Washington historically has always ignored grievances expressed by our political leaders, since the early 1900s.

Dr. McNinch argues that Guam is not really a colony. Like his predecessors of the same affinity, he paints a rosy picture that Guam is pretty much self-governing.

I initially thought perhaps the professor didn’t understand the concepts of colonization, non-self-governing territories, full self-government, de-colonization and self-determination in the context of international definition and application. However, his credentials at the University speak for themselves.

His “bottom line simple approach” in resolving our problems with the federal government gives the impression that achieving a new political status is pretty much petty and for the moment.

I thought the professor had a profound approach for the administering power to finally comply with treaties so our people can finally have the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination.

But this was not the case.

Instead, like others before him, he tends to ridicule and put the blame on our self-defeating government and cowardly local leaders.

Moreover, McNinch suggests perhaps we should move toward an organic-act constitution, (the old “cart before the horse” which literally means “let’s forget about political status and settle for a constitution”). He then concludes by asserting that independence and free association are not very good status options.

Wow! That leaves statehood as the only option, as opposed to the three choices in the Treaty. He defends this assertion by saying that with the exception of Singapore all other nations have become “Third World.”

I couldn’t believe these suggestions were coming from a learned individual who teaches in Guam’s highest institution of learning. What does this all mean? Does it mean that independence is only good for some nations and not for others? Are nations who choose independence not entitled to evolve? How and who measures what constitutes “Third World?”

Would Belau or the Republic of the Philippines, for example, fall under his definition of Third World? Or are the people who hold this mindset just making these absurd assertions to maintain the status- quo?

Could it be that the political science professor is not aware of the Treaty signed and ratified by the United States back in December, 1946?

Is McNinch aware that the Treaty of 46’ requires the United States Mission to the United Nations to submit reports annually to the Secretary General and other entities within the United Nations regarding Chamoru political, social and economic development?

If we were truly self-governing why would the administering power continue to report to the UN on Guam’s political development? He said it himself, that when he writes, it is in his nature to agitate some people. I welcome any intellectual discourse on the subject of self-determination, but reject any notion that “all is good” in a colony.

A detractor to the process of de-colonization and someone who advocates perpetual hegemony of a people is no different than a slave master who opposes the emancipation of blacks.

I truly feel that these political experts should stop coming up with unrealistic solutions. There is a system already in place that was conceived by the United States and 50 other nations back in 1946. Over a hundred nations within the United Nations have gone through this process. There are only 16 Territories remaining that have yet to de-colonized, Guam being one of them.

Eddie L.G. Benavente


(featured in picture: fearsome hikers Jon Glaser, Nate Denight and Ken Kuper, manabak siha gi i saddok Cetti)
Earlier today we finished our last hike of We Are Guahan's second batch of Heritage Hikes. I lead and organized with Leevin Camacho our first round last November, which was a huge success with around 150 attending our three hikes. This time around we got 130 for hikes at Tumon Bay, Pagat and Cetti and Sella Bays.

Gof yafai yu' pa'go. I hike-mami ginnen Cetti asta Sella gof makkat pa'go. Manmamokkat ham noskuantos na miyas gi un okso', un saddok yan i kanton tasi. Tinaka' sais oras gi todu. Daggau yu' didide', maka'guas yu' meggai gi i kannai-hu, yan machefchef i tomo' addeng-hu. Gigon na matto yu' gi i gima'-hu lumalango yu' gi i katre, ya mumaigo' yu' tres oras.

Achokka' mamumuti yu' pa'go, gof magof hu put i chine'guen-mami gi este na hikes, ya esta listo yu' para bei in fanche'gue i otro na hikes gi i mamaila na summer.

I'll keep people posted on when the next hikes are going to be, and we're hoping to include some new sites possibly on DOD properties or to Hila'an which was in the news recently as land which was supposed to be returned long ago and is finally being given back to GovGuam.

Below is the interview that me and Leevin did for Kuam News Extra about the hikes:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mount Fuji in Red

Since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan two weeks ago, Guam has been worried about the possibility of nuclear radiation getting into Guam from either the water or from cargo from Japan. People are even concerned about swimming in the water in Tumon or on the western side of the island out of fear that the water might be contaminated.

Although almost everyone seems to say that Guam will most likely not be affected by the reactor problems in Fukushima, the issue is still an important once because it strikes at the core of whether or not nuclear energy can be considered a "safe" or "clean" technology. The fact that Japan developed nuclear power has always been somewhat controversial, because of how how radiation and nuclear weapons were used against them in World War II. But Japanese governments for decades have always been very clear that nuclear power was safe and clean and that there was nothing to worry about. That rhetoric has been sorely tested in the past two weeks, in the same way in which the rhetoric over the safeness of deep well drilling for oil was tested last year off the Gulf of Mexico. Nuclear energy can with the promise of an abundance of energy, but that promise has itself been challenged and questioned over the years. Nuclear energy is an incredibly expensive, dangerous and wasteful technology. The infrastructure used to create it sometimes boggles my mind. And even when the energy is created, the waste that comes as a result humans have no way to dispose of properly, except to hide it away for 10,000 or more years until it finally breaks down.

I cannot help but be reminded of one of Akira Kurosawa's final and often cited as one of his most personal films, Dreams. The film itself is really a number of short films or vignettes of dreams which have been there throughout his life. The one which strikes most closely to the tragedy in Japan today is his critique of nuclear power in Japan titled "Mount Fuji in Red." In that dream, Kurosawa's protagonist appears amidst a mass of people fleeing with whatever they can carry, as massive explosions take place behind Mount Fuji. He asks people what is happening but no one responds. Eventually he finds a woman and a child and a man who appears to be an executive who will answer him. The nuclear power plant has exploded and it's reactors are going one by one. Mount Fuji begins to glow brightly, appearing to almost erupt or shatter because of the fire that is consuming it.

They come to the edge of the water and scattered around them are all the belongings of all the people who had been fleeing earlier. The people are gone however, and someone remarks that they fled into the sea, the only place left to escape to. Someone notices the dolphins swimming away from Japan as well, but the old man remarks that they can't escape either, the radioactivity will get them too.

The women with two children shrieks that it is fine for those who have had long lives to die, but what about the children who haven't had a chance yet. What about the children where someone, because of their poor decisions, their lack of foresight, has deprived them of having a chance at life? She hopes that they are hung for their mistakes. The old man, who soon reveals that he is one of those men who is responsible for what has happened, one of the nameless men who paid off many and who hid much in order to create the illusion that nuclear energy was safe. He apologizes and prepares to kill himself by jumping into the ocean. The protagonist yells for him to stop, radiation doesn't kill you right away. The old man responds that waiting to die is not living. In a way that's the ultimate critique that Kurosawa and others present about nuclear energy, is that it is creating something which humans can't actually deal with, something which they can use and harness but not truly control. And so use of things such as nuclear power and weapons of massive destruction or even the lack of action on climate change/global warming have set the doomsday clock, and so human beings don't live anymore, but simply are waiting to die.

The old man eventually kills himself as radioactive chemicals in the form of colored clouds descend upon them. When the clouds first appeared, the old man waxed philosophically on the fact that while they were all dangerous or fatal to humans, people have still given them different colors. Here is the subtitles of the old man's comments from the version I have of the movie:

The red one. Plutonium 239. 10,000,000th of a gram causes cancer.

The yellow one is Strontium-90. it gets inside you and causes leukemia.

The purple one is Cesium-137. It affects reproduction. It causes mutations. It makes monstrosities.

Man's stupidity is unbelievable. Radioactivity was invisible. And because of its danger they colored it.

But that only let's you know which kills you.

I find it very interesting that as the tragedy in Japan is talked about all over the world, the earthquake and the tsunami naturally take center stage, and the problems that the nuclear reactors represent is almost completely forgotten. This is understandable since the activity around disasters is built upon the lure of its simplicity. That somehow you can participating in something simple and pure by worrying, being concerned, by donating money, and so it is never meant to be complex, and it is rarely meant to be more than an observing of tragedy and not really an understanding. This is especially so for those from First World countries where they unconsciously hope to salve their privilged souls by feeling compassion and sadness at what happens elsewhere, but always have trouble making any possible connections between their privilege and the chaos in the rest of the world. When you come from the top of the world, you may feel like the rest of the world unfairly blames you and your country for everything, but power, privilege and wealth always come from somewhere. I wrote about this last year in terms of Haiti and how despite the outpouring of compassion for the people who were suffering after the earthquake there and a constant almost pornographic discussion about how dismal and poor the country was, there was almost no discussion about what role the United States has played in helping create modern-day Haiti.

In case of Japan, as a First World power, the story is slightly different, but still there seems to be a clear lack of understanding. The nuclear energy issue is serious, far more serious than the natural disasters because it is not something which is an Act of God, but rather an Act of Man. It is something which can and should be dealt with and shouldn't be ignored the way the world ignores the nuclear waste that is produced to provide nuclear power.

Below is a recent article by Ralph Nader on the nuclear power issue.


Published on Saturday, March 19, 2011
Nuclear Nightmare

by Ralph Nader

The unfolding multiple nuclear reactor catastrophe in Japan is prompting overdue attention to the 104 nuclear plants in the United States—many of them aging, many of them near earthquake faults, some on the west coast exposed to potential tsunamis.

Nuclear power plants boil water to produce steam to turn turbines that generate electricity. Nuclear power’s overly complex fuel cycle begins with uranium mines and ends with deadly radioactive wastes for which there still are no permanent storage facilities to contain them for tens of thousands of years.

Atomic power plants generate 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. Over forty years ago, the industry’s promoter and regulator, the Atomic Energy Commission estimated that a full nuclear meltdown could contaminate an area “the size of Pennsylvania” and cause massive casualties. You, the taxpayers, have heavily subsidized nuclear power research, development, and promotion from day one with tens of billions of dollars.

Because of many costs, perils, close calls at various reactors, and the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, there has not been a nuclear power plant built in the United States since 1974.

Now the industry is coming back “on your back” claiming it will help reduce global warming from fossil fuel emitted greenhouse gases.

Pushed aggressively by President Obama and Energy Secretary Chu, who refuses to meet with longtime nuclear industry critics, here is what “on your back” means:

1. Wall Street will not finance new nuclear plants without a 100% taxpayer loan guarantee. Too risky. That’s a lot of guarantee given that new nukes cost $12 billion each, assuming no mishaps. Obama and the Congress are OK with that arrangement.
2. Nuclear power is uninsurable in the private insurance market—too risky. Under the Price-Anderson Act, taxpayers pay the greatest cost of a meltdown’s devastation.

3. Nuclear power plants and transports of radioactive wastes are a national security nightmare for the Department of Homeland Security. Imagine the target that thousands of vulnerable spent fuel rods present for sabotage.

4. Guess who pays for whatever final waste repositories are licensed? You the taxpayer and your descendants as far as your gene line persists. Huge decommissioning costs, at the end of a nuclear plant’s existence come from the ratepayers’ pockets.

5. Nuclear plant disasters present impossible evacuation burdens for those living anywhere near a plant, especially if time is short.
Imagine evacuating the long-troubled Indian Point plants 26 miles north of New York City. Workers in that region have a hard enough time evacuating their places of employment during 5 pm rush hour. That’s one reason Secretary of State Clinton (in her time as Senator of New York) and Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the shutdown of Indian Point.

6. Nuclear power is both uneconomical and unnecessary. It can’t compete against energy conservation, including cogeneration, windpower and ever more efficient, quicker, safer, renewable forms of providing electricity. Amory Lovins argues this point convincingly (see Physicist Lovins asserts that nuclear power “will reduce and retard climate protection.” His reasoning: shifting the tens of billions invested in nuclear power to efficiency and renewables reduce far more carbon per dollar ( The country should move deliberately to shutdown nuclear plants, starting with the aging and seismically threatened reactors. Peter Bradford, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner has also made a compelling case against nuclear power on economic and safety grounds (

There is far more for ratepayers, taxpayers and families near nuclear plants to find out. Here’s how you can start:

1. Demand public hearings in your communities where there is a nuke, sponsored either by your member of Congress or the NRC, to put the facts, risks and evacuation plans on the table. Insist that the critics as well as the proponents testify and cross-examine each other in front of you and the media.

2. If you call yourself conservative, ask why nuclear power requires such huge amounts of your tax dollars and guarantees and can’t buy adequate private insurance. If you have a small business that can’t buy insurance because what you do is too risky, you don’t stay in business.

3. If you are an environmentalist, ask why nuclear power isn’t required to meet a cost-efficient market test against investments in energy conservation and renewables.

4. If you understand traffic congestion, ask for an actual real life evacuation drill for those living and working 10 miles around the plant (some scientists think it should be at least 25 miles) and watch the hemming and hawing from proponents of nuclear power.

The people in northern Japan may lose their land, homes, relatives, and friends as a result of a dangerous technology designed simply to boil water. There are better ways to generate steam.

Like the troubled Japanese nuclear plants, the Indian Point plants and the four plants at San Onofre and Diablo Canyon in southern California rest near earthquake faults. The seismologists concur that there is a 94% chance of a big earthquake in California within the next thirty years. Obama, Chu and the powerful nuke industry must not be allowed to force the American people to play Russian Roulette!

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

Okinawa Base Construction Continues...

From Close the Base:

More than a week after the country’s worst natural disaster in a hundred years, the Japanese government has not been able to resolve a long-predicted nuclear catastrophe. Millions of people are living without running water or power in temperatures that fall below freezing at night. Half a million homes are without power in northern Japan and 2.5 million have no access to water. Food is critically short and bottled water is running low in many cities. Gasoline is scarce and homes are running out of kerosene to power heaters.

Yet, Tokyo is still using monetary and military construction labor resources to forcibly build a U.S. mega-base at Henoko, an environmentally sensitive coastal area in northern Okinawa, despite the prefecture’s unanimous democratic opposition. The base’s ostensible purpose to protect Japan from an attack from North Korea. However the long-feared nuclear attack on Japan has already come—accidentally, but predictably from within. The resulting radioactiive fallout of the nuclear plant failure has been likened to an explosion of a dirty bomb.

Forced construction in Henoko began the morning after U.S. Marine amphibious tanks disembarked on the beach in the middle of the night on Jan. 27 of this year. Since the disaster, construction has intesified as the media and Japanese NGOs that were supporting Okinawan resistance have, understandably, turned their attention to the disaster survivors and the nuclear crisis.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The G Word

(This image comes from Guam Zombie, click the link to see more).

For the past week everyone, their grandmother, second cousin and achakma' have been asking me to weigh in on the debate over Chamorro vs. Guamanian. I ended up writing a very quick column for the Marianas Variety about the issue. I spent some time in one of my classes discussing it and ended up emailing back and forth with many people who feel angry and confused about the issue. Part of the anger and confusion was from Chamorros who feel like they are being erased in the rhetoric of the new administration on Guam which loves using the term Guamanian to refer to everyone on Guam, including Chamorros, basically saying that they are a group just like any others on Guam. The other anger and confusion was from young Chamorros and non-Chamorros who like using the term Guamanian and don't like being told that it is wrong to use it. For them, the term doesn't erase Chamorros, but is just something meant to refer to all who call Guam home.

Amidst all the discusison I even got an email from a graduate student in Hong Kong, who as part of her dissertation is writing about the ways Filipinos construct a sense of home on Guam. She had read something on my blog from a few years ago about the term Guamanian and asked me to elaborate more on my thoughts. Here is part of the email I sent her below, you can see where I stand on the issue by my analysis of it:


For Chamorros the term Guamanian does have a varied colonial history and therefore sometimes distressful implications. It is important to remember that when I speak of Guam it is always through a colonial context. Even if Guam is a very fortunate or comfortable colony, it has still been a colony of the US for 112 years and so the experiences of Chamorros are always filtered through the US and through a fundamentally unequal relationship. After World War II, the term Guamanian was chosen by Chamorros to refer to themselves in order to 1, differentiate themselves from Chamorros from the northern Marianas Islands who had fought for the Japanese during World War II, 2. to pay tribute to the Americans who had saved them in World War II. There were even informal votes taken in the villages on Guam to decide what new name Chamorros would have and they chose Guamanian because it sounded the most American (or at least it was the most American sounding choice they were allowed to chose, supposedly Guamaerican was the #1 choice, but the Americans didn't want Chamorros calling themselves Guamericans). This choice should be considered in the context of post-World War II Guam where choosing an American name was only the surface, and in a multitude of ways Chamorros decided to rid themselves and their island of things which would conflict or contradict their perceived Americaness. The language was something which the US had instituted policies to eradicate prior to World War II and after the war in order to show their devotion to the US, Chamorros kept the anti-Chamorro language policies in place.
This is the colonial history of the term, although at this point Guamanian did not refer to anyone from Guam, but only Chamorros from Guam. Over the years the terms fell out of use with Chamorros, as it became a sign of "selling out" to refer to oneself as being a Guamanian, or as if you were whitewashing yourself and pretending to be a white American when in truth you weren't. Eventually the choices that Chamorros made to get rid of their language and culture had a huge backlash and so people began to regret what they had done before, and so one of the ways that people sought to balance the scales was to stop referring to themselves as a made up name, which in a way tried to deny that Guam was not an equal part of the United States and that Chamorros had been treated in terrible racist ways by the US since 1898. They began to revive the term Chamorro as a way of asserting their indigenous identity. Part of this was also because of the influx of non-Chamorros, who as they increased in number, sought to assert an owernship over Guam and thus began to try to refer to themselves as Guamanian. As of today, Guamanian does refer to anyone who is a resident of Guam, but there is a stigma for Chamorros to use the term, since by referring to themselves as Chamorro they are tying themselves to the island, there is no need to take on an extra social category in order to articulate your connection.
A further reason that I might call the term Guamanian neo-colonial is because of the way it works in favor of American multiculturalism as the means of addressing the political frameworks and systems of Guam. One of the longstanding problems that Guam faces as a colony is that "legally" the United States has argued that even though Guam is not a full and equal part of the United States, US laws and interests should determine what Guam can and can't do, and that everything in Guam should conform to how things are done in the US and what the US wants Guam to be like. Ideally you would think that if you are not an equal member then it would give you some freedom to determine yourself, but this is where you can clearly see Guam's colonialism, in that the US asserts itself as the end all of Guam. As such, Chamorros on Guam have run into regular problems when they try to assert themselves politically and assert their rights (such as for decolonization/self-determination), when the US responds that such actions are against US law and therefore illegal and unconstitutional.

More than a century under the US has led Guam into a legal deadend, where it has to remain within what the US accepts and go no further. This is manifested in a similar way in how American multiculturalism comes into Guam to help erase the position of the Chamorro. Given the ways in which the genesis of the term was built upon an overt attempt to Americanize the Chamorro, which in turn led to them seeking to erase their rights, language and culture in order to become more American, we can also see this in how Chamorros have come to accept their island as primarily a multicultural one. This does not mean multicultural in terms of the presence of many cultures, but multicultural in the sense that all are fundamentally equal in relation to one dominant (usually invisible or less tangible) culture. In the US for instance, multiculturalism often functions as a way of managing various cultures in subordination to a perceived American political culture. That multiculturalism is just a little bit of what everyone has, but is not meant to challenge the larger order or structure of things. In recent years in the US, in particular since the election of a "multicultural" president of the US, we can see the backlash, where even if a non-white person is in power, there is a feeling amongst a large group of white Americans, that he cannot be a legitimate holder of that power. Questions nag Obama about whether he is really American or really born in the United States, and these are a manifestation of that disconnect, where the system that he is at the helm of, is perceived by most (even unconsicously) to be a white system; one which was created by white men, managed by white men, which white men are the best at controlling.
So in Guam, multiculturalism is enacted through the idea that every culture is fundamentally the same on Guam, but that one culture, an American culture sits at the center of the island managing their differences and giving them a common point of reference through which they can interact and get along. Guamanian is a term which has emerged in order to try and capture that sense of not really all being from Guam, but rather all being from an American Guam. Part of this discourse is that all cultures are basically the same, and this has a tendency to erase the claims of Chamorros to being the indigenous people of Guam. When I say erase I meant it in the same way in which Native Americans in the US, or indigenous people in many countries can be pointed to as being indigenous, but not have any recognized, political claims to that land. In the case of Guam, the term Guamanian has helped to draw attention away from the fact that while all groups can claim Guam as their home, there is a single group/community which can claim Guam as theirs for longer, and claim to be the natives of that land. This is part of the reason why the rights of Chamorros often go completely unrecognized or respected or even hated in Guam, because they are seen as upsetting that multicultural balance, where all cultures are supposed to be equal beneath the United States. I am fine with the term Guamanian so long as it isn't meant to include Chamorros. Unfortunately in the past election, the term was revived, when a candidate for Governor argued that he represented "the Guamanian Dream" which was meant to include all people of Guam including Chamorros, leading many Chamorros to cringe at such pandering. The candidate won the election in November and just last month when he was discussed the transfer of close to 10,000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam, he argued that when the first Marines get to Guam, he will be waiting on the tarmac to greet them as Guamanians. Here we can see the slippage in the label and why it is dangerous for Chamorros. The category is built upon residence, and it is something which even the political proponents of it (the Governor is a Chamorro) can bestow upon anyone who simply lives on Guam. So for some it is a good identity to distinguish themselves as disaporic or as having a primary identification with Guam, in contrast to any other place, but for Chamorros the term is dangerous. For Chamorros it can serve a neo-colonial purpose as further dispossessing them from their own island.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. My Mind

From the first time I saw the preview for the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World I knew that I would like it. All the random jokes, the tone, the look of it, seemed built for someone of my generation. It was an interesting blend of geekiness and coolness, meant to be appeal to nerds, pseudo-nerds, hipsters and other assorted sorts of subcultural wallflowers. I found myself the first time I watched it, constantly poring through the dialogue, the sounds, the music, the background, the t-shirt art, for all the friendly fan service that I knew was coming.

Over the past few days I have ended up watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World several more times. My daughter Sumahi loves the movie and wants to watch it not just everyday, but a couple times each day. She doesn't watch it intensely, but wants it playing in the background and at certain moments she'll turn her attention that way and check it out. Sometimes commenting on what she sees, sometimes cheering a character on. She likes Scott and Ramona, the main characters. I regularly ask her, sa' hafa ya-mu Si Scott? and she usually responds, "sa' guaha palao'an-na." or she likes Scott because he has a girl. This of course means that she really doesn't actually like the character of Scott Pilgrim, but actually likes Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim's main love interest. When I ask Sumahi, "sa' hafa ya-mu Si Ramona?" she usually responds "ya-hu gui' sa' meggai kulot i gaputilu-na" referring to the fact that her hair color changes throughout the movie. This means that at some point in the near future, Sumahi may request the chance to change her own hair color to purple, green, blue or pink.

I have always enjoyed watching movies multiple times, just as I have always enjoyed reading books multiple times. Unfortunately, since Sumahi has become more assertive about what she wants to watch on TV, she forces me to play movies several more times in a far shorter period than I would want. Every year there's a few books that I like to read again, but can you imagine, reading a book and picking it up again the moment after you finish it? This constantly playing of the same movies, has led me to end up disliking alot of movies that I once loved or really enjoyed. A case in point is the film UP.

I loved that movie so much when I first watched it, and so did Sumahi, even though she was still young at that point and fell asleep halfway through. The first segment of that film is the best, which is both funny and moving, giving you the backstory on why an old man would try to float his house down to South America by tying hundreds of balloons to it. The rest of the movie is still cute and cool, and features a chubby Asia kid and a talking wide-nosed dog as the co-protagonists. The film is magically and features numerous absolutely impossible things which take place. When I watched the film for the first time I was willing to overlook these things as part of the experience and accept that even if  it was very unlikely, the idea of a house floating by balloon power was cool. But when you watch the movie several more times in a very short period of time, you start to both notice things you didn't before, and see things you already noticed in a very different light. At present, I guess I still like the movie UP in the abstract, but when I watch it now I constantly cringe. Especially during scenes where the old man and chubby kid perform their extra-human feats of strength and endurance. It almost becomes unwatchable after a while, it makes almost no sense. How is this old man leaping around South America? How is this fat kid who spends the moving being so completely helpless suddenly able to tie a handful of balloons to himself and then using a leaf blower to navigate himself through the skies? And how does a balloon house hip catch up to a dirigible anyways? So many stupid things that I didn't notice or care about before, now drive me insane!

A similar shift has take place in how my mind processes the movie and content of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But instead of finding myself nitpicking through the impossibility of it, I find myself more and more hating the two characters that you are supposed to love in the film, Scott and Ramona. From the first impression of the film Scott is supposed to be cute and clueless, Ramona is supposed to be cool and sexy, but after watching the film so many times over the past two days, I can't stand either of them or what they represent.

What makes Scott and Ramona perfect for each other is that they are two of the most self-absorbed people on the planet. They are both either completely clueless or completely accepting of this fact and go through their lives destroying everyone around them in terms of relationships and love. Both of them are meant to be seen as victims through the storyline. One is the victim of a cabal of her exes who are working to forever more control her love life, the other is a victim of that same cabal who seek to destroy him for trying to date Ramona. This is the lens through which the film is supposed to be viewed, and so the struggles that keep them apart are meant to define them, as being the victims of said struggle, but constantly throughout the movie, there are references to the trail of victims that both of them have left.

There are ridiculous scenes at the end where Scott if meant to reflect upon those victims and learn a lesson (which is almost pathetic) and almost as an afterthought the coalition of seven evil exes is meant to be Ramona's punishment, but it is interesting how little to nothing of the anguish over their victims is internal. Ramona in particular appears to not be built for feeling remorse or sadness over those who hearts she has broken, in ways in which she readily admits to were callous and shallow. Scott, doesn't even have the ability at times to even remember that things ended up badly or that people were hurt in the process. In the comic book for example he at the end of the story he realizes how he has completely changed how he remembers things in order to absolve himself of what he had done, to almost edit himself out of the story. The cluelessness of Scott Pilgrim is not part of his cute personality, but is a result of his primal defense mechanism, a way of transforming his almost cruel self-absorb personality into something which comes off as being charming, silly and almost stupid. Rather than loathe Scott Pilgrim as so many characters in the film seem to because of his behavior, you have to feel sorry for him, because he comes off as just about the dullest knife in the drawer, and so his puppy love is so cute. He couldn't hurt anything, anyone, he's almost adorable in how the image he portrays and the self-image of himself are so harmless.

Despite the stupidity of these two characters, there love is real, in the sense that they do share a very powerful connection, namely that they are both horribly shallow. They complement each other well in terms of having almost no clue as to what is going on around them or what other people, including each other are feeling. It is almost perfect for them to be together. They can't even resent each other for their pasts, because they would require more depth than they actually possess.

In the extras for the DVD, they have a alternate ending for the film which I actually enjoyed, and wish had been the ending they eventually used. In it, when Scott is dreaming in the wasteland before he uses his extra life, an apparition of Ramona appears to him and says what she says in the normal edit, but one extra part is added in, where she mentions that Knives Chau (Scott's 17 year old Asian, Catholic school high school girlfriend) is fanatically in love with Scott, and she wished that someone had felt that for her at some point. The inclusion of this line changes everything afterwards. It reveals that despite the shiny, aura around Ramona, there is a startling shallowness to her and that even if she does feel something for Scott, it will always be governed by the same shallowness that she has treated every other man. Although, it is debatable as to whether or not Knives really does love Scott or she is just infatuated with him, her emotional attachment is stronger than anything Ramona has ever seen or felt.

In the end, Scott ends up with Knives, not Ramona, and there is a poignant scene, the deepest and most interesting of the film where both of them admit to and apologize for their shallowness. Then, Ramona walks away to her infamous door and walks through alone, and Scott and Knives walk towards Toronto with the sun rising above them. For all the drama which happens throughout the film, this is probably the most emotional moment for Ramona, as despite the chaos happening around her, she appears to feel very little. When she walks away, she appears to be on the verge of choking up, showing, at last, some sort of emotion other than aloofness.

One thing which I should note is that while I hate Scott and Ramona the more I watch the movie, the more I watch it the more I actually like the soundtrack. I didn't really enjoy the soundtrack when I first saw the movie, but crappy, garbled, pretentious soundtrack is starting to get under my skin. So earlier today when Sumahi wanted to watch Scott Pilgrim v. The World, I told her we could watch it and then just fast forwarded to all the songs by Sex Bo-Bomb.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

From Gensuikyo

When I traveled to Japan last year for the 2010 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs it was at the invitation of the organization Gensuikyo, who were the lead in organizing the entire multiday and multicity event. They did an excellent job about organizing what must have been a logistical nightmare, but have had plenty of experience since they have been putting together these events for more than 30 years.

I received an email from Gensuikyo earlier today, thanking people from around the world (in particular in the anti-nuclear community) for their emails and offers of support in the past week. I thought I'd share it below:


Dear friends,

Thank you very much for your warm messages and support to us. Your messages are of great encouragement to us and all victims of the disaster. We have translated your messages into Japanese and passed them on to the victims and all Japanese people.

The damage caused by earthquakes and subsequent tsunami is so horrible. All buildings were swept away. Thousands of bodies are found every day. The number of those dead and are missing is expected to be more than 11,500. The evacuees have increased more than 450,000. They are forced to stay at shelters with not enough food, water, cloths, oil for heaters and gas for cars, etc.

In addition to that, the frightening accident of Fukushima power plants is threatening the safety of people and their uneasiness is growing.

The municipalities and citizens of the damage struck areas have so far given strong support to our signature campaigns for abolition of nuclear weapons, our peace marches and the World Conference against A and H Bombs. We have to help them when they are suffering.

Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo) set up an account and called on Japanese people to donate to help the victimized people and areas.

Postal Money Order
Account No.: 00110-9-1780
Account Name: Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)

If you wish to donate or send support to the victims, we can accept your donation at the above account. We will transfer your donation to the victims or/and we will send necessary goods and services to the victimized people and areas.

Thank you in advance for your support and cooperation. If there is any questions/requests, please do not hesitate to ask us.


Yayoi Tsuchida

Assistant Secretary General

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Militarism and Colonialism

I traveled to South Korea last year on a research and solidarity trip and I hope to travel back there in the next year or so. Here are four of the silly and serious reasons why I would like to visit there again:
1. When I was in South Korea, I saw many similarities in history and struggle with Guam. South Korea, like Guam is a flashpoint for US military aspirations in the Asia-Pacific region. It plays a key role in how the US is intending to contain Asia, most importantly China, and so as someone who is interested in peace and not war in this part of the world, I feel it is important to learn more about the other sites of US militarization.

2. I had known about South Korea being a central front in the war for spreading the glories of esports prior to traveling there, but while I was there I took on a new appreciation for it. While sitting in my hostel room in Seoul, and surfing through the few channels that I could watch and understand what was happening, one of them regularly featured professional Starcraft matches. Although I could not understand the commentary, this later pushed me to become more interested and involved in Starcraft, eventually leading me to purchase copy of its sequel and even starting up a blog with my brother titled Inetnon Starcraft Guahan. The geek in me wants to return to South Korea in order to watch some professional matches between my favorite players.

3. The academic in me wants to go to South Korea in order to analyze and research this rise of esports, the cultural ramifications of it and also the ways in which nationalism gets wrapped up in it. I would love in the next year or two to get a grant in order to write about how nationalism or regionalism is playing roles in either stimulating or constricting games such as Starcraft 2 from becoming a global game.

4. While I was in South Korea last year everyone expected me to suffer and die since I don't really like Korean food. The only thing I really eat at Korean restaurants is kalbi and rice, and so people expected me to come back with dozens of stories of all the different types of kalbi and hineksa' apa'ka that I ate. Unfortunately I did not eat any kalbi while I was in Korea and so one silly reason why I would like to go back there is just to sample some Korean kalbi.

My main link to what is happening in South Korea is the work of Sung Hee-Choi, who was my guide and interpreter while I visited South Korea. She has a regular blog titled No Base Stories of Korea, and she covers so many different angles of the struggles against militarism in South Korea, from union and labor movements, to the aftermath of older struggles against bases, and attempts to defeat the construction of new ones.

She recently wrote a post on the issue of "Language and Colonialism in Jeju" which she introduced with this sentence:

Thanks to the activists who are making efforts to decolonize the cultures of their Islands, for example, Michael Lujan Bevacqua who runs the blog called ‘No Rest for the Awake: Minagahet Chamorro,’ it has become clearer to more people that no base movement cannot be separate with the decolonization movement.

During my short stay in Korean I can say that Sung Hee and the other activists and community members that I met with help broaden my own understanding of militarization and see the struggle against US bases in the Asia and Pacific region in a different light. What I wanted to write about today was the issue of the connection of anti-base movements and decolonization, something which as at the center of an academic anthology I had an article in published last year titled Militarized Currents: Towards a Decolonial Future in Asia and the Pacific.
One of the reasons why decolonization can be an interesting lens through which you can understand militarism is how decolonization can lead the analysis easier to a more in depth understanding of a situation. Even if the situation isn't explicitly colonial simply the idea of looking beneath the surface can be important. When I was in graduate school in California for my Ph.D. I always found it amazing at how little most people understood about militarism and how it can affect populations, both those who are militarizing and those who are being militarized. Their understanding was surprisingly superficial, as if militarism was a minor thing, something which only affected certain populations and not the US a whole. They could speak about American imperialism, in other words that the US was doing not so great things to the rest of the world in order to assert their particular interests as the way the world must be. But they would interestingly enough see this through the the idea of the US invading and bombing other places, or even seeing the US as economically holding places hostage. What would always be missed in this rhetoric was that militarism has very little to do with open war or warfare. AMilitarism is not when a war breaks out and troops are landed. Militarism, especially in an imperial power and for the United States is a central part of life, even amongst those who don't appear to have any relationship to the military.
In order to understand militarism you need to search for the ways in which it is invisible, imperceptible, the ways in which it becomes embedded in the world and affects the ways in which something feels or becomes natural. The ways in which something becomes just a part of the world and not something which sticks out. On Guam for example, the most famous way in which this is articulated is how the fences which cordon off close to 30% of the island as being DOD property have a tendency to lose their meaning as a barrier or something which signifies a tragic history of dispossession, and instead become in the words of Robert Underwood, part of the landscape, like a line of coconut trees.
I wrote an column for the Marianas Variety last year which discussed this in terms of the United States, and how militarism becomes embedded in them in the way that they assume, sometimes unconsciously the rightness of American having hundreds of bases around the world. And even when the existence of those bases are revealed, there is still an interesting assumption that they must still be necessary or right to have. I love the way in which so many people in the United States when are informed about the network of hundreds of bases that the US commands in almost every corner of the globe, can still cling the notion that they must be there in order to keep the peace or that every corner of the globe must want them or else they wouldn't be there. The sinless national core of the United States, thus becomes a veil through which the Leviathan of bases cannot even be perceived in it's scope and insanity, but is instead understood through the kindness and goodness of the US and it's mission to save the world, even from itself. So even those who are not in the military and don't work for the Pentagon and may not even support the wars that America fights, can still actively participate in militarism by the way they turn a blind eye to those bases and to the possibility that those bases may be not be wanted. There are numerous other ways in which you can see the US in the throes of militarism and most crucially in the Federal budget and how much publicly and privately goes to the Pentagon.
This issue is most important in terms of mobilizing those who lean towards peace in the world and who don't want "war" even in its most generic sense. They can criticize and condemn war and hate it as much as they want, but attacking war is never actually the way to move towards peace. The way you have less war is by attacking militarism and the way it has become ingrained and naturalized in a society. That means, that you if your main challenge is against the bombs which fall or the troops which land, then you have already kind of lost the battle. If you want to lessen war, you need to challenge the budget which spends the majority of money in the US on war and weapons. You need to work to close the bases around the world which allow the US to maintain some invisible and some less invisible imperial authority over places they see important to their interests. You need to challenge those who make alot of money off of war, take away their power to influence policy and continue to line their pockets. You need to make sure that military service is something which large segments of your population see as their only option in having a chance at a good life. You need to make sure that those who serve in the military are seen as doing an important public service, but not doing the most important public service. One of the problems which keeps militarism invigorated is the notion that while you may disagree with policies or politics, once the soldiers get in harm's way, you need to stand behind them no matter what, which usually means grudging support a war even if everything about it is wrong and stupid as hell. A war can be prosecuted or war crimes can be committed and the aura of "the troops" can always be used in order to stall or deflect any criticism. It is one of militarism most ingenious defenses, a way in which it takes as it's central metaphor a sacred cow which no one dare graze or bruise.
In a place such as Guam thinking of militarism in relationship to colonialism is not only necessary but obvious. You can see the way in which they are connected all the time, both in history and by a simple tour around the island today. In order to understand one you must understand the other. But in other places it is not so clear and so the analysis can be difficult. But by thinking of it in colonial terms it can help you get closer to any answer. Colonialism brings out certain metaphors which people may not initially accept, but which do have some power and should not be dismissed. Although in today's climate most people think of colonialism through mistreat and racism, but it was also about control and extraction of resources. It was about displacement. Colonialism's effect go beyond the surface but extend deep into the bedrock of a colonized society. It is for that reason that many scholars debate over how a colony, even after getting its independence can ever reach a postcolonial moment, or a point where it is past its colonization. Militarism needs to be perceived in a similar way, as something which becomes part of the foundation of a place, it does not only destroy, but stimulates as well, becomes entwined in so many things people see as being essential and thus taken for granted and fail to understand or analyze. Just as decolonization requires bold gestures in terms of disentangling things and also in terms of asserting a different course, so too to antibase movements.
I'm pasting below the article from Sung Hee's blog. If you are interested in learning more about South Korea and militarism from this perspective be sure to follow and check out her blog No Base Stories of Korea.
* Image source: Headline Jeju, Feb. 25, 2011헤드라인 제주, 2011년 2월 25일(클릭)

The sign reads: 'Allow and actively promote the use of the Jeju dialect in schools!

'Critically endangered Jeju dialect' of the UNESCO-registered-and-promoted

It is the responsibility of the Jeju Provincial Office of Education that has not allowed the use of the Jeju dialect for 40 years, who has alledged that it is a ‘rustic and impertinent’ dialect. '


Thanks to the activists who are making efforts to decolonize the cultures of their Islands, for example, Michael Lujan Bevacqua who runs the blog called ‘No Rest for the Awake: Minagahet Chamorro,’ it has become clearer to more people that no base movement cannot be separate with the decolonization movement.
Here in the Jeju Island, the faced situation could be similar to a lesser degree if not the same with the examples in the other regions, especially in those Islands who have been suffering under the imperial eyes and tongues.
The Headline Jeju on Feb. 25 reported an interesting article ( by Yoon Chul-Soo) which was about one man protest by Kim Young-Bo, a high school teacher teaching commerce, who demanded the free use of the Jeju dialect in schools in front of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial Office of Education (The Jeju Provincial Office of Education, afterwards) in the afternoon of Feb. 25, 2011.

According to the very article, the teacher protested against the Jeju Provincial Office of Education which he criticized because it had not allowed the free use of the Jeju dialect in schools by alleging that the Jeju language was a ‘rustic and impertinent dialect,’ and to which he demanded that it should allow students to freely speak the Jeju dialect in schools.
Below is the translation of his words cited in the article:

“The Jeju Provincial Office of Education who has not allowed the free use of the Jeju dialect is very responsible for the Jeju language being critically endangered. Even though the situation is very serious as to the degree that it is registered as a critically endangered language by the UNESCO, the Provincial Office of the Education is not trying to fix such wrong education policy.”
It was poignant to hear that the Jeju dialect is critically endangered itself while the UNESCO designated soft corals in the Gangjeong Sea is being threatened with the naval base construction in the Gangjeong village, as well. (* About the UNESCO registered Jeju language, see HERE and HERE)
Here are further translations of his cited words, as well:

"I am more infuriated by the fact that no one really seriously concerns about that, except for short time whenever there were media reports on the Jeju dialect being registered as a critically endangered language. Who would succeed the Jeju language if the current halmang(s)(old women) and harbang(s)(old men) die. The language might disappear.”

"Our generation was not allowed to use the Jeju dialect for talks between teachers and students not to mention for class hours. We had to hear reproach that we were rustic and impertinent if we use the Jeju dialect and we even got a whip. Didn't the students who had been getting punished get one more whip if they unconsciously used the Jeju dialect, did they? It is for the alleged reason that they look as rustic and impertinent from the point of view of teachers.”
According to the article, he pointed out that the Jeju Provincial Office of Education was showing the duality by never allowing the Jeju dialect even among the students within schools while it is also making an effort to revitalize the Jeju language such as through hosting or sponsoring competition events such as those on speaking with the Jeju dialect; those on children song with the Jeju dialect, exhibitions on illustrated poems with the Jeju Dialect; and festivals with the Jeju Dialect. It is told that the authority of the Jeju Provincial Office of Education has issued that it has guided that there should be an education course on the Jeju dialect beside sponsoring such events. However, it is contradictorily prohibiting the very use of the Jeju dialect [within schools].
According to the article, the duality is the very point that motivated him toward his own one man protest.

What is interesting about the event and article is that those things very remind the current situation of the Jeju Island whose native cultures are being disappeared with corporate and militarism culture in South Korea, especially with the law on the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, which was brought in 2006 with the concept of Jeju free international city and emphasis on the so-called’ ‘globalization.’
Mr. Go Gwon-Il, a Gangjeong villager thinks the Central and Island governments’ current mobilizations for the Jeju to be one of the new seven wonders even being mobilized with many celebrities along with excessive international propaganda is part of such extended move.

According to him, the Jeju Island should NOT be one of the new seven wonders because it would make worse the situation of the Jeju Island, the UNESCO triple-crowned site(Mount Halla’s Biosphere Reserve recognition in 2002; Natural Heritage Sites designation of Mount Halla, Seongsan Sunrise Peak and Manjanggul cave in 2007; and the geopark designation in 2010) with increasing capitalism and reckless tourism.
Otherwise, according to the Wiki on the Jeju dialect:
One large difference between the Jeju dialect and those of mainland Korea is the lack of formality and deference to elders. For example, while a speaker of the Seoul dialect might say 안녕하세요 annyeonghaseyo ("Hello") to an older person, a speaker of the Jeju dialect would say 반갑수다 ban-gapsuda (lit., "Nice chatting" or "Nice talking"; roughly equivalent to "Howdy"). To many mainlanders, a child saying this to an adult would be appalling, but on the islands, a more "egalitarian" form of speech is used, perhaps a cultural idiosyncrasy that has hung on after the incorporation of Jeju itself (under the Tamna kingdom, which, though having subjugated itself to Korean states since the 7th century, was not brought under the full centralized control of a Korean state until 1404) into Korea.

* Image source: Jeju Weekly, Feb. 6, 2011 (Original source: 'Art by Choi Myung Sun. Photo courtesy Jejudo Hangeul Calligraphy Society') The calligraphy written with the Jeju dialect reads:

‘ Moosangomassim(Why is it?)

Umung-ee haejoon bab muk-eo-bob-seo (Why don’t you have some rice mother has cooked?) Chommallo Masi Jotsooda(It is really delicious.) Moosangomassim (Why is it?) Geu-gun Umunim-eui Saranghaneun mosim-ee bab sogobe godeukgodeuk deul-eo-i-si-nan anikkwa (Isn’t it because mother’s loving heart wholly fills the rice bowl, is it?) –Jeju sokkdam gotnae (cited from one of the Jeju proverbs Gotnae)
There was also an interesting article in the Jeju Weekly. See HERE. According to it:
Looking at the wider linguistic picture, the Korean language is also losing ground on account of the dominance of English.
But looking at the problem more closely, one sees that much of the Jeju dialect is disappearing fast, partly because the capitalistic logic of “efficiency” has been an excuse for our indifferent attitude. During the rapid economic development in Korea which started in the 1960’s, preservation of cultural diversity was considered “inefficient” since it could deter fast decision making. This has since put the Jeju dialect on the list of critically endangered languages.
For reference, the 60’s developmentalism was promoted by the Park Jung-Hee military dictatorship who has eyed on the Jeju Island, a historically strategic point by the imperial countries and dominating class, with the turned-out-to-be a failed military base plan then.
The concern about the possibility of disappearing vernacular terms in the Gangjeong village is being faced with the rapidly accelerated naval base construction: Who would remember the names of Goorumbee(cloud-shaped rocks stuck under the earth), Gaegurumbee (cloud-shaped rocks on the earth), Jinsokkak, (hem-look in the place of deep and and inwardly long water), Neobeunnyo (spacious rock protruded over water), Metboori( * Of which the meaning is not exactly known but according to Mr. Go Gwon-Il in the Gangjeong village, it could be ‘a ritual place offered with rice’) in the Joongduk coast and Natgakk(hem-look in the place of stream) in the downstream of the Gangjeong stream, once all the rocky Joongduk coast in the Gangjeong badang(sea) is reclaimed with concrete by the construction?
The naval base construction would not only bury the heaven-blessed nature of the Gangjeong village but would also erase all the archaic history of it, violently making scars into the memories of the Gangjeong villagers who might not be able to say any more that their hometown Gangjeong used to be the most water-abundant and the most water-fresh village in the Jeju Island.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Michael Moore in Madison

Two things are filling up my inbox this morning and my Twitter timeline: the protests taking place in Madison, WI and the aftermath (especially the dangers from affected nuclear power facilities) of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. I was torn over which to write about this morning, and found myself wasting an hour just reading through articles on both events. Since I don't have enough time this morning to write up my overall thoughts on what is happening in Wisconsin right now in terms of the labor movement, protests with over 100,000 people from around the country showing up, and even Tony Shaloub, formerly from TV's Monk has flown in to show solidarity.

Instead, I'll turn to Michael Moore and his thoughts last week in terms of arguing the importance of what is happening in Wisconsin. A speech he gave last week is below, as well as a blog post about how he came to Madison to give that speech.


"America Is NOT Broke"
By Michael Moore
Speech given in Madison, WI
March 5, 2011

America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we'd have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic -- and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here's what I learned: Money doesn't grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don't pay their fair share of taxes, the state can't function. The schools can't produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs. That too caused a reduction in revenue. And the population ended up suffering because they reduced their taxes, reduced our jobs and took wealth out of the system, removing it from circulation.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. It's part of the Big Lie. It's one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wisconsin is broke, Iraq has WMD, the Packers can't win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there's lots of money to go around. LOTS. It's just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn't work, they've got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:

1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day – this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart -- because you -- yes, you, too! -- might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep you head down, your nose to the grindstone, don't rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it's Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin' awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. "Here! Take our money! We don't care. We'll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!"

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant know as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone tells us America is broke and broken. It's just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we get this? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois -- whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn't have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn't be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more – something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job -- their $19,000 a year job. That's how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilots flying people here to Madison. But he's stopped trying to get better pay. All he asks is that he doesn't have to sleep in his car between shifts at O'Hare airport. That's how despicably low we have sunk. The wealthy couldn't be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They wanted to take away his sleep. They wanted to demean and dehumanize him. After all, he's just another slob.

And that, my friends, is Corporate America's fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement -- a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don't understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. "Why are they all standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!

"There's something happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you ...?"

America ain't broke! The only thing that's broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it's one person, one vote, and it's the thing the rich hate most about America -- because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat. We are with you. We will win together.


How I Got to Madison, Wisconsin
By Michael Moore
March 6th, 2011

Early yesterday morning, around 1:00 AM, I had finished work for the day on my current "project" (top secret for now -- sorry, no spoiler alerts!). Someone had sent me a link to a discussion Bill O'Reilly had had with Sarah Palin a few hours earlier about my belief that the money the 21st Century rich have absconded with really isn't theirs -- and that a vast chunk of it should be taken away from them.

They were referring to comments I had made earlier in the week on a small cable show called GRITtv (Part 1 and Part 2). I honestly didn't know this was going to air that night (I had been asked to stop by and say a few words of support for a nurses union video), but I spoke from my heart about the millions of our fellow Americans who have had their homes and jobs stolen from them by a criminal class of millionaires and billionaires. It was the morning after the Oscars, at which the winner of Best Documentary for "Inside Job" stood at the microphone and declared, "I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail. And that's wrong." And he was applauded for saying this. (When did they stop booing Oscar speeches? Damn!)

So GRITtv ran my comments -- and all week the right wingopoly has been upset over what I said: That the money that the rich have stolen (or not paid taxes on) belongs to the American people. Drudge/Limbaugh/Beck and even Donald Trump went nuts, calling me names and suggesting I move to Cuba.

So in the wee hours of yesterday morning I sat down to write an answer to them. By 3:00 AM, it had turned into more of a manifesto of class war -- or, I should say, a manifesto against the class war the rich have been conducting on the American people for the past 30 years. I read it aloud to myself to see how it sounded (trying not to wake anyone else in the apartment) and then -- and this is why no one should be up at 3:00 AM -- the crazy kicked in: I needed to get in the car and drive to Madison and give this speech.

I went online to get directions and saw that there was no official big rally planned like the one they had last Saturday and will have again next Saturday. Just the normal ongoing demonstration and occupation of the State Capitol that's been in process since February 12th (the day after Mubarak was overthrown in Egypt) to protest the Republican governor's move to kill the state's public unions.

So, it's three in the morning and I'm a thousand miles from Madison and I see that the open microphone for speakers starts at noon. Hmm. No time to drive from New York. I was off to the airport. I left a note on the kitchen table saying I'd be back at 9:00 PM. Called a friend and asked him if he wanted to meet me at the Delta counter. Called the guy who manages my website, woke him up, and asked him to track down the coordinators in Madison and tell them I'm on my way and would like to say a few words if possible -- "but tell them if they've got other plans or no room for me, I'll be happy just to stand there holding a sign and singing Solidarity Forever."

So I just showed up. The firefighters, hearing I'm there, ask me to lead their protest parade through downtown Madison. I march with them, along with John Nichols (who lives in Madison and writes for the Nation). Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and the great singer Michelle Shocked have also decided to show up.

The scene in Madison is nothing like what they are showing you on TV or in the newspaper. First, you notice that the whole town is behind this. Yard signs and signs in store windows are everywhere supporting public workers. There are thousands of people out just randomly lining the streets for the six blocks leading to the Capitol building carrying signs, shouting and cheering and cajoling. Then there are stages and friendly competing demos on all sides of the building (yesterday's total estimate of people was 50,000-70,000, the smallest one yet)! A big semi truck has been sent by James Hoffa of the Teamsters and is parked like a don't-even-think-of-effing-with-us Sherman tank on the street in front of the Capitol. There is a long line -- separate from these other demonstrations -- of 4,000 people, waiting their turn to get through the only open door to the Capitol so they can join the occupation inside.

And inside the Rotunda is ... well, it will bring tears to your eyes if you go there. It's like a shrine to working people -- to what America is and should be about -- packed with families and kids and so many senior citizens that it made me happy for science and its impact on life expectancy over the past century. There were grandmas and great-grandpas who remember FDR and Wisconsin's La Follette and the long view of this struggle. Standing in that Rotunda was like a religious experience. There had been nothing like it, for me, in decades.

And so it was in this setting, out of doors now on the steps of the Capitol, with so many people in front of me that I couldn't see where they ended, that I just "showed up" and gave a speech that felt unlike any other I had ever given. As I had just written it and had no time to memorize it, I read from the pages I brought with me. I wanted to make sure that the words I had chosen were clear and exact. I knew they had the potential to drive the haters into a rabid state (not a pretty sight) but I also feared that the Right's wealthy patrons would see a need to retaliate should these words be met with citizen action across the land. I was, after all, putting them on notice: We are coming after you, we are stopping you and we are going to return the money/jobs/homes you stole from the people. You have gone too far. It's too bad you couldn't have been satisfied with making millions, you had to have billions -- and now you want to strip us of our ability to talk and bargain and provide. This is your tipping point, Wall Street; your come-to-Jesus moment, Corporate America. And I'm glad I'm going to be able to be a witness to it.

You can find the written version of my speech on my website. Please read it and pass it around far and wide. You can also watch a video of me giving the spoken version from the Capitol steps by clicking here.

I can't express enough the level of admiration I have for the people of Wisconsin who, for three weeks, have braved the brutal winter cold and taken over their state Capitol. All told, literally hundreds of thousands of people have made their way to Madison to make their voices heard. It all began with high school students cutting class and marching on the building (you can read their reports on my High School Newspaper site). Then their parents joined them. Then 14 brave Democratic state senators left the state so the governor wouldn't have his quorum.

And all this while the White House was trying to stop this movement (read this)!

But it didn't matter. The People's train had left the station. And now protests were springing up in all 50 states.

The media has done a poor job covering this (imagine a takeover of the government HQ in any other country, free or totalitarian -- our media would be all over it). But this one scares them and their masters -- as it should. The organizers told me this morning that my showing up got them more coverage yesterday than they would have had, "a shot in the arm that we needed to keep momentum going." Well, I'm glad I could help. But they need a lot more than just me -- and they need you doing similar things in your own states and towns.

How 'bout it? I know you know this: This is our moment. Let's seize it. Everyone can do something.

P.S. This local Madison paper/blog captured best what happened yesterday, and got what I'm really up to. Someone please send this to O'Reilly and Palin so there's no mistaking my true intentions.

P.P.S. Full disclosure: I am a proud union member of four unions: the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA (the last two have passed resolutions supporting the workers in Wisconsin). My production company has signed union contracts with five unions (and soon to be a 6th). All my full-time employees have full medical and dental insurance with NO DEDUCTIBLE. So, yes, I'm biased.


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