Sunday, January 15, 2012

Politics

Everyone hates "politics." It is almost funny how it works. How people sneer, and jeer and frown when something happens and its "political." On Guam for example people say or think these things so much and so often it makes you wonder what they expect?

In an ideal world, government is supposed to work for the good of all and run based on strong principles. The same goes for those elected into the government or working in it. But we don't live in an ideal world. We may pine for it, dream about it. But in truth, the ideal world only exists to make us feel crappy about the world that we have. The ideal world also exists to be an excuse to keep us from acting in this world. No one has the ideal form of government, but for the majority of people, if their government is found wanting, they fill the void of inadequacy or mediocrity not with engagement, hardwork and a determination to fix things. Instead, they fill the gap with complaints that make them feel like they are accomplishing something while actually doing nothing.

Politics is one of the main ways in which you don't just provide some critique or comment on the state of your government, but condemn its soul as well. It is one thing to look things and talk about how the weather affects how people act, or how the limited funds make it so you can only do so much. But when you draw out the politics card you are blaming things internally, not externally. Some people might say the problem with education on Guam is lack of funds (external). Others would say the problems are teachers, administrators, Senators, Governors and so on (internal).

While the stigma of politics is always around, so is the irritating question of why people expect anything else? Politics at its worst is when people obstruct things for no real reason. When they block any discussion, any progress or any change for some ridiculous and pointless reason. But what about politics in the form where someone does something but for the wrong reasons? In 2010 in his last year of office Felix Camacho, then Governor of Guam called upon the people of the island to help him change the name of this island from Guam to Guahan. It was something that could have been profound and powerful. It was something that I would absolutely support, but his gesture was one of those things that defined political in the poorest sense. It was an empty gesture, with very little thought put into it, something meant to help create his legacy, with very little though about how to lead on the issue and make it truly mean something. This was a good thing to do, but for the wrong reasons, or carried out in a way that had no principles.

Politics can be worse than this of course. Bribes. Nepotism. A certain Senator makes a little extra for that project. The bid goes to the person worst for the job because some favors are exchanged in the background. Principles are sacrificed for money, power, re-election and who knows what else. In this post I'm not excusing politics in the sense that I'm saying that what people call politics is justified or acceptable. What I find interesting is the way people respond to politics as if it isn't always there, when it is always there. It doesn't matter where you live or what fantasy you have of somewhere else, there are politics in your government and whatever idealized vision you have of the other government as well.

One of the most hysterical paradoxes of human life is that the more people say there is politics in something, the more by definition that they should become involved to help keep such self-interest or greed out of the equation. Such is not the case, as people use the naming of things as "political" or "politics" as an "ideal" reason to stay out of something. Or to argue that there is no reason to be do anything more about it. The problem is internal and what can you do about something like that?

The thing which is most political right now on island is the closing of Untalan Middle School in Barrigada. The school was closed last week for not passing a safety inspection. I asked a teacher what had happened in the past week? Did the library cave in killing a student, why was the school suddenly shut down? The response was that everything was exactly the same, the school was just as terrible as always, it's just that the politics changed. For years, no one wanted to close down Untalan since it would be too much paperwork and too much of a hassle for everyone. Now there are reasons to close down the school and so in comes the pressure to get things done.

Below are two perspectives on the Untalan issue. The first is a video from the Governor of Guam from his Youtube page. The second is a message from the Guam Federation of Teachers to a link on Pacific News Center to an interview between GFT President Matt Rector on the same issue.

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From GFT:

We have less students now than we had 10 years ago. If we need to clear a school out, we can rearrange and redistrict. That’s the Board’s job to solve these problems and use that $4.5M a year to fix the schools,” stated President Matt Rector in an interview with Ray Gibson last week. GovGuam has already implemented several cost-cutting measures hurting public workers and the services they provide. Giving a private corporation $4.5M is not a bright idea when we need as much money coming into our island to improve our public structure. Although the $4.5M is in the form of tax credits, it’s even worse than actually handing out money because there is very little accountability. President Rector further explains, “The OPA has issued a number of reports on tax credits explaining how bad this is for the people of Guam…I think that money is better spent investing on the children of Guam and the people of Guam as opposed to investing into the profits of corporations.” CLICK HERE FOR INTERVIEW LINK

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