Friday, March 30, 2012

Deep Waters

I ran into Kel Muna the other day in the parking lot of UOG and he had some exciting news. Last year him and Don helped organize the Guam International Film Festival. It was a huge success, bringing in dozens of films from the Pacific and elsewhere to Guam. They are organizing a second film festival to take place this Fall in either September or October. I am so excited about this, I am absolutely planning on submitting a short film for consideration. No ideas what it'll be about yet, but I will for sure submit something.

In the meantime, the Muna Brothers are helping organize for Pacific Islanders in Communication, a screening tomorrow (3/30) titled "Deep Water" and features to films, one from the Marianas The Insular Empire, and one from Hawai'i Under a Jarvis Moon. I'm looking forward to this screen tomorrow night. If you have the time, an gailugat hao, saonao lokkue'.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Huegon Ninalang Siha

In egga' i "Huegon Ninalang Siha" gi i ma'pos na simana.

Ya-hu didide', lao nanalang ha' yu'.

Mas maolek i lepblo kinu i kachido.

Lao kao nina'manman hao ni este?

Siempre ahe', sa' sesso taiguihi.

Komo lepblo fine'nina, fihu i orihinat i mas maolek yan kabales.

I kachido ti nahong, sa' meggai ginnen i lepblo ti un kubre, ti un na'annok.

Para ayu ni' gumaiya i lepblo kalang mantrinaiduti siha ni taimanu na mafa'diferentes i mubi.

Siempre este un tungo' anggen taiguini hao.

Anggen mata'ta'chong hao gi i fanegga'an  ya sesso un essalaoggue i screen taiguini:

"Taigue ayu gi i lepblo!"

"Sa' hafa ti ma na'halom ayu gi i mubi!"

"Ti nahong i tetehnan na tiempo gi i mubi para u makubre ____! Ti hu tungo' hafa sina macho'gue. Ai adai!"

Lao kao pumarehu anggen mofo'na i mubi ya tinatitiyi ni lepblo?

Gi hinallom-hu, dipende.

Kao i lepblo ni' matuge' ginnen i mubi, un magahet yan seriosu na lepblo?

Pat kao matuge' este put salape' ha'?

Guaguaha mas meggai na malago' yu' na bei tuge' put i lepblon "Huegon Ninalang Siha" lao esta chatangmak guini, ya guaha che'cho'-hu agupa'.

Friday, March 23, 2012

War Crimes Mythologies

War Crimes and the Mythology of 'Bad Apples'


So it turns out that mass-murder suspect Robert Bales once used a bad word in a Facebook conversation.






This is one of the more bizarre details of his life that has come breathlessly to light in the media, along with his big smile, arrest record and disastrous financial dealings. The word was “hadji” (misspelled “hagi”), which is the racial slur of choice among U.S. troops to denigrate Iraqis; and stories where I have read about his use of it fixate on it judgmentally, as though to suggest it might explain something: the tiny flaw that reveals a propensity for massacring children.

Something had to be wrong with him, right? As always, the mainstream media’s unquestioning assumption is that the atrocity is the work of an individual nut . . . a flawed patriot, a bad apple. Oh so quietly ignored is the possibility that there’s something wrong with the military system and culture that produced him.
I
ndeed, a Wall Street Journal article reporting on the “hadji” story saw fit to point out that “U.S. commanders spent years trying in vain to end the use of the term” — implying a crisply righteous sense of social responsibility at the highest levels of the military, a pervasive culture of political correctness enforced by the chain of command, which, alas, sometimes breaks down in the ranks.

What can you do? Sigh. Boys will be boys.

The media obsession with Bales’ individuality — flawed, perhaps, but heart-breakingly all-American as well (“At Home, Asking How ‘Our Bobby’ Became War Crime Suspect,” ran the New York Times headline) — ignores basic systems psychology, which understands that nobody exists in a vacuum. One person’s aberrant behavior releases the pressure building up in the whole system. In this case, the system is the Army. Could there be something for the media to explore here that would be even more productive than talking to Robert Bales’ childhood neighbor or former principal?

Could there be, for instance, something in the dehumanization of the enemy — a process that makes it possible for soldiers to go against their own nature and take human lives — that results in their own dehumanization as well?

In the midst of the outpouring of news about the Afghan massacre, I started thinking about the extraordinary Winter Soldier hearings held outside Washington, D.C., four years ago. There were four days of testimony on the cruelly dysfunctional war on terror. Two panels were devoted to the topic
 “Racism and War: the Dehumanization of the Enemy.” The panelists talked about how they learned contempt and disgust for all Iraqis and how it manifested on the ground in Iraq, where Robert Bales served three tours.

Here are some salient quotes:

“I joined the Army on my 18th birthday. When I joined I was told racism was gone from the military. After 9/11, I (began hearing) towel head, camel jockey, sand nigger. These came from up the chain of command. The new word was hadji. A hadji is someone who takes a pilgrimage to Mecca. We took the best thing from Islam and made it the worst thing.” — Mike Prysner

“Hadji was used to dehumanize anyone there who is not us. KBR employees who did our laundry became hadji. Not a person, not a name, but a hadji. ‘They’re just hadjis. Who cares?’ The highest ranking officer, Gen. Casey, used the word. He called Iraqi people hadjis. These things start at the top, not the bottom.” — Geoff Millard

“The military turned hadji into a disempowering word. My sergeant major said, ‘The hadji is an obstacle. Get him out of the way.’ Denying a person their name gave us permission to separate ourselves from the people of Iraq.” Thus when a boy was hit by a truck, the CO said: “He’s gone, move out.” — Mike Totten

“A freshly captured detainee had been denied his insulin. He was a hadji and probably he won’t die, but it wouldn’t matter if he did. This is what the CO said in denying permission to hospitalize him. His diabetic stroke was mistaken for insubordination. They pepper-sprayed him and put him in a holding cell, where he died.” — Andrew Duffy

“It’s almost impossible to act on your morality. . . . You remove the humanity from them — beat them — and in doing so you remove humanity from yourself.” — Carlos Mejia

Does this begin to penetrate the mystery that so confounds the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media? Stories of American troops’ horrific treatment of Iraqis and Afghans are endless.
 Most of the time, such treatment was well within the context of orders. Contempt for the people we were “liberating” permeated the chain of command. In 2003, the Washington Post reported that a Defense Department computer program for calculating collateral damage was called “Bugsplat.”
And as the aunt of former Pfc. Steven Green, who was convicted of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her, her parents and her 7-year-old sister, said at Green’s sentencing, “We did not send a rapist and murderer to Iraq.”

The time has come to challenge the military at the level of its reason for being. The time has come to add up its suicides, its war crimes and the rest of its horrific legacy. How long can it survive and honest accounting?

Robert C. Koehler
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.




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Murder Is Not an Anomaly in War


The war in Afghanistan—where the enemy is elusive and rarely seen, where the cultural and linguistic disconnect makes every trip outside the wire a visit to hostile territory, where it is clear that you are losing despite the vast industrial killing machine at your disposal—feeds the culture of atrocity. The fear and stress, the anger and hatred, reduce all Afghans to the enemy, and this includes women, children and the elderly. Civilians and combatants merge into one detested nameless, faceless mass. The psychological leap to murder is short. And murder happens every day in Afghanistan. It happens in drone strikes, artillery bombardments, airstrikes, missile attacks and the withering suppressing fire unleashed in villages from belt-fed machine guns.

Military attacks like these in civilian areas make discussions of human rights an absurdity. Robert Bales, a U.S. Army staff sergeant who allegedly killed 16 civilians in two Afghan villages, including nine children, is not an anomaly. To decry the butchery of this case and to defend the wars of occupation we wage is to know nothing about combat. We kill children nearly every day in Afghanistan. We do not usually kill them outside the structure of a military unit. If an American soldier had killed or wounded scores of civilians after the ignition of an improvised explosive device against his convoy, it would not have made the news. Units do not stick around to count their “collateral damage.” But the Afghans know. They hate us for the murderous rampages. They hate us for our hypocrisy.

The scale of our state-sponsored murder is masked from public view. Reporters who travel with military units and become psychologically part of the team spin out what the public and their military handlers want, mythic tales of heroism and valor. War is seen only through the lens of the occupiers. It is defended as a national virtue. This myth allows us to make sense of mayhem and death. It justifies what is usually nothing more than gross human cruelty, brutality and stupidity. It allows us to believe we have achieved our place in human society because of a long chain of heroic endeavors, rather than accept the sad reality that we stumble along a dimly lit corridor of disasters. It disguises our powerlessness. It hides from view the impotence and ordinariness of our leaders. But in turning history into myth we transform random events into a sequence of events directed by a will greater than our own, one that is determined and preordained. We are elevated above the multitude. We march to nobility. But it is a lie. And it is a lie that combat veterans carry within them. It is why so many commit suicide.             

“I, too, belong to this species,” J. Glenn Gray wrote of his experience in World War II. “I am ashamed not only of my own deeds, not only of my nation’s deeds, but of human deeds as well. I am ashamed to be a man.”

When Ernie Pyle, the famous World War II correspondent, was killed on the Pacific island of Ie Shima in 1945, a rough draft of a column was found on his body. He was preparing it for release upon the end of the war in Europe. He had done much to promote the myth of the warrior and the nobility of soldiering, but by the end he seemed to have tired of it all:
But there are many of the living who have burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world. Dead men by mass production—in one country after another—month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer.
Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous.
Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them.
These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn’t come back. You didn’t see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.
We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands. That’s the difference.
There is a constant search in all wars to find new perversities, new forms of death when the initial flush fades, a rear-guard and finally futile effort to ward off the boredom of routine death. This is why during the war in El Salvador the death squads and soldiers would cut off the genitals of those they killed and stuff them in the mouths of the corpses. This is why we reporters in Bosnia would find bodies crucified on the sides of barns or decapitated. This is why U.S. Marines have urinated on dead Taliban fighters. Those slain in combat are treated as trophies by their killers, turned into grotesque pieces of performance art. It happened in every war I covered.

“Force,” Simone Weil wrote, “is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates.”

War perverts and destroys you. It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation—spiritual, emotional and finally physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems—economic, social, environmental and political—that sustain us as human beings. In war, we deform ourselves, our essence. We give up individual conscience—maybe even consciousness—for contagion of the crowd, the rush of patriotism, the belief that we must stand together as a nation in moments of extremity. To make a moral choice, to defy war’s enticement, can in the culture of war be self-destructive. The essence of war is death. Taste enough of war and you come to believe that the stoics were right: We will, in the end, all consume ourselves in a vast conflagration.

A World War II study determined that, after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties. A common trait among the remaining 2 percent was a predisposition toward having “aggressive psychopathic personalities.” Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” notes: “It is not too far from the mark to observe that there is something about continuous, inescapable combat which will drive 98 percent of all men insane, and the other 2 percent were crazy when they go there.”

During the war in El Salvador, many soldiers served for three or four years or longer, as in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, until they psychologically or physically collapsed. In garrison towns, commanders banned the sale of sedatives because those drugs were abused by the troops. In that war, as in the wars in the Middle East, the emotionally and psychologically maimed were common. I once interviewed a 19-year-old Salvadoran army sergeant who had spent five years fighting and then suddenly lost his vision after his unit walked into a rebel ambush. The rebels killed 11 of his fellow soldiers in the firefight, including his closest friend. He was unable to see again until he was placed in an army hospital. “I have these horrible headaches,” he told me as he sat on the edge of his bed. “There is shrapnel in my head. I keep telling the doctors to take it out.” But the doctors told me that he had no head wounds.

I saw other soldiers in other conflicts go deaf or mute or shake without being able to stop.
War is necrophilia. This necrophilia is central to soldiering just as it is central to the makeup of suicide bombers and terrorists. The necrophilia is hidden under platitudes about duty or comradeship. It is unleashed especially in moments when we seem to have little to live for and no hope, or in moments when the intoxication of war is at its highest pitch. When we spend long enough in war, it comes to us as a kind of release, a fatal and seductive embrace that can consummate the long flirtation with our own destruction.

In his memoir “Wartime,” about the partisan war in Yugoslavia, Milovan Djilas wrote of the enticement that death held for the combatants. He stood over the body of his comrade, the commander Sava Kovacevic, and found:

“… dying did not seem terrible or unjust. This was the most extraordinary, the most exalted moment of my life. Death did not seem strange or undesirable. That I restrained myself from charging blindly into the fray and death was perhaps due to my sense of obligation to the troops or to some comrade’s reminder concerning the tasks at hand. In my memory, I returned to those moments many times with the same feeling of intimacy with death and desire for it while I was in prison, especially during my first incarceration.”

War ascendant wipes out Eros. It wipes out delicacy and tenderness. Its communal power seeks to render the individual obsolete, to hand all passions, all choice, all voice to the crowd.
“The most important part of the individual life, which cannot be subsumed in communal life, is love,” Sebastian Haffner wrote in “Defying Hitler.” “So comradeship has its special weapons against love: smut. Every evening in bed, after the last patrol round, there was the ritual reciting of lewd songs and jokes. That is the hard and fast rule of male comradeship, and nothing is more mistaken than the widely held opinion that this is a safety valve for frustrated erotic or sexual feelings. These songs and jokes do not have an erotic, arousing effect. On the contrary, they make the act of love appear as unappetizing as possible. They treat it like digestion and defecation, and make it an object of ridicule. The men who recited rude songs and used coarse words for female body parts were in effect denying that they ever had tender feelings or had been in love, that they had ever made themselves attractive, behaved gently. ...”

When we see this, when we see our addiction for what it is, when we understand ourselves and how war has perverted us, life becomes hard to bear. Jon Steele, a cameraman who spent years in war zones, had a nervous breakdown in a crowded Heathrow Airport after returning from Sarajevo.
Steele had come to understand the reality of his work, a reality that stripped away the self-righteous, high-octane gloss. When he was in Sarajevo he was “in a place called Sniper’s Alley, and I filmed a girl there who had been hit in the neck by a sniper’s bullet,” he wrote. “I filmed her in the ambulance, and only after she was dead, I suddenly understood that the last thing she had seen was the reflection of the lens of the camera I was holding in front of her. This wiped me out. I grabbed the camera, and started running down Sniper’s Alley, filming at knee level the Bosnians running from place to place.”

A year after the end of the war in Sarajevo, I sat with Bosnian friends who had suffered horribly. A young woman, Ljiljana, had lost her father, a Serb, who refused to join the besieging Serb forces around the city. A few days earlier she had to identify his corpse. The body was lifted, water running out of the sides of a rotting coffin, from a small park for reburial in the central cemetery. Soon she would emigrate to Australia—where, she told me, “I will marry a man who has never heard of this war and raise children that will be told nothing about it, nothing about the country I am from.”

Ljiljana was young. But the war had exacted a toll. Her cheeks were hollow, her hair dry and brittle. Her teeth were decayed and some had broken into jagged bits. She had no money for a dentist; she hoped to have them fixed in Australia. Yet all she and her friends did that afternoon was lament the days when they lived in fear and hunger, emaciated, targeted by Serb gunners on the heights above.
 
They did not wish back the suffering. And yet, they admitted, those may have been the fullest days of their lives. They looked at me in despair. I had known them when hundreds of shells a day fell nearby, when they had no water to bathe in or wash their clothes, when they huddled in unheated flats as sniper bullets hit the walls outside.

What they expressed was disillusionment with a sterile, futile and empty present. Peace had again exposed the void that the rush of war, of battle, had filled. Once again they were—as perhaps we all are—alone, no longer bound by a common struggle, no longer given the opportunity to be noble, heroic, no longer sure of what life was about or what it meant. The old comradeship, however false, had vanished with the last shot.

Moreover, they had seen that all the sacrifice had been for naught. They had been, as we all are in war, betrayed. The corrupt old Communist Party bosses, who became nationalists overnight and got them into the mess in the first place, had grown rich off their suffering and were still in power. Ljiljana and the others faced a 70 percent unemployment rate. They depended on handouts from the international community. They understood that their cause, once as fashionable in certain intellectual circles as they were themselves, lay forgotten. No longer did actors, politicians and artists scramble to visit during the cease-fires—acts that were almost always ones of gross self-promotion. They knew the lie of war, the mockery of their idealism, and struggled with their shattered illusions. And yet, they wished it all back, and I did, too.

Later, I received a Christmas card. It was signed “Ljiljana from Australia.” It had no return address. I never heard from her again. But many of those I worked with as war correspondents did not escape. They could not break free from the dance with death. They wandered from conflict to conflict, seeking always one more hit.

By then, I was back in Gaza and at one point found myself pinned down in still another ambush. A young Palestinian 15 feet away was fatally shot through the chest. I had been lured back but now felt none of the old rush, just fear. It was time to break free, to let go. I knew it was over for me. I was lucky to get alive.

Kurt Schork—brilliant, courageous and driven—could not let go. He died in an ambush in Sierra Leone along with another friend of mine, Miguel Gil Moreno. His entrapment—his embrace of Thanatos, of the death instinct—was never mentioned in the sterile and antiseptic memorial service held for him in Washington, D.C. Everyone tiptoed around the issue. But those of us who had known him understood he had been consumed.

I had worked with Kurt for 10 years, starting in northern Iraq. Literate, funny—it seems the brave are often funny. He and I passed books back and forth in our struggle to make sense of the madness around us. His loss is a hole that will never be filled. His ashes were placed in Sarajevo’s Lion Cemetery, for the victims of the war. I flew to Sarajevo and met the British filmmaker Dan Reed. It was an overcast November day. We stood over the grave and downed a pint of whiskey. Dan lit a candle. I recited a poem the Roman lyric poet Catullus had written to honor his dead brother.
By strangers’ costs and waters, many days at sea,
I come here for the rites of your unworlding,
Bringing for you, the dead, these last gifts of the living
And my words—vain sounds for the man of dust.
Alas, my brother,
You have been taken from me. You have been taken from me,
By cold chance turned a shadow, and my pain.
Here are the foods of the old ceremony, appointed
Long ago for the starvelings under the earth:
Take them: your brother’s tears have made them wet: and take
Into eternity my hail and my farewell.
It was there, among 4,000 war dead, that Kurt belonged. He died because he could not free himself from war. He had been trying to replicate what he had found in Sarajevo, but he could not. War could never be new again. Kurt had been in East Timor and Chechnya. Sierra Leone, I was sure, meant nothing to him.

Kurt and Miguel could not let go. They would have been the first to admit it. Spend long enough at war, and you cannot fit in anywhere else. It finally kills you. It is not a new story. It starts out like love, but it is death.

War is the beautiful young nymph in the fairy tale that, when kissed, exhales the vapors of the underworld.

The ancient Greeks had a word for such a fate: ekpyrosis.

It means to be consumed by a ball of fire. They used it to describe heroes.
Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.


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The U.S. Empire’s Achilles Heel: Its Barbaric Racism

The latest atrocities in Afghanistan are just par for the course.

  by Glen Ford

The American atrocities in Afghanistan roll on like a drumbeat from hell. With every affront to the human and national dignity of the Afghan people, the corporate media feign shock and quickly conclude that a few bad apples are responsible for U.S. crimes, that it’s all a mistake and misunderstanding, rather than the logical result of a larger crime: America’s attempt to dominate the world by force. But even so, with the highest paid and best trained military in the world – a force equipped with the weapons and communications gear to exercise the highest standards of control known to any military in history – one would think that commanders could keep their troops from making videos of urinating on dead men, or burning holy books, or letting loose homicidal maniacs on helpless villagers.

These three latest atrocities have brought the U.S. occupation the point of crisis – hopefully, a terminal one. But the whole war has been one atrocity after another, from the very beginning, when the high-tech superpower demonstrated the uncanny ability to track down and incinerate whole Afghan wedding parties – not just once, but repeatedly. Quite clearly, to the Americans, these people have never been more than ants on the ground, to be exterminated at will.

The Afghans, including those on the U.S. payroll, repeatedly use the word “disrespect” to describe American behavior. But honest people back here in the belly of the beast know that the more accurate term is racism. The United States cannot help but be a serial abuser of the rights of the people it occupies, especially those who are thought of as non-white, because it is a thoroughly racist nation. A superpower military allows them to act out this characteristic with impunity.

American racism allows its citizens to imagine that they are doing the people of Pakistan a favor, by sending drones to deal death without warning from the skies. The U.S. calls Pakistan an ally, when polls consistently show that its people harbor more hatred and fear of the U.S. than any other people in the world. The Pakistanis know the U.S. long propped up their military dictators, and then threatened to blow the country to Kingdom Come after 9/ll, if the U.S. military wasn’t given free rein. They know they are viewed collectively as less than human by the powers in Washington – and, if they don’t call it racism, we should, because we know our fellow Americans very well.

The U.S. lost any hope of leaving a residual military force in Iraq when it showed the utterly racist disrespect of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, the savage leveling of Fallujah, the massacres in Haditha and so many other places well known to Iraqis, if not the American public, and the slaughter of 17 civilians stuck at a traffic circle in Nisour Square, Baghdad. What people would agree to allow such armed savages to remain in their country if given a choice?

The United States was conceived as an empire built on the labor of Blacks and the land of dead natives, an ever-expanding sphere of exploitation and plunder – energized by an abiding and general racism that is, itself, the main obstacle to establishing a lasting American anti-war movement. But, despite the peace movement’s weaknesses, the people of a world under siege by the Americans will in due time kick them out – because to live under barbarian racists is not a human option.
Glen Ford
Back Agenda Report executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fina'kuentos #3: Ha Tife' Yu'

If you don't speak Chamorro, there are various ways that you can transition into the language, or begin to immerse yourself into it. You can for example begin with a particular person or sets of people. Start speaking to someone you trust to help and support you and slowly expand outward. You can just go full internal or external immersion. You can force yourself to speak Chamorro not matter what, even in situations where you know you might not be able to carry on the conversation. Such is a case of internal immersion, where you force much of what you say to be in Chamorro. Or external immersion is a possibility, where you try your best to surround yourself with those who speak Chamorro, or intentionally put yourself into spaces, whether they be a fiesta, a church, a funeral, a Chamorro language competition, where the Chamorro language will be there, so you can be immersed in it.

But in addition to the who you learn Chamorro with, there is also the way you first become introduced to it. You can just learn the language in a standard way, as you move from one mental lesson to the next, but what can help you learn is a certain theme, or gimmick, to how you start to become someone who live in the language. For some people, it can be songs. You focus on learning the songs of the language, and that is how you become introduced to learning and speaking the language. For others, it could be a focus on the "ancient" or "fino' haya'" aspects to the language. You learn Chamorro, to learn the form it existed in prior to the arrival of the Spanish. This can be very important since it will funnel your passion and give you something to focus on, even if people are less than helpful in your learning.

One way that I encourage people to get started learning the language is to learn its empe finayi or as some say fina'kuentos. These are sayings or pieces of knowledge that reflect the Chamorro experience or the worldview of Chamorros. Some of them are silly and border on being kinky or offensive, while others are more profound and serious. I've already posted about two this month in honor of Chamorro month. I though I'd share one more today.

Ha tife' yu'

Even for those of you who speak Chamorro, if you haven't heard this phrase before, then you might be confused by it. Literally, the phrase means "He/She/It picked me." The use of the word "tife'" though is not related to the choosing or selecting of something. Instead pick is meant in the sense of picking fruit. Tife' is used to refer to the literal taking of fruit off of the tree. It can also be used to refer to the picking of leaves or branches off a tree, but the focus is on removing something.

To say "ha tife' yu'" could be a reference to you being a fruit on a tree, the one that was picked amongst many. It could be in this sense that someone plucks you from obscurity, or plucks you out of your ignorance. It could mean that someone takes you from a sort of nascent, stuck position and made something of you, took you somewhere. They drastically changed your life. This is a possible meaning of the term, but not one I've ever really heard. I have heard people discuss it, but never heard someone in any natural conversational state use it.

Tife', is also interestingly enough a dental term. It is the word that Chamorros use to refer to the removal of a tooth. "Ha tife' yu' i dentista" literally translates to "the dentist picked me" but actually means "The dentist pulled my tooth."

A further meaning to the term tife' is the sometimes latent sexual connotations. In Western culture the notion of picking fruit can be considered sexual, because of the ways that women's sexuality is closely associated with fruit. It is possible that the word tife' also used to carry these meanings. Ha tife' yu' could have meant that someone took your virginity, or that someone had sex with you. Given the egalitarian and female-dominated sexuality of Ancient Chamorro times, that could have been something women said or men said.

In Ancient times, men and women went naked most of the time. Men and women would sometimes wear clothes for special occasions. Men wore pandanus woven vests to dress up. Women could wear grass skirts, such as for dances or ceremonies. The Spanish did mention Chamorro women sometimes wearing a small article of clothing known as a "tife." This was a triangular piece of cloth, made from tree bark, that would be placed on the groin of the woman. It is possible that in Ancient Guam, ha tife yu' could have been a reference to the removing of that piece or clothing.

In contemporary times however the fina'kuentos is something that you might often use as you go about your day and interact with your social, political or occupational circle. Much of what I've discussed above deals with the focus of the metaphor on the taking of something. The picking of something as the emphasis. So a tooth is removed. A person goes from here to there. The picking of fruit as a possible sexual metaphor. But the final possible meaning of the term actually makes you focus on what the fruit undergoes when it is removed from the tree.

So long as the fruit is on the tree it is being fed nutrients and life is pumped into it. When it is picked, it is actually a violent and draining process. It is being torn from everything it knows. Like being wrenched from the bosom of your mother. To be a fruit that is plucked actually must suck a lot. It must be a terrible feeling. Therefore the contemporary meaning of the phrase focuses on the draining process. How to be a fruit that is picked can suck the life out of you and make you feel like life is over. Makpo' todu.

You use this phrase for people who make you feel that way. For people who are "dimasiao." Who are just too much. People you just can't handle. People you don't know what to do with. People who suck the life out of you, who make you feel akin to how drained and empty you feel after getting a root canal. Those are the people about whom you say "ha tife' yu'."

You can say it about the auntie who never stops complaining to you about her husband. You can say it about the grandparent who always has an endless list of chores for you when you got visit. You can say it about the co-worker who just won't stop asking you out. You can say it about your friend who asked to go for a ride with you one afternoon and you ended up escorting them to all their errands. You can say it about your significant other who forces you to go to do things you don't want to do. They don't have to be someone who has a history of draining you or deflated the willpower of people, but just someone who in that moment took the life out of you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fina'kuentos #2: Taya' Baston San Jose

“Tåya’ Båtson San Jose”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety
3/7/12

In the writing of my Masters Thesis in Micronesian Studies I conducted over a hundred interviews with Chamorros who were born in the prewar Naval colonial era of Guam history and also endured the trauma of I Tiempon Chapones, the period of Japanese colonialism in World War II. These interviews were conducted more than a decade ago, over the course of several years. Since then, so many of those I spent an afternoon with in their outside kitchen or a morning sipping coffee at Hagatña McDonald’s have passed away.

One of the most interesting memories I have from that period is my attempt to figure out the meaning of an old Chamorro fina’kuentos, empe’ finayi, or in English “saying” that one of my interview subjects had used. While speaking to an elderly man in Inarajan about the work of Father Jesus Baza Duenas in World War II and the changes of life in his village, he invoked the saying “tåya’ Båston San Jose.” I was taken back at this. I had never heard it before and wasn’t sure what it meant. In English it translates to, “there is no staff of Saint Joseph” but that didn’t really help me. I asked the bihu what he meant and he smiled, pointed at me and said I would understand it when I understood it.

As I continued my interviews I ended up asking almost everyone I spoke to if they knew what the phrase meant. Had they heard it before? Was it something they used? Båston San Jose did refer to an ornamental plant that you find on Guam, everyone agreed with that. The scientific name of the plant for those interested is “cordyline fruticosa.” But as for the fina’kuentos of “tåya’ båston San Jose” everyone had a slightly or significantly different interpretation.

For some it referred to the need to be tolerant and understanding, even if the world throws difficult things at us that make us so frustrated. For others it was a statement of how no one should believe themselves to be perfect or better than others. One lady insisted that the fina’kuentos had to have something to do with not being a gossip, since almost every other Chamorro saying deals with how terrible it is to be a gossip. The variations ranged from minding your own business, to the importance of being compassionate, to the idea that true beauty lies within, and finally that you shouldn’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. Some remarked that they hadn’t heard that saying in years, while others said they had used it recently when talking about so and so in their lives. It was so intriguing to see the meaning of four simple words change as I went from interview to interview.

Eventually I began to think that this Chamorro fina’kuentos was in truth our own local version of a popular saying from the Matrix films; “there is no spoon.” In the first of the films, the main character Neo attempts to use his mind to bend a spoon. He is unable to do so. A child who can easily bend the spoon tells him, “Do not try to bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is no spoon.” Was that the lesson? Tåya’ “tåya’ båston San Jose?” In searching for the true meaning of “there is no staff of Saint Joseph,” was the true meaning that there is no meaning to there not being any staff of Saint Joseph? Was this the height of zen-Chamorro philosophy?

Eventually I came to my own meaning for this fina’kuentos, and I think it is the one the bihu intended. He had been discussing how things have changed so much in the lives of Chamorros in such a short time; how before and after the war were like ha’åni and puengge. People forgot our heroic figures like Father Duenas and also forgot the value of working the land and sustaining yourself. They rushed to get rid of Chamorro things and snatched up anything that looked America. The Japanese were once our worst nightmares and now come back to this island as our honored guests. Things can change so fast, chumålamlam hao yan esta matulaika i tano’ ta’lo. Even in the varied meaning of the fina’kuentos tåya’ båston San Jose itself, I could see this shifting.

I think this bihu was reminding me, perhaps even warning me that there is nothing permanent in this world. In his own life, he had seen all these changes take place, some of them good, some of them bad, and at the end of his days, he could do nothing but sit back, marvel a little, cry a little and lament, “tåya’ båston San Jose.”

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not One More Acre



We Are Guåhan launches “Not One More Acre” initiative

            The Department of Defense controls almost 36,000 acres on Guam – more than ¼ of the entire island – and it wants more.  After being sued by We Are Guåhan, the Guam Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, DoD conceded that a Supplemental EIS was needed.   Today, We Are Guåhan launched a “Not One More Acre” initiative to encourage participation in the upcoming scoping meetings, scoping period and Supplemental EIS process.
“In addition to cultural impacts, an increase in traffic, safety concerns and an increase in noise, our community needs to be aware that every single option that DoD has identified requires the acquisition of more land,” said We Are Guåhan member Cara Flores-Mays.
The organization’s initiative includes the launch of http://www.notonemoreacre.com, a website dedicated to information related to the Supplemental EIS such as maps of the 5 alternatives at Pågat and Fena that DoD is considering for the site of its firing range complex.  Despite being required by law to consider all “reasonable alternatives,” DoD has eliminated every single site for firing ranges except for two: Pågat and Fena aka “Naval Magazine.”  “DoD is still considering taking Pågat and building a firing range complex there,” continued Flores-Mays.  “DoD has just added Fena and the surrounding area as another option.”    
We Are Guåhan is also encouraging people to sign its petition opposing the acquisition of any additional land on Guam.  “DoD’s current footprint is bigger than Umatac, Merizo, Inarajan and Talofofo combined,” said Flores-Mays.  “Whether it is 100 acres or 2,000 acres, DoD does not need any more land.” 
ATTEND a meeting
* Saturday, March 17 from 1 to 5 p.m., University of Guam Field House, Mangilao
* Monday, March 19 from 5 to 9 p.m., Southern High School, Santa Rita
* Tuesday, March 20 from 5 to 9 p.m., Yigo Gymnasium, Yigo
SIGN the petition
http://www.notonemoreacre.com/
SUBMIT a comment
http://www.notonemoreacre.com/submit-a-comment/
SHARE the site
http://www.notonemoreacre.com/
If you would like to help gather signatures for the petition, please email Cara Flores-Mays at cflores@weareguahan.com to request an official petition form.
Si Yu'os Ma'ase!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Vision for Independence

Mensahi Ginnen i Gehilo' #2
A Vision for Independence

One of the most important tasks that the Decolonization Commission has before it at present is the setting of a possible date for a self-determination plebiscite to help determine Guam’s next political status. After much discussion last year, the general election of 2016 was favored as possible date. Things have changed however as funding for the commission and the political status task forces seems unlikely for at least a year and the majority of members of the commission itself seem to now be against having the self-determination vote mixed with the politics of a gubernatorial election. Hopefully future meetings will help clarify this, so we can move forward.
In the meantime, for each political status task force, our most important agenda item is the updating and revising of our perspective position papers. In 2000, each task force, independence, statehood and free association submitted to the Decolonization Commission, separate reports that outlined the advantages and arguments for each particular status. These reports were to be used to craft the informational/educational materials that the Decolonization Commission will publish, which will detail in an objective way what each possible status might entail. As the commission remained inactive for almost a decade, these position papers have not been updated. In order to get the educational process started, over the next two months each task force will be working in updating or re-writing their arguments for their chosen political status.
For independence, this means working countering many of the myths that are in the community about the frightening and terrifying nature of Guam possibly becoming independent. Many people feel that independence would mean traveling back in time or radically changing life, but in truth independence means no such thing. All it means is that Guam become a locally sovereign nation, where its people, and not a government thousands of miles away hold the authority over life there. Independence would mean many changes to Guam, but so would the other statuses.
Although the original position paper is a very important work in establishing the argument for why independence for Guam can be considered part of a natural evolution, and is something that will help Guam in the long run in terms of developing and sustaining itself, I am grateful for the opportunity to update it and help enhance the message to appeal to as large an audience as possible. In order for this we have to offer a vision for independence that makes clear that independence is not solely about resolving the injustices of the past, but it is about the people of Guam, Chamorros and non-Chamorros as well, establishing the type of future for this island that they would want. It is important to note that even though only those who meet the definition of being legally Chamorro can vote in the plebiscite, it will be up to both Chamorros and non-Chamorros to help get us to whatever status is chosen. There are a long list of reasons why Chamorros should support an independent Guam, but there are just as many reasons why a non-Chamorro should support it as well.
Right now, if you are interested in helping to revise this position paper, please email me at mlbasquiat@hotmail.com. Si Yu’us Ma’ase.


Sahuma Minagahet ya Na’suha Dinagi

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Chairman, Independence Task Force for Guam

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guam Food Stamps

If I had more time I would love to write and research more the meaning of Food Stamps on Guam. Like most things in life, people tend to view them negatively through the people who use them. They complain about them towards the start of each month, when they crowd the aisles and choke the lines of grocery stores. They are viewed as things which suck away life, and make things weak. But are they really? We see so many forms of Federal aid as things that make us lazy, and show how sad and dependent we are, but why do we rarely reverse that ideological equation? Since food stamps are so bad, why do we not see more people condemn the US for weakening the people of Guam and taking away their ability to work or sustain themselves? 

One of the reasons why doing research on food stamps here could be very productive is because of the way Guam is not just a state, but rather a territory, a colony as well. So what is a simple ideological argument in the states, against racialized groups or poor groups, becomes drenched in colonial common sense in Guam. You won't hear many people in the states argue that food stamps are a reason why their state sucks and can't take care of itself, but you will hear that daily in Guam.

*****************

Food stamps twice the US average

3:00 PM, Mar. 5, 2012  |  

BY THE NUMBERS

$694: The average amount of food stamp benefits Guam households received per month -- compared to $289 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2010.
$218: The average monthly benefit per person on Guam -- compared to about $133 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2010.
$685: The average amount of food stamp benefits Guam households received per month -- compared to $275 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2009.
$208: The average monthly benefit per person on Guam -- compared to about $125 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2009.
2010 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Fiscal 2009 State Activity report
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, helps working families buy food they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford because of their limited budgets.

The program is a lifesaver for Josette Guzman, a mother of four who was laid off last December from the Department of Agriculture as a commodities inspector.

"It helps me feed my kids," the Santa Rita resident said. Guzman has been looking for a job ever since she was let go. "It's been hard. I applied (at) so many places."

Guzman's family is one of thousands of households on Guam that receive the monthly assistance.
In fiscal 2010, the average amount of food stamp benefits Guam households received was more than double the average amount that U.S. participating households received.

The average on Guam was about $694 a month, compared to the national average of $289, according to the fiscal 2010 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program state activity report -- the most recent state report available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service website.

The average monthly benefit per person on Guam in fiscal 2010 was about $218. The U.S. average was about $133, the report states.

The numbers were similar in fiscal 2009, when the average monthly benefit per participating household on Guam was about $685, according to the fiscal 2009 state activity report. The average monthly benefit for a U.S. participating household was about $275 in fiscal 2009.

In 2009, the average monthly benefit per person on Guam was about $208 compared to the U.S. average of about $125, the report states.

Reasons

There are two possible reasons for the benefits being greater on Guam compared to the U.S. average, according to James Gillan, director of the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
"It is due to family size and the lower income status of our clients," Gillan said in an email.

He said the program is available to families and individuals at more generous levels than other types of welfare programs. People with incomes that wouldn't qualify for the Medically Indigent Program or Medicaid, for instance, can qualify for food stamps, Gillan said.

"People with somewhat higher income levels will still qualify, but for less than lower income individuals," he said. "It simply means that our food stamp population is ... poorer and qualifies for more dollar value assistance."

Gillan also said the program isn't available to Freely Associated States citizens living here, but children born on Guam to FAS citizens do qualify. Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau can move to Guam under their countries' compact of free association agreements with the United States.

Maintain program

Joo "Jay" Ko, owner of New Asan Beach Mart, said the SNAP program is good for the economy.
"Thanks to food stamps, the beginning to the middle of the month business picks up, and toward the end of the month it slows down," Ko said. He said he notices customers fill up their baskets in the beginning of the month, but toward the end are buying items one at a time.

Ko, a resident of Harmon who bought the store from the former owners five years ago, said he hopes with the federal government's deficit, it doesn't touch food stamps.

"The wages here on Guam are not as high as back in the states. ... (The) majority of the people (here) are living paycheck-to-paycheck," Ko said.

One of those families is the Nakayamas. After her husband had a sports injury, Annet Nakayama, 32, of Asan, has had to take on the responsibility of primary breadwinner.

Nakayama works as a cashier at New Asan Beach Mart. The mother of three young children -- a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old and a 4-month-old -- relies on the program to help pay for groceries and other items, such as infant formula, which are necessary but "so expensive."

Nakayama's husband had worked at a restaurant and another supermarket until he was injured.
"
Right now, I'm the one that works, so I can pay rent and power," Nakayama said.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I Love EG

I am applying later this month for a grant to go to South Korea and conduct research on Starcraft 2 and issues of race and ethnicity in this international esport. Starcraft 2 like Starcraft: Brood War is something played around the world, by people of every ethnicity, and as a result there become competitions and narratives that are nationalist in scope and also racial. For example, there is a strong discourse in the sports world, that those who are black, have a natural ability to perform better in sports. Similarly, in the world of Starcraft it is South Koreans who seem to have an uncanny ability to play the game at much higher levels than everyone else.

I have always found it interesting what the political effects are of such narratives of innate dominance. In the case of African Americans, their physical prowess is something that was once used to justify their enslavement (since to so many Europeans it seemed that God had created them for slavery), but then later used to justify not doing anything to make up for the inter-generational long-lasting impacts of slavery. There is alot of sort of casual rationalization which goes on here, and you need not be a card carrying racist or an active member of a eugenics cult in order to enjoy their "privileges." For everyone who doesn't want to address the issue of redress for slavery, aren't African Americans who are successful athletes a perfect example of why they aren't necessary? They have achieved so much because of their natural skills, in ways that any of their former slave owners and their descendants could never match. In this way, what is a simple thing, a simple conversational node, becomes a political argument, something that feeds into to pot of elixir known as nationalism.

A case in point is a statement that Barrack Obama made regularly throughout his campaign for President in 2008, in particular in his "A More Perfect Union" speech, which is known as basically his master treatise on race. He stated that in no other country is his story, to go from being a poor black kid in Hawai'i, to a Senator, to possibly President, in no other country is this even possible. Only America has the ability to create this sort of opportunity. Only America is loving, forgiving, and giving enough to take a chance on a skinny black kid with a funny name, and allow it to be the leader of the free world. Only in America can a race of people once enslaved and deprived of every right or privilege, rise up to be the leaders of entertainment and sport industries.

This is of course not true at all. Sen ti magahet este. But the point of nationalism, is that it is the magical stuff that Renan marveled about. It has the ability to conjure up both a grand past of events that so many people, even those whose ancestors weren't there, can try to claim to be a part of it, and at the same time, a grand future, in which they, and only they will do great things. But as Renan also points out, this requires forgetting, it requires a great deal of amnesia, in order to arrange the chaos and the systems of injustice and silencing that exist as part of the nation in order to create that powerful force. This nationalist core can do great things, but it is also something which blinds you to much as well. Nationalism is the ego of the nation, and I don't only mean that in the sense of being something that makes you feel like you're the best, but allows you to defend yourself, from even your own critiques. Nationalism is not only pride in yourself, but it is also the ability to have blind faith, the ability to erase things from your memory and attempt to rearrange history in a way to help you forget the things you'd rather not remember.

Video games are supposed to be a place where race does not matter. The internet was supposed to be a similar phenomena, where the body, the mere, weak, and patricularized flesh would be surpassed, and a new form of being could be enjoyed. In truth, the internet, the virtual experience holds the power to perpetuate issues of the flesh or the body, such as race or ethnicity in even more concrete way, despite the entire experience supposedly being abstract or disconnected. One of the things we find in gaming for example is the gleeful use of terms such as "nigger" or "faggot" and rampant expressions of homophobia and sexism. The question is always why we should see these things in the virtual world? If the virtual world is so detached from this world and offers freedom from it, why would what most people think of as the worst of this world, make it into the next?

Could it be that since the virtual world is supposed to disconnect you from your body and this world, that you can enjoy more eagerly the racist or sexist or homophobic fantasies that you aren't supposed to be able to discuss or invoke in real life? You can call someone a word filled with all the hate of centuries of oppression and not feel like those you who use it on get the chains of history slapped on them, while you escape completely free. They are meant to feel the sting of being a slave, of being owned and denigrated and have an entire society build its wealth off of your back and labor, but while you were supposed to feel the sting of being a bad person for both invoking that history and possibly profiting directly as a descendant of that oppression, the screen of virtuality is supposed to protect your identity. In a sense the internet is supposed to be an identity theft program in the sense that it can keep your identity from being hijacked by the truth. It is a way of keeping it from being stolen by reality.

Starcraft 2 is known for having a more mature gaming base, and so playing it can be more pleasant than others such as Counter-Strike, WoW or Call of Duty, because there is less more openly racist and sexist profanity. But at the same time, that doesn't mean that these issues are not there.

Recently a scandal in the SC2 community developed over the actions of a caster named Orb, who used racist statements most importantly the word "nigger" while streaming (publicly broadcasting his games online), and attacking other players. SC2 players produced screenshots and went through replays of his looking for any evidence and found several examples of him taunting or attacking other players using clearly racist terms. He denied this at first saying another player had used his account without him knowing it, but eventually it was determined that he had indeed been using such language on his stream. He had just been picked up as a caster by a major esports company, Evil Geniuses or EG recently and so this was a very big deal as it could cost him quite a bit. Going through the threads for Team Liquid, the most prominent SC and SC2 forum site, I saw alot of division over how to handle this. Many said, as expected that it simply didn't matter. That things aren't that racist now, people should let things go, and that it isn't worth him being fired over. Others said it was a big deal and that he should be castigated in someway since, that sort of behavior isn't appropriate for someone who wants to be a celebrity in esports.

It was determined that Orb had indeed made the comments that he was accused of, and as a result he was fired from EG with a warning that he would never be hired back by them. I read the message from the EG CEO Alex Garfield, and was amazed at it. I had heard of Garfield before, but didn't know that he had taken classes during college in Ethnic Studies and Social Justice and had graduated with a degree in Black Studies. I was expecting some corporate statement on this is not acceptable and because of sponsors and so on. Instead I read the letter below, which invokes so many concepts central to critical studies of race. It makes a distinction between racism as something only an individual chooses to express and as a system that assigns value to one person over another. He even breaks down why using racist language, even if racism isn't supposed to be an issue anymore is wrong. It was a joy to read, and I hope it educated a few nerds out there, who think of esports as being a place where these things don't exist or shouldn't be addressed. I've pasted it below, and I'm sure I'll be using it somewhere in my research.

But for now, because of the critique yan teimemtom of their CEO, Hu guaiya EG. I love EG. I think I may go order a t-shirt from them later today.

********************


Back in 2003, a group of well-known Counter-Strike players (mostly White and Asian) decided that it would be fun to masquerade as an African-American Counter-Strike team. They created fake names, used fake profile pictures, and proceeded to compete in an entire season of league play while pretending to be African-American. When the players were finally exposed, the Counter-Strike community reacted to the incident with more amusement than anything else, and I - an avid member of the CS community at that time - was shocked and offended. I expressed my shock and disappointment in an op-ed, which was received somewhat controversially. While I was disappointed enough in the community's initial reaction to the incident, I was even more disappointed at its reaction to my comments. It was extremely disheartening to witness the cultural values, or lack thereof, being displayed by my peers.

Almost ten years later, I am a proud member of the StarCraft community, a culture which I find to be far more intelligent, conscious, and respectful than the Counter-Strike community was in 2003. And, while what I'm about to say may be odd to hear, given that EG's sponsors have been bombarded with complaints from StarCraft fans and players over the past 24 hours, I can say with complete honesty and sincerity that I have never been prouder to call myself a member of the StarCraft community than I am at this moment. I'll explain why further down in this write-up, but first, bear with me as I offer some context.

My undergraduate degree is in Black Studies, Sociology, and Social Justice. And, while I'll never claim to understand what life is like from the perspective of anyone other than a straight, White guy, I'd like to think that I have a pretty solid academic understanding of how race and racism function in contemporary society. My own credentials aside, I think it's really important to point out that racism today is not what it once was; not in the sense that it is any less widespread, or that it has any less of an impact on people's lives, but rather, in the sense that it functions very differently today compared to how it functioned twenty, thirty, forty, or more, years ago.

Take, for example, the term "racist," which I think is a rather antiquated word, and one that's been injected with so much hyperbolic meaning and stigma over the years that it is now almost entirely devoid of any actual, useful meaning. Traditionally, using the term "racist" in describing a person, action, or statement implies intent, or belief in a racial hierarchy, or belief in the superiority of one race over another. These are the objective criteria standardly utilized in labeling something or someone as being "racist."

But at this point in time, in contemporary society, there are relatively few people (especially compared to how things were in the mid-to-late 20th century) who actually believe in the aforementioned kinds of objectively-racist systems of thought. Aside from White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis (who still very much exist, don't get me wrong), and other extreme examples, most people in our age group just don't believe in that kind of racism. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that most of the people reading this post were taught that racism is bad, that racial equality is good, and that you shouldn't be racist. The fact is that these days, most people don't think they're racists, and don't want to be identified as being, or doing something racist. And yet, racism still occurs, and we all still say and do things to perpetuate it, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally. There's a great book about this sociological issue called "Racism without Racists," and if this kind of subject matter interests you, you'd be wise to check it out.

Anyway, the bottom line is that, despite this change in how we view racism, it's still everywhere. It's still incredibly powerful, and it pervades most - if not all - aspects of our society. It's just, for the most part, much more covert than it was fifty years ago. Nowadays, it usually takes the form of stereotypes and institutional policies, rather than racial slurs and violence. And correspondingly, in my opinion, it has become far too complex to be accurately described by the term "racist." We've all witnessed arguments about whether a particular joke someone made was "racist," or "offensive," or "insensitive." The question I always ask is, are any of these adjectives really accurate or appropriate? I don't think we've developed a functional verbal toolset to appropriately discuss contemporary, covert racism. With this in mind, I try to entirely avoid labeling people as "racist," and I define something as being "racist" only if it plays a functional role in perpetuating racism (for example, I'll call a joke a "racist" joke if it plays on stereotypes, because stereotypes function as the foundational pillars of race and racism).

Now, moving on to points more relevant to the happenings of the past several days, let me be clear: it is my personal opinion that n----- is the ugliest, most repulsive word in the American-English vocabulary. I have never said it, typed it, or written it. If it's used in my presence, I immediately speak up and demand that it not be used again in my presence, regardless of context or circumstances (and for the record, I am equally sensitive about who can and can't say n---a, but that's a different discussion entirely). There are many valid reasons to find the word n----- offensive and repulsive, but for me, the overarching reason is that there is no other word that so efficiently and effectively captures such extreme human injustice and inequality. There is an inherent power dynamic/discrepancy contained within the act of saying the word n-----, and its use sets its subject apart from its object to a greater extent than any other word we have is able to. As such, if you prescribe to my contemporary definition of racism outlined above, there is no more racist word in existence than n-----. By its very nature, it is the essence of absolute racism, in its most extreme form, encapsulated in a noun. In my opinion, with few exceptions, it doesn't matter who says it, to whom, in what context. It's a racist word. If it has a subject and an object, I find its use to be inexcusable - again, with very few exceptions.

In line with this, earlier today, Orb, who had been contracted by EG to anchor our Master's Cup broadcasts, was informed that he has been dismissed of his position and will not be invited back. I apologize to those of you who feel that we took too long to make this decision, but we wanted to make sure the allegations were true before acting, and as recently as 24 hours ago, their validity was still in question (as Scott explained on Live on 3 last night). While Orb's inexcusable comments occurred before he was contracted by EG, and they (of course) did not occur on an EG-affiliated broadcast, neither of these points accounted for our delay in dismissing him. We were never looking for a loophole, here. It didn't matter to us where or when these actions took place. We just wanted to make sure the allegations were true before moving to act and formally parting ways. And, it should go without saying that if we'd ever known that Orb had used such language in the past, or was prone to using such language, we wouldn't have contracted him in the first place.

For the record, I do want to point out that I don't think Orb is "a racist." As mentioned above, I think that to make such a claim would be to misunderstand the nature of contemporary racism. This, of course, does not lessen the severity of his actions, or the extent to which they are unacceptable and inexcusable, but it's still an important distinction to make. As also mentioned above, I think that it's possible to make a racist comment without being a card-carrying Neo-Nazi - the latter is not a necessary condition for the former - and I hope that all of you will consider - whenever it is that you're done expressing your very justifiable outrage - forgiving Orb, if he apologizes sufficiently. While no amount of penance will land him back at the EG broadcast desk, he's a very talented caster, and I hope that he learns from this experience and eventually rebounds from the trouble he's gotten himself into.

In many ways, a culture's icons reflect its core set of values. Being granted celebrity status, and being allowed to represent an entire community, or a portion of a community - these are privileges only given to individuals with whom said community identifies and whose perceived values said community respects. I mentioned at the beginning of this post how disappointed I was in the Counter-Strike community back in 2003, because the community still allowed that team of players to retain its celebrity/icon status, even after their true identities and transgressions were exposed. Their actions violated my core values, and as such, I felt that they should be publicly condemned, and have their celebrity status revoked. The majority of the community, however, felt the exact opposite, and further celebrated the team for their behavior. Based on this, I came to the conclusion that the community's cultural values were not in line with mine, and that was a disheartening realization for me.

However, almost ten years later, as I also mentioned at the beginning of this (very long) post, I've never been prouder to be a part of the StarCraft community (or of any gaming community) than I am at this very moment. And I feel this way because, despite the fact that you guys have been peppering my sponsors with complaints*, your outrage shows me that we do have a set of core values (one of which is that racism isn't acceptable), and we expect our icons and celebrities to share those values; otherwise, they won't be our icons and celebrities any longer.

The eSports industry, and especially some of its respective communities, still have a lot growing up to do before they're truly ready to become mainstream. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the fighting game community at the heart of some major controversy because its culture seemed to condone overt sexism and sexual harassment; these forms of discrimination, in fact, were cited by many members of the FGC as part of what makes fighting game culture what it is. In that regard, the FGC revealed the immaturity of its cultural values, and showed that it still has a lot of growing up to do.

I think we all already knew, prior to this incident, that the StarCraft community was one of the more mature gaming communities out there, but it's still refreshing and encouraging to see that maturity reinforced by how (most of) you guys have reacted over the past few days. I urge you to continue to stand up for what you think is right, and help make this community a safe, comfortable space for everyone.

I can say, with unwavering certainty, on behalf of everyone at EG, that we are absolutely, 100% committed to doing our part to achieve those goals.

...Now, I just wish you guys would also get this upset when people use the word f----t, so that we could start fighting homophobia, too, and show people that it, like racism, also doesn't belong in our community .

Sincerely,

Alexander Garfield
CEO, Evil Geniuses
@ottersareneat on Twitter


*For those of you who complained to our sponsors: if you're satisfied with what I've written here, please re-contact them to let them know you're happy with us - really, please do it.


For those of you who didn't initially complain, but are satisfied with this post nonetheless, I'd also ask that you contact our sponsors to let them know you support us.


I would also ask that, in the future, if you're unhappy with something that happens in eSports, you guys give the offending party a chance to respond and/or act before seeking vigilante justice via contacting said party's sponsors.


In this case, I promptly informed everyone that we'd be issuing a statement and were taking the matter seriously, but some of you still decided to contact out sponsors before hearing me out. I don't think that's fair. Please try to be more patient in the future. It's hard enough to bring sponsors into eSports as it is - we as an industry don't need angry, pitchfork-wielding mobs making that task any more difficult .

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ti Ya-hu Si Ayn Rand

How Ayn Rand Became the New Right's Version of Marx

Her psychopathic ideas made billionaires feel like victims and turned millions of followers into their doormats

 
It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.




Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as "refuse" and "parasites", and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them. Apart from the police, the courts and the armed forces, there should be no role for government: no social security, no public health or education, no public infrastructure or transport, no fire service, no regulations, no income tax.
Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labor, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt.

The poor die like flies as a result of government programs and their own sloth and fecklessness. Those who try to help them are gassed. In a notorious passage, she argues that all the passengers in a train filled with poisoned fumes deserved their fate. One, for instance, was a teacher who taught children to be team players; one was a mother married to a civil servant, who cared for her children; one was a housewife "who believed that she had the right to elect politicians, of whom she knew nothing".
Rand's is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed. Yet, as Gary Weiss shows in his new book, Ayn Rand Nation, she has become to the new right what Karl Marx once was to the left: a demigod at the head of a chiliastic cult. Almost one third of Americans, according to a recent poll, have read Atlas Shrugged, and it now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year.

Ignoring Rand's evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading "Who is John Galt?" and "Rand was right". Rand, Weiss argues, provides the unifying ideology which has "distilled vague anger and unhappiness into a sense of purpose". She is energetically promoted by the broadcasters Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli. She is the guiding spirit of the Republicans in Congress.

Like all philosophies, Objectivism is absorbed, secondhand, by people who have never read it. I believe it is making itself felt on this side of the Atlantic: in the clamorous new demands to remove the 50p tax band for the very rich, for instance; or among the sneering, jeering bloggers who write for the Telegraph and the Spectator, mocking compassion and empathy, attacking efforts to make the word a kinder place.

It is not hard to see why Rand appeals to billionaires. She offers them something that is crucial to every successful political movement: a sense of victim-hood. She tells them that they are parasitized by the ungrateful poor and oppressed by intrusive, controlling governments.

It is harder to see what it gives the ordinary teabaggers, who would suffer grievously from a withdrawal of government. But such is the degree of misinformation which saturates this movement and so prevalent in the US is Willy Loman syndrome (the gulf between reality and expectations) that millions blithely volunteer themselves as billionaires' doormats. I wonder how many would continue to worship at the shrine of Ayn Rand if they knew that towards the end of her life she signed on for both Medicare and social security. She had railed furiously against both programs, as they represented everything she despised about the intrusive state. Her belief system was no match for the realities of age and ill health.

But they have a still more powerful reason to reject her philosophy: as Adam Curtis's BBC documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal. Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as "the 'greed' of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer". As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honor and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a "superlatively moral system".

Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru's philosophy to the letter, cutting taxes for the rich, repealing the laws constraining banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down. Much of this is already documented, but Weiss shows that in the US, Greenspan has successfully airbrushed history.

Despite the many years he spent at her side, despite his previous admission that it was Rand who persuaded him that "capitalism is not only efficient and practical but also moral", he mentioned her in his memoirs only to suggest that it was a youthful indiscretion – and this, it seems, is now the official version. Weiss presents powerful evidence that even today Greenspan remains her loyal disciple, having renounced his partial admission of failure to Congress.

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

George Monbiot
George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Urgent from Gangjeong

Two urgent messages about the situation in Gangjeong, Jeju:

**************************
From Save Jeju


Dear friends,
Starting today, Gangjeong is in an emergency situation. Nearly 700 police have arrived from the mainland in Gangjeong village to monitor the blasting of Gureombi, the volcanic rock coastline, and the dredging of the seafloor. Not only will the marine life, including endangered crabs and coral reefs, be swept away, the blast has already impacted the fresh water springs that the majority of the island is dependent upon.
Though our numbers are small in the village, we will do our best to fight to stop the blast of Gureombi. It is still uncertain whether the Seogwipo Police will allow the Navy to blast Gureombi on Monday, when the Governor of Jeju Island is supposed to make his decision.
Please send an email to the Governor NOW asking him to please stop the blast of Gureombi.
Thank you for one minute of your time. We urgently need international solidarity NOW.
In peace and justice,

Gangjeong Village



Mr. Woo Keun-Min
Governor
The government of Jeju-do
312-1, Yeon-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Fax: +82 64 710 3009
E-mail: jejumaster@jeju.go.kr

*************************

From the Global Network

Jeju Island Needs Our Help

Mary Beth Sullivan
Bath, Maine
March 4, 2012
At the end of February, 2012, I joined the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space to attend an international peace conference, and connect with the villagers and activists living in Jeju Island’s 450-year old Gangjeong village.
The South Korean Navy, with pressure from the United States, intends to build a naval base at this southern coastal village. For five years, the villagers have been fighting this decision through political and legal means, while simultaneously resisting each stage in the process. The Navy, with lead contractors Samsung and Daelim, has taken over people’s property; felled trees; destroyed greenhouses; built miles of fence preventing the village’s view or access to Guroembi, their ancient, holy place of prayer.
The people resist. When they can’t walk to the Guroembi rocks, they kayak. When the kayaks are blocked, they swim. It was humbling to bear witness to the passion and love people had for their beloved Guroembi. Jeju is a volcanic island, and there are many rock formations, but Guroembi is unique. These living rocks have fresh water springs that lay beneath; coral reefs that sit off shore as colorful as any tropical reef; endangered red crabs that feed off these rocks. This eco system and the villagers – fishermen, women divers, farmers, lovers of nature – have had no voice in the decision to bury Guroembi in cement to build a naval base. They have been organizing for years to build community, to change the hearts and minds of decision-makers, and to prevent the destruction of their village.

Their struggle is not only to protect nature’s gifts; they also have a noble, passionate commitment to a democratic process. The injustice of a Navy’s dictate to confiscate land and expose an island to the vagaries of war in this 21st Century is an unacceptable control over people’s lives. The people refuse a quiet acquiescence to this atrocity. Samsung and the Navy bring waves of riot police from the mainland to rough-up and arrest non-cooperative villagers, and to block access to the sea and shore that has a centuries-old history. Indignant, the people persevere, continuing to work every avenue possible to save Gureombi.

In our short time on Jeju Island, our international delegation got a glimpse of the determination and creativity the villagers have displayed over the years. We have been watching the videos from Gangjeong faithfully, of villagers and activists arrested for laying their bodies down in front of the wheels of the cement trucks, the cranes, the machines meant to blast holes deep into the heart of Gureombi. And, once released from prison, villagers lay their bodies down again.

Although the Korean Peninsula has plenty of military installations, until now, Jeju Island has been spared this fate. The public relations campaign claims this new naval base will be “dual use” – insulting the intelligence of all by providing illustrations of a pier on one side of the base with a huge luxury liner docked, with mini-skirted women prancing the upper deck, while two submarines and a naval destroyer dock at a nearby pier. Who gets paid to create such fantasies?

In fact, this base is intended to dock U.S. nuclear submarines, Aegis Destroyers (built in my home town of Bath, Maine) and aircraft carriers. Based on a mutual defense pact and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the U.S. has the right to use any South Korean ports and airfields. President Barack Obama has declared a U.S. military “pivot” toward Asia, while China and the U.S. continue competing for the world’s oil, gas, and underground minerals. The truth is, the U.S. has a huge military presence in the Asia Pacific region already, and has an expressed goal of dominating militarily in all corners of the globe “to protect U.S. interests and investments.” A military base in Gangjeong will make Jeju Island a target in the war-game exercises the U.S. regularly engages off the coast of China. The villagers are correct in resisting this dangerous disruption to their way of life.

Korea’s Jeju Island has earned a triple crown of UNESCO recognition as: 1) a World National Heritage site; 2) a Biosphere Reserve Zone, and 3) a World Geological Park. It is a government-designated “absolute preservation area”. It is characterized by rare rock formations, abundant and fertile farmlands, pristine fresh and seawaters, and endangered marine life. As concerned world citizens, we should all honor the people of Gangjeong who are giving their lives to this 21st Century struggle.

Finally, Professor Yang Yoon-Mo recently turned 56 in Jeju City prison. He is in jail for the second time in a year for putting his body in front of cement and construction trucks; The first time, he fasted for over 70 days. Since his arrest in January, he has begun his hunger strike again, and is now in his fourth week. I visited him in prison before I left the island. I can never express the emotion of the experience of hearing this gentle, holy man explain so clearly: “If Guroembi lives, I live; if Guroembi dies, I die. Do not cry for me, cry for the future generations who may not be able to know the beauty of Guroembi.”

I urge us all to take action. As I write, the navy is planning to start blasting Guroembi rocks today or tomorrow. Save Guroembi. Save Yang Yoon-Mo. Do your part.
Contact South Korea’s:

Island Governor (Mr. Woo Keun-Min, Governor, The Government of Jeju-do, REPUBLIC OF KOREA, jejumaster@jeju.go.kr),

President (Mr. Lee Myung-Bak, President, Republic of Korea, president@cwd.go.kr ),

Defense Minister (Mr. Kim Kwan-Jin, Minister, Ministry of National Defense,

REPUBLIC OF KOREA cyber@mnd.go.kr)


Especially put pressure on the Jeju Island Governor to prevent the blasting of Goreombi rocks! (Could we fill his email box today?) Let them all know that the world is watching, and that destruction of the village to build a naval base needs to stop. Keep track of the current situation by joining two facebook pages: Save Jeju Island; and No Naval Base on Jeju. As the people say to us always, “Please save Gangejong, the Life and Peace village.”

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