Sunday, September 01, 2013

Mensahi Ginnen I Gehilo' #7: Decolonize Okinawa!

The image above is taken from a conference that I attended in Okinawa earlier this year.

The conference focused on the issue of Okinawa's sovereignty and the betrayal of the island that took place when it was sold out to the United States in 1952. The conference took place on the anniversary of that day of shame, when the rest of Japan received its sovereignty back, but Okinawa became a military colony of the United States for the next 20 years.

For the past two years I have been to Okinawa four times, meeting with and working with demilitarization and decolonization groups there. I recently helped on such group work on the English version of their charter of incorporation. After seeing this group grow so much over the past two years, it was amazing to see what has been discussion become a political reality. In May of 2011 I spoke at a conference at Okinawa International University to a room that was sparsely filled about independence and decolonization. In April of this year the room was almost completely full. One of the indications that the movement had come along way was the presence of individuals who were recording the event, most likely for opposing ideological groups or even on behalf of some part of the US Government.

One of the most important points that I have learned from Okinawa's movement for decolonization is that amidst all the discussion one singular point must be clear and must never be questioned, and that is whether or not Okinawa could survive as an independent country. When Yasukatsu Matsushima, who is a key academic in this movement speaks amongst people in Okinawa he regularly repeats this point. In a colonial space, so much of the debate about decolonization is pointless. It has little to do with reality and almost everything to do with feelings of dependency upon your colonizer. Could Okinawa survive as an independent country, OF COURSE. So many countries that are smaller and have less advantages exist, there is nothing inherent in Okinawa's geography or society that means it could not do it. There is no minimum size for independence, no minimum level of economy, nothing of the sort, it is all a matter of negotiation and forming relationships with others.

This is not something to be questioned or discussed, since it can lead you down the rabbit hole into the realm of colonial fantasies. It can keep you from understanding and learning about the basic advantages or problems that political independence would mean. For those mired in colonial logic, independence seems impossible, unnatural, the stupidest thing in the world. There is an extra level of ideology to make it seems abnormal and distant. It requires an extra level of ideological effort in order to see past it.

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