Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Proud to Be Political

This video is very inspiring. It captures well a type of native nationalism, born from culture and heritage, but containing political elements. The relationships between the cultural and the political is something that I have written about endlessly on this blog. I even featured some discussion on it in my dissertation because so much of the way I see Chamorro life and the lives of so many indigenous people operating today revolves around the relationship between that which is deemed political and that which is deemed cultural. When the world was cut into pieces with meat sucked from the bones of so many native peoples the new world born from that violence was divided in fundamental ways, usually conceived in binary ways, which the positive being the purview of those with guns, steel, crosses and flags and whatever was left sticking to those who lost land, language, culture and lives. In the world of today, this "modern" world, those who lost that carving up of the world are supposed to be cultural subjects. They are supposed to embody lost, dying and inauthentic cultures. They are supposed to provide flavor for life, exotic things to look at and fantasize over for those who inherited the mantles and banners of the victors. One of the earliest forms of decolonization, the most generic and most basic ways it can be conceived of, is the movement from the cultural to the political. It is the taking of that cultural, neutralized existence, where you exist to try to keep close to your barely beating chest whatever shreds of your culture still exist, and moving into the political realm, where you demand things, assert rights and imagine a different present and future with power being distributed in very different ways.

When debates or conflicts such as this over the use of a racial slur for Native Americans, we can see how that cultural dimensions can lead to political action. You are no longer the scenery, the colorful background upon which white people fantasize the more exciting parts of their day to day lives. You are a subject that can be considered political and therefore worthy of respect and rights. The problem with this is always the extent to which that political existence is critical or anti-colonial, the extent to which it challenges things such as colonization or neocolonialism. A "political" subject is not necessarily a decolonizing subject. It can be something which is asserted but rather than challenging the political framework that once authorized the use of that slur and watched will so much land was stolen and so many lives destroyed, it can reinforce it through admissions of patriotism and connecting of this story to that larger narrative.

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