Monday, March 06, 2017

Response to Paul Zerzan

Paul Zerzan frequently references me in his columns in the Guam Daily Post and also his letters to the editor of the Pacific Daily News. For those of you who don't know who Paul Zerzan is, it isn't truly critical that you know him or what he stands for. He is a white male living on Guam, who constantly takes polemical and often times ignorant positions on things such as Chamorro language and decolonization. It is sometimes difficult to engage with someone like him who seems very willing to impulsively shout loudly about the things that they believe, but doesn't ever seem to investigate or research what they are claiming prior to speaking/writing. Gi Fino' Chamorro ta sångan, "hasso åntes håfa para un sångan, mappot pumañot tåtte." This is something that Paul Zerzan doesn't seem to know much about or take seriously.

Last year I and several others wrote letters and column about his assertion that the Chamorro language is already dead and it is useless to do anything to save it or preserve it. You can find some of them at this link here "Ti Mamatai ha' Trabiha i Lenguahi-ta." In general though, I rarely respond directly to Paul Zerzan's points because they are so grossly uninformed. Although he sounds very serious in his tone and speaks as if he knows what he is talking about, basic facts and details along with a larger sense of what he is discussing, escape him.

Last year he wrote a column titled "Who is Really Behind the Independence Push?" in the Guam Daily Post. I started to draft a response, but it ended up by the wayside because there were simply too many things to correct and provide context for. Paul Zerzan seems to be someone who does a Google search and then finds whichever source makes his point and then doesn't read or consider anything else. Part of me wants to sit down with him and try to talk through some of the issues he's engaging with, because he seems very interested in them, but hasn't bothered to learn much about it yet, despite his willingness to speak about it regularly.

Below is first my draft and also the text from his column to which I was responding.


Paul Zerzan's 10/24/16 column “Who is really behind the independence push?” is full of so many inaccuracies and misunderstandings about issues of decolonization at the local and international level, the Guam Daily Post should seriously reconsider giving someone who has so little knowledge and expertise in this matter, so much space to spread misinformation. What qualifications does Paul Zerzan have to comment on these issues, especially when he seems so willing to make blanket statements with such limited understanding about these issues?

Amidst his many inaccuracies, here are a few glaring issues that I have to take issue with:

1. Zerzan repeatedly, incorrectly asserts that everyone living in a colony should have the right to self-determination and that the United Nations supports this idea. The UN has been very clear that the right to decolonization belongs to colonized peoples, not just anyone who lives in a colony. In the immediate postwar years, the UN was not explicit in this terminology, as the majority of people in most colonies were the colonized. In time certain colonial powers began to flood their colonies with migrants and others militarized them, both with the intent of influencing any plebiscites and maintaining colonial control. Since then, the UN has been more explicit in asserting who should have the right to vote in a decolonization plebiscite.

2. UN Resolution 1541, which outlines the three basic political status choices is still the basic blueprint for how a colony should perceive the possibilities for its future. What this means however is that there are various ways of negotiating certain statuses, for example one can become integrated into a country, but not necessarily a state of it. Free association has a huge variety of permutations where it can appear like the CNMI or like Palau. But status quo is not considered to be a viable option and even if Zerzan isn’t an expert on any of these things, simple common sense should tell him that. Finally, if Zerzan had any real understanding of this issue, he would know about the experiences of places such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands who filled their plebiscites with too many options, which ended up causing only confusion and apathy, and prevented them from moving forward. Similarly, plebiscites where only two options are given or the vote is a simple yes or no question are unfortunately often times framed that way in order to force people to vote a certain way, rather than trying to capture the desires of the majority of people.

3. Guam is on the UN list of colonies because the United States has refused to allow Guam to undergo a fair and free process of decolonization. It has nothing to do with the UN keeping it on the list. If Zerzan knew anything about this issue, he would know that the US refuses to even acknowledge Guam at the international level and refuses to acknowledge that it has any obligations to Guam.

4. As opposed to asking how an independent Guam would benefit China, we should think about how a colonized Guam benefits the United States. And how that relationship may provide some benefits, it may restrict our long-term growth and development. The whole purpose of this conversation is to help move Guam towards a more equitable relationship with the rest of the world, one where it is a partner, rather than a possession. For those that wish a close and prosperous relationship with the United States, being a colony doesn’t accomplish those goals, but becoming independent, and an ally of the US could. 


 Who is Really Behind the Independence Push?
by Paul Zerzan
Traveler's Tales
The Guam Daily Post

Is China behind the “Guam Independence” movement? Now that is (admittedly) a very dirty accusation in what is in fact, a very dirty game.

I say this because of what I see as outright lies that are told again and again. One lie is the claim that the Chamorro people have never exercised self-determination.

When the people of Guam petitioned Congress for U.S. citizenship, this was an act of self-determination. When the 1982 plebiscite was held (in strict accordance with U.N. rules) that was an act of self-determination.

Another lie is the claim that the choices for political status can be limited to only three.
The 1960 U.N. resolution that listed three choices was amended by Resolution 2625 (xxv) adopted in October 1970, which states that the right to self-determination also can be implemented by "any political status freely determined by a people."

This means the people have a right to vote on a number of possibilities, including "status quo" and "commonwealth."

In fact in the “self-determination” plebiscite that was held in 1982 the people of Guam were given five different choices for political status.

The people of Guam chose (by majority vote) the status of commonwealth. This plebiscite met U.N. criteria as a legitimate exercise in self-determination.

The next step in the commonwealth process was to write a constitution for Guam. This was never done. Instead a few politicians rammed through legislation calling for another vote but denying voting rights to a majority of Guam voters.

This is in clear violation of the U.N. requirement that self-determination must be determined by “universal adult suffrage.”

So here we have three blatant violations of U.N. decolonization requirements:
1. The right of the people (all of the people) to choose political status;
2. The right to any status freely chosen by the people; and
3. Respect for the choice of the people (which in 1982 was commonwealth).

Yet how many times since 1982 have we been told that Guam’s right to decolonization under U.N. rules is being denied by the U.S. government?

In fact, Guam is considered a colony only because it is on the U.N. list of colonies.
This list is very imperfect but in any case in order to have Guam removed from the U.N. list of colonies we must follow U.N. rules of decolonization.

Above I have only listed three violations but there are more. The “self-determination” campaign is full of so many lies that I don’t have space to even begin listing them but most or all of them are propagated by the "independence" group.

So (based on this) I claim there are people on Guam who lack moral integrity in the political sphere.
Dave Slagle’s book “Gallivanting on Guam” documents a widespread lack of moral integrity in the personal behavior of some Guamanians. Most of those in the book are prominent community leaders.
So, based on a general lack of morality in much of our leadership and based on the specific outright lies (listed above) propagated by those tasked with “educating” the public on decolonization I think it is fair to ask who is really behind the persistent push for independence.

Again and again and again the people of Guam have made it clear that they want to remain U.S. citizens. Yet the independence choice is aggressively pushed again and again.

Who would benefit from an independent Guam? Obviously China would. So is it possible China is behind this campaign?

I think it is fair to ask that question. I think it is fair to conjecture that those in our community who persistently lie to us about our rights and choices in the decolonization process cannot be trusted. With the right inducements I think they would sell us out to our enemies.

That is my opinion. Please think about it. Thank you for reading this.

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