Inafa'maolek and Civility Discourse
Inafa'maolek has many meanings, all of them however focus around expressing community through interdependence or through cooperation. It is about working together to sustain a society. It is about humans sustaining nature, sustaining their families and so on. It is a collective concept that is focused on building sustainable, positive and nurturing relationships. It is about helping and preserving. It is an important concept, but it shouldn't be considered the end all of Chamoru possibility.
There are certain things that inafa'maolek excels at. There are certain things it does very well, but we also should perceive certain limits to it. Inafa'maolek is great at focusing on collective problems that face a community, at maintaining relations within a family. It is something that is best when the power relations are not rigidly or oppressively stratified. It is something beautiful amongst equals, but when power dynamics become skewed, inafa'maolek can lead to problems. It can end up prohibiting agency, precluding change, preventing things from adapting or changing because of a sense of needing to work together or suppress particular voices or ideas in the name of maintaining a sense of harmony.
Inafa'maolek is something beautiful after a typhoon hits the island. It is something beautiful to see in action at a family function or as families tackle a collective problem. It is something wonderful to teach people in terms of their relationship to the environment.
But what wisdom do the great tomes of inafa'maolek provide when tackling income inequality? Or concentration of power or wealth in a society? What role does inafa'maolek play or not play in terms of challenging colonial power? Or calling out injustice or righting wrongs in a society?
As I said, there are many versions of inafa'maolek out there, but most of them would be ill-equipped with tackling things such as this, and those that argue it would, may simply be using inafa'maolek to describe whatever they'd like and not what it usually is. Siña un sångan na ya-hu este, pues este siempre inafa'maolek, lao håfa I setbe-ña enao?
This does not mean that inafa'maolek is bad or wrong, but only that it doesn't and shouldn't encapsulate the entirety of Chamoru culture. That to argue that it does, in many ways inhibits Chamoru agency and possibility. It denies Chamorus basic tools for dealing with basic problems in their families, in their villages and on their island.
One thing that this reminds me of, is the civility discourse that we find in many struggles or the idea that those seeking to change things in a society, must remain civil in often times ridiculous and unrealistic ways. That those who are protesting violent oppression must remain civil above all else, regardless of the very issues that are affecting them. This article from the New York Times a few months ago definitely struck a chord with me, especially thinking back to Nasion Chamoru and what those activists endured in terms of being stigmatized as taimamahlao.
White America's Age-Old, Misguided Obsession With Civility
by Thomas J. Sugrue