27 January 2011

The Hand that Feeds

"You should always bite the hands that purport to feed you, if only to test to see whether they truly are feeding you or not."

by Michael Bevacqua
for Marianas Variety

When trying to explain certain political or theoretical points to my students I often stray away from academic examples or verbiage and try to illustrate things through more accessible popular culture forms such as movies or song lyrics. For instance, when trying to explain recently the way in which Guam’s dependency on the United States cripples us and limits us, consistently helping us accept that we are inadequate, I could have referred to numerous examples in our community and our government to make my point. Instead I found myself referring to a heavy metal song. And to my surprise it actually helped push the point home.

The song was "The Hand that Feeds" by Nine Inch Nails, which is about somebody who is stuck in a position of subordination, kneeling before someone who controls them. They don't seem to know anything is wrong most of the time, but this position of being controlled actually leaves them hollow inside. The chorus calls upon the kneeling object of the song to rise up and to bite the hand that appears to feed it, to chew it up and reject their dominance and power.

The lyrics for me are naturally connected to a famous quote from Chamorro scholar Laura Torres Souder's seminal article "Psyche Under Siege" which discusses the psychological dependency and feelings of loyalty that Chamorros feel for the United States, that trap them in a subordinate relationship with it. The quote is so embedded in our society, and strikes deep into the bones of Chamorros. It is a quote that dictates so much of our lives, how we see ourselves in the world, what we as a people or an island are or aren't capable of. It speaks so much to the predicament of the island today, why a massive unilateral military buildup, which could literally shatter the island, is somehow welcomed and celebrated.

This is the logic that pins us down, that insists that we continue to kiss the hand that feeds us, that we never question the mandates of that hand, that we never look past it, but continually submit to it, since there is nothing possible without it. Here is the quote in question:

“Naughty, naughty, you should not bite the hand that feeds you. Remember, life boils down to this, he who holds the purse strings rules the roost.”

In my opinion, you should always bite the hands that purport to feed you, if only to test to see whether they truly are feeding you or not.

If Guam were ever to change political status, I think that this song should be our new anthem. We can even translate it into Chamorro and invite Nine Inch Nails to come and perform on Liberation Day!

And wouldn’t it be nice to have an anthem which doesn’t put you to sleep like some droning dirge, but instead challenges you, the way this song does, where its final verses shout over and over, "Will you stay down on your knees?"