08 December 2015

Contemporary independence is an exercise in inter-dependence

Palau cited as example of "a different way to develop oneself, one which is focused on long terms gains and goals and not short terms ones."


For those thinking about the future of Guam, especially in the context of decolonization, we should stop looking to the United States, but instead look to Palau/Belau. Many of our ideas about decolonization or independence and therefore political possibility are tied to the way we perceive the United States. We see it as being the model for the way a country should live and exist today. 

We are conditioned in an endless number of ways each day and over the course of our lives here to see the United States as the pinnacle of possibility. That if we are to live anyway, it should be the images we have of it. We look to other large and powerful countries as distant alternatives, but always we see America as being where its at. The way we see America however is far from objective. Our gaze drips with colonial nonsense. 

When the first discussions on political status change and decolonization started to emerge in Guam, one constant refrain of resistance was the notion that Guam could never be self-sustaining and self-sufficient and therefore independent the way the United States is. As a result independence is impossible and we shouldn't try. But as the late Guam Senator Frank Lujan reminded people in his article "Sleeping Beauty: Time Passes By,"

"Those who defend Guam's colonial status argue that economic independence for Guam is impractical. We happen to agree. Guam by herself can never be economically independent. But nor can our great mother country the United States. There no longer is any such animal as an independent nation in the world today...All nations in the latter part of the 20th century are economically interdependent."

This is such an important reminder, on so many levels. It is a reminder that many things which we assume to be true and bedrock facts, may simply be fear and ignorance. To imagine that Guam has to take care of everything on its own and can't get any help from others is ridiculous. 

Every independent nation works with others. The difference between a colony and an independent country is that a country gets to choose who it wishes to associate with. As a colony, you are stuck with your colonizer's list of friends and enemies. But this is also a reminder that we should look at places closer to home when trying to imagine independence for Guam. Places who were once colonized who are using their autonomy and their resources and potential advantages to the best of their abilities. Places, such as Palau/Belau. 

It is making headlines around the world lately, for pioneering a number of environmental programs. Whereas most countries give some lip service to the environment, but are actually ravaging their natural resources with chaotic and frantic speed and efficiency, Palau is hitting the breaks. They are showing us a different way to develop oneself, one which is focused on long terms gains and goals and not short terms ones. They are not seeking to sell off their fish, their lakes, their waters, their lands as quickly as possible in order to get as much money as possible as quickly as possible. They are instead seeking a way to protect what is precious and irreplaceable and should be beyond value in terms of money.