Monday, September 24, 2012

The Pacific Way

Guambat posted a short while back about China's involvement with a economic development in the neighboring state of Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia.  See here It has been reported that the plans are gobsmacking: 
As originally envisioned, the plan was to bring as many as 10,000 hotel rooms to various locations in Yap, along with golf courses, spas, restaurants and all the other amenities of an intensive visitor industry development. “The objective of this project is to develop the State of Yap into a world renowned tourism destination,”the agreement states.

The scope of the planned development is mind-boggling. ETG agrees to upgrade the airport and seaport facilities to accommodate the requirements of what will be the largest investment and development in the entire FSM, by far, since the founding of the nation. ETG will also fund the creation of a new public park and a new state capitol.

The impact of all of this on Yap is a worry. The land of stone money is the most traditional of the Micronesian states, and things haven’t really changed very much there for the past 50 years. It’s a small, tightly knit community where traditional leadership is more highly respected than the elected leadership. Although Gov. Sebastian Anefal signed the agreement on behalf of the state, he would not have been able to do so without the acquiescence of the Council of Pilung, the traditional chiefs of Yap, who were present at the signing.
Well, maybe not so fast.  There is a Pacific Way in the islands.  It values consensus over domination, dialogue and relationship stabilization over power plays, deference over challenge.  Leadership is earned through diplomacy and trust rather than brash competition.  They won't usually even look you in the eye, let alone get in your face.  They can be quite militant if pushed, but prefer a different approach, traditionally any way.

This is illustrated by the slow boil resistance to the ETG offer.  Now, it is reported in the print edition of the Marianas Variety Guam Edition, September 24th, that the Paramount Chiefs of Yap are speaking out.  Not in the adversarial way Westerners like to "debate" their differences, mind you:
The Three Pillars, Paramount chiefs of the State of Yap known as the "Dalip Pi Nguchol", have jointly signed a letter which was submitted to the whole State Leadership, in response to a fake version previously made public.

The alleged letter claimed the Dalip Pi Nguchol commanded that the ETG project be prohibited from proceeding.  The official letter issued September 21 is reported to read as follows:

"We understand that you may have received a letter allegedly from the Dalip Pi Nguchol.  As far as we know, the Dalip Pi Nguchol has neither been consulted nor contacted on any matter whatsoever.

"However, we feel that it is now of the utmost importance that, as leaders of the State Government, you come together with a unified voice in addressing the many challenges facing the State and her peoples.  No matter the challenges, this Yapese maxim will always hold true:  Ra tareb lungdad ngay ma ra fel, ma rawagey lungdad riy ma rawagey.  [Guambat only wishes he could translate that.]

"Recent events have revealed great public concerns on foreign investment.  Not all these concerns are the same, nor do they all come from the same points of view.  But they all recognize one simple truth -- that Yap State needs sustainable foreign investment.  And they all share one common underlying goal -- that foreign investments must be truly suitable for the State in terms of their sizes, types, and impacts.

"We are, therefore, requesting the State Leadership to unify and ensure that the line agencies of government will always continue to promote foreign investment, but with the underlying goal that the totality of foreign investments be sustainable and suitable for Yap, considering the size of our lands and waters, the limitations of our resources, the fragility of our environment, and the livelihood of our customs and traditions.

"This underlying goal must apply to ETG as it must to all others.  We ask that you make and keep this as a commitment to the peoples of the State.  Thank you."
 How does that compare to the bombasting and lambasting we see in our local and national governments?  Who's the more civilized?, Guambat ponders.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

And now comes the Autumn

There is a certain belligerence, an "eagerness to confront" as one talking head on CNN said today, that permeates small or large parts of most societies.

Those societies that try to suppress that urge, placing little to no value on the trait, are generally characterized as "civil". It is only one trait of a civil society, of course. Other such traits include respect for dissent, tolerance of diversity and appreciation for variety. And, Guambat hastens to add, defense of oneself is also a valued trait that can be found in civil society.

Those societies that tend to put a higher value on, or do not suppress, the "honor" of brawn over brain, tend to allow that trait to overshadow other "civil" traits, like art, science, literature and discourse, and become rather uninteresting, monolithic and highly authoritarian.

Of course, all such values are judgments presumed by a social construct, and consumed by an nihilistic, deeply rooted, culturally fed, or starved, human instinct, an instinct that can be found in other species as well, so must be deeply embedded.

These are some of the thoughts and fears that engage Guambat as he returns to the deep recesses of his burrow in the Arab Autumn that now follows the Arab Spring.

SPRING (source:

AUTUMN (source:

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Precisely which 1,000 words?

Guambat lives in a land of Old Sayings. His knowledge, such as it is, is distilled in homily and grits. Funny that, given his rather unorthodox meanderings long ago. Contrary-wise, given his rather orthodox meanderings of late.

Two sayings are called to mind in recent events: "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me." And, "a picture is worth a thousand words".

How many pictures does it take to harm me?

Egyptians angry at film scale U.S. embassy walls
Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy on Tuesday, tore down the American flag and burned it during a protest over what they said was a film being produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad.

In place of the U.S. flag, the protesters tried to raise a black flag with the words "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger", a Reuters witness said.

Once the U.S. flag was hauled down, some protesters tore it up and showed off pieces to television cameras. Others burned the remains outside the fortress-like embassy building in central Cairo. But some protesters objected to the flag burning.

Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet to be offensive.

"This movie must be banned immediately and an apology should be made," said 19-year-old Ismail Mahmoud, a member of the so-called "ultras" soccer supporters who played a big role in the uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak last year.

He called on President Mohamed Mursi, Egypt's first civilian president and an Islamist, to take action, without giving details of the film that angered him or other protesters.

About 20 people stood on top of the embassy wall, while about 2,000 protesters gathered outside. The demonstrators were mainly supporters of Islamist groups or "ultras" youths.

Rafik Farouk, 38, an Egyptian Christian, also took part. "I am here because I am Egyptian and reject anything that insults Islam or anything that sparks division in Egypt," he said.

Read more at the article headline link.

The Movie So Offensive That Egyptians Just Stormed the U.S. Embassy Over It
What exactly does the film say? It's still not clear, but it appears to compare Mohammed to a goat and Muslims, according to one translation, to "child-lovers." The New York Times' Liam Stack, offering some offhand translations of the scene shown above, called it a "doozy." The man in the scene says of his donkey, "This is the first Muslim animal." He asks the goat if it likes girls; when it doesn't answer, he bursts into laughter and says, "He doesn't like girls," according to Stack. Other scenes in the above clip seem to portray Muslim Egyptian characters, who for some reason all have strong New York accents, as immoral and violent, particularly toward the Christians whom they pursue with near-genocidal fervor. A number of Islam's founding figures, including the prophet, are accused of homosexuality and child molestation.

UPDATE 1: US ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff killed in rocket attack
The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, along with three other embassy staff, were killed Tuesday night following a rocket attack in Benghazi, Reuters quoted a Libyan official as saying.

The official told Reuters that Stevens was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when the gunmen opened fire. "The US ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them," the official in Benghazi told Reuters.

Deputy Minister of Interior Wanis Al-Sharif, speaking to AFP on Wednesday, also confirmed that the ambassador had been killed. Libya's Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur corroborated Al-Sharif's statement via Twitter.

For their part, a US embassy employee in Tripoli told Reuters, Wednesday, that they could only confirm one death during Tuesday's attacks. Concerning Stevens, the employee affirmed: "we have no information regarding this."

Al-Jazeera's Suleiman Idrissi in Benghazi reported that the ambassador had been paying a short visit to the Eastern city, when the US building came under attack.

Security sources told the pan-Arab news agency that Stevens died of suffocation. The bodies of the dead were transported to the Benghazi international airport, to be flown to Tripoli and then onwards to a major US airbase in Germany, Al Jazeera added.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was in Cairo Monday on an official visit to Egypt, condemned the attack in­­ a statement shortly after the news broke Wednesday morning.

"There is no justification for such an attack and the appalling death of an US official," Hague said, "The UK stands ready to assist the Libyan authorities in any way we can and to support their efforts to continue the path towards a stable and secure Libya that fulfils the aspirations of the Libyan people."

Hague urged the Libyan authorities to take "urgent action to improve security" and to find those responsible for the violence. He sent his condolences to Stevens' family and colleagues at the State Department.

Libya's Deputy Prime Minister also denounced the bloody attacks, calling them "cowardly acts" via his Twitter account.

Ignorance can be vile as well as bliss. Of course, ignorance can be found in the making of the movie as well as in the viewing of it. It's sort of like Through the Looking Glass, looking back on itself.

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