Culture, Identity and Militarism: Okinawa snapshot comment
This is Part One of a commentary on the previous Post on the Okinawan Boy Scout photo.
When I talk with many folks, it seems that people don’t understand “culture.” Or perhaps I should more accurately say, that culture is something that is outside of self, that is recognized as food, clothing, lifestyle, language, etc. I want to speak of how things become. Become. We become. Cultures become.
Cultures don’t just “happen” or aren’t just “here.” Neither are we, as individuals or a community “just a person” or “just a community.” Things happen, there is response, there is control, there is dominance, there is survival, there is submission, there is change, there is succumbing, there is fighting, there is realization, there is blindness. So I write the commentary below in light of this kind of angle, perspective, thinking. It is about the term “militarism.”
I want to just say one thing here, to open up thought. Of course this takes more thought, more conversation. It can never be fully resolved, so that is not the goal. My goal, however, in the entire blogsite, for every posting, is to look at everything together, and reflect and think of social change, ethics, accountability, healing, justice, peace. But these aren’t static things. They are constant actions, altogether, not separate.
Militarism is about a military culture. Military culture is not a single “thing” but a whole array of relationships that spread, proliferate. Indeed, the very fact that all of us live in a nation-state, is the very reality of partipation in, and protection from, and being oppressed through military culture, in varying degrees of being oblivious or conscious.
Relationships. How things are formed through different links forming through links from other places, unfolding, penetrating, making real a certain form of living or another form, another set of circumstances.
In Okinawa, there is a term for women who go out with, form relationships with, and marry Americans. Furthermore it is divided along certain lines. Certain prejudices and forms of disdain or desire are formed.
The term for a woman who dates and marries Americans, is called Amejo. Ame – Jo アメ女.
The term signifies two ideas. A-me, is short for America. The word “Amerika” is written in Japanese katakana script, reserved for foreign “loan” words.
Jo, is one pronunciation for the Kanji character for women/female. Thus, this term signifies an Okinawan woman of America. She is with, is a part of, is one with, is of the America as desired object.
Now there is another term for another kind of Okinawan woman. Kokujo. 黒女
Koku, is one way of reading and saying the Japanese Kanji character for Black. Jo, again, is the term for woman/female.
Right! It is the term used for Okinawan women who go with, date, form relations with, and/or marry, an African-American, a Black.
So even as American is a term used for all American citizens, the term “American” signifies white-Americans. The national term is used for a racialized white man. However, race is signified in Black, as something apart from American-ness.
This signifies more of a taboo, more of an underclass woman, more of a degraded position, more of a certain kind of woman who is “not normal” in relation to who she goes with, desires, and forms relationships with. Although there are many who do not use these terms, these terms play themselves out in maintaining a consciousness of race and its expectations and entitlements to behaviors and conditions in life. Does this sound familiar?
Transnationalized and underscored, the fact of race, nation and desire links with gender, to form communities of women who hang around US military bases and establishments such as bars and entertainment districts, looking for American partners, who already divide amongst themselves and hierarchies established. Even as one in the US doesn’t want to think of the realities of race and desire, taboo and classism, it is established strongly through the socio-economic realities of families who rely on relationships with the American servicemen and women for their income and economic stability. Relationships, when linked with survival, must necessarily fall into the patterns established by the terms on which they are set.
In this case, hierarchies of race, and the ensuing forms of relationships–of what is allowable or not, what is produced or not, what is disdainable or not, what is violated or not, are established along strong lines. Race and militarism is not established only as an attitude. They are established as culture.
Let us keep in mind that wherever people go, who have an association with this, this follows. It may never be spoken, but it is there. It is culture. It is everyday, a matter of fact.
This is why I believe in speaking, showing, allowing, penetrating into difficult spaces, so that oppressions begin to change their dominance in the life of community and nation. I do not speak of this as a good or bad thing, as an individual who should or should not do such things or not. I am speaking about the everyday establishment of things that go unchecked, undaunted. It is not about an individual. It is about a whole presence of military bases that brings this about, as the military is protected by American laws, not by Okinawans and their laws, and who stand dominant in Okinawan. The locals are at US military’s beck and call. Although it is not only and simply that, and is complex, it must be remembered that this is certainly a dynamic that effects how Okinawans, and others in the Pacific, relate with the US military. Handsome servicemen and women are then, desired for the very same reason.
What, then, am I saying here?