Friday, May 19, 2006

The Saipan Blogger Takes on Ms. Magazine

Sex, Greed & Forced Abortions in "Paradise"....OH MY!

If only to prove that God has a sense of humor, I'd like to point out that the good people of Saipan do not have access to the recent Ms. Magazine article being quoted and requoted all over the blogosphere (and other places). The local book store doesn't sell it and the library doesn't carry it. (They don't sell Sports Illustrated either!)

The good people of Saipan can't even read it on the Ms. Magazine website, because they haven't posted it online (because they want you to buy the magazine, duh!). They've written just enough to make you want to run out to Barnes & Noble and buy their Spring issue. Too bad the closest Barnes & Noble is 3000 miles away.

I've tried to find the full text online, but I can only find bits and pieces. Most of the excerpts have been posted on countless blogs...liberal blogs. Fresh Air on NPR did a story about it, too.

But you know what? I don't need to read the full text. I've heard it all before.

The New York Times first reported on the garment factories in 1993. Conditions were pretty bad back then, but after the federal government threatened a takeover of the local labor and immigration laws, things got better with higher wages and better labor law enforcement. Now Ms. Magazine is reporting that things are bad again.

I'm not going to defend the garment industry. I don't really care for the garment industry. They don't hire enough locals, they pollute, they add to the landfill, they don't pay taxes, and they've given the CNMI a horrible international reputation. It will take decades to repair the damage they've done.

I'm also not going to argue that some of the things that Ms. Magazine (and others) accuse the CNMI of do not happen. There is prostitution here, but it occurs for the same reasons that it occurs all over the world. Poor young girls are destitute and end up getting exploited. As for the dancing in "nightclubs," the girls do it not necessarily because they were forced, but because they can make more money. There is no doubt in my mind that these girls are exploited, but it is done in a more subtle way than suggested by Ms. Magazine (and others). As for the abortions, it is much more complicated than saying "forced abortions happen and Tom DeLay supports them."

The article also doesn't address a few key facts. The CNMI doesn't have a (voting or nonvoting) Representative in Congress. Perhaps if they actually had a voice in creation of the laws that govern them, they wouldn't have to rely on high powered DC lobbyists. Also, the CNMI is a self-governing territory, its status different from other U.S. territories due to a basic agreement between the CNMI and the federal government, the Covenant, that went into full effect in 1986. Among other provisions, and specifically in response to CNMI fears that the islands would be overrun by Asian immigrants, the Covenent grants the CNMI local government control over immigration as well as minimum wage policies.

This was done so that the islands could retain their Chamorro/Carolinian identity. It obviously didn't work, since the CNMI IS overrun by Asian immigrants...but I'll leave that discussion for another day.

So, back to the discussion on Ms. Magazine. People are suggesting that the way to solve the problem is to have the federal government impose federal labor and immigration laws on the CNMI (although the Covenant between the CNMI and the US clearly states that the CNMI can write its own laws).

A federal takeover would have effects outside of the garment industry and the people who want to shut down the garment factories have failed to disclose the full ramifications of changing the local labor and immigration laws. They also have tied the labor and immigration laws together as if they were inseparable. They're not.

The CNMI has a labor problem. Why try to paint it as an immigration problem?

I'm trying to be non-political, but people looking for blogs on Saipan are bound to find me ("unhealthly amount of self esteem"). Constructive criticism is good for these islands, but it should be balanced with some realistic suggestions for solutions, it should be holistic, and it must take into account the effects on the local population.

I agree that something needs to be done. Doing nothing isn't a viable solution, but a federal takeover of the immigration and labor laws would be worse and would only lead to other problems.

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Alexander Villagomez said...

I like what you had to say, I think you should submitt it to the paper.

Saipan Chamoale said...

I don't really want to get into that discussion in the public arena of Saipan.

I'm Mr. Enviro man here, not Mr. Indigenous rights.

Saipan Chamoale said...

I also plagurized about 3 sentences about the Convenant. It was easier to copy an past than to rewrite what was already written.

Plagurism is bad. Don't do it.