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HistoryBits

HistoryBits


Bits and Pieces of Hawaii’s History


Here in HistoryBits, my reflections on a variety of topics of interest in historical and modern-day Hawaii.


historybits

E nihi ka helena i ka uka o Puna; mai pūlale i ka ʻike a ka maka. – Go quietly in the upland of Puna; do not let anything you see excite you. (Watch your step and do not let the things you see lead you into trouble. There is an abundance of flowers and berries in the uplands of Puna and it is thought that picking any on the trip up to the volcano will result in being caught in heavy rains; the picking is left until the return trip. Also said to loved ones to imply, “Go carefully and be mindful.”)


Culture/Awa

At the end of the day, the reward and release of kings and commoners alike was their draught of awa. If the farmer had bartered poi for some fish that day, he took from the underground oven the head of the jack fish, the bundle of mullet flesh wrapped in ti, a hand of ripe bananas, and a deep red sweet potato. He thanked the gods for their generosity. He gulped down the awa, then followed it with a mouthful of fish, a piece of banana, a section of sugar cane to chew, a bite of sweet potato, the fatty eyeball of the fish, perhaps some pork in taro leaf. The candlenut lamp would glow as he listened to the inner sounds of whistling shells and chirping crickets, or of wind sighing in the trees. He would slip into reverie and contentment, and all of his pains would be forgotten as he lit up his inner lamp of contemplation and summoned the evening breeze that sighed through island forests primeval and the chambers of his heart. Ah yes… awa.

Culture/Aloha Shirts

The aloha shirt—widely derided as the symbol of all that’s tacky in the outside world’s perception of Hawaii—is a statement of sorts of our own plucky principles. I can’t avoid a self-satisfied smirk whenever I behold some suit ambling down Bishop Street, knowing that the mindset represented by the garb of the corporate warrior has no place in our universe of values… but realizing at the same time that the aloha spirit is steadily losing out to the all-pervasive corporate homogeneity of the American Way.

Culture/Sharks

For me, church is the little bench at the beach park that I bike to every morning, where I sit for a spell to reconstitute my connections to this magical environment that we in Hawaii inhabit. The ocean lends a generous measure of that magic, and while I contemplate all the development in view, I never fail to find reassurance in the realization that there are some things that haven’t changed; there are tigers out there, just beyond the reef, that remind us that the shoreline is where civilization—for better or for worse—leaves off and gives way to that most timeless and primeval of elements.

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Culture/Feathers

Absent precious metals and gemstones, bird feathers became a prized part of Hawaii’s jewelry and royal wardrobes—their value far exceeding that of any goldsmith’s bauble, and their design such as only the hand of God himself could create.

Culture/Heirloom Jewelry

Ancient apothegms are inscribed onto golden bangles that seem polished like the disk of the sun itself: “All is peaceful,” we are assured. “A beloved child is a lei never forgotten,” we are reminded. “Love gives life within.” A garden of Island botanicals flourishes in gold and silver, with fingers of lau’ae extending their benediction, graceful trumpets of calla lillies, and Maui roses unfolding in painstaking intricacy. Petroglyph immortals wield paddles and rainbows in golden amulets, while processions of sea turtles and the gentle flow of ocean waves grace necklaces and bracelets. The timeless wisdom and motifs of our Island legacy are accorded their due in heirloom jewelry of precious metals and priceless artistry.

Culture/Honu

The plight of our friend the honu–and the destruction of his habitat–speaks to the tragic degradation of Hawaii’s magical environment. The kapu system was the Hawaiian way of regulating the social order–the difference being that in a “sacred society” such as ancient Hawaii, the emphasis was on regulating man’s relationship with the gods and his environment. In Western society, the emphasis is on individual and especially property rights–which didn’t exist (in the same sense that we understand them) in ancient Hawaii. Says something about values, doesn’t it? Today, there’s little sense of regulating man’s relationship with our Island environment, and way too much concern with individual and property rights. It begs the question: does the ascendancy of individual and property rights have any place in the fragile and diminutive environment that we have here? Or is there a lesson for us in the ancient Hawaiian’s custodial and communal concept of property? The prospect of continuing as we are means certain ruination of our natural environment and local way of life. Much as I admire certain things about the American way of life, the scale and much of the nature of it is ill-suited to a small island; these islands were never meant to accommodate urban sprawl, any more than our local lifestyle was meant to accommodate the ethic of Every Man for Himself and to Hell with Thee.

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Culture/Hula

Everything means something, and that’s especially true with hula. It was entirely predictable that the missionaries (and even many people nowadays) would mistake the languid grace and reverent spirit of the dance for a lascivious come-on, since Hawaii’s persona seems largely construed by outsiders as that of a seductive consort to her rich Uncle Sam. Given this rift of misunderstanding, it’s no surprise that hula has become an especially potent icon of the Hawaiian revival.

Culture/Ipu

The ipu, because of its singular character as a vessel, is uniquely well suited as a store of ritual and spiritual significance. Small wonder that the ancient Hawaiians, who descried a parallel meaning in just about everything, revered the ipu as an object as magical as it was useful.

Culture/Island Soul

I’ve heard of people who, upon arriving here for their first time, were immediately struck by the profound sense of spirituality of these islands. Sometimes it takes a newcomer to see things with eyeballs that aren’t glazed over by time and familiarity, and to remind those of us who have come to mistake our veneer of Westernization and “Miami Beach with Mountains” booshwah of the tourist industry for the true character of our Island soul.

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Culture/Kahuna

It seems somehow fitting that Westerners would condemn as a practitioner of “witchcraft” or “black magic” the kahuna—meaning “that which is hidden.” With the Westerner’s typical obsession with “what you see is what you get”, such people can hardly be expected to apprehend the galaxy of magic and meaning that is hidden away hereabouts beneath the veneer of American civilization.

Culture/Kapa

Given all the work that went into making kapa—only to have it dissolve into a paste in a passing rainshower—one can appreciate why it made eminent good sense just to go without. Makes you wonder about the absurdity of department stores hereabouts staging their fall and winter fashion extravaganzas, wot?

Society/Crime/Ice

The Iceman cometh, and hath taken away many to a dark realm of the despair of intractable addiction. It reminds me of the practice of a certain tribe of Alaskan Indians of exiling their offenders–knowing that severing a person’s ties with his community is the very harshest form of punishment; the effect on the offender is simply apocalyptic. Knowing that drug abuse has served to alienate the addict from friends, family, and community at least as effectively as physical banishment, perhaps we should focus on how to re-establish that severed connection. There’s a pilot program that’s come to light hereabouts that proposes to strengthen, rather than sever, the offender’s roots in the community, by putting them to work farming taro–that most meaningful root of all. The results have been most enlightening, and I’d love to see more on it if you’d care to delve into it.

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Society/Disease

Although there was always a good bit of headknocking amongst the Hawaiians, the worst violence by far was visited upon the Hawaiians by the white man. Even before Captain Cook arrived in the islands, it was well known to him that his second-in-command, Captain Clerke, was in an advanced state of tuberculosis; surely he must have known as well that many of his crew were infected with venereal disease, influenza, the common cold (lethal to Pacific Islanders), and more. Yet still he came, and landed. As a result, the pre-contact population of Hawaii, credibly estimated at 800,000 – 1.3 million, declined to just 47,000 by 1870. This is in keeping with the decline experienced by many other indigenous populations throughout the Western hemisphere following contact with whites. It’s hard to say which had the more lasting effect: the white man’s military technology or his microbes, but it does beg the question of who was the civilizer… and who was the savage.

Society/Climate Change

The consequences of global warming have an obvious and urgent effect upon Hawaii (and especially upon low-lying atolls and islands of the Pacific), since so much of our habitable real estate stands to become underwater as a result. Moral of the story is that despite our isolation and parochial ways, Hawaii has irretrievably become part of a global community in which events anywhere affect people and bio-communities everywhere… and often in ways that are subtle but no less profound.

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Society/Disease

The devastation wrought by guns is nothing as compared to that wrought by microbes. In fact, this is why the Pilgrims arrived in a “pristine wilderness”; the Americas’ pre-contact population of 115 million or so had been nearly wiped out–by smallpox, mostly, that had been introduced a hundred years before by the Spanish conquistadors. Same story here, of course. As you note, it wasn’t just the white man that was at fault; the most virulent epidemic of all–of mai pake, or smallpox–was brought by the people for whom this “Chinaman’s disease” was named. And once you’ve done in 90% of the population, the rest can generally be depended upon to perish from despair.

Society/Education/Kamehameha Schools

Notwithstanding the abject disgrace that the Bishop Estate (predecessor to Kamehameha Schools) made of itself, I can appreciate the need for the school to remain a Hawaiian institution. What better affirmation of both the ability of and necessity for the Hawaiian people to remain viable and compete in the modern world? Education, not sovereignty, is the path to restoring self-esteem to a people that have been so utterly brutalized in their encounter with the outside world.

Society/Education/Kamehameha Schools/Diversification

Back when Kamehameha Schools was the Bishop Estate (that bunch!), you wouldn’t believe the frivolous stuff they squandered fortunes on. Since they’re a Big-Time Biz, they should diversify their investments like any other Big Biz… and that should certainly include other aspects of the social, economic, and political health of the Hawaiian community.

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Society/Education/Knowledge Economy

The need for top-to-bottom reform (if not outright revolution!) in Hawaii’s education system becomes more and more acute in light of the usual pattern of exploitation and burnout that passes for an economy here—our exploitation of the land ensures that that Hawaii will become all the more sharply divided between those who own real estate and those who don’t (have you tried to find a place to rent or buy around here lately?), or some other variation on that theme. What’s happening with land and development here is the same thing that happened before with whaling, sugar, and mass tourism. What will become of us when we’ve no more natural resources to exhaust? That would leave us with the one resource that is at once the most precious and the most neglected: our human resources. If we dedicated ourselves to developing a knowledge economy here, Hawaii could become the hub of the Pacific Rim for intellectual capital and professional services–it’s badly needed, and the job pays really well.

Society/Education/Special Education

Hawaii is now required to spend a half-billion or so every year on special ed–a bonanza for litigators, quack psychologists, and bureaucrats. What ever happened to community care? (The same thing that’s happening to the aloha spirit at large, I submit.)

Society/Future

Everything means something, and I can’t shake the suspicion these islands were placed where they are–in between the two very different worlds of East and West–for a good reason. I’m confident that Hawaii could not long have avoided being caught up the geopolitical cross-currents of the Pacific Rim, and I believe that its populace was destined to become multi-cultural–again, for good reason. As ignorant as most Americans are about Asia–and as most Asians are about America–we need all the help we can get in bridging the chasm that continues to yawn in the efforts of East and West to get a grip on each other.

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Society/Haoles

I think the controversy over the term “haole” misleads. When Caucasians hear the word used in the way it usually is, they often construe it racially, and naturally take offense. But I believe that another meaning of the word (“foreign”) points up the true character of the Great Divide of Island society, which is less a matter of race than of local versus non-local.

Society/Hurricanes

With the relentless hikes in gas prices these days, I’ve come to believe that Hawaii needs to worry at least as much about hurricanes on the Gulf Coast as a hurricane here. Goes to show, it’s a global village we inhabit!

Society/Kapu

The kapu system was the Hawaiian way of regulating the social order–the difference being that in a “sacred society,” the emphasis is on regulating man’s relationship with the gods and his environment, while a “scientific society” emphasizes the regulation of property rights–which didn’t exist (in the same sense that we understand them) in ancient Hawai’i. Says something about values, doesn’t it? The kapu may have seemed peculiar, but without a system of some kind in place, the Hawaiians became lost souls and an easy mark for certain of the missionaries and other sharp operators.

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Society/Kapu

The kapu system is often viewed as some sort of stern and arbitrary moral code; in fact, it was a highly intricate means of regulating man’s relationship to both his environment and himself. Hawaiians believed that the land, like the sea and the sky, is not something that can be owned by anyone. They understood that there is a profound spiritual dimension to everything in our environment. They appreciated the fact that man has a reciprocal responsibility to give love and respect to his environment in the same measure that he takes his living from it, and that generosity, not material possessions, was the true measure of wealth. The Hawaiian inhabited a world in which everything existed in delicate balance with everything else. Some kapu regulated the commoner’s relationship with the konohiki and alii classes. Other kapu regulated man’s relationship with his environment: once the fishing season for certain species left their numbers depleted, for example, a kapu on fishing was instated to allow time for the species to regenerate; kapu regulated the planting of the land that was worked by its custodian, the farmer, and the water supply and irrigation system that were maintained by community labor. Many other kapu regulated man’s relationship with the gods and the spiritual dimension of everything he was surrounded by—and everything depended on a good relationship there. No man was an island; on these islands, everything existed in close proximity and in intimate balance with everything else.

Society/Land

The more you come to understand about early Hawaii, the more you realize how well it worked for the Hawaiians. Their custodial system of land tenure makes a great deal of sense of me, given the very limited resources of an island community, and with generosity their measure of wealth instead of material possessions, it speaks of a society well attuned to its environment despite its faults of feuding and infanticide. Each culture devises things in such a way that it works best for them, and presuming to judge a culture as vastly different from America’s as that of the early Hawaiians is preposterous, given how poorly many of America’s cultural norms have worked when transplanted to Hawaii.

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Society/Local vs. Non-Local

My own feeling is that the Great Divide here is less a matter of race than of local versus non-local–which reflects not only the small-mindednesss of our community but a certain desperation to cling to an imperiled lifestyle. It’s not just the Hawaiian that’s dying, it’s the local way of life (sometimes summed up as the “aloha spirit”).

Society/Martial Arts

Without wishing to take away from their salutary effects on self-defense and physical conditioning, I submit that the martial arts serve the local sense of humor quite nicely as well. How can one sit through a screening of the latest such hit from Asian cinema with a straight face? We love to poke fun at our quaintness and spunk in the face of being (very nearly) overwhelmed by the outside world, and the daring-do of the karate- or kendo-master surely puts a brave face on it. 🙂

Society/Massie Case

The Massie case was one of the nastiest bumps in the road in Hawaii’s decidedly uneven evolution toward racial equality. And with where we are today, my own feeling is that the Great Divide here is less a matter of race than of local versus non-local–which reflects not only the small-mindednesss of our community but a certain desperation to cling to an imperiled lifestyle. It’s not just the Hawaiian that’s dying, it’s the local way of life (sometimes summed up as the “aloha spirit”). But with all that, the future of America can be seen here in Hawaii-its demographic leading edge. America is the world’s country, and the day will come when every nook and cranny of the United States will become the melting pot that Hawaii is today. In a sense, race defines America: America is the world’s country–we draw the best, the boldest, and the brightest from around the world (four our of every five American Nobel Prize recipients have been first- or second-generation immigrants), and Americans must learn to either embrace our most conspicuous differences (and we have done here) and become enriched in so doing–or we will be overcome by them.

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Society/Local/Muslim Community

As quaint as we are in so many respects, Hawaii serves as a showcase for the future of the United States as the world’s country. Hawaii anticipates the inevitable melting pot character of the nation (and, in time, of the world), where one’s family tree will have become so entangled amongst the roots of countless ethnicities that the question of race becomes altogether moot. And if we can rise above the constraints and characterizations of race to appreciate the countless blessings of ethnic diversity, it seems that a hybrid spirituality that blends the best elements of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and other faiths (and which transcends their doctrinaire differences) holds at least as much appeal. And what better place for that to take root than Hawaii?

Society/Ni’ihau

What better answer to the question of whether there’s still room in Hawaii for the traditional Hawaiian lifestyle… than Niihau? What better example of the marginalization of that way of life than being so deliberately isolated that its only contact with the outside world is the occasional boat from the Robinson Estate? Is the traditional Hawaiian way of life so vulnerable and supremely ill suited to the modern day and age that it cannot stand a single ray of the light of day? I could see it if it were a diorama in a museum, but it isn’t even that. What it is may afford some insight into modern America’s true take on diversity: much as we “celebrate” it, we can only tolerate it if it’s been sanitized and worn as an adornment to the American Way of Life… or kept in its proper place (the ghetto, more or less).

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Society/Nutrition

We’ve come a long ways—downhill, for the most part—from when Hawaiians last ate healthily. There used to be more than 300 varieties of taro back in the olden days, many with some rather poetic names (“Pele’s smoke” and “elepaio”), and it’s surprising to realize that ancient Hawaiians on average ate some five pounds of poi a day back then. Now it’ll set you back about four bucks for a stingy little bag of the stuff at the supermarket, and there are times when you can’t find it at any price–a tragedy, I submit: what’s happened to the Hawaiian diet is a microcosm of what’s happened to the Hawaiian.

Society/Plantation Labor

Alice Kamokila Campbell, a turn-of-the-century voice for the Hawaiians, regarded the importation of Asian plantation labor to be the single greatest catastrophe that ever befell the kingdom. For better or for worse, she correctly anticipated that Asians would soon come to dominate the political landscape in Hawai’ that would marginalize the Hawaiians to a far greater extent than had been the case with the haole. She may have sensed the political determination that comes with being a resented minority, as Asian immigrants were for several generations, until John Burns came along and built a Democratic machine on the strength of the polyglot “little guy”… a machine that would endure for 60 years. It’s not so much race that defines politics in Hawaii; the political Great Divide has formed along the lines of local versus non-local—a movement which, oddly, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement finds no common cause with. As a result, the Hawaiians finds himself as much of a political outsider these days as the haole.

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Society/Plantation Village

I would heartily recommend that, if you haven’t already done so, spend some time out at the Plantation Village in Waipahu. It’s a meticulously authentic replica of a plantation village, replete with the structures, fixtures, implements, and other remnants of the plantation era. I think you’d be impressed, if not transported outright.

Society/Polygamy

The constant warfare that prevailed in olden times would have left many women with husbands and means of support, were it not for polygamy. Each culture devises things in such a way that it works best for them, and that presuming to judge a culture as vastly different as that of the early Hawaiians is preposterous, given how poorly many of America’s cultural norms have worked when transplanted to Hawaii.

Society/Race

The future of America can be seen here in Hawaii-its demographic leading edge. America is the world’s country, and the day will come when every nook and cranny of the United States will become the melting pot that Hawaii is today. In a sense, race defines America: America is the world’s country–we draw the best, the boldest, and the brightest from around the world (four out of every five American Nobel Prize recipients have been first- or second-generation immigrants), and Americans must learn to either embrace our most conspicuous differences (and we have done here) and become enriched in so doing–or we will be overcome by them.

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Society/Social Injustice

I know it sounds trite, but I suppose that it takes a victim to know one… and to appreciate the consequences of aggression and social injustice that stand to make victims of all of us. Regrettably, predation may be the natural order of things, but if we don’t learn from the perspective of those who have been on its receiving end, we’ll soon become the serpent that swallows its own tail.

Society/Wahiawa

The woebegone little town of Wahiawa seems emblematic of so much that has gone wrong with Hawaii’s economy: its dependence on the military and pineapple as pretty good cases in point. I realize that there’s a considerable body of opinion in support of the idea that the military presence here is vital to Hawaii’s economy, and that’s probably true in the short run. I would offer, however, the case of Subic Bay in the Philippines (remember the huge naval base we had there?) as an example of an outcome that might surprise a lot of people. When Subic was closed (ten years ago?), everyone was sure that the local economy (with its preponderance of service jobs) would tank. It did, but only briefly, but then quickly bounced back to where Subic is today–a thriving industrial park and one of the Philippines’ most promising economic prospects. The same thing, by the way, happened with communities on the U.S. mainland that were affected by local base closings—many are stronger than ever now, and the new industries tend to be more focused on manufacturing and the knowledge industry–and better paying–than the service jobs they replaced (to say nothing about what the change has done for self-sufficiency and self-esteem). And those who lament the passing of pineapple–that languid and lovely anachronism—from our islands probably have little appreciation for the beastly (and shabbily-recompensed) labor that it took to wrest the prickly fruit from the fields. I’m astonished that pineapple still grows here (at least through ‘08), and I think it’s significant that a commodity that’s better suited to Third World economies—whether pineapple, sugar, or mass tourism—still has a place in Hawaii. That says something about the small-minded plantation mentality (“the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”) that continues to hold sway here.

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Society/Water Pollution

It’s reassuring that we’ve become somewhat cognizant of the dimensions of the water quality problem, yet I continue to be appalled at all that we don’t seem to grasp. The runoff from the unrelenting construction and “improvement” of every square inch of land that the developers can get their hands on–along with the witches’ brew that washes into the sea from applying fertilizers and pesticides to everything from front yards to golf courses–has killed off the reefs and made it largely impossible to catch a fish in these waters—which speaks to the tragic degradation of Hawaii’s magical environment. The kapu system was the Hawaiian way of regulating the social order–the difference being that in a “sacred society” such as ancient Hawaii, the emphasis was on regulating man’s relationship with the gods and his environment. In Western society, the emphasis is on individual and especially property rights–which didn’t exist (in the same sense that we understand them) in ancient Hawaii. Says something about values, doesn’t it?

Society/World War II

The greatest effect of war is less in altering national boundaries than in effecting fundamental and lasting changes in society. The Second World War changed the economic and political landscape of Hawaii from one that had been dominated by a white Republican oligarchy and the Big Five missionary firms to one that would be dominated by local folks. The Democrats opened up the political process to Hawaii’s polyglot Asian and Pacific peoples, and with it, control of the Islands’ only real economic asset, its land. When the decision was made to develop Hawaii’s sugar plantation economy into a modern urban society, the real estate hui became the way for the Little Guy to garner his share of affluence and fund the local way of life. But the Great Divide remained (though transformed), and with it, the perception (and reality) that making it in Hawaii would forever be an Us-or-Them, Local-or-Not proposition. Now that the balance of power has once again shifted back to the Republicans, will Hawaii remain beholden to the parochialism that increasingly relegates it to the backwater of the global economy? In the past fifteen years, some 150,000 of our best and brightest have voted with their feet, leaving behind a population increasingly constituted of wealthy retirees, military, immigrants, and those who have neither the means to leave nor the ambition to build a better way of life. It is a recipe for a society of Haves and Have-Nots… a grim successor to the White-or-Otherwise and Local-or-Not propositions that defined the character of Hawaii’s Great Divide in the modern era. We reap what we sow. It is well nigh time, then, to sow the seeds of education that will change entrenched attitudes and build a knowledge-based economy that will position Hawaii as a high-end—and highly remunerated–center for the Pacific Rim in the era of globalization.

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Culture/Associations

There’s a legend (or a deeper significance of some kind) that attaches itself to virtually every nook and cranny of these islands. It’s like the Hawaiian language: many–if not most–words have multiple associations that add up to an immense and intricate skein of meanings. If anyone delved into the business of decoding this place, I suspect that they’d stumble into a parallel universe of some kind.

Culture/Burial Customs

Believing that the bones of the deceased held great mana, the Hawaiians were most particular as to where and how they were interred. Tomb guardians were buried alive along with the remains of the highest chiefs, and warriors were made to lend their bones to the foundations of the most sacred sacrificial heiau. Even today, the discovery of remains on development sites has the effect of stopping the most massive developments in their tracks. I’ve heard of people who, upon arriving here for their first time, were immediately struck by the profound sense of spirituality of these islands. Sometimes it takes a newcomer to see things with eyeballs that aren’t glazed over by time and familiarity, and to remind those of us who have come to mistake our veneer of Westernization and “Miami Beach with Mountains” booshwah of the tourist industry for the true character of our Island soul.

Culture/Coconut

The coconut: our “freshwater spring in the sky” as the ancient Hawaiians spoke of it. In fact, the Hawaiian cultural ethos abounded with as many accolades to the coconut and its prolific usefulness as it did with tributes to taro (some 300 varieties of which thrived in olden times, each with its own poetic name–“Pele’s Smoke” for one). The coconut has since been marginalized as an icon of the “Miami Beach with mountains” motif that dominates the popular perception of Hawai’i, and with most specimens hereabouts having been sanitized and emasculated of their nuts, it’s ironic to hear tourists complain that “there aren’t any coconuts in Hawaii.”

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Culture/Canoes

The canoe–and the unexampled ability of the Hawaiian to navigate it across the imponderable vastness of the Pacific–loom large in the local ethos, and for good reason. What better symbolizes the intimate relationship that Hawaiians once enjoyed with their environment–so keenly attuned to it were they that the ancient navigator could discern the proximity of unseen land by the shape and pattern of ocean swells. Sadly, that relationship has largely crumbled under the burden of despair, but once in a while, the Hokulea comes ’round to remind us of what once was… and yet could be, if only we would decide to do it.

Culture/Diet

The preponderance of Spam and other such abominations in our local culinary galaxy begs comparison with the olden days, when there used to be more than 300 varieties of taro, many with some rather poetic names (“Pele’s Smoke” and “elepaio”), and it’s surprising to realize that ancient Hawaiians on average ate some five pounds of poi a day back then. Now it’ll set you back ten bucks for a stingy little bag of the stuff at the supermarket, and there are times when you can’t find it at any price–a tragedy, I submit: what’s happened to the Hawaiian diet is a microcosm of what’s happened to the Hawaiian.

Culture/Language

There’s a legend (or a deeper significance of some kind) that attaches itself to virtually every nook and cranny of these islands. And so it is with the Hawaiian language: many–if not most–words have multiple associations that add up to an immense and intricate skein of meanings. If anyone delved into the business of decoding this place, I suspect that they’d stumble into a parallel universe of some kind, one that’s positively replete with values that Westerners have little acquaintance with. Beneath the veneer of civilization, Hawaii is a magical place; it’s dying, but the values of which I speak–which offer so much sorely needed wisdom to the world–can still be retrieved and cultivated.

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Culture/Lei

Absent precious metals and gemstones, the lei became Hawaii’s jewelry—their savor far exceeding that of any goldsmith’s bauble, and the design of their constituent blossoms such as only the hand of God himself could create.

Culture/Menehune

Myth–if that’s what menehune are–is the values of a society writ large. Everything means something, and Hawaii is a magical place where every word of its language and every scrap of its land and seascape is fraught with hidden and parallel meanings. And if you look at these islands as anything other than magical, you’re missing the whole point of Hawai’i. 🙂

Culture/Moon Calendar

I marvel over the magic implicit in a life regulated by the actions of the moon on the rhythms of flowering plants and tides and the comings and goings of fish, by the kapu and their ordering of man’s relationship with his environment, by the poetic analogies that evoke parallels between the dimensions of the physical and the spirit. If one were looking to acquire a quick handle on the nature of the traditional Hawaiian mindset, I would commend the moon calendar enthusiastically. How much more poignant and relevant than the stark dictates of some calendar cooked up by prelates and popes in some faraway land in some faraway time.

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Culture/Myth

There’s a legend (or a deeper significance of some kind) that attaches itself to virtually every nook and cranny of these islands—and that’s especially true with our legends and myths (as it is with the Hawaiian language: many–if not most–words have multiple associations that add up to an immense and intricate skein of meanings). If anyone delved into the business of decoding this place, I suspect that they’d stumble into a parallel universe of some kind, one that’s positively replete with values (including those implicit in surfing) that Westerners have little acquaintance with. Beneath the veneer of civilization, Hawaii is a magical place; it’s dying, but the values of which I speak–which offer so much sorely needed wisdom to the world–can still be retrieved and cultivated. In ancient societies (including Hawaii) that were ordered around divine authority, myth served that all-important purpose of expressing collective imagination in building culture. Myth is imagination writ large by culture and society, essential to forming the emotional precepts of culture—much as Paul Bunyon signifies the American spirit of man’s primacy over nature. And I suspect that in a place as magical as Hawaii, myth is more real than most people realize.

Culture/Old Bones

Those who don’t understand why Hawaiians make such a fuss over old bones may fail to see such ancestral remains as turn up from time to time at Wal-Mart construction sites and the like as signifying the inflection point in the struggle–ongoing now more than ever–between a lost world of magic and tradition and its superficial overlay of the American Way of Life.

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Culture/Paniolo

If there’s harder work than being a paniolo, I’m not sure what it might be… except for perhaps poi pounding, or catching and salting ocean fish, or kapa-making, or canoe-building. As benign as his environment was, the Hawaiian had to work like a beast, day and night, to make it work for him. If the notion of the lazy Hawaiian has gained currency in the modern day, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there’s little or no room remaining for the traditional Hawaiian way of life.

Culture/Pele

There’s a legend (or a deeper significance of some kind) that attaches itself to virtually every nook and cranny of these islands—and that’s especially true with the Pele legends. And so it is with the Hawaiian language: many–if not most–words have multiple associations that add up to an immense and intricate skein of meanings. If anyone delved into the business of decoding this place, I suspect that they’d stumble into a parallel universe of some kind, one that’s positively replete with values (including those implicit in surfing) that Westerners have little acquaintance with.

Cultural/Pineapple Wine

Pineapple wine… who’d a-thunk it! But then again, it’s like what Americans have done for pizza; such a decoction is emblematic of our genius hereabouts for borrowing from east and west and coming up with something that’s altogether off-the-charts “ono.”

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Culture/Queen’s Hospital

The superstition amongst Hawaiians that Queen’s Hospital is where you “went in heads up, and came out feet first” probably reflected both the dire mortality rate of Hawaiians who were stricken in the epidemics of the 19th century, and the widespread insistence of the Hawaiian on traditional medicine. On the basis of the available evidence, it would have been hard for Hawaiians in olden times to avoid concluding that the white man’s medicine and his diseases were two sides of the same coin, and anything other than a conspiracy to finish off the last of their race.

Culture/State Capitol Building

It says something (though I’m not sure what) that, the eloquent symbolism of its architecture notwithstanding, the venue of the Capitol Building remains dominated by the petty, parochial, and self-interested bickering that pervades the political process in Hawaii today. Perhaps it has something to do with great potential and lofty aspirations squandered on the shoals of small-mindedness.

Culture/Surfing

There’s a legend (or a deeper significance of some kind) that attaches itself to virtually every nook and cranny of these islands. The kaona meaning of “he’e nalu” reminds us that so it is with the Hawaiian language: many–if not most–words have multiple associations that add up to an immense and intricate skein of meanings. If anyone delved into the business of decoding this place, I suspect that they’d stumble into a parallel universe of some kind, one that’s positively replete with values (including those implicit in surfing) that Westerners have little acquaintance with.

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Culture/Tattoos

At first glance, tattooing is nothing more than an art form that’s enjoying a modern comeback, along with the putative Hawaiian Renaissance. But everything means something, and the cultural statement that’s being made with the present infatuation with tattooing reminds me of those who go out of their way to take offense at the mis-rendering of Hawaiian words—the omission of a requisite diacritical mark here or the casual mispronunciation there (we’ll overlook the fact that a great many Hawaiians and locals never get it right, either). This prepossession with cultural phenomena at the margins of a marginalized culture—which is to say, stuff that has little nothing to do with the real issues surrounding the political survival and cultural integrity of the shattered Hawaiian nation–seems a tad misguided. It’s a bit like applying cosmetics to a corpse.

Culture/Ukulele

I don’t know that the ukulele didn’t somehow factor into the downfall of the monarchy, but the meaning of the word ukulele in Hawaiian (at least as I always understood it)–“jumping flea”–says it all. And if the flea that was Hawai’i was unable to jump nimbly enough to avoid the geopolitical jarrings of the Great Powers, it’s spirit remains unfettered and will, I can only hope, remain unbeholden to anyone.

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Culture/Waimea Valley

I regard the recent developments in the ownership and “operation” of Waimea Valley as a quixotic victory in our ever-ongoing tilt with the windmills of the gods of greed and wretched excess. Until recently, when stewardship of the valley was awarded to the Audubon Society, Waimea was in grave danger of becoming another honkey-tonk and circus of insults to the Hawaiian heritage; unlike most of the richly profitable gimcrackery of the hospitality “industry”, however, this particular gimcrack went bankrupt, and the grim fate of the valley miraculously defaulted into more responsible hands. The unrelenting “improvement” of every square inch of land that the developers can get their hands on speaks sadly to the tragic degradation of Hawaii’s magical environment. Once upon a time, the kapu system existed as the Hawaiian way of regulating the social order–the difference being that in a “sacred society” such as ancient Hawaii, the emphasis was on regulating man’s relationship with the gods and his environment. In Western society, the emphasis is on individual and especially property rights–which didn’t exist (in the same sense that we understand them) in ancient Hawaii. Says something about values, doesn’t it? Today, there’s little sense of regulating man’s relationship with our Island environment, and way too much concern with individual and property rights. It begs the question: does the ascendancy of individual and property rights have any place in the fragile and diminutive environment that we have here? Or is there a lesson for us in the ancient Hawaiian’s custodial and communal concept of property? The prospect of continuing as we are means certain ruination of our natural environment and local way of life. Much as I admire many things about the American way of life, its scale and nature are ill-suited to a small island; these islands were never meant to accommodate urban sprawl, any more than our local lifestyle was meant to accommodate the ethic of Every Man for Himself and to Hell with Thee.

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Culture/Warrior Spirit

Samoan fireknife-dancing, Maori, Marquesan, and Fijian cannibalism, the sharkteeth-embedded clubs of the Hawaiian… one wonders where the isles of the Pacific ever got their reputation for languor and easygoing hospitality!

Culture/Weapons

Man is always at his most ingenious when it comes to devising ways to maim and slaughter his fellow human creature, and the constant tribal warfare that beset Hawaii through prehistoric times afforded ample opportunity to come up with weapons that would surely make one’s skin crawl (shark teeth-embedded clubs!). Kamehameha enjoyed some success in co-opting the white man’s weapons in his struggle to prevail against his rivals, but alas, the Hawaiian chiefs–in all their bellicose glory—didn’t stand a chance against the white man’s microbes. Not even nuclear weapons could have so completely devastated the Hawaiian race as did disease: the Hawaiian nation dwindled from 800,000 – 1.2 million souls at the time of contact with the outside world to a pathetic handful of some 47,000 by the time of the first census in 1848. Despair very nearly wiped out the rest, but with the Hawaiian Renaissance, there’s a very real prospect of the return of the Hawaiian nation in some form or another (though whether the Hawaiians will ever be able to agree on what is another question entirely.

Culture/Wildfires

It’s sad that it takes a profusion of wildfires to cause us to become somewhat cognizant of the dimensions of the water management problem—it’s a tragedy that speaks loud and clear to the limitations of urban sprawl on an island that was never meant for any such thing. Where are we without water? The runoff from the unrelenting construction and “improvement” of every square inch of land that the developers can get their hands on–along with the witches’ brew that washes into the sea from applying fertilizers and pesticides to everything from front yards to golf courses–has killed off the reefs and made it largely impossible to catch a fish in these waters—part and parcel of the tragic degradation of Hawaii’s magical environment.

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Religion/Christianity

There’s a world of difference between religion and spirituality. Spirituality tends to be value-neutral, since a man’s spiritual justification for his actions is always well intentioned, however misguided (consider how many wars have been waged for God’s glory). Religion, however, serves the very practical purpose of drawing up the slate of values that holds society together and keeps everyone on the same page, so to speak, and sanctifying those values with the blessing of God (though I’m not sure how any man can hope to speak for God). When the missionaries induced Kaahumanu to upend all the old gods and idols and replace them with Christianity, the Hawaiians were left spiritually eviscerated, and it was all downhill from there. When a society’s religion is thrown out the window, as were the Hawaiian gods, and replaced with something new (like Christianity), it leaves society dangerously vulnerable to the incursion of other foreign values that piggyback themselves onto the imported religion, which ultimately weaken a society so that it is no longer willing to resist being overwhelmed by the outside world.

Religion/Father Damien

The story of Father Damien unfolds as a psychic drama, enacted in his imitation of Christ, and in his role in resolving the Western stigma of leprosy as moral retribution and the Hawaiian view of leprosy as genocide. In the Christian tradition of succor for the outcast, Damien embraced the sufferers of this most loathsome of diseases as holy men throughout history have cradled leprosy sufferers in their arms and kissed their open sores.  The public nature of his martyrdom caused the whole world to understand what it was to be a leper, signifying what the open sores of one man might mean to all men, for “Among all the world’s leprosy victims, Damien was uniquely the Leper of all the world.”

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Religion/Missionaries

It wasn’t so much the threat of foreign cannons that brought about the demise of the kingdom, though certainly disease accomplished far greater decimation of the population than weapons could ever have done. Never in history to my knowledge was there such an odd collision of cultures; Hawaii’s encounter with the West bridged no less of a cultural chasm than if we were to meet the Martians. It seems that the missionaries were the main incubus of this virus of Western values that infected the Great Mahele with fatal consequences for the Hawaiians’ land. The complicity of the missionaries in royal politics and other intrigues further ensured that much of the land that was alienated wound up in the hands of their descendants, the forebears of the Big Five and the sugar oligopoly that dominated Hawaii’s economic landscape well into the present day. Hawaii’s dependence upon foreign markets for its sugar replicated the experience of Hawaii’s misguided dependence on whaling and most recently the Japanese. Not that I would credit the missionaries with plotting such far-reaching consequences; nor were they the only ingredient that played into this kettle of fish. But while the white man’s microbes and military technology may have accomplished much of the up-front damage to indigenous populations around the world, it is the values of Judeo-Christian civilization that enjoyed the most lasting effect, for better or for worse.

Religion/Polytheism

The 400,000 gods in the Hawaiian pantheon of deities would seem to approximate the understanding that many of us enlightened moderns have that God is in everything. Ironic, huh?

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Power/Akaka Bill

America has always avowed that justice is paramount, and what is surprising is that throughout this whole tragic business, justice hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans. In fact, I’d be amazed if ongoing legislative efforts like the Akaka Bill amount to anything in America’s vaunted esteem for justice. The problem that I have with sovereignty is not that it is without merit, but that there is no longer much of a Hawaiian nation to return these islands to. And what about all those folks who are not Hawaiian but who were born and raised here: do they become non-citizens and strangers in their own homeland? Judging by the fractious nature of the sovereignty movement these days—and by the antics of Brother Bumpy and other stalwarts–I can’t imagine that a restored Nation of Hawaii wouldn’t soon degenerate into yet another ugly grab for power, perks, and property.

Power/Annexation

One wonders if Lili’uokalani’s relinquishment of rule was merely a feint along the lines of Kamehameha III’s surrender of the kingdom to Lord George Paulet way back when. The king had depended on the British sense of fair play to restore his crown, and they did. Knowing that there was little support in Washington for annexation, did Lili’uokalani likewise depend on the United States to do the right thing, believing that if she abdicated, Washington would call off the dogs and set things right–as the British had done with Kamehameha III? There were differences: the British did not want Hawaii, and did not want to antagonize the Americans with any bid for control of the Islands. The Americans did want Hawai’i, thanks to Manifest Destiny having outgrown America’s borders; Americans had come to regard the Pacific as an American lake, and the longed-for China trade as its very own. The expansion of French and German interests in the Pacific made Americans uneasy, and Americans had come to understand that playing the Great Game in the Pacific required forward bases, of which Pearl Harbor was the jewel in the crown. But America’s acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines as the spoils of its victory in the Spanish-American War cemented Hawaii’s role in its vision of empire.

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Power/Annexation

I’ve come to believe that those who will not be defeated cannot be defeated, but that may hold true only at some deeper level somewhere than the world we inhabit here. I can only hope that the imminent extinction of the Hawaiian race will not mean the extinction of their values and unique understanding of man’s relationship with the natural world. Much of the story of encounters between East and West should be understood in terms of an encounter between “sacred societies” and “scientific societies.” Hawaii used to belong very much in the former category, while most Western cultures occupy the latter. Sacred societies can be characterized by their reverence for nature, their belief that man should live in harmony with his environment, their subordination of earthly and temporal concerns to a higher will, their different concept of time, their love of tradition, their mysticism and metaphysical point of view. Scientific societies, on the other hand, live by reason, objective reality, and their belief that man must be master of his environment, and worship progress, wealth, and material comfort. Both sacred and scientific societies have something to learn from each other: rationalism enables man to fulfill his creative potential, while mysticism and the sense of the sacred would teach us that man must make his way in the world without ruining his environment and riding roughshod over his fellow human being; either approach by itself leaves much to be desired. Western man is clearly in need of the metaphysical perspective that the Hawaiian might have afforded him, since for all of our worldliness, material gratification, and technological prowess, we still don’t seem to understand that the measure of gratification in life is meant to be more than who dies with the most toys.

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Power/Annexation

It wasn’t so much the threat of foreign cannons that brought about the demise of the kingdom, though certainly disease accomplished far greater decimation of the population than weapons could ever have done. Never in history to my knowledge was there such an odd collision of cultures; Hawaii’s encounter with the West bridged no less of a cultural chasm than if we were to meet the Martians. Once the people had been decimated, their incomprehension of the Western values of land ownership and the manipulation of the missionaries then ensured the loss of the land. As for their sovereignty, the behavior of the Hawaiian royalty and their lust for material wealth helped ensured Hawaii’s dependence upon foreign markets and economic trends: sandalwood, whaling and oil, sugar, global geopolitical events, and most recently the Japanese. Let me see—populace, land, sovereignty… did I leave anything out? Oh yes… as for spirit. Despair very nearly finished off the job, but not entirely. The Hawaiian—thanks to the Hawaiian Renaissance among many of their quarter-million or so hapa-Hawaiian cousins—is struggling to overcome having been written off as a stranger in his own land. But many obstacles remain: the shameless legacy of the Bishop Estate; the inability of many Hawaiians to adapt to the Western value system of success at all costs and its attendant materialism; the unwillingness of the American Way to accommodate a Hawaiian way of life; the ice epidemic; economic marginalization… I could go on, and on. I hope that we’ll find a moment in and amongst our headlong plunge into the future to consider what the Hawaiian might have given us, and still might, before they’re all gone.

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Power/Apology Bill

In response to the Apology Bill, some would say that “sorry doesn’t help.” The pathetic display of armed resistance that was raised in defense of the kingdom was powerless–and in the face of America’s overwhelming force, that offers no surprise. Yet America has always avowed that justice is paramount, and what is surprising is that throughout this whole tragic business, justice hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans. In fact, I’d be amazed if the ongoing judicial efforts to right the wrongs of annexation amount to anything in America’s vaunted esteem for justice. The problem that I have with sovereignty is not that it is without merit, but that there is no longer much of a Hawaiian nation to return these islands to. And what about all those folks who are not Hawaiian but who were born and raised here: do they become non-citizens and strangers in their own homeland?

Power/Bishop Estate

From the very beginning, Hawaiian royalty got itself into the habit of acquiring the stuff of Western civilization at huge expense to the Islands and their people: to wit, the huge tracts of land that Kamehameha traded away for warships and guns; the sandalwood forests that went to pay for Keeaumoku’s warehouses full of furniture and whatnot; and Kalakaua’s palace that was bought with the deal that traded away Pearl Harbor for access to America’s sugar market. There’s a pattern here, which the ugly greedfest of the Bishop Estate saga is entirely in keeping with: that sadly, the Hawaiians have all too willingly acquiesced in the loss of their own sovereignty for the sake of their own material betterment.

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Power/Captain Cook

With the quixotic debut of Captain James Cook at Kealakekua Bay, the tragically madcap character of Hawaii’s first encounter with the West seems to have established an enduring pattern for its relationship with the modern world–a pattern by which many Hawaiians would assert that they found themselves repeatedly hornswoggled by white men who dismissed them as savages at worst and naïve, good-natured rustics at best. But the true nature of the confrontation has proceeded from the conflict between the values of a “sacred society” such as ancient Hawaii, which emphasized regulating man’s relationship with the gods and his environment. In Western society, however, the emphasis is largely on individual and especially property rights–which didn’t exist (in the same sense that we understand them) in ancient Hawaii.

Power/Corruption

The development of a competent civil service–relatively immune to corruption and whose positions are based on merit, not connections—is probably the most important step (next to free elections) in building a functioning democracy, and the stuff that separates a mature democracy from Third World monkey business, where civil servants largely amount to some politician’s private entourage of vote-riggers and purveyors of patronage. But having built a meritocratic civil service and a mature democracy, is not our political process now at risk of being fatally compromised by lobbyists, corporate money, and congressmen on the take? Our representatives, after all, are functionaries (like any other civil servant), who supposedly get out of bed in the morning not to fatten their campaign chests, but to serve the citizens they represent. Regrettably, Hawaii has long been a very small-minded, incestuous, tribal kind of place, where things proceed on the basis of who you went to elementary and high school with. Unless and until we outgrow that kind of thing, we’ll forever have one foot in the First World and the other mired in the Third.

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Power/Exploitation

My take on things is that it’s easy to blame the haole for everything that went wrong here. But even with most of a conquered people wiped out by the white man’s cannons and disease, history shows us that true subjugation requires the cultural assimilation of the conqueror by the conquered. I believe that a substantial measure of blame must also be laid at the feet of Hawaiian royalty, beginning with Kamehameha the Great, whose unquenchable appetite for the white man’s ships and guns set a precedent that continued with the complicity of chiefs like Keeaumoku in the sandalwood trade, the sell-out of so much of the land by Hawaiian royalty and chiefs, Kauikeaouli’s sanction of the Ladd & Company scheme, their reliance on duplicitous foreign advisors like Gerrit Judd, Kalakaua’s lust for royal grandeur, the shameless and naked greed of the Bishop Estate, and the tragic-comic inability of OHA and the Hawaiian sovereignty movement to establish a consensus to act to save what is left of the Hawaiian nation. In other words, in order for true subjugation to occur, the conquered must be willing to be conquered… and it might be said that the demise of the Hawaiian race has in the final analysis been made possible only with the complicity of the Hawaiian himself. Only when people accept responsibility for what they allowed to happen to themselves, and forgive the injustices that have been perpetrated upon them by others, will they be able to move on and repair the damage.

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Power/Great Mahele

With the whole business of names being a highly fluid concept for many early Hawaiians, one can appreciate the tangled and tragic consequences of the Great Mahele’s attempt to institute a system of land tenure based on what is owned by whom.

Power/Hawaii Ponoi

I come back to my oft-repeated assertion that “everything means something.” And what could be more meaningful than a flag or a national anthem? I share your bewilderment that the Hawaiians never did anything (until quite late in the day) to create either a flag or an anthem that reflected an individual identity, rather than their historical association with Great Britain and the United States (I think that the red and white stripes would connote something other than the eight main islands in the minds of most people). That association, of course, has been anything but one of equals; what sort of conclusion are we to draw as to Hawaiian sovereignty, then, from a flag and an anthem that evoke–above all–subservience? The sad fact of the matter, I submit, is that the Hawaiians all too willingly acquiesced in the loss of their own kingdom, and their belated development of these symbols of nationhood pretty much says it all.

Power/Hawaii Quarter

We’re sure to have a jolly good brouhaha over the design of the Hawaii quarter soon to be issued by the U.S. Treasury as part of its series to commemorate each of the fifty states. But everything means something, and the storm that’s no doubt brewing here is sure to raise hackles in the same fashion as those who go out of their way to take offense at the mis-rendering of Hawaiian words—the omission of a requisite diacritical mark here or the casual mispronunciation there (we’ll overlook the fact that a great many Hawaiians and locals never get it right, either). This prepossession with the cultural icons at the margins of a marginalized culture—which is to say, stuff that has little nothing to do with the real issues surrounding the political survival and cultural integrity of the shattered Hawaiian nation–seems a tad misguided. It’s a bit like applying cosmetics to a corpse.

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Power/Hawaiian Homelands

The various issues of underfunding, lack of water and other infrastructure, mismanagement, blood quantums, and being stuck with the worst land have all conspired to make the Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act into yet another insult added to the injuries inflicted upon a dying race. But while the insults probably won’t kill ‘em off, depriving a traditional people of their land will.

Power/Hawaiian Homesteading

There’s a huge difference between Hawaiians working the Homestead lands themselves and renting them out to non-Hawaiians. The economic benefit may be generally the same, but the spiritual sustenance—of which the Hawaiians are arguably in greater need—is largely absent in the former case. This calls to mind a pilot program that’s come to light hereabouts that proposes to strengthen, rather than sever, a criminal offender’s roots in the community, by putting him to work farming taro–that most meaningful root of all. The results have been most enlightening.

Power/Flag

I come back to my oft-repeated assertion that “everything means something.” And what could be more meaningful than a flag? Hawaiians never did anything (until now) to create a flag that reflected an individual identity, rather than their historical association with Great Britain and the United States (I think that the red and white stripes would connote something other than the eight main islands in the minds of most people). That association, of course, has been anything but one of equals; what sort of conclusion are we to draw as to Hawaiian sovereignty, then, from a flag that evokes–above all–subservience? The sad fact of the matter, I submit, is that the Hawaiians all too willingly acquiesced in the loss of their own kingdom—very nearly to the British, then finally to the Americans–and the flag pretty much says it all.

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Power/Incest

With all of this concern with purity–whether with respect to keeping royal lineages pure or with respect to the moral purity of the missionaries–it’s no surprise that the present-day Hawaiian nation (such as it is) seems lost. I don’t know how its notion of sovereignty can square with the reality of the dilution of their race to the point where only 9,000 pure Hawaiians now survive. The tyranny of the purists (as manifest in their political correctness) is often the last gasp of a vanishing breed that’s clutching in its death grip the last vestiges of an Old Order that’s no longer viable anyway.

Power/Garritt Judd

Without wishing to take anything away from Dr. Judd’s good works, I can’t help but wonder how much of a friend to Hawaii he really was… given his role in trying to swing the sale of the entire Hawaiian Islands to a clique of outside investors. Money–and the greed for land–is the acid test of human relations.

Power/Kahoolawe

Without wishing to sound condescending, it’s just not the military’s strong suit to appreciate the cultural implications of its presence and activities here. If it’s true that everything means something, then a coupla things come to mind right away with respect to the U.S. Navy’s abuse of Kahoolawe as a bombing site. First, it speaks to the attitude that land everywhere must be put to its “highest and best use”—even if as a bombing range—an attitude that makes no allowance for the many virtues of leaving the land alone and undeveloped. Second, the bombing of Kahoolawe was a massive and unconscionable insult to the values that governed the traditional relationship of Hawaiians to their environment. And perhaps finally, the restoration of this forlorn and pathetic island might well be seen as symbolic of the restoration of the Hawaiian nation itself—no less forlorn and pathetic. The character of these islands should signify something quite special about man’s relationship to his environment–a realm that is actually no less magical in Hoboken than in Hawaii (it’s just that the magic of Hawaii is a bit more readily discernible, and the tradition of Hawaiian reverence for the land quite prominent in our local ethos). Everything means something, and for the military to blithely bomb the place is a slap in a very lovely face, and an insult to sensitivities that–hereabouts anyway–are poised on the razor’s edge.

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Powe/Kaahumanu

From what I know of the man, taking power from Liholiho may well have been easier than taking candy from a baby. Being hobbled by the bottle as he was, the opportunity for a willful woman to step in and take charge was ripe. And, as Kaahumanu must have at least intuitively understood, the key to wielding power in a theocratic society such as early Hawaii was religion–and the purposes of power could probably have been served as well by the Cargo Cult as by Christianity.

Power/Ka’iulani

If it’s true that everything means something, then the untimely death of pretty Princess Ka’iulani seems to have spoken eloquently—perhaps in protest–to the injustice of annexation and the despair of the kingdom.

Power/Kalakaua

After all that the Hawaiian race had suffered in seeing its numbers decline from a million strong to just 40,000 or so by the last nineteenth century, it seems that the reign of Kalakaua came as the final rictus of its death throes. In a sense, Kalakaua seemed resigned to the fate of his people, saying, “I only wish the world would leave us alone”… knowing full well it would not. On the other hand, his antics in affecting the trappings of regal might (the Palace, his world tour, the scandals, the scandalous company of Gibson, Spreckels, and others) and his sponsorship of nativist cults suggests desperation, despair, and a gallows humor. It all virtually invited both the Bayonet Constitution… if not the coup de grace of the bayonet! In Kalakaua, one senses the aloha spirit writ grotesquely large, and his actions were, I believe, the swan song of the aloha spirit. And what did the Hawaiian have, if not the aloha spirit… and the most splendid sense of humor in the world?

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Power/Kalakaua/Bayonet Constitution

It’s ironic that the Bayonet Constitution–modeled as it was on the Constitution of the United States– should have been forced on Kalakaua (the sovereign of any other nation), since it made such a mockery of our own hallowed concept of self-government. On the other hand, I would agree that, given the history of how the Hawaiian royalty had all too willingly acquiesced in the erosion of their own sovereignty for the sake of their own material betterment, the time had come for the monarchy to be brought to account to something–though I believe it would have been far preferable for it to have been accountable to their own people than to the American government.

Power/Kalakaua/Iolani Palace

Without wishing to take anything away from Kalakaua’s good intentions (with which I am hugely sympathetic), his Iolani Palace was a hugely expensive extravagance that says quite a bit about how Hawaii became beholden to the United States. From the very beginning, Hawaiian royalty had gotten itself into the habit of acquiring the stuff of Western civilization: to wit, the huge tracts of land that Kamehameha traded away for warships and guns; the sandalwood forests that went to pay for Keeaumoku’s warehouses full of furniture and what-not; and Kalakaua’s palace that was bought with the deal that traded away Pearl Harbor for access to America’s sugar market. There’s a pattern here: that sadly, the Hawaiians have all too willingly acquiesced in the loss of their own sovereignty for the sake of their own material betterment.

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Power/Kalaniopu’u

The exploits of Kalaniopu’u, Kamehameha, and the various other contenders for power at the time seem heroic in the context of pre-contact history, yet pathetic, futile, and melodramatic in the end. For what Captain Cook dragged in the door was guns, disease, and the greed for land—the things that would wreak the greatest havoc amongst native peoples worldwide in their encounters with the white man (and ultimately with each other), and against which the virtues (such as they were) of the great Hawaiian warriors counted for nothing. It seems that the rise of Kamehameha was both the apotheosis of the Hawaiian warrior tradition as well as its death knell.

Power/Kamehameha

Beginning with Kamehameha, Hawaiian royalty got itself into the habit of acquiring the stuff of Western civilization: to wit, the huge tracts of land that Kamehameha traded away for warships and guns; the sandalwood forests that went to pay for Keeaumoku’s warehouses full of furniture and whatnot; and Kalakaua’s palace that was bought with the deal that traded away Pearl Harbor for access to America’s sugar market. There’s a pattern here.

Power/Kamehameha

It seems that the judgment of both history and the present generation is that the greatest thing about Kamehameha the Great was his martial prowess—which may well be the case. His meager accomplishments as a civic leader, vis-à-vis his Law of the Splintered Paddle, pale before his military reputation. He was hardly known for his generosity towards his people—in fact, his generosity was best known for awarding huge tracts of land to his haole advisors and consorts, and his business dealings with the haole were obsessed with acquiring ships and guns. And as a spiritual leader, he was indifferent toward Christianity and expedient with his indulgence of local deities. I often wonder, though, why the present generation glories in its adulation of Kamehameha’s martial glory, when other virtues go unmentioned, that I believe better exemplify the early values of the Hawaiian people: their beliefs that land, like the sea and the sky, is not something that can be owned by anyone; that there is a profound spiritual dimension to everything in our environment; that man has a reciprocal responsibility to give love and respect to his environment in the same measure that he takes his living from it; that generosity, not material possessions, was the true measure of wealth. This may be what some people have in mind when they speak of the aloha spirit, but in many more cases, I’m sure, what they have in mind is the bottom line (the one with dollar sign next to it).

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Power/Kamehameha Schools

Notwithstanding the abject disgrace that the Bishop Estate (predecessor to Kamehameha Schools) made of itself, I can appreciate the need for the school to remain a Hawaiian institution. What better affirmation of both the ability of and necessity for the Hawaiian people to remain viable and compete in the modern world? Education, not sovereignty, is the path to restoring self-esteem to a people that have been so utterly brutalized in their encounter with the outside world. Education is especially important given the pattern of abuse that continues into the present day, with the exploitation of the land, so that Hawaii today is becoming sharply divided between those who own real estate and those who don’t (have you tried to find a place to rent or buy around here lately?). What will become of us when we’ve no more natural resources to exhaust? That would leave us with the one resource that is at once the most precious and the most neglected: our human resources. If we dedicated ourselves to developing a knowledge economy here, Hawaii could become the hub of the Pacific Rim for intellectual capital and professional services–it’s badly needed, and the job pays really well. On the other hand, much as I favor extending every possible opportunity for education to Hawaiians (and anyone else), I can’t avoid the feeling that anything based on race—such as the Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy—does a great disservice to the intended beneficiary. Hawaiians will not be able to find self-esteem in being given anything—whether land, money, sovereignty, education, or anything. Rather, they will find it in what they earn and achieve. And that’s how we fulfill those values that we hold dear—by coming to the School for Soul Growth known as Planet Earth and laboring—by dint of hard work or a better idea–to overcome obstacles, and becoming the better for the experience.

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Power/Jonah Kalanianaole Kuhio

Prince Kuhio’s self-imposed exile from his Island home amounted to little more than yet another ineffectual protest by the Hawaiian royalty against the white man’s usurpation of their kingdom. A more enduring aspect of his political legacy, the Hawaiian Homelands, suffer today from various issues of underfunding, lack of water and other infrastructure, mismanagement, blood quantums, and being stuck with the worst land. All of these have conspired to make the Hawaiian Homelands Commission Act into yet another insult added to the injuries inflicted upon a dying race. But while the insults probably won’t kill ‘em off, depriving a traditional people of their land will.

Power/Liholiho

From what I know of the man, taking power from Liholiho may well have been easier than taking candy from a baby. Hobbled by the bottle as he was, the opportunity for a willful woman to step in and take charge was ripe. And, as Kaahumanu must have at least intuitively understood, the key to wielding power in a theocratic society such as early Hawaii was religion–and the purposes of power could probably have been served as well by the Cargo Cult as by Christianity.

Power/David Malo

What will become of us when we’ve no more natural resources to exhaust? That would leave us with the one resource that is at once the most precious and the most neglected: our human resources. If we dedicated ourselves to developing a knowledge economy here, Hawaii could become the hub of the Pacific Rim for intellectual capital and professional services–it’s badly needed, the job pays really well, and it doesn’t require the destruction of our environment and way of life to be made to work. I believe that David Malo would have appreciated how the knowledge economy might enable the Hawaiians and their ethos to survive the coming onslaught–but then as now, who was listening?

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Power/Military

I realize that there’s a considerable body of opinion in support of the idea that the military presence here is vital to Hawaii’s economy, and that’s probably true in the short run. I would offer, however, the case of Subic Bay in the Philippines (remember the huge naval base we had there?) as an example of an outcome that might surprise a lot of people. When Subic was closed (ten years ago?), everyone was sure that the local economy (with its preponderance of service jobs) would tank. It did, but only briefly, but then quickly bounced back to where Subic is today–a thriving industrial park and one of the Philippines’ most promising economic prospects. The same thing, by the way, happened with communities on the U.S. mainland that were affected by local base closings—many are stronger than ever now, and the new industries tend to be more focused on manufacturing and the knowledge industry–and better paying–than the service jobs they replaced (to say nothing about what the change has done for self-sufficiency and self-esteem).

Power/Military/Land Abuse

Without wishing to sound condescending, it’s just not the military’s strong suit to appreciate the cultural implications of its presence and activities here. The character of these islands should signify something quite special about man’s relationship to his environment–a realm that is actually no less magical in Hoboken than in Hawaii (it’s just that the magic of Hawaii is a bit more readily discernible, and the tradition of Hawaiian reverence for the land quite prominent in our local ethos). Everything means something, and for the military to blithely bomb the place is a slap in a very lovely face, and an insult to sensitivities that–hereabouts anyway–are poised on the razor’s edge.

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Power/Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act

America has always avowed that justice is paramount, and what surprises me is that it continues to ignore the fundamental injustice of its annexation of Hawaii. The problem that I have with the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act is that first of all, it seems to place the Hawaiians on the same footing as Native Americans, rather than entreat Hawaii as the sovereign nation it once was. What’s more, it seems to propose to settle the underlying grievances by awarding various entitlements; but giving anything to anyone on the basis of race is wrong, since it ultimately cases them to base self-esteem on what they are rather than what they make of themselves. Then, there is no longer much of a Hawaiian nation to return these islands to; there are only some 7,000 pure-blooded Hawaiians remaining, and to give someone with a single drop of Hawaiian blood something that you are not giving someone else who has invested their life here is to sow the seeds of rampant resentment and social unrest.

Power/Neighborhood Boards

Everything about Hawaii seems to be “local”. Local–whether one went to high school here–is the Great Divide that obtains here. Our obsession with high school–sports, contacts, friendships, and neighborhood–reminds us that even in this era of the global community, the imponderable vastness of the ocean still holds us apart. Not surprisingly, the Neighborhood Board plays an outsize role in our politics: the national and global political scene seems as utterly removed from our concerns as the far side of the moon.

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Power/9/11 and Pearl Harbor

The current fear of terrorism is very similar to the fear of Japanese espionage following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While these new immigration policies have the good intention of protecting against terrorism, its effects are detrimental in establishing a world community. The U.S. is generally perceived as the world’s nation, and keeping our borders open will only foster goodwill towards our nation at a time when our present foreign policies are currently courting discontent.

Power/OHA

It’s my own view that any entitlement programs that are based on anything other than merit and achievement are counter-productive. The exception that I make is with respect to Kamehameha Schools. Notwithstanding the abject disgrace that the Bishop Estate (predecessor to Kamehameha Schools) made of itself, I can appreciate the need for the school to remain a Hawaiian institution. What better affirmation of both the ability of and necessity for the Hawaiian people to remain viable and compete in the modern world? Education, not sovereignty, is the path to restoring self-esteem to a people that have been so utterly brutalized in their encounter with the outside world. OHA, however, is a political entity that smells to me like sovereignty.

Power/Official Fish

I come back to my oft-repeated assertion that “everything means something.” And what could be more meaningful than a fish??? One could be forgiven for wondering why the Hawaiians never did much of anything (until now) to create symbols that reflected an individual identity, rather than, say, their historical association with Great Britain and the United States. That association, of course, has been anything but one of equals… and what sort of conclusions are we to draw on behalf of Hawaiian sovereignty, then, from an official emblem that evokes the hackneyed cliché of the humuhumunukunukuapua’a going swimming by, the booshwah of hapa-haole melodies, and the sappy, servile nature of the culture of tourism? (I realize that we’re off the deep end with this, but I can’t help myself—I love to get carried away with these things.)

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Power/Protectorate

I often wonder how Hawaii would do if it were on its own–no United States. There are so many wolves out there, and Hawaii is such a tempting piece of real estate, that at the very least, I think we would need to seek a protectorate status with the U.S. As to where we might go from there, I’m certain that God put these islands where He did for a reason, and I like to think that, if it developed a knowledge economy (a far-fetched prospect now, I admit) Hawaii could become the hub of the Asia-Pacific economy and much more.

Power/Queen Emma

The good intentions of such a lovely person as Queen Emma in trying to bridge the gulf between Hawaiians and the haole were never meant to prevail in a political landscape populated by the wolves that hijacked the kingdom.

Power/Claus Spreckels

Claus Spreckels knew he had a sucker on the line with King Kalakaua, and never bothered to exercised much restraint in wheedling privileges that enabled him to build his sugar empire. In a sense, Kalakaua seemed resigned to being manipulated (along with the rest of his race), saying, “I only wish the world would leave us alone”… knowing full well it would not. On the other hand, his antics in affecting the trappings of regal might (the Palace, his world tour, the scandals, the scandalous company of Spreckels, Gibson, and others) and his infatuation with nativism suggests desperation, despair, and a gallows humor. It all virtually invited both the Bayonet Constitution… if not the coup de grace of the bayonet! In Kalakaua, one senses the aloha spirit writ grotesquely large, and his actions were, I believe, the swan song of the aloha spirit. And what did the Hawaiian have, if not the aloha spirit… and the most splendid sense of humor in the world?

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Power/Lorrin Thurston

It seems that a wolf like Thurston and a lamb like Kalakaua were somehow destined for each other. It’s ironic that the Bayonet Constitution–modeled as it was on the Constitution of the United States– should have been forced on Kalakaua (the sovereign of any other nation), since it made such a mockery of our own hallowed concept of self-government. On the other hand, I would agree that, given the history of how the Hawaiian royalty had all too willingly acquiesced in the erosion of their own sovereignty for the sake of their own material betterment, the time had come for the monarchy to be brought to account to something–though I believe it would have been far preferable for it to have been accountable to their own people than to the American government.

Power/Treaty of Reciprocity

Without wishing to take anything away from Kalakaua’s good intentions (with which I am hugely sympathetic), the Treaty of Reciprocity is of a piece with the habit that Hawaiian royalty had gotten itself into the habit of acquiring the stuff of Western civilization: to wit, the huge tracts of land that Kamehameha traded away for warships and guns; the sandalwood forests that went to pay for Keeaumoku’s warehouses full of furniture and what-not; and Kalakaua’s palace that was bought with the deal that traded away Pearl Harbor for access to America’s sugar market. There’s a pattern here: that sadly, the Hawaiians have all too willingly acquiesced in the loss of their own sovereignty for the sake of their own material betterment.

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Power/Robert Wilcox

Robert Wilcox–and his abortive efforts to restore Lili’uokalani to power–was another bit-part player in the tragi-comedy of Lili’uokalani’s undoing. The pathetic arms that were raised in defense of the last days of the Hawaiian nation were powerless in the face of America’s overwhelming force–no surprise there. But what is surprising is that in this whole tragic business, even justice has counted for so little.

Economy/Honolulu Harbor

A coupla things come to mind when I contemplate Honolulu Harbor. The first is how Hawaii, which should by rights become the nexus of the Pacific Rim economy, is increasingly bypassed in trans-Pacific shipping and air traffic–and that speaks volumes of how we’ve marginalized ourselves with our own small-mindedness here. The other is how virtually everything, including food that we could easily produce ourselves, is imported–and that speaks to our perilous dependence on outsiders and to how we’ve turned our noses up at the lucrative prospects on offer with becoming a manufacturing and export economy ourselves. Lest that conjure up heavy industry, I submit that there is a galaxy of local products with a Hawai’i flavor–food products, clothing, jewelry, perfumes, tropical hardwoods products, and much more–that the outside world would pay a pretty penny for… if only we marketed ourselves to the world as something other than a tourist destination.

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Economy/Labor

Ever since John Burns got elected governor, labor and politics have been the best of bedmates in Hawaii. What I find hard to understand is how this unholy alliance has done so little for Hawaii’s workers, giving us one of the lowest-wage and highest-cost economies in the United States. But a large part of the problem may lie with the plantation mentality: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down sort of thing—a way of thinking that ensures that our aloha-spirited but small-minded community will for the foreseeable future command nothing better than the margins of the new global economy.

Economy/Mass Transit

With each year that goes by, it seems increasingly that these islands are made more for the automobile than us humans. The prospect of continuing as we are means certain ruination of our natural environment and local way of life. Much as I admire certain things about the American way of life, the scale and much of the nature of it is ill-suited to a small island; these islands were never meant to accommodate urban sprawl, any more than our local lifestyle was meant to accommodate the ethic of Every Man for Himself and to Hell with Thee.

Economy/Patronage

I suspect that the reason it takes so long to repair roads in Hawaii is the same as why we have a state government here: patronage. A job in the civil service has long been regarded as the sine qua none of sinecures here in Hawai’, providing as it does a safe harbor and ward for the walking wounded and those who may otherwise find themselves unable to compete in the real world. What a sweet deal it is: a network of rickety roads that forever needs to be patched is like the coconut palms hereabouts that must constantly be emasculated of their nuts–a recipe for full employment, Island-style.

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Economy/Quarantine

Hawaii—and its efforts to prevent the infiltration of exotic species–gives us an excellent case in point of how everything–but everything–is inter-related. The chaos theory holds that the beating of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the earth gives rise to a hurricane on the other. With North America’s experience, for example, the Columbian Exchange might seem to have been an innocent enough interchange of horses and cattle and whatnot from the Old World for potatoes and peppers and such from the New, it fostered some pretty grim consequences as well. The migration of corn from the New World to Europe and then to Africa was ultimately responsible for a huge increase in Africa’s food supply, and the population boom that resulted produced a massive upswing in tribal raiding for cultivable land. The captives, of course, became the currency of the slave trade. That took care of the supply side of the equation. The demand was spurred by the importation of the white man’s diseases into the New World. The “pristine wilderness” encountered by the Pilgrims when they arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 was the result of a hundred-year epidemic sowed by Columbus’ crew and the Spanish conquistadors; a population estimated at some 115 million-strong at the time of Columbus’ arrival had been reduced by smallpox and other such ugly microbes to just several million—and an astonishing abundance of wildlife. And when it was eventually discovered that sugar cane grew like a weed in the West Indies, there understandably wasn’t much of a labor supply to draw upon. Slavery provided the answer. All that from an ear of corn… or shall we say, the beating of a butterfly’s wings? Although there was always a good bit of head-knocking in the first encounters of the Hawaiians with the haole, the worst violence by far was visited upon the Hawaiians by the white man’s microbes. Even before Captain Cook arrived in the islands, it was well known to him that his second-in-command, Captain Clerke, was in an advanced state of tuberculosis; surely he must have known as well that many of his crew were infected with venereal disease, influenza, the common cold (lethal to Pacific Islanders), and more. Yet still he came, and landed. As a result, the pre-contact population of Hawaii, credibly estimated at 800,000 – 1.3 million, declined to just 47,000 by 1870. This is in keeping with the decline experienced by many other indigenous populations throughout the Western hemisphere following contact with whites. It’s hard to say which had the more lasting effect: the white man’s military technology or his microbes, but it does beg the question of who was the civilizer… and who was the savage.

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Economy/Sugar

Those who lament the passing of sugar–that languid and lovely anachronism—from our islands have little appreciation for the beastly (and shabbily-recompensed) labor that it took to turn cane into crystal. I’m astonished that sugar still grows on Maui, and I think it’s significant that a commodity that’s better suited to Third World economies—whether sugar or mass tourism—still has a place in Hawaii. That says something about the small-minded plantation mentality (“the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”) that continues to hold sway here.

Economy/Super Ferry

Will the Super Ferry finally resolve our need for cheap and easy inter-island interconnectedness? Increasingly in the Internet Age, however, location means nothing, and global communication is instantaneous and dirt-cheap. Being able as I am to live in Hawai’i and work on the mainland (teaching online), I thank the Heavenly Grid for the Internet. Still, I must admit to the occasional fit of nostalgia for those good old days… when two thousand miles of ocean meant something.

Economy/Tourism

Much as I admire certain things about the American way of life, the scale and much of its nature is ill-suited to a small island; these islands were never meant to accommodate mass tourism and urban sprawl, any more than our lifestyle was meant to accommodate the ethic of Every Man for Himself and to Hell with Thee. Some modification in our constitutional relationship with the United States is the only way I can imagine that would give us the right to control in-migration, and prevent being utterly ruined by overpopulation and overrun by tourists. To that end, I would favor a protectorate, which would grant the United States the use of military facilities here in return for leaving Hawaii alone to find its own way in the world… and to gain the self-esteem and other rewards that we could achieve by pursuing other prospects than scrubbing toilets and making beds for tourists. Hawaii, which should by rights become the center of professional expertise for the Pacific Rim economy, is increasingly bypassed in trans-Pacific shipping and air traffic–and that speaks volumes of how we’ve marginalized ourselves with our own small-mindedness here. Virtually everything, including food that we could easily produce ourselves, is imported–and that speaks to how we’ve turned our noses up at the lucrative prospects on offer with becoming a manufacturing and export economy ourselves. There is a galaxy of local products with a Hawaii flavor–food products, clothing, jewelry, perfumes, tropical hardwoods products, and much more–that the outside world would pay a pretty penny for… if only we marketed ourselves to the world as something other than a tourist destination.

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Economy/Unions

While the unions have played an enormous role in ensuring a decent wage for Hawaii’s working class, unionism has also helped to gel Hawaii’s view of itself as a wage-based service and commodity economy. As a result, people here seem hobbled in making the leap in their expectations, and the Holy Grail has become “hours”—how many of them can I get per week, and at what rate, rather than how to achieve a qualitative breakthrough that would position Hawaii as a center of intellectual capital for the Pacific Rim. There is a crying need, in this era of globalization, for the expertise that would help multi-national corporations and other organizations to participate in markets worldwide, especially given the paucity of Western understanding of Pacific Rim opportunities. I can’t help but believe that God put these islands where He did for very good reason.

Economy/Welfare

Hawaii’s welfare programs are increasingly needed as the gulf continues to widen between those who have and those who have not. But no matter how much money we throw at the symptoms, the underlying problem of a fraying inspiration for our livelihood remains unaddressed. Whether whaling, sugar, tourism, or real estate, the pattern of economic boom and bust has remained pretty much the same through modern Hawaii’s history: exploit the resource ‘til it can be exploited no more, than wait ‘til someone comes along with a better idea. The pattern continues into the present day with the exploitation of the land, so that Hawaii today is becoming sharply divided between those who own real estate and those who don’t (have you tried to find a place to rent or buy around here lately?). What will become of us when we’ve no more natural resources to exhaust? That would leave us with the one resource that is at once the most precious and the most neglected: our human resources. If we dedicated ourselves to developing a knowledge economy here, Hawaii could become the hub of the Pacific Rim for intellectual capital and professional services–it’s badly needed, and the job pays really well.

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Economy/Whaling

Whether whaling, sugar, tourism, or real estate, the pattern of economic boom and bust has remained pretty much the same through modern Hawaii’s history: exploit the resource ‘til it can be exploited no more, than wait ‘til someone comes along with a better idea. The pattern continues into the present day with the exploitation of the land, so that Hawaii today is becoming sharply divided between those who own real estate and those who don’t (have you tried to find a place to rent or buy around here lately?). What will become of us when we’ve no more natural resources to exhaust? That would leave us with the one resource that is at once the most precious and the most neglected: our human resources. If we dedicated ourselves to developing a knowledge economy here, Hawaipacific rim

i could become the hub of the Pacific Rim for intellectual capital and professional services–it’s badly needed, and the job pays really well.

Economy/Picture Brides

Pictures brides must have been the prettiest aspect of the very gritty business of sugar in early Island society. Those who lament the passing of sugar–that languid and lovely anachronism—from our islands have little appreciation for the beastly (and shabbily-recompensed) labor that it took to turn cane into crystal. I’m astonished that sugar still grows on Maui, and I think it’s significant that a commodity that’s better suited to Third World economies—whether sugar or mass tourism—still has a place in Hawai’i. That says something about the small-minded plantation mentality (“the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”) that continues to hold sway here.

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Australia

Society/Settlement

Australia, like North America, was colonized in a most unsavory way. Forget freedom and opportunity… and think indentured servitude, slavery, and penal colonies. Some would say that the harsh and hostile conditions of the New World couldn’t have been overcome other than at gunpoint and under threat of laying on the lash. But the second great wave of immigration in the 19th century was, of course, a different matter. Motivated as it was by incentive than coercion, the results proved that people respond far better to the former than the latter… and that’s what made the New World new.


P.S. Since you have a taste for history, we invite you to our companion site WisdomMaps.info. It’s history as you’ve never seen it! Also, be sure to have a look at Our History… it makes for an adventure!


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