I received an email today from Karen Chun of Maui. It was written in response to a student from New York City, who is helping her professor research the Hawaii Superferry fiasco and was curious why Maui and Kauai folks reacted differently.
Karen’s response intrigued me because it’s been so often alleged that it was just haoles who staged the protests at Nawiliwili Harbor. Yet Karen writes that Maui moved to challenge the ferry legally, rather than through civil disobedience, partly because the island has become so "haoleized.”
She also offers her perspective on the troubles facing Maui — a place that has long stood as an example of what folks don’t want Kauai to become:
We have let tens of thousands of people live in gated enclaves where they have no contact with local people. It is an ex-pat type of existence for them.
Even the Maui County Hawaii Canoe Association (MCHCA) has become a "sports" organization and abandoned its roots to the Hawaiian culture. Their attitude is so bad that, not only was my canoe the only canoe on the water [when the ferry docked at Maui], but MCHCA is now SPONSORED by Hawaii Superferry! In a very short-sighted, money-motivated view, they lack the ability to extrapolate forward and understand that adding another boat to the harbor will eventually result in the two canoe hale being kicked out.
So even though Irene [Bowie of Maui Tomorrow] and I were successful in organizing a large number of people to come out, only a few of them were passionate enough to do civil disobedience. Thus we made the decision to stay legal.
When laws become a tool for corporations to over-ride public interest, that leaves us no choice but to commit civil disobedience. Given the way HSF and Gov Lingle twisted the legal system to their own ends, I believe Maui has had their eyes opened to the need for civil disobedience if something like this comes up in the future.
But whether the huge presence of foreign and mainland people who have brought their mainland ways here will prevent us from assembling an effective number of people is a question still up in the air.
There is a pervasive sense that we are powerless...even some kupuna have sold out and formed an organization (Na Kupuna O Maui) made up of members who receive money, land leases, and perks from our biggest visitor accommodation developer, Everett Dowling, in order to co-opt the Hawaiian voice. So we have the example of our elders selling out to the exploitation of Maui for money and favors (sound familiar?) Enough of the majority of our county council members are corrupt enough to go along with Dowling.
My husband, who was active in taking back Kaho'olawe, is discouraged by the overwhelming presence of newcomers whose ways are contrary to the Hawaiian value of malama`aina.
Seems like it used to be that folks would come over here, love the land, love the culture and assimilate. But now, they retain their old ways that overwhelm the more gentle and accommodating Hawaiian culture. And I am not just talking about the U.S. and Canada but also Mexico, Europe and the Philippines. They have quite different cultures that put an emphasis on individuality, competition, pushiness, and the acquisition of money and ever more and more possessions. They consider the land and sea to be a possession to be used (up) instead of a trust to be cared for.
So the tendency - especially now that we are older - is to try to make small corners of our lives as good as possible and retreat from the rest of the island.
I still get out there and testify and rabble rouse but I do it only because I want to go to my grave knowing that I did everything I could -- even though it is very discouraging to see people (including many on our County Council) motivated not by what is best and right but by bribes, self-interest and greed.
Right now, we are not taking direct action because every day of operation HSF loses more money and EVENTUALLY they will tire of their charade and go be military contractors.
The lesson that Kaua'i should learn from this is to:
1. Stay strong on your stand against gated communities
2. Avoid second home vacation subdivisions
3. Avoid importing labor from other countries
4. Have the county government put local interests first
5. Treasure your Kingdom members who are courageous enough to back everyone up when action is needed.
6. Treasure yourselves for being courageous enough to act. Turns out you folks chose the more effective way.