Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Musings: Like It or Lump It

Bright Venus was peeking through an orange veil in a golden sky when Koko and I went walking this morning. Bees were busily working the fragrant white angel’s trumpet blossoms and a fat meadow lark landed on a telephone wire and belted out a vibrant, metallic song.

The sun rose in an ardent blaze that caused Makaleha to blush, and all the clouds, too, and just about then we ran into my neighbor Andy, who was walking Momi and his daughter’s dog, Kahu.

Seems he’d spent the better part of yesterday at the county planning commission, which was hearing a request to reconsider its approval of the Coco Palms permit extension. Two citizens and Commissioner Hartwell Blake, who voted for the extension, requested the review, hoping the commission would add some more conditions. One would have required the developer to begin demolition within 10 months to ensure his project is on schedule to meet the timeline allowed by the extension.

The developer, however, resisted. And why wouldn’t he? He doesn’t want to put any money into the project before he sells it, and given the current market, he’s not likely to dump that white elephant within the next 10 months. The commission went along and declined to impose that condition, with Chairman Jimmy Nishida casting the swing vote.

Andy said that Commissioner Cammie Matsumoto was among those hesitant to impose the deadline, saying she didn’t know too much about construction. Well, then what is she doing on the planning commission? She should go over to the Ethics Commission, where it’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters.

I know there are always two sides to every story, and yesterday Wainiha land owner Mark Barbanell posted a very lengthy comment giving his account of what went down in the "Gathering Rights” incident that underscored a dispute about access for traditional gathering rights.

I read his comment, and the many that followed it, upon returning from a sojourn to a favorite coastal spot that required me to use a public access between two very expensive North Shore properties. My pleasure at the excursion was somewhat dimmed when I noted that one of the landowners had not only planted a hedge and trees as tight as could be up against the fence line, but had installed sprinkler heads in the easement itself.

Now I happen to be familiar with that landowner, and I couldn’t help but wonder why, with 21 acres at her disposal, she found it necessary to infringe into the public easement with her irrigation and plant vegetation so close to the access that it was already sprawling over the fence and beginning to impede access. Unless, of course, she's hoping people stop using it.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. When I went up to Haena last week, I was shown several such coastal accesses where adjacent landowners had planted plumeria, heliotrope and other trees that ultimately would grow to block the trail. I’m also aware of an easement in Aliomanu where landowners planted up the area where folks are supposed to be able to park. I’m certain there are more cases elsewhere around the island.

Such actions speak to an attitude that is offensive in every way: I’ve got mine and I don’t want you here and I’m going to make what I’ve got bigger at the public’s expense. So the public either loses our or is forced to engage in confrontations with the landowners to keep the access open because the county is not protecting these easements. Indeed, in many cases it’s giving them up because it doesn’t want the liability.

This is the larger context, unknown to many, in which the confrontation between Kaili and Mark occurred. It’s particularly pronounced on the North Shore where lavish homes and arrogant owners are literally squeezing out the common folk.

I’ll admit I’m biased in this case because Kaili is a friend and I don’t know Mark. Nor was I there to see it all go down. But I found several aspects of Mark’s comment troubling.

For starters, it’s never going to go over well when a haole tells a Hawaiian to “show more aloha.” As a friend noted: “That’s guaranteed cracks right there.”

Since some people who read this blog likely will not understand why, I’ll lay it out. It implies that an outsider knows your culture and how to practice it better than you do, and that’s insulting. It’s even more offensive and aggravating in a place like Hawaii, where the indigenous culture was first heavily suppressed, and then heavily co-opted, by outsiders.

And it’s easy to counsel the disenfranchised to “let go of the anger and hopelessness” when just one of your two vacation rentals is pulling in more in a week than a lot of these young guys make in a month cleaning yards, playing music in the bars, pulling taro and otherwise scrambling to make a meager living. Even then, they’re still unable to afford a place to rent, much less ever have the hope of buying a home in the area where they grew up — an area that is becoming more expensive in large part because those very same illegal vacation rentals have artificially inflated property values.

Further, much of that rage and hopelessness comes from having outsiders — who no matter how long they’ve been here will always maintain that status — say things like “You all need to go with the flow and adapt,” when you don’t want to adapt to the kind of values and lifestyle they represent, and what’s more, even if you did, you don’t have the economic means to do so.

It’s really just code for shut up and let me do my thing and if you don’t like it, lump it.

Now who, really, wants to be on the receiving end of that even once, much less over and over and over and over?

9 comments:

darwin_was_pretty_smart said...

"For starters, it’s never going to go over well when a haole tells a Hawaiian to “show more aloha.” As a friend noted: “That’s guaranteed cracks right there.”"

-- guaranteed cracks. nice. pretty sophisticated response


"just one of your two vacation rentals is pulling in more in a week than a lot of these young guys make in a month cleaning yards, playing music in the bars, pulling taro and otherwise scrambling to make a meager living. Even then, they’re still unable to afford a place to rent, much less ever have the hope of buying a home in the area where they grew up"

-- thank you for spelling out some of the economic drivers at work. important facts


"area that is becoming more expensive in large part because those very same illegal vacation rentals have artificially inflated property values"

-- not for a moment would i claim to know which neighborhoods the above applies to, not all of them for sure


"“You all need to go with the flow and adapt,”

-- the ability to adapt and operate within a given area, culture (dynamic or static), etc has been a helpful human trait for quite some time. some seem to be able to do it, other less so


"you don’t have the economic means to do so"

-- economics. in the same breath one can accurately say those who ignore the reality of economics tend to fair poorly, and those societies unable to offer persons economic opportunity are sick by several measures

Anonymous said...

Social Darwinists are a--wipes.

Dawson said...

"It’s really just code for shut up and let me do my thing and if you don’t like it, lump it."

Even more than that, it's a socially acceptable way for anyone with a enough cash to act out the arrogance of the elite.

You don't need soul, heart, empathy, understanding or education to take over the place of a people then kick them out.

Just money. Which buys power and privilege -- and the arrogance that accompanies them.

And THAT is the essential ugliness at the heart of the word "haole."

Anonymous said...

Joan, you write so well. Not many voices of your caliber.

I have said over and over, what is Cammie Matsumoto doing as a planning commissioner? Putting aside the comment about construction, she doesnʻt have a grasp on ANYTHING thatʻs discussed. I have been tempted many many times to tell her she should resign and stop making a fool of herself.
Pretty much same goes for the new Dragon Lady.
Where the hell do they dig these out of touch, vacuous people from and WHAT could be their collective motives for accepting the positions ????


And to: May 13, 2009 10:18 AM darwin was pretty smart but you arenʻt..."whereʻs the aloha" is a question that is mostly asked by haoles (foreigners). And they have created the third definition for the word ʻalohaʻ when they spit the word at you.

Yep, Iʻve heard that a lot. Especially from the spoiled brat white teenagers. Rotten. Rotten. Rotten. Unfortunately the Hawaiian kids have to mix with them in the schools. So if you have any complaints about local kids behaviors other than their usual, ingrained repectfulness...guess where they learned it from?

Yes, again. Iʻm haole.

Joan said...

Thanks, May 13, 2009 4:00 PM, for your kind words and thoughtful comment.

darwin_was_pretty_smart said...

sorry i dont claim to know who asks that question most, or where they direct same. i do claim -- or just remind you, hopefully -- that as a general rule with few exceptions, to response to a slight (large or small, real or perceived) with a "crack" (blow) is unwise

as to area teenage complaints...gosh, maybe just that they cause much broken glass to spill out onto the road down by kipu falls during break-ins? but i dont know who taught them that behavior. i could cite the nawiliwili teenage drinking/drug use behavior, but such altered state minors are useful SF blockers in a pinch :)

oh sorry, my "sources" -- cops and personal observations RE the falls (crime picks up there in the summer, when kids are out); old(er) guys and personal observations while drinking coors at the pine tree inn in front of jaspers (nice fellows)

Anonymous said...

Like I said, darwin was pretty smart but youʻre not.

Anonymous said...

I concur with 4:00 PM's compliments of Joan. And this blog does resonate to the political types, so it has tangible social value.
I too have heard "Aloha" used as a weapon far too many times - by haoles. I've never heard any Kauaian sneer the word "aloha" with a sarcastic tone in traffic or in the surf, I have heard it both places, muttered by pissed off haole transplants (why do I want to assume that they came from southern california?).
And Darwin is also right in that it is people with a lot of money who become arrogant and demanding and rotten. Its not really a matter of race. People with less were probably complaining about their treatment at the hands of Alii, two centuries ago. This is the paradox of money. It is what people strive for, but too much of it makes them crappy people. Having it, and not having to make any more often kills one's compassion - even one's soul - and holding on to that money becomes the end-game far too often. The super rich are constantly fretting over whether their friends and family are really just after their money.

In my experience, people who had money and then gave most of it up are often the coolest / most well - adjusted. Likewise, people who earn a chunk, and reinvest into the community - instead of protecting the all precious security blanket of a fat investment account- seem like happier people. Speaking of money and power ruining things; Is Brescia really having marital trouble? "Instant Karma's gonna get you."

Now there is a guy who can afford to take a (relatively) small loss, but instead, it seems to see this all as a contest of wills. Its Joe the defense contractor versus Kaiulani and Anty Louise and goddammit he's gonna win! I'd leave him if I was his wife.

So is destroying a few people who desperately tried to save their ancestor's bones from desecration by concrete really going to make him happier? Couldn't he make things right with all the same money he must be spending on lawyers? Think he could pay for a good mediator? But, his lawyers that get probably paid by the hour probably aren't recommending that, of course.

Dawson said...

"So is destroying a few people who desperately tried to save their ancestor's bones from desecration by concrete really going to make him happier? Couldn't he make things right with all the same money he must be spending on lawyers? Think he could pay for a good mediator?"

The answer to all three questions is yes. The value of money is that it purchases power, in little ways and large. Joe is no Donald Trump, but compared to the other residents of his little piece of paradise he has quite a bit of power.

Power is nothing unless one exercises it -- or gives it away. You're asking if Joe can't choose Option #2. Joe is choosing Option #1.

Of course, the process is all very ritualized and sanitized. Sanctified by the legal system. Joe doesn't have to do anything himself, really, except turn the wheels of an already-established process -- most of which can be done by people he hires.

But the ultimate testament to the power Joe's money buys him is that he can feel anything he wishes about the situation. He can even choose to feel nothing at all.

Unlike the people whose tears are on the concrete covering their ancestors.