Koko and I woke up yawning at dark thirty and went out walking beneath a star-dense black canopy that offered just the faintest hint of dawn light at its far eastern edges. As we returned, invigorated, slivers of pink began to form on the horizon, and soon the sky was awash in a free-for-all of cloud-borne color.
Karl Kim’s presentation last night on the process of conducting Kauai’s Important Ag Lands study was reportedly similarly chaotic, but not so pretty. A friend left in disgust, reporting the meeting was hijacked by people who didn’t want to hear what Dr. Kim had to say, but just voice their own opinions.
“You know all of them, and you’ve heard everything they have to say a hundred times before,” he said in a phone call on his way home. “But that’s Kauai.”
Indeed it is.
I had planned to attend the meeting myself, but instead fell into the time warp of the Verizon store. After meeting a friend there who shares my wireless plan, and was having trouble with his phone, we emerged three hours later, well past the meeting’s start, but each equipped with a Blackberry that, thanks to an upgrade credit, rebates and two-for-one special, hadn’t cost us a cent.
Except, of course, the new additional monthly charges. But never mind. Soon I’ll be able to spend the odd spare moment transfixed by its 2x3-inch screen. That is, once I learn how to use the thing.
“Give it four to six weeks, and if you’re still having trouble, you might want to attend one of our two-hour classes,” advised the clerk.
Uh, no thanks. I already spent three hours getting the damn thing. I’m not gonna blow another two hours in a class learning how to use it. Devoted as I am to the phone, there’s a limit on how much of my life I want to give it.
As we left the store, and I expressed regret at missing the meeting, a taro farmer friend who had joined us inquired about its purpose. When I explained it was about designating the important ag lands, he offered his opinion: “No need. They’re all important.”
Indeed they are.
Equally important are those little historical vignettes that serve to remind us that life as we know it, won’t necessarily remain life as we know it. A friend, who did not explain why he happened to be reading about the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Africa, sent along this link with the comment:
was reading this and it sounded kind of familiar
Indeed it did.
Here are some pertinent excerpts that might sound familiar to you, too:
The cultivation of sugar was a labour-intensive process and the Portuguese began to import large numbers of slaves from the mainland. By the mid-1500s the Portuguese settlers had turned the islands into Africa's foremost exporter of sugar. São Tomé and Príncipe were taken over and administered by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and 1573, respectively.
In the early 19th century, two new cash crops, coffee and cocoa, were introduced. The rich volcanic soils proved well suited to the new cash crop industry, and soon extensive plantations (roças), owned by Portuguese companies or absentee landlords, occupied almost all of the good farmland. By 1908, São Tomé had become the world's largest producer of cocoa, which remains the country's most important crop.
The roças system, which gave the plantation managers a high degree of authority, led to abuses against the African farm workers. Although Portugal officially abolished slavery in 1876, the practice of forced paid labor continued. In the early 20th century, an internationally publicized controversy arose over charges that Angolan contract workers were being subjected to forced labor and unsatisfactory working conditions. Sporadic labor unrest and dissatisfaction continued well into the 20th century, culminating in an outbreak of riots in 1953 in which several hundred African laborers were killed in a clash with their Portuguese rulers. This "Batepá Massacre" remains a major event in the colonial history of the islands, and its anniversary is officially observed by the government.
By the late 1950s, when other emerging nations across the African Continent were demanding independence, a small group of São Toméans had formed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP), which eventually established its base in nearby Gabon. Picking up momentum in the 1960s, events moved quickly after the overthrow of the Caetano dictatorship in Portugal in April 1974. The new Portuguese regime was committed to the dissolution of its overseas colonies; in November 1974, their representatives met with the MLSTP in Algiers and worked out an agreement for the transfer of sovereignty. After a period of transitional government, São Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence on July 12, 1975, choosing as the first president the MLSTP Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa.
Colonies can be -- and repeatedly have been -- freed when the occupying nation becomes committed to giving up its colonies. And that movement can be driven by international pressure (and example) and a citizenry that believes colonization is wrong. Just because America is kind of behind the times in that regard -- I mean, we still have citizens who don't even know/believe America has colonies -- doesn't mean we should give up on freedom for Hawaii. So educating people about what went down here and forming an independence movement isn’t a waste of time or a lost cause.
Indeed, the message to remember is one voiced by an old tutu on a Sudden Rush song:
Never give up. Don't you ever give up.
Meanwhile, the Akaka Bill, which would require kanaka maoli to give up sovereignty-related claims against the United States in exchange for recognition as indigenous Americans, looms on the horizon. If you want to learn more, check out ”Understanding the Akaka Bill" in the current issue of Honolulu Weekly. Editor Ragnar Carlson lays out the meat of it in a Q&A format, while raising, at the every end, the interesting question of whether sovereignty claims could be released against the U.S., but still pursued in international court.