Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Musings: What Kind of Trade Off is That?

It was dark, but getting lighter, when Koko and I went walking this morning on a street that was once again unusually devoid of both traffic and other walkers, even the usual ones. The sky, with its great masses of black and occasional fleeting glimpses of the moon, was what some might call ominous, but to me it was beautiful.

It had rained heavily during the night, and I stopped for a while, fascinated by the rapidly changing reflection of the dark sky in a dark puddle. Fatigue, or perhaps just a lack of will, prompted me to cut our walk short, which proved to be a good thing, as we’d just gotten back inside the house when a downpour arrived.

It seems likely that Felicia’s clouds will block viewing of the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks tonight and next, but the trade off will be some much-needed rain.

I’ve been thinking about trade-offs since I had a conversation with my former neighbor Andy a couple of weeks ago about statehood, and whether its benefits had been outweighed by its impacts on kanaka maoli.

He expressed concern that many Hawaiians had failed to buy land back when it was still relatively affordable because they had put their faith in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. The Act was supposed to “rehabilitate” Native Hawaiians who had suffered under Western occupation by awarding them land leases. Specifically (emphasis added):

The Congress of the United States and the State of Hawaii declare that the policy of this Act is to enable native Hawaiians to return to their lands in order to fully support self-sufficiency for native Hawaiians and the self-determination of native Hawaiians in the administration of this Act, and the preservation of the values, traditions, and culture of native Hawaiians.

(b) The principal purposes of this Act include but are not limited to:
(1) Establishing a permanent land base for the benefit and use of native Hawaiians, upon which they may live, farm, ranch, and otherwise engage in commercial or industrial or any other activities as authorized in this Act;
(2) Placing native Hawaiians on the lands set aside under this Act in a prompt and efficient manner and assuring long-term tenancy to beneficiaries of this Act and their successors;
(3) Preventing alienation of the fee title to the lands set aside under this Act so that these lands will always be held in trust for continued use by native Hawaiians in perpetuity;
(4) Providing adequate amounts of water and supporting infrastructure, so that homestead lands will always be usable and accessible; and
(5) Providing financial support and technical assistance to native Hawaiian beneficiaries of this Act so that by pursuing strategies to enhance economic self-sufficiency and promote community-based development, the traditions, culture and quality of life of native Hawaiians shall be forever self-sustaining.


By all reasonable accounts, the state has done a miserable job of fulfilling that trust duty, which prompted a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 2,700 Native Hawaiians. The trial began last Tuesday and is expected to run through September.

In its meager coverage of opening arguments, The Advertiser reported that attorney Thomas Grande argued the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) has failed to put Hawaiians on Homestead lands in a timely fashion, as required by the Act.

But Deputy Attorney General Randolph Slaton, arguing on behalf of DHHL, said the act does not provide beneficiaries with rights and entitlements other than what the agency can offer.

As of June 30 there were 19,886 Native Hawaiians waiting for residential leases, and many others have died without ever getting an award, including an estimated 200 since the suit was filed a decade ago. Meanwhile, as I have reported, DHHL has awarded numerous commercial, industrial and pasture leases to non-Hawaiians, ostensibly to raise money for its operations. This approach has been accelerated under the Lingle Administration.

So getting back to the conversation with Andy, he was concerned that Hawaiians had already lost out once because they put their faith in the Homestead Act, which didn't deliver. And now, by putting their faith in independence/sovereignty movements, which he feels are unlikely to prevail, kanaka maoli are at risk of being left behind again.

The assumption there, which I find inherently faulty, is that being "left behind" means failing to take full advantage of the goodies proffered by the American system, and that accumulating money and stuff is a good measure of success.

It’s not.

Among the young kanaka maoli I know, having to survive in a system dominated by those values, which they see as false, without getting caught up in it, causes them a great deal of frustration, anger and angst.

As I noted in the very first post on this blog:

Prosperity isn’t even a word in the Hawaiian language, Ka`imi said. It’s an entirely Western concept, that idea of making good in a way that sets you apart from others; accumulating possessions with an eye toward achieving status; attracting money and material things to be stored up, hoarded.

Yet in the ultimate suppression of their culture, that’s what they’re now expected to do if they don’t want to be left out, left behind. What kind of trade off is that?

And how does that fit into the goals of the Homestead Act that by “pursuing strategies to enhance economic self-sufficiency and promote community-based development, the traditions, culture and quality of life of native Hawaiians shall be forever self-sustaining?”

Meanwhile, even as we’ve seen the travesty of mismanagement that has characterized the state’s handling of Homestead lands and the so-called “ceded lands,” the federal government is again asking Hawaiians, through the Akaka Bill, to trust that things will be different this time.

In other words, forever relinquish your claims to sovereignty and independence in exchange for another empty promise of "something" followed by interminable delays in its delivery.

What kind of trade off is that?

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's the only trade-off that's on the table. Nothing else is offered, nor is viable.

It's too bad, but so are many other things in the world now and historically and no doubt in the future as well.

Drag what you can from the rubble of the past into the only future door left open. One suitcase per person.

Everything must go.

Anonymous said...

The Hawaiian culture may soon be (if not already is) a historical artifact not to be actively lived by a whole society, but maybe practiced here and there by individuals (on their own private property, of course).

"Prosperity", or private property of various kinds in general, is the mainstay of all large and small societies...OK, not the "real tiny" ones existing like a few tiny grains of sand here and there in remote parts of the world.

"Getting ahead" unfortunately implies leaving others "behind". There doesn't appear to be enough to go around to give all "the good life" as it is generally defined today.

The thinking that "success" equates to mere "survival" is so "200+ years ago" that it is universally rejected.

Even those on the planet who must equate success to survival would change that to a more modern success formula if they could.

Anonymous said...

"class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 2,700 Native Hawaiians. The trial began last Tuesday and is expected to run through September."

-- wow thats really interesting. i hope they have good counsel, and can make a case of it. the dhhl attorneys / cases ive seen are pretty bush league


"As of June 30 there were 19,886 Native Hawaiians waiting for residential leases,"

-- so some of these guys have been on this list since, well for like 20 yrs right? with all of that state land / ceded crown lands or whatever...for the life of me i dont see what the valid excuse is (but id love to know the reason). this is a modern and perfect example of a sound basis for ethnic hawaiians to be pissed off

im all for some selling and leasing of such lands for whatever, revenue, etc. but not kicking out some acres in fee simple near infrastructure such that some homes could be built on it...just so glaring


"Prosperity isn’t even a word in the Hawaiian language, Ka`imi said. It’s an entirely Western concept,"

-- and the world's archeologists, historians, and anthropologists roll in their graves..


dwps

Casey Law said...

The idea that having money is incompatible with Native Hawaiian culture strikes me as silly. It is similar to the idea that a successful African American is "acting white". Both are damaging to efforts to enable disadvantaged people to find a better life.

If that you still find money and Native Hawaiian culture opposites, use another metric to measure success. I'd say a far more obvious sign of Native Hawaiians being "left behind" is quality of health.

Anonymous said...

Old Hawaii may not have had a word for "prosperity", but they sure knew and practiced the meaning.

The class/caste system proves that.

Lots of haves and have-nots in old Hawaii.

At least in America, the have-nots have a chance to improve their circumstances for themselves or future generations.

Not so in a born-into caste system.

Anonymous said...

Very true. There's nothing in the romantic notion of "old hawaii" that I would want.

Anonymous said...

"Very true. There's nothing in the romantic notion of "old hawaii" that I would want."

OK no more aloha for you!

Anonymous said...

Casey Law said: "The idea that having money is incompatible with Native Hawaiian culture strikes me as silly."

It's not having money that's the problem, it's valuing it above all else.

Anonymous said...

to say the state has done a miserable job in handling it's trust obligations as per Hawaiian Homes Act is being generous. one could argue that the state and federal government in collusion has perpetuated the genocidal injustice started by the missionaries and then plantation owners of a past era.
if we, the good ol' US of A, actually subscribed to the notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness we'd all be better off. such is not the case, unfortunately; for kanaka's and citizens of the state and republic we must stand together in solidarity against the machine and reclaim our inalienable rights. sovereignty and justice for all. all you haters can put your brown shirts away; blue meanies need not apply.

'all we need is love. love is all we need'

Dawson said...

"It's not having money that's the problem, it's valuing it above all else."

That and making its acquisition and accumulation, by fair means or foul, the basis for an entire culture -- and the domination of others.

Casey said...

Fair enough, but money was only used here to estimate quality of life. Andy's point about Native Hawaiians being "left behind" is valid by almost any objective metric you chose (wealth, health, education). Demonizing material success may just make Hawaiians current unfortunate state acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Funny how the ali'i seem to have plenty of prosperity.

Anonymous said...

"Very true. There's nothing in the romantic notion of "old hawaii" that I would want."

OK no more aloha for you!

=========

The alii of old hawaii were just oozing aloha, too. I think they spelled it "KAPU", though.

Lots of "friendly" laws. Big believers in capital punishment.

War and take-over, too. Making deals with Westeners for higher-tech arms to assure victory via much higher opponent death rate really telegraphed the "aloha spirit".

I think the whole "aloha" thing is a tourist marketing ploy started 50-60 years ago. I've never seen any difference between that and the degree of typical small-town friendliness anywhere all across America or Europe.

Anonymous said...

'all we need is love. love is all we need'

The love's free. The sex will cost you $100.

Anonymous said...

I love the smell of human sacrifice in the morning. Reminds me of...aloha!

Anonymous said...

Of course, what America was doing to indigenous peoples and slaves during the same time period was sooo civilized! Yippeecayee! Yeehaaa!

Anonymous said...

America isn't claiming any "peaceful, back-to-nature, aloha" bullshit like some claim of "old hawaii".

Bashing America isn't working as a defense of any romantic notions of Hawaii.

Katy said...

The argument isn't really about "romantic notions." Every society has faults, and to pretend that this is about the relative merits of discrete societies is a red herring.

This is purely a question of the self-determination of a colonized and occupied nation.

I am personally not convinced I would want to be citizen of a restored Hawaiian nation, since I have no idea what political and economic forms that nation would adopt (although I can hazard a guess that it would be quite different from that which existed 200 years ago.) But that doesn't mean that I don't support its restoration and the independence of Hawai'i from the US.

Anonymous said...

No, but America just recently claimed that the invasion of Iraq was done to bring freedom and democracy to the citizenry and that we used "smart" technology to minimize the killing and maiming of non-combatants. I have yet to hear sovereignty proponents talk about romantic notions of old Hawaii. They just want their nation back.

Anonymous said...

"Bashing America isn't working as a defense of any romantic notions of Hawaii."

Likewise, bashing pre-contact Hawaii isn't working as an argument against sovereignty. Few nations can lay claim to a pristine historical human rights record.

Anonymous said...

Run the numbers lets see what the citizens of the state want. And do a seperate poll to see what the people with 50% hawaiian blood want.
Carefully checking geneology of course.

Anonymous said...

I'd bet money that such a pole would indicate that statehood should be preserved, but hawaiian programs like Kam schools, etc should also be preserved. If, to achieve both goals, the Akaka Bill is required, then I'd further bet that the majority would OK that.

I absolutely doubt that the majority would want to live in a separate country again.

Anonymous said...

And what if the self-determination of the majority of relevant (however you choose to define it) majority is that they'd rather remain US citizens and Hawaii remain a state?

Anonymous said...

"society has faults, and to pretend that this is about the relative merits of discrete societies "

-- its no excuse to sit on available home lots long ago promised to people still standing in line for them, but no question some societies did not organize and develop as well as others


"Likewise, bashing pre-contact Hawaii isn't working as an argument against sovereignty. Few nations can lay claim to a pristine historical human rights record."

-- nicely put


otherwise, it still seems most smart people privately believe HI will remain a US state, and with good reason


dwps

Anonymous said...

Once the Kings and the Ali'i allowed other peoples to come here as labor in great numbers, their nation was done for. After 100+ years just how do you deny citizenship to a large plurality of the inhabitants of Hawaii who are not of the blood? Can't/won't be done. Do you really want the mess in Fiji here? Even worse since only a very small percentage can claim significant blood quantum.

Sure, you could demand recent immigrants leave, but if the US does the same and ejects all those Hawaiians in LV and elsewhere you're going to have a large number of very pissed off people demanding compensation at a minimum. These situations never end well.

Lobby all you want for a Hawaiian nation. It's just not going to happen.

Take your 1/4 loaf. Figure out how to maximize it's value, then start negotiating for more. Get rid of DHHL as part of the deal. Those bureaucrats have been hopeless though OHA isn't exactly covering themselves in glory.

Anonymous said...

when i first moved here, kekane pa would talk at length about a nation within a nation structure. i don't hear much discussion about that much these days.
the concept seemed like a win win. entitlement programs like OHA, KAM schools, AluLike etc would work well if detached from the current government structure.
a nation within a nation where portions of oahu and most of the neighbor islands would be hawaiian homelands held in trust. all lease hold;no ownership unless fee simple. the us and state of hawaii would continue to maintain and manage there interests but would do so w/a partnership with the newly reinstated hawaiian authorities. the department of defense would cough up rents as would the state DOT/DLNR. schools and health care would revert back to the days of Liliuo'kalani. that model was much better than the current DOH/DOE setup.
current residents would be able to choose their national identity and enjoy dual citizen priviledges if they cared. travel between the islands, districts and municipalities would be easier than current TSA requirements(kinda similar to superferry laxness) and would encourage free exchange of goods, services and ideas.
i could happen; i see it in the not so distant future. the light of god shines brightest during these dark times.

Anonymous said...

I don't think all those "nation within nation" benefits you list would emerge. Certainly not relief from TSA regs.

No current "fee simple" land ownership would change and current lease-hold leases would have to run out to their contractual limit for any change to take place.

nowondertheyhateus said...

Nation within nation is just another name for quasi-sovereignty such as what the American Indians got saddled with (american fake sovereignty)

Anonymous said...

And that's all you're gonna get!