It started off as a lovely morning, with a scarlet streak spanning the eastern horizon and drops from a recent rain sparkling on the leaves and two broad waterfalls streaming down the face of Makaleha, all of which Koko and I viewed when we went out walking.
The sun rose and added shimmer to the sparkle and infused the moist air with a soft golden glow and it was almost holiday-quiet on the road, the way it is now on furlough Fridays.
We ran into my neighbor Andy, who mentioned he’d heard Caren Diamond and me on the radio yesterday when we were interviewing Councilman Derek Kawakami, who sounded intelligent and thoughtful, we agreed, when discussing vacation rentals on ag land, which he doesn’t support, dogs on the Path, which he does support, and farm worker housing, which he doesn’t support.
Derek reasons for opposing farm worker housing made sense: there are other issues related to farming, like shipping, marketing and a processing plant, that should be discussed first and have greater likelihood of helping farmers; the potential for abuse is too great; it doesn’t satisfy the primary intent of the ag district, which is to keep agricultural land cheap enough to make farming economically feasible; and it dances around the underlying issue, which is the lack of affordable housing in general.
I then mentioned that a man who identified himself as a kanaka maoli had called in to say he was very frustrated to hear all these discussions about the county’s poor planning process because it diverted attention from the primary issue, which is how the county and state got control of those lands in the first place.
“So Caren and I told him we agreed, and that the land had been taken illegally and should be returned to the Hawaiians,” I said.
“But that’s wrong,” Andy exclaimed, which launched us into a discussion that is probably the most heated we’ve ever had.
In essence, his view was that the Hawaiian monarchy was already selling land, and had sold off much of the good agricultural land before the overthrow, so the land would have been gone by now anyway, even if the Americans hadn’t taken over; that Polynesian nations wouldn’t have been able to advance beyond where they were without associating with colonial powers; that the crown and government lands that comprise the “ceded” lands belonged to the people and still do, since they’re held in trust by the state and feds; and that even if the land was turned back to the Hawaiians or their nation, the citizens would choose to align themselves with the United States.
My view was that if the monarchy hadn’t been overthrown, the kingdom would have developed on its own through associations of its own choosing, and that the rulers could have chosen to do the same things that currently generate money, like tourism, leases to military bases and land sales, with the difference being that the revenues would have gone back to the nation rather than the colonizers; and that his argument was steeped in the white man’s burden mindset of "advanced" Westerners coming to uplift and improve the "backwards" people they encountered in their “explorations,” when that was actually just a rationalization for their underlying objective, which was to dominate and exploit others to increase their own wealth and power.
But that’s the way people are and have always been throughout history, Andy said, to which I replied, yes, because we’ve been taught to be like; that’s how humans been conditioned to behave, but that doesn’t mean such behavior is an inherent part of human nature.
By then we had reached the end of our walk and the dogs had gotten their biscuits and though it was warm, things were a bit frosty between us. Andy decided to sum things up by asserting, as he has before, that I have a flawed belief that people can somehow live in peace and harmony — a belief that I would have thought perhaps he would hold, too, seeing as how he’s part of the ‘60s generation, and isn’t peace and love what it was supposed to be all about?
Then Andy challenged me to come up with one example of a nation or people that lived in peace, while adding the caveat that of course we can’t always be certain that our knowledge of such people would be accurate.
And I said, OK, I will, because I'm quite certain there's got to be at least one
So what do you think, reader? Are we humans inherently evil, destructive, bent on domination and conquest? Or have we been taught to be that way?
What truly lurks in the heart of men?