Friday, May 7, 2010

Musings: What Evil?

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?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mankind is inherently bad, most trying to "swim upstream" to be good. Some make it further upstream than others.

Overall, the current in the stream wins, though.

Little bubbles of societal or political good have existed, but not for all people and not for all time.

Here we are a decade into the 21st century, still burdened with war, poverty and greed. Lack of morality and common decency is increasing...kids shooting kids and adults...etc.

Mankind is circling the drain. It cannot pull itself up by its own bootstraps, but only plod along, getting incrementally worse.

Have a nice day!

ps - I am of the "60's generation", too. It didn't matter.

Your Utopian hopes wither in the face of dark human nature over all.

Anonymous said...

I do not agree with Kawakami's take on Farm worker housing and a lot of other issues like his vote against SWECS but I am going to vote for him for three reasons. 1. he stands by his decisons even if they are controversial. 2. He does his research as is evident when he explains his stance which I must admit even though I don't always agree with him his arguments are very hard to contest and 3. He isn't wishy washy. Most politicians nowdays will flip flop all over the place and try to be everybody's friend. Most politicians are so engrossed in themselves that they think they are always right and if you don't agree with them then you must be wrong. Kawakami has a way of getting his point across while being sensitive to opposing views. In my eyes it is refreshing to see that kind of characteristics in such a young man. Let's hope that the Furfaros, Asings, Bynums don't rub off on him and ruin what I feel is a promising young leader.

Sandhya said...

We can look to the Tibetan people as a model of a culture standing in their integrity.

Anonymous said...

In 1819, Liholiho broke the kapu system. Many ali`i and konohiki cut down all the sandalwood and allowed massive whale harvesting. Kam III instituted the Mahele. Many more inidigenous events occurred all before "overthrow."

As to "Man's" evil: It's not the "evil" part, it's the natural selection and evolution part. "Man" strives for best possible fitness and energy, passed thru reproductive success, etc etc. The individual "agenda" is survival and in this day and age, "thriving." "Evil" is just a word that may represent the evolutionary process if one does not always have favorable outcomes.

Anonymous said...

The land that I stole came with a mortgage....I'm not a very good thief.

Anonymous said...

"Tibetan people "

those guys have been beating up on each other for a long time...

Anonymous said...

People are basically cooperative not evil. Societies however can be pathological. Iceland has no military, the police are not armed yet there is less than 500 violent crimes against persons per year in a population of 31,7630 as of Jan 2010. 100 of those people are felons in Iceland's only prison.

Compare that to Kauai where in 2008 their where 208 violent crimes in a population of 65,689. KCCC designed bed capacity is 118 but operates at 128 (2004). We also send people to Oahu and mainland prisons, and of course the US has more people in prison than any country in the world.

Finally the murder rate on Kauai typically exceeds Iceland which ranges from o to 1 per year.

Anonymous said...

I dunno about inherently bad, but definitely stupid, short-sighted and greedy.

Anonymous said...

"The land that I stole came with a mortgage....I'm not a very good thief."

Too bad. I paid cash.

Anonymous said...

Then Andy challenged me to come up with one example of a nation or people that lived in peace

-- norway, post viking days. costa rica, post '45 or so. a few bushmen tribes here and there


"I feel is a promising young leader."

-- agreed


"We can look to the Tibetan people as a model of a culture standing in their integrity."

-- thought the chinese had taken care of them by now? if not, any year now..


dwps

Anonymous said...

Iceland has no military, the police are not armed yet there is less than 500 violent crimes against persons per year in a population of 31,7630 as of Jan 2010. ...

Compare that to Kauai where in 2008 their where 208 violent crimes in a population of 65,689.


So, Iceland has more than twice the violent crime in a population less than half that of Kauai? Maybe Iceland should arm their police...

Anonymous said...

Iceland has a state religion - the Evangelical Lutheran Church

Dawson said...

"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."

Andy's argument is classical European colonialism.

The old saws of "they were always at war with each other anyway;" "they would still be in the stone age were it not for us;" and "most of them prefer our [insert Western religious belief, technological boon or lifestyle advantage] anyway" are over 500 years old.

The Spanish first used them against their own priests who protested the treatment of Native Americans. The U.S. Government used them as propaganda in the post-Civil War campaigns against Native Americans. And they were as common as weeds in America's overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy.

It is sad that today so many people still cling to such intellectual laziness, historical ignorance and self-serving prejudice.

Dawson said...

"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."

Hand-in-hand with the specious self-justifications of colonialism goes the tradition of temporal chauvinism: the self-comforting conviction that we in our time are the pinnacle; that if we can't do it, it can't been done in the past; and its corollary that if it was meant to be done, we would be the ones to do it (the "our hearts are pure but what you ask is not in human nature" excuse).

Andy may not be racist, but his assumptions are the heirs of centuries of such self-serving cultural superiority.

Anonymous said...

Talk's cheap.

The fact is, who is currently on top?

Doesn't matter why...only what is.

At any given time, you look around and see who are the winners and losers and hope you're one of the winners.

I certainly don't care how we got there.

Couching the losers in any high-sounding moral/cultural justification is bullshit. They're still losers.

John Tyler said...

Try Bhutan, a small nation next to India's north east side. Their king instituted a "Gross National Happiness" quotient, over a Gross National Product.

One of the happiest people/culture on earth, its been said.

Anonymous said...

mankind - half good half evil.
half laughter, half tears.
half yin half yang
half hitler, half ghandi
black and white
ever alternating between peace and war.
during low tide and high tide.
you cant do anything to change it - its a fool's game to thing you can. It is nature.
and people trying to figure out life's meaning without success for millennium - your not gonna.
my advice, relax and try enjoy it all a little more. after all, we're dead soon.

Anonymous said...

"There is only one thing to do: Find the task we have been placed on this earth to do, and accomplish it the best we can, ... without making things complicated or thinking there is anything divine about our animal nature.

Freedom, Choice, Will and so on? Chimeras.

We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die."

Ann Barbery

Anonymous said...

M Barbery

Anonymous said...

"Freedom, Choice, Will and so on? Chimeras."

Then nothing is to be done. Lacking freedom, choice, or will we can not effect a pre-determined will. Nice definition of nihilism.

Anonymous said...

In fact, 10:16, nothing is to be done.

Anonymous said...

If time is infinite, then every combination of everything is going to happen again and again. Indeed, there is nothing to do.

jackbauer said...

Joan, your mindset or thought processes are always so right on the mark.

I believe Andyʻs question as to finding one(1) peaceful nation was a stone toss distraction from his terrible assessment of the Hawaiiansʻ lands.

And your ʻwhat ifʻ was probably exactly how it would have been. The white man sure has messed up this place. Itʻs time to turn it over to the right owners and try to repair the damage as only they can.

Thatʻs right, Andy, all the revenues would go straight to the Kanakas. Big problem for the occupier, sorry, I meant thief.

Anonymous said...

You can judge a person based on a one paragraph summary of a conversation? That's either amazing or pathetic.

Maria said...

'Then Andy challenged me to come up with one example of a nation or people that lived in peace'

try new zealand; the treaty of waitangi seems a bit short for the maori but seems like the occupiers did one better than their brethren in australia or the americas

Anonymous said...

"Andy's argument is classical European colonialism."

-- or the hawaiian king liked shiny western stuff, and sold things to get it (or was that not his right?)


dwps

Dawson said...

"the hawaiian king liked shiny western stuff, and sold things to get it"

An image right out of a 1940's Hollywood Polynesian potboiler, complete with John "Ramar of the Jungle" Hall as the handsome white hunter, H.B. Warner as the noble but childlike Hawaiian monarch, and Dorothy Lamour in #12 brown makeup as his scantily clad daughter.

Q.E.D.

Anonymous said...

"the hawaiian king liked shiny western stuff, and sold things to get it"

An image right out of a 1940's Hollywood Polynesian potboiler,


Actually, it's an image right out of Gavan Daws.

Dawson said...

Daws is too removed from the patronizing belittlement of Western colonialism to wear that image.

Not to mention, Dorothy Lamour isn't in any of his films.

Anonymous said...

even so, for some reason i doubt that very much of the land in the hawaiian islands was sold off in fee simple by the king to some third party in a fairly straight up exchange. would be interesting to know the numbers though, one would think they are pretty well documented / discoverable


dwps

Anonymous said...

Daws is too removed from the patronizing belittlement of Western colonialism to wear that image.

Recognizing the foibles of a non-Western people is another man's patronizing belittlement. Daws unflinchingly chronicled the massive, crushing debt, secured by promises of sandlewood, piled up by chiefs to buy western houses, furniture, clothes and other shiny things.

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