Friday, December 5, 2014

Musings: That Vision Thang

A friend emailed me a link to a piece on chicken torture, with the subject line “ick” and a one-word comment: “disgusting.”

It seems a farmer on contract to Perdue had “an attack of conscience” and invited an animal rights group to come in and document how poorly he treats his chickens. It was all rather odd, because the farmer, who has been raising chickens according to Perdue's specifications since 1992, wasn't portrayed as feeling guilty about his own role in the abuse.

No. He was bothered more by the company's marketing lies, as in its false claims that Perdue chickens were treated humanely.

And it struck me as yet another example of how we love to blame the corporations, while never taking responsibility for our own role in the documented ugliness of the modern food system. As in our insatiable demand for chicken tenders, nuggets, sandwiches, buffalo wings, deboned thighs and breasts, grilled on rotisseries or hulihuli style — available 24/7, at the lowest possible price,.

Which is not to say it's OK treat chickens or any livestock badly — it's absolutely not — or for corporate advertisers to exaggerate, distort and outright lie — i.e., use the most common tools of their trade.

But we, the all-powerful consumers, make choices every single day in how we spend our money and time, how we respond to marketing, what we are willing to ignore for the sake of convenience, low-cost and satisfying our (often manipulated) desires.

The way we treat chickens is just another symptom of our denial about what a consumer-driven society fully entails, how we're actually living in this world, what things truly cost, beyond dollars and cents, what it really means to keep this dysfunctional system going.

Which leads me to a blog post by Luke Evslin, who expressed dismay about the lack of vision expressed by the current Council. Luke wrote:

Council Chair Rapozo's inaugural address was a clear statement that our island's systemic issues will continue to go unmentioned. Maybe my expectations were too high or I'm naive and idealistic, but I was hoping his speech would provide an outline for more than clean park bathrooms, quality performance audits, and support for burning trash as a solution to our landfill problem. The stark realism of that depressing priority list was topped off by his number one commitment for the county of Kaua'i: the re-surfacing of Puhi road.

Road maintenance is a basic county service, not a bargaining chip or an achievement. In just four years we traded in the grand and sweeping vision of Mayor Carvalho's Holoholo 2020, which included expanded bus service, a north and south shore shuttle, and green affordable housing for the stark fiscal realism of Council Chair Rapozo's vision of re-surfacing a road. Obviously the road needs to be paved, but, by promoting it as priority #1 our council chair is relegating our county government to just fulfilling basic services.

There are several points to be made here.

First, in 27 years of covering the Kauai County Council, I can't ever recall that body moving forward with any vision, lofty or otherwise. That vision thang has typically been the purview of the mayor, who then seeks Council support in the form of funding. If the Council and mayor have a good working relationship — and it seems Bernard Carvalho Jr. is taking steps to make that happen — the mayor's vision can become reality.

Second, when Kauai County has not yet mastered the art of providing its residents and visitors with the basics of good roads, clean park bathrooms and solid waste disposal, how can it be expected to articulate, much less execute, any sort of progressive vision?

Third, Mel's cautious, nuts-and-bolts agenda is yet another bit of blowback from the regressively progressive “vision” that was pushed by Councilman Gary Hooser and former Councilman Tim Bynum. The last Council was actually a very good one — until Gary and Tim went off on their own vision quest, which they then tried to shove down the throats of their colleagues and the public.

Their vision of Kauai as a trend-setter in restricting the chem/seed companies, and themselves as leading a grassroots rebellion proved delusional, divisive, expensive, distracting and ultimately fatally flawed. Tim lost his re-election bid, Gary barely made seventh and their two piece of legislation have died.

Meanwhile, a majority of voters — as evidenced by Mel's overwhelming victory — indicated they have no stomach for the Council as visionaries, especially when it costs them money and prevents the Council from achieving such mundane, but essential, services as paving roads and cleaning park bathrooms.

Luke writes:

What about a government that works to increase economic freedom, enables environmental protection, and fights for Kaua'i residents to retain their way of life? Nope, let's let the market take care of that while the government focuses on paving roads and cleaning bathrooms.

Or what about citizens who work to increase economic opportunities, and protect the environment and the Kauai lifestyle?

Much as we resist the idea, governments and corporations are direct reflections of us as individuals, and as a society.

We can shake our heads in disgust at the sordid chicken houses, the squabbling County Council, and blame the politicians, the corporations, for their lack of a better vision, the many wrongs in the world.

Or we can take responsibility for the systems we create and contribute to, pursue our own visions and work for meaningful change at both an individual and societal level.

18 comments:

Allan Parachini said...

I think it's clear that the new composition of the County Council reflects broad public dissatisfaction with the way the government process was hijacked by the single issue GMO juggernaut. I wasn't crazy about seeing the division within the new council in its first meeting, but Mel I think correctly articulates the perspective many have. We can argue about what the "basics" are, but getting back to some semblance of them is a good objective.

Anonymous said...

Mel's approach to responsibility and accountability as a starting point makes the best business sense. And as for paving Puhi Road that to me was never a vision but more of a pact between the Council Chair and the Mayor to show the public that something so simple but important to many can be done diplomatically. And the public bathrooms are disgusting to the residents as well as tourists. It will definitely clean up the image and provide a clean starting point for good things to come.
You can throw all the glitter you want up in the air but most Kauai residents just want a reality check without the fake glitter.

Anonymous said...

6 years and only now they fixing the Puhi rd!!!

The bathrooms been horribly disgusting for over 10 years.

Did the county of Kauai need a consultant to tell them these are problem areas???

I guess instead of County of Kauai customer service representatives (WTF!), the county need more toilet engineers.

County of Kauai hiring customer service representatives??? Is there a county store that Kauai doesn't know about???

Soon the county of Kauai is going to be hiring dishwashers, telemarketers, cashiers, courtesy clerks, and every assholes last chance fake jobs known to mankind.

Shoot why stop there-the county should hire goat herders, marijuana growers, meth lab associates, unregistered illegal gun dealers, pedophilias and etc etc etc....

Fricking Insane: the county of Kauai is fricking insane.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I was and am vehemently opposed to 2491. Further, I didn't and wouldn't ever vote for Hooser. What I saw on display at the first meeting of the new council is concerning. The appearance is Mel is conducting a power grab giving even more power to the chair. If I'm not mistaken, there are 7 members who were all voted in by the public. I don't disagree that the need for a chair exists. I'm just not sure it needs to be as powerful as Mel is making it. Kagawa, Kanashiro and Kualii seem like little minions of the chair. It seems like we've taken a step back rather than forward all under the guise of ensuring a 2491 never happens again. Overcompensating? Mel, you've done many positive things on the council but there are 6 others that were voted in by the public you represent. This is not about you. In hindsight, I'm relieved that Joanne is still on the council despite the fact I didn't vote for her. She's a welcome voice for the people - and, yes, she's not perfect. She's won my admiration and will likely receive my vote for her next run. One other comment, it's too bad the council is voted more on last name / popularity rather than what the person actually stands for. I hope Mel is able to tone it down. I don't want to watch a 2-year self-implosion. That wouldn't sit well for his mayoral run in 2018 would it? Finally, while I respect the push for time and financial efficiency, I'm not sure either should be a #1 goal. As Joanne stated, robust dialogue often leads to the better choices for Kauai. Mel, we had a King Asing and it was disgusting. We don't need to return to those days. (Kagawa, was it necessary to repeatedly badmouth Furfaro? Do you have any class??)

Luke Evslin said...

Joan, I agree wholeheartedly with your points on consumer responsibility. But, I think there’s a bigger point to be made here regarding government accountability and the necessity of market intervention and regulation. The chickens were not only certified by the USDA, but they carried a label saying "humanely raised" and "cage free.” The open market forces Perdue to differentiate their product with “humanely raised” while at the same time forcing their producers to cut costs with their inhumane production standards so that their chickens can compete (chicken prices have dropped 75% in as many years). Consumer education and responsibility can’t be the only check on this unfettered cruelty. Let the market dictate our direction, and that’s the result. While the market creates this broken system, Government, if done correctly, should fix it (or at least help regulate it).

And, that’s also the broader point that I tried to make in my last two posts. In The Death of Local Manufacturing, I wrote about my personal experiences trying to bring my local manufacturing business home to Kaua’i. And, again because of a market failure (beautiful island leading to high land prices and a manufacturing industry focused on catering to the endless gentrification/resortification) and a lack of government foresight (not enough heavy industrial zoning) we are forced to keep our diversified business on O’ahu. And Kaua’i’s economy continually becomes more reliant on tourism and resort development. The cycle is self perpetuating.

In my second post (which you cited), When fixing potholes becomes our government’s main priority, then fixing government must become our main priority, I expanded that idea to say that my business’s relative success is due in part to government services and regulation. And, that our problems on Kaua’i— such as inequality, decline of local ag, loss of access to natural resources, and my generation’s inability to afford a home— are problems created by the open market. Without addressing them, or even mentioning them, our county government is perpetuating the status-quo. Paving roads won’t create diversified jobs; it won’t create affordable housing; it won’t revitalize local ag. I support the fiscal realism of Council Chair Rapozo, and I’ll be the first to agree that we need to take personal responsibility to “work for meaningful change,” but we also need the support of our government to address our systemic ills.

Anonymous said...

4:50 p.m. Kauai is that bad. Time for guys like us to find another town / county / parish / country to live in. Heard Bali's a great place to live in. Given your statement F this county! LMK where you move to. The rest of us will be right behind.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you run like the coward that you are.

I will stay and fight the good fight for Kauai.

I have conquered Kauai and it's syndicates like no other.

I am LEGEND.

Anonymous said...

7:30 I think Furfaro did a bad job as a leader by letting Hooser and Bynum do all the BS that they did. It is what it is. You brag for years about your leadership record, then take criticism as well. You don't like it, don't brag.

Anonymous said...

We are fucked. We elected an idiot mayor and an arrogant council chair.

Anonymous said...

4:40 and 9:53, go back and read your comments. Sounds like you're only bitching; it doesn't show you CONQUERED anything but jack crap. Choose somewhere else to vent. Document your accomplishments in TGI where you can truly be labeled a LEGEND so that ALL of Kauai can see.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of wild chickens on Kauai that are "humanely raised" and "cage free". Why would you buy chicken from the store?

Anonymous said...

@11:44am

I don't see the Council Chair as being arrogant. All he is doing is implementing the rules as they should be, by using simple Parliamentry Procedures. Letting the council run amok is where we went wrong.

And the Mayor didn't get to where he's at by being stupid. You though should seriously work on your hate issues.

Anonymous said...

The mayor is a smart man. He tirelessly gives to Kauai. My only criticism is his fiscal irresponsibility. He has done a great disservice by not standing up for a prudent and fiscally responsible budget. He'd rather reward his department heads and look the other way at the many inefficiencies (as does the council) than stand up to the union. For that reason alone, he's at best a mediocre mayor. But, our only real alternative was a former MMA fighter who likely took one too many blows to the head.

Anonymous said...

Even with a masters in cabinet making; you still don't learn.

Jack crap: was the syntax that was decoded and linked to you-Gudot.

When will you and your people understand that you are not unconquered. Your Loyalty to the Kauai syndicate mafia is a joke.

Podagee Mafia

Anonymous said...

God i love this. So, the people, who are against people not wanting to purchase a product, because according to them, the whole marketing thing is unclear, possibly untrue, and possibly unhealthy, is the same thing, as the whole "chicken thing". There are ridiculously close parallels, but suddenly you need to fight the good fight with the chickens as consumers, but if as consumers you don't want to eat GMO items, or products that are not labeled GMO, but its bad to have to purchase chickens, that are labeled one way, but actually treated another, the same claim made by consumers that don't want to eat GMO, ie, stating one reality while another exists, entirely, etc. So funny.

As for the council, wait, suddenly it was a great council? lack of vision, and having issues with Mel and Ross already/ oh boy, people could certainly do a dance around those who swore that the only saviors of Kauai were Mel, Ross, Arryl, and kipu, and now, we have comments about how they are Minions to Mel, ie, "Melminions," (I want the credit for coining that term!) and that they may be saying stuff not well received.

Well, duh, I coulda told ya.

Sometimes, when you wish upon a star and it falls on your head, you get a concussion.

Just sayin!

Anonymous said...

Although the chemical companies involved in the Agent Orange lawsuit settled out of court, to this day they take the same position as Dow Chemical Company that Agent Orange never posed a health risk.

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/06/23/dow-chemical-still-claims-agent-orange-was-not-harmful/

Anonymous said...

I've been pushing this info for years.

I've contacted Senator Hirono and Representative Gabbard but none of them would support HR 411 the Ft McClellan health registry act. Monsanto toxic poisoning of an Army post and the surrounding city of Anniston Alabama has been identified as a Superfund site by the EPA.

I've worked for the VA and seen veterans medical records being labeled, agent orange, gulf war syndrome, and yet for decades the VA and federal government denied their claims.

No senator or representative from Hawaii supports HR bill 411 but 84 others across our nation supports it.

I will make sure next election that they will be all called out for the sake of the veterans who have been poisoned by Monsanto while being stationed or doing boot camp and or MOS training.

Anonymous said...

If you look up circular argument in the dictionary, you'll find the 12/7 10:47am post which uses the denigrating comments of fellow "antis" as proof of his own denigrating "anti" prediction!
Pete Antonson