On a recent blog post about activism — especially hobby activism — a reader left a comment that read in part:
Support those who are leading the fight for sovereignty, pono, aloha ʻāina, and cultural respect. Spend more time supporting and encouraging people instead of putting them down?
Actually, I was only putting down cause celebre and social media activists. Over nearly three decades of covering controversial issues in Hawaii, I've met a few activists I really respect.
Like Dana Naone Hall, who has worked tirelessly on burial preservation and environmental issues, even during times of challenging health issues. She is someone who understands the law — and uses it when necessary — and does her homework scrupulously.
Andre Perez is active in a wide spectrum of issues — Hawaiian independence, burial preservation, anti-militarism, prison reform, the TMT, homelessness and more. He engages in direct action when necessary — I first met him when he and others locked arms, literally, at Naue — and is also hands-on in projects that make a difference, like restoring and planting loi, working with kanaka in the prison system, educating kanaka about political and cultural issues and more. He's also educated himself, earning a degree while raising a family.
In short, he walks the talk.
In short, he walks the talk.
Caren Diamond is an exemplary activist because she sticks with it, and does her homework. She also knows the law, and the political process. Besides her work on the vacation rental issue, she's made a real difference in shoreline protection and access. With the help of Harold Bronstein — who, with Dan Hempey, is one of my hero attorneys for doing socially conscious pro bono work — she took two cases to the Hawaii Supreme Court that resulted in decisions affirming the public trust in regard to the shoreline.
Barbara Robeson is another activist who does her homework and is in it for the long haul. She's been working for some three decades to protect the historical properties of the North Shore, including the one-lane roads and bridges, and has been an advocate for sensible planning. She's been a consistent voice in highlighting the abuse of the TVR issue. Barbara is another person who understands the process and does meticulous research. She's also a very classy lady who keeps her cool and treats people with civility and respect.
Just yesterday, in fact, I was talking with someone who shared my aspirations to be more like Barbara.
These are four activists who have managed to maintain credibility over many years, and that has directly contributed to their effectiveness. I think activists who are quick to spout nonsense, hyperbole and outright lies fail to realize that once they've squandered their credibility, they've lost power.
I also want to give props to Bronson Kaahui, largely because he's a person who had a strong opinion, but then changed it after getting more information.
Specifically, Bronson used to be anti-GMO, but after seeing that movement in action, and getting criticized for asking questions, he educated himself on the topic and became a supporter of biotech. While he's still learning the activist ropes, I want to give him props for having the courage to question, even in the face of intense social pressure, and change his beliefs when confronted with factual data.
That, unfortunately is extremely rare. But it's also the mark of a thinking person.
And we need a lot more thinking, persistent people among the ranks of the activists.