Thursday, November 15, 2007

Musings: Lost Boys

I’ve been rattled for the past few days, ever since running into an old friend in the parking lot of a Ha`ena restaurant, where I’d gone to write a review.

How are you? I asked, and he answered, still lost.

He was cruising with a couple of other lost boys — or more accurately, middle-aged men — who have fallen down the "ice" hole and can’t find their way out.

I’ve lost everything, he told me, but I already knew, because I’d heard the stories from his family, and through the coconut wireless. They weren’t tales I’d ever thought I would hear told about him, someone who had raised a family of fine children with the old values, while living mostly off the land.

I’m sorry to hear that, I said, and meant it whole-heartedly, and he replied that he had no one to blame but himself.

He seemed to have shrunk in height and size, and he was shaking, either from being on the meth, or too long off it, and when I hugged him goodbye, I tried to send strength into his being.

I hope you find yourself, I said, and I’ve been thinking about him ever since, and all the other guys like him, so many of them local, who are caught in that spin of ice-procuring and using.

I once asked him why, and he said it was a community, the only one he had since the North Shore where he was born and raised had changed so dramatically, turned into a place where he as a country boy had come to feel inferior among all that new wealth, a place where he felt like he no longer belonged.

I’ve often wondered — and I know I’m not the only one — whether ice was deliberately introduced to keep the locals down, fragmented, weak, which is not to say that other ethnic groups don’t use it, too, but certainly it’s cut a wide swath through local men, at least on Kauai’s North Shore.

Driving home, shaken by the encounter, I thought of what could be done for him, and the others, how they could be reintegrated into the community, what we as a society had lost in our lost boys, some of whom I knew personally to have beautiful, deep souls and skills crucial to us achieving sustainability.

Incarceration wasn’t the answer; he’d already spent time in jail, and was still getting tested, and as for helping him kick the stuff, Kauai has no drug treatment center — not that he and his family have health insurance or the money to pay for it, anyway.

When I heard Judge Cardoza say yesterday, when ruling to lift the Superferry injunction, that “issues related to cultural values, conflicts between changing lifestyles and old and new Hawaii have been festering for a long time in this community and .... need to be addressed,” I thought of my friend.

He, and the other lost boys, are the walking wounded, the casualties, of that festering conflict. They grew up when the North Shore was still old Hawaii, when the lifestyle was rural and centered around the land, when the beaches where they fished weren’t filled with tourists and the land where they hunted wasn’t fenced and developed, when movies weren’t being made in Lumahai Valley during the middle of `o`opu season, when they could still afford a home to rent, when their neighborhoods were occupied by their friends and families, not transient vacation rentals.

In less than a generation’s time all that had changed, much of it was lost, and many of the boys, unable to adapt in time, got lost along with it. Yeah, maybe they’ve got only themselves to blame, but somehow I don’t think it’s quite that simple. And as a society, don’t we want to bring those who were here first back into the fold before we open the door ever wider to the forces that are destroying them?

These are the kinds of tough issues that don’t fit on a protest sign or get addressed in any meetings that I’ve ever attended. Yet they’re at the core, I believe, of so much of what ails us.

The question now is do we as a community really want to heal, or remain in denial of the true nature of our illness?


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of your friend and many like him. I hope that maybe he can find help in Narcotics Anonymous, which doesn't require money or insurance to join. I have been completely clean for more than 20 years with NA's help and it has allowed me to find the strength and courage to work for change in my own life and in the community. There are NA meetings twice a week on the North Shore and many others around the island. It was a trusted friend who suggested I find NA in the 1980's - maybe a word from you to your friends would help, too. Good luck to your dear friend.

Joan Conrow said...

Mahalo for your kind words, and your suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Joan, you have hit the nail on the head as far as pointing out all the social encroachments that have caused our local guys to become "lost" in their own home. All the changes to Hawaii have taken a toll on our local way of life and sense of place. Very upsetting and sad.

Anonymous said...

What you observe is my observation too. I have heard from a trusted Maori healer that Ice was purposefully introduced to his native people by the CIA and the counterpart organizations of that region (Austrailia, New Zeland govts).

The motives to me right now are a side issue. What is the issue is the vast attitude underneath it:

There is a lack of caring for others (put simply), a seeing as one as being separate from others and separate clearly from God. This is a spiritual chasm that is opened, and into that chasm, the ones who don't feel connected to God, hurl gentle souls into an abyss. These people are living in their own hell without knowing it, and affecting all around them. The Superferry is a clear example of an insane mass consciousness with a split personality, typified by the O'ahu consumer: give me access, give me more, more, more....I have an addiction to get what I want in the present, without consciously asking what it will cause in the future....I am a 3 year old child demanding my ice cream, with an addicted uncle saying you want ice cream, here's the whole tub, and I'll eat it right along with you.... (by the way, interesting metaphor used I just see, as you brought forward the "Ice" addiction....

Joan, we are in a very sick, war mongering, poluting, global warming, media sensationalizing, pop-star tabloided, junk food addicted society, many of which in so much denial they think the conscious ones are the ones who are nuts.

Anonymous said...

Your best blog here,by far.

PaiaGirl said...

My husband has expressed what it is like to be a Maui-born Hawaiian this way:

"I feel like I've been pushed into a tiny corner of what was once my island"