Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Musings: Don't Ever Give Up

Koko and I woke up yawning at dark thirty and went out walking beneath a star-dense black canopy that offered just the faintest hint of dawn light at its far eastern edges. As we returned, invigorated, slivers of pink began to form on the horizon, and soon the sky was awash in a free-for-all of cloud-borne color.

Karl Kim’s presentation last night on the process of conducting Kauai’s Important Ag Lands study was reportedly similarly chaotic, but not so pretty. A friend left in disgust, reporting the meeting was hijacked by people who didn’t want to hear what Dr. Kim had to say, but just voice their own opinions.

“You know all of them, and you’ve heard everything they have to say a hundred times before,” he said in a phone call on his way home. “But that’s Kauai.”

Indeed it is.

I had planned to attend the meeting myself, but instead fell into the time warp of the Verizon store. After meeting a friend there who shares my wireless plan, and was having trouble with his phone, we emerged three hours later, well past the meeting’s start, but each equipped with a Blackberry that, thanks to an upgrade credit, rebates and two-for-one special, hadn’t cost us a cent.

Except, of course, the new additional monthly charges. But never mind. Soon I’ll be able to spend the odd spare moment transfixed by its 2x3-inch screen. That is, once I learn how to use the thing.

“Give it four to six weeks, and if you’re still having trouble, you might want to attend one of our two-hour classes,” advised the clerk.

Uh, no thanks. I already spent three hours getting the damn thing. I’m not gonna blow another two hours in a class learning how to use it. Devoted as I am to the phone, there’s a limit on how much of my life I want to give it.

As we left the store, and I expressed regret at missing the meeting, a taro farmer friend who had joined us inquired about its purpose. When I explained it was about designating the important ag lands, he offered his opinion: “No need. They’re all important.”

Indeed they are.

Equally important are those little historical vignettes that serve to remind us that life as we know it, won’t necessarily remain life as we know it. A friend, who did not explain why he happened to be reading about the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Africa, sent along this link with the comment:

was reading this and it sounded kind of familiar

Indeed it did.

Here are some pertinent excerpts that might sound familiar to you, too:

The cultivation of sugar was a labour-intensive process and the Portuguese began to import large numbers of slaves from the mainland. By the mid-1500s the Portuguese settlers had turned the islands into Africa's foremost exporter of sugar. São Tomé and Príncipe were taken over and administered by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and 1573, respectively.

In the early 19th century, two new cash crops, coffee and cocoa, were introduced. The rich volcanic soils proved well suited to the new cash crop industry, and soon extensive plantations (roças), owned by Portuguese companies or absentee landlords, occupied almost all of the good farmland. By 1908, São Tomé had become the world's largest producer of cocoa, which remains the country's most important crop.

The roças system, which gave the plantation managers a high degree of authority, led to abuses against the African farm workers. Although Portugal officially abolished slavery in 1876, the practice of forced paid labor continued. In the early 20th century, an internationally publicized controversy arose over charges that Angolan contract workers were being subjected to forced labor and unsatisfactory working conditions. Sporadic labor unrest and dissatisfaction continued well into the 20th century, culminating in an outbreak of riots in 1953 in which several hundred African laborers were killed in a clash with their Portuguese rulers. This "Batepá Massacre" remains a major event in the colonial history of the islands, and its anniversary is officially observed by the government.

By the late 1950s, when other emerging nations across the African Continent were demanding independence, a small group of São Toméans had formed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP), which eventually established its base in nearby Gabon. Picking up momentum in the 1960s, events moved quickly after the overthrow of the Caetano dictatorship in Portugal in April 1974. The new Portuguese regime was committed to the dissolution of its overseas colonies; in November 1974, their representatives met with the MLSTP in Algiers and worked out an agreement for the transfer of sovereignty. After a period of transitional government, São Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence on July 12, 1975, choosing as the first president the MLSTP Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa.

Colonies can be -- and repeatedly have been -- freed when the occupying nation becomes committed to giving up its colonies. And that movement can be driven by international pressure (and example) and a citizenry that believes colonization is wrong. Just because America is kind of behind the times in that regard -- I mean, we still have citizens who don't even know/believe America has colonies -- doesn't mean we should give up on freedom for Hawaii. So educating people about what went down here and forming an independence movement isn’t a waste of time or a lost cause.

Indeed, the message to remember is one voiced by an old tutu on a Sudden Rush song:

Never give up. Don't you ever give up.

Meanwhile, the Akaka Bill, which would require kanaka maoli to give up sovereignty-related claims against the United States in exchange for recognition as indigenous Americans, looms on the horizon. If you want to learn more, check out ”Understanding the Akaka Bill" in the current issue of Honolulu Weekly. Editor Ragnar Carlson lays out the meat of it in a Q&A format, while raising, at the every end, the interesting question of whether sovereignty claims could be released against the U.S., but still pursued in international court.


Anonymous said...

What ever do you think would cause America to become committed to giving up its colonies?

Maybe it may think of "colonies" as the current territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, etc. But Hawaii isn't perceived, nor would it ever be perceived, as a colony. It is a state.

I just don't see it happening, even in another 500 years.

Anonymous said...

"Colonies can be -- and repeatedly have been -- freed when the occupying nation becomes committed to giving up its colonies."

-- where are a handful of examples that would even make that a trend? seldom if ever seems to work that way

what colonies have been given up in large part by intl pressure? USSR's pursuit of afgan...is that the example? i dont recall intl pressure doing much there

i thought the african colonies largely got freed b/ of internal armed independence movements?

japan's regional expansion was pushed back by allied forces

the UK giving back hong kong to china, is that an example? US giving back the panama canal? seem like flimsy examples (and no intl pressure worth noting)

i get where this all is supposed to "show" that HI can yet in its "struggle" get free of the US, but it does not seem those exemplar contentions hold up or "show" such

as to saipan, guam, PR, and elsewhere...seems they are largely pretty happy under the US umbrella (save for garment workers)

to claim the US is colonialist in character or habit is just a fast way of showing a poor understanding of history. the last big traditional colonial push was by the USSR...with china being a distant second


Anonymous said...

It would be easy enough to add another clause to the bill to force waiver of any international pursuit of independence.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that otherwise rational people actually believe that some miracle of domestic or international politics will open the door to Hawaiian independence.

Drawing analogies to broader-based mainland civil rights movements or what other countries did with actual colonies - nothing incorporated into the fabric of their nations - is weak at best.

Assuming that a sea-change of opinion by the majority of the American people based on knowing "the truth" is similarly weak.

Then, there's the military strategic importance of Hawaii to a military-thinking country...now THAT is the tipping point towards status quo even if all other "dream changes" emerge.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who would fight and die to defend Hawaii USA!

Was then, is now, forever will be.

Anonymous said...

Who and why were people being tude to Dr Kim.

Anonymous said...

Was then, is now, forever will be., a Kanaka Nation

Anonymous said...

"Was then, is now, forever will be., a Kanaka Nation"

You can have your "Kanaka Nation" of the mind. I'll go with the nation with the money, power and rule and which is unlikely to change ever.

Anonymous said...

The "ecologically enlightened" need to get some manners. The County hires a PhD to identify the important Ag lands, a study that has been mandated by the State for years - and these people show up, raising their voices and spouting dummed-down cliches like "all the Ag lands are important". Protecting the environment is great, but these eco masses are so unpleasant.

Anonymous said...

Headline from today's Advertiser:

"Native Hawaiians optimistic at convention with speeches on federal recognition"

Anonymous said...

Honolulu Advertiser


Native Hawaiians rallied around speeches Tuesday urging them to embrace pending federal legislation intended to give them more control of their future.

Unlike pro-independence protesters during last week's 50th anniversary of statehood, this crowd of more than 1,000 gave a standing ovation in support of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie's fiery address seeking a government-sanctioned Hawaiian entity.

The legislation, called the Akaka Bill after Hawaii Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, is again advancing in Congress after a decade of efforts. It could become law as soon as this year.

Anonymous said...

Without the Akaka bill, what would become of DHHL, OHA and Kamehameha School? Setting aside arguments about their efficacy, the concepts are good ones, namely land, money and education for Hawaiians. If the Hawaiians wait on sovereignty, there will be no end to the legal challenges to these entities. I hope that the Akaka bill at least puts an end to that.

Anonymous said...

What country are you in when live in Hawaii?

It's simple:

Who do you pay taxes to?
What country name is on the currency?
What country/state is on your driver's license?
Whose laws must be followed or face penalty?
What is the officially designated flag?
From where to social services come from (social security, medicare, etc)?
Under whose authority will an Akaka Bill "nation of indigenous Hawaiian people" be?

When all of this changes, let me know. Then and only then will I concede that Hawaii is no longer part of the USA.

Until then, it's only a dream on only a few people's minds. Not even the majority of "native Hawaiian" minds.