Friday, September 18, 2009

Musings: Difficult or Impossible Choices

It was already full light, and wet from the night’s rain, when Koko and I went out walking a bit later than usual this morning, seeing as how it’s Friday and a low-energy new moon and I’ve had a busy week. The visual interest wasn’t in the colors of the sunrise, since there were few, but in the swirls of silver and gray clouds billowing in from the coast and the sheets of rain that drifted across the slopes of Makaleha and obscured Kalalea and blew into our neighborhood just as we returned home.

The rain is a welcome respite to the heat, as have been recent evenings at the beach, where the sea is sloughing off summer, depositing clumps of limu along the water line, moving around great masses of sand and washing up treasures like a perfect helmet shell that came home in my pocket.

It’s feeling like fall, and last night I thought the anniversary of Kauai Eclectic must be near and sure enough, it’s today. Two years, 629 posts and more comments than I wanted to count have passed since I launched this blog not really knowing what I was doing or getting into, but at this point, very glad that I did.

The blog has changed over that time, because I have, which is a good thing, because as nature reminds me every day, life is not about stagnation.

So thanks, everyone, for helping to keep Kauai Eclectic alive by reading and commenting and sending me emails, like this one following the recent posts on ag TVRs and farm worker housing:

Read your last two blogs and had my head spinning with the apparent contradiction.

I've been a farmer, and I know some of the problems of not actually living on the land you farm.

I was leasing the land, and the only reason the lease was cheap enough to permit farming to make economic sense (one of them, anyhow) was that the land could not qualify for a house.

Bunch of small time farmers [in Moloaa] have been able to buy land cheap because it couldn't have a house. Permit a house on those lots, and the next buyer will be paying far more than agriculture can support, it seems likely.


So to keep the land cheap enough for farming, you need to keep farmers in slapdash hovels that can't qualify for a mortgage because of zoning restrictions. That's not fair either.

If we resolve an issue for this generation of farmers by allowing farm dwellings, which seems appropriate, do we damage the opportunities for the next generation of farmers?

None of this is easy.

Life, full of difficult or impossible choices.

Tis true, and the difficulties are heightened when we have people making the choices who aren’t especially progressive or bright or thoughtful, or are governed by extreme self-interest. That’s why we’re having such a hard time figuring out how to reform health care, pull out of Afghanistan, protect Kauai’s ag lands and rectify the wrongs committed against indigenous people.

On that note, I was interested to learn that Henry Noa, prime minister of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, just returned from Aotearoa — the Maori name for New Zealand.

It seems some Maori are also interested in achieving independence and wanted to learn more about Prime Minister Noa’s model for building a nation. Representatives from Fiji and Samoa were there, too, as well as the Kingdom of Tonga. It’s good these guys are getting together, as they face many similar issues.

And they’re not the only ones in the Pacific. I’ve also been reading lately about the efforts of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, to gain greater autonomy and cultural recognition from Japan. As Koichi Kaizawa, a leader in that movement, wrote:

….[A]fter I got to know other foreign indigenous peoples, I started to wonder why I had to abandon my ethnicity and why the majority could deny the minorities’ culture.

To be honest, I dreamt of Ainu independence when I was in my twenties. That would allow us to recover our culture and language. But when I traveled to China and talked about that with the government executives, they said, “You could be independent, but if you want independence you will have to shed blood to achieve it. That is because Hokkaido, the United States, China and the Japanese government would not accept you becoming independent, so you had better rethink about seeking independence.” So I thought “That is true. There is no use for the people to kill each other. Of course, the Ainu spirit called ukocharanke tells that we should solve problems through discussions rather than by force. So, we gave up becoming independent and concentrated our efforts on restoring our culture through negotiation.

Yet the Ainu serve as a good example of how the legal process has failed indigenous people, as evidenced by a dispute with Japan over plans to build the Nibutani Dam on land the Ainu consider sacred:

On March 27, 1997, as part of the Nibutani Dam case (Kayano v. Hokkaido Expropriation Committee), the Sapporo District court became the first state organ to officially recognize the Ainu people as indigenous, which the Japanese government still refuses to do. The decision by the Sapporo court also recognized that the Ainu’s right to the enjoyment of their own culture is protected under both Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution.

The ultimate outcome of the case, however, rendered the legal content of Article 27 and the constitutional protections as mere rhetoric. While the court held that the administrative decisions to expropriate Ainu land and approve the dam project were illegal, it would not reverse the all-but-complete dam construction.

Hmmm. Kind of like the situation involving Joe Bresica's house atop the burials at Nae.

So if indigenous people don’t want to resort to violence, and they’re shut down in the courts, what avenues do they have for settling their very legitimate beefs with their colonizers?

I guess you just have to keep forming new alliances and putting up resistance, and chipping away at the resistance of the dominant culture. That's the approach the Ainu took in more successfully fighting a second dam project and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is taking in opposing Kauai County’s plans to build the bike path on Wailua Beach, which kanaka consider sacred. As OHA administrator Clyde Namu`o wrote in a letter to the federal transportation agency helping to fund the path construction:

Economic stimulus is truly important in this time of difficulty. We also believe that spiritual stimulus is equally important as well and the well-being of a populace can be measured in many different ways.

It’s not impossible to right some of the wrongs that have been committed, or to show greater respect for indigenous cultures and beliefs. We just have to make the choice, which for many is difficult, to do it.


Anonymous said...

who is "indigenous" seems to only be a matter of degree. if we are all out of africa, are not the only "indigenous" persons those born in africa? or if the definition is, as seems to be used here, ~ "if you are the first humans commonly thought to have firstly settled or reached a given unpopulated area, you are now indigenous to that area." if that is the governing definition, then presumably people would defer to objective DNA testing to sort out who came from where and when. and if so, and the first group found to have entered north america (for example) were australoids, later followed by more "modern" (asiatic) peoples now called "native americans," then who is the interloper in that case?

and if the "polynesian" blood line began in taiwan (or so says science) then are they to be called "colonialists" per their entering any populated neighboring areas with all those high technology ships?

as to the ainu, one might wonder just how much of a genetic difference there is between them and some guy in tokyo, relative to a scott and a sicilian, or a spaniard and a swed (all being "white europeans" by some standards)

im not promoting blind obedience to the scientific method, but taking it into account does help the thought and judgment process

and as to past wrongs, what is the statute of limitations on that? if i show/claim a per stirpes relation to relatives killed on raids by italians and/or mongolians, can i get money? :)


Anonymous said...

".. if that is the governing definition,.."

Itʻs more precise than that: Hawaii was a lawful nation with treaties; that was illegally overthrown.
And the Kanaka people are actually more than indigenous...they are aboriginal.
Not to worry. Itʻs easy to see how that ʻmainland mentalityʻ throws off your capacity to interpret fact from fiction.

So letʻs not muck up the facts.

Anonymous said...

happy anniversary and congrats on your successful blog. i hope your foray into community radio is just as successful. mahalo nui for your much valued contributions in print, on the web and now on our community radio. peace,....jt

Sandhya said...

Congratulations on your two-year anniversary of Kauai Eclectic. What an accomplishment.

I look forward to reading it every morning with my cup of tea. Thank you for your beautiful descriptions of mornings on the island, for your investigative reporting, and for sharing your view of the world.

Anonymous said...

"more precise"

great, offer it when ready / able. i put it that way as despite your quoted text, you did not really offer much as to the definition of "indigenous," (unless if it was that indigenous peoples are those with enforced codes and foreign treaties)

and as aboriginal is apparently "more" than indigenous (per you), id also be interested in that well as, to a lesser extent, what fact and fiction you think i have confused

i suspect the problem is, in part, that i am looking at the 100,000 yrs as much as or more so than the last few hundred

but i look forward to the prospect of your replying

ps: my bad - yes, congrats on and thank you for the blog


Anonymous said...

I guess youʻre just tooooo cool for words.
So you think.
You are not really worth responding to but thought you needed to be yanked out of your tree.

Anonymous said...

...who aren’t especially progressive or bright or thoughtful...

Assuming your meaning was that those who are not "progressive", as politically defined, are neither bright nor thoughtful, I would take issue.

There is no monopoly on the "correctness" of progressive initiatives. In fact, I would rather not be part of a "progressive world order" as seemingly defined overall in this blog and others.

Anonymous said...

"You are not really worth responding to but thought you needed to be yanked out of your tree."

-- not able to identify a legit invite of views/ideas, not interested (anymore), or not able to offer a substantive and responsive reply

as we both like sentence fragments, ill start first and share i thought you might be saying polynesian hawaiians were / are aboriginal to hawaii in the same way that certain australoids are aboriginal to australia, for example. in other words, that as soon as a given group "finds" an uninhabited area, and starts living there, that they are then "indigenous" to that area....and, if they live there for long enough, and evolve some physically, as to tools (pottery, ships, clothes), and/or as to rituals or society, etc that they are then so different as to when they first arrived as to now be at a new status, ie aboriginal

__same guy

Anonymous said...

I'll buy that. But it still doesn't grant them any "rights" that they can't otherwise obtain/defend in modern society.

Overall, "civilized society" doesn't like "going native".

And, as we all know, he who has the gold makes the rules...that's the modern interpretation of "the golden rule".

Anonymous said...

A group "owns" only what that group can defend. If defeated, by fair or fowl, "ownership" transfers to the more powerful group.

Always was...always will be.

Anonymous said...

Why donʻt you have a little mercy on all here and come back after you take your meds. Man, sounds like youʻve been on a run.

Anonymous said...

And that is a reasoned response to the previous statement?

So state a compelling argument, borne out by the majority of history, that refutes his "power" gambit.

Not what ought to happen, what should happen, what might happen, "justice/right" will always someday win out, etc, etc.

Given all of human history, what do you really thing WILL happen?

Anonymous said...

'Given all of human history, what do you really thing WILL happen?'

as an optimist i believe we will rise above the static to transcend the kaos to find enlightenment. doesn't have to happen in my lifetime; in fact i'm sure it won't but we will continue to evolve/progress and achieve a level of critical mass consciousness that will free us from the shackles of greed, war and violence. i'm working on it as we speak(at a personal level) and invite others to do the same. a beautiful world exists; it is for us to share. namaste :)

Anonymous said...

"A group "owns" only what that group can defend. If defeated, by fair or fowl, "ownership" transfers to the more powerful group.

Always was...always will be."

Never was and never will be! Sounds like somebody has been watching too much Law and Order.

Your "If defeated" unfortunately depends upon whose definition you use. As long as there are those alive to resist "defeat" is only a strategic setback, and its never over. If circumstances change and opportunity presents itself expect anything from smoldering subversion to armed rebellion. Belief it or not a growing number of people have no respect for the colonizers "laws" whatsoever. Ku`e!

Anonymous said...

And I suppose "the South will rise again" from it's "strategic setback" in the Civil War.

Hold on to your dying embers if they still give you some warmth.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me...that was "the war of Northern aggression".