In reading the comments that have been posted about the bike path the past few days, I was struck in particular by one that noted:
folks forget or don't care that the continued assault of development is culimative [cumulative] and another example of the cultural genocide that takes place daily. the host culture can only take so much.
I thought it was a good response to the prevailing beliefs of the dominant culture that in this case have been expressed with such insensitive remarks as:
Why are they objecting now? The area was disturbed when they built the cane haul road and they didn’t say anything then. It’s a light footprint compared to undergrounding the utilities. Preserve your heritage, stop whining about how it was desecrated.
These thoughtless comments are way off-mark for a number of reasons.
First, as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs noted in explaining why it had reversed its stance and come out in opposition to the path on the beach:
Much has occurred in the Native Hawaiian community with regards to the understanding of the significant relationship of the various components of the traditional cultural landscape of the ancestors. ...
“The connections to the past, and thus the direction for the future, are being made everyday as the pieces of the past are lovingly, gingerly, and humbly put back together in a race against time and irreparable loss from destruction and alteration.”
In other words, cultural understanding is an evolving process when you’re trying to restore and revitalize an indigenous culture that has been damaged, fragmented and suppressed by an occupying nation.
Second, there’s the issue of time and money. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and resources to challenge an issue. Sometimes, offensive projects aren’t dealt with immediately because people are often busy waging battles on other fronts, educating themselves about the situation or simply tending to their own daily survival needs. And it’s difficult to get legal help, seeing as how OHA and Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. have limited funding and endless potential cases, and only a few good-hearted attorneys (go Hempey!) are willing to work pro bono on Hawaiian issues.
Meanwhile, they’re up against people who are being paid to fight against them, whether it’s private attorneys or government workers.
Third, these comments assume the premise that there is a specific time, some cutoff point, where people lose their right to object to the degradation and/or subjugation of their culture, or to express their opposition to a proposed project. Where, exactly, is that written? When, precisely, do people lose their right to say "no"?
Then there are those who argue the cultural claims are mere artifice — and who are we, really, to determine that? — or a disingenuous cover for an anti-development attitude, as if they're two separate matters. When you have a culture that holds that land is sacred, and embraces such concepts as malama `aina and aloha `aina, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that concerns about development would dovetail nicely into cultural preservation efforts.
And then we have those who demand proof of sacred claims:
If the kanaka want to be taken seriously, they should bring some actual evidence to the table. I would tend to believe them if they had some evidence, something concrete, tangible, etc. Please try!!!!
What sort of concrete, tangible evidence would be sufficiently convincing? Or to put the question another way, what evidence has been presented to prove that the Vatican is sacred and shouldn’t be destroyed? Or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or any of the other Christian sites in Jeruselum? Or the Bible and various sacred Christian texts? Or the cathedrals in Europe?
Why is that only indigenous people must "prove," to the satisfaction of Westerners, that the lands and sites they’ve designated as sacred actually are? Why is that their sacred sites are up for grabs and/or destruction and desecration if they can’t prove their value to cultural outsiders and non-believers?
Of course, these arguments aren’t intended to advance a reasonable argument, despite the devotion to logic and reason that their proponents profess.
All these arguments — these dismissals, really — are part of a larger, far more insidious agenda: marginalize and discredit the host culture so that it can overridden and ignored.