Sunday, December 27, 2009

Musings: Rewriting History

The landscaped was subdued, a palette of muted colors in hues of gray and blue, when Koko and I set out walking this morning. Waialeale was clear, crowned with just the softest brush of clouds, which soon turned pink and stained the entire makai side of the mountain rosy.

I’d just run into my neighbor Andy, who was mugged by an enthusiastic Koko, and we remarked how rarely we observed Kawaikini, even though it’s the tallest peak, because no mountain does seem bigger than Waialeale.

And then we turned and found ourselves eyeball to eyeball with a giant hot pink orb that was, of course, the sun, its fieriness greatly tempered by the haze in much the same way that the year-end dead zone known as “the holidays” has a dulling effect on humans.

The conditions appeared favorable for a beach excursion this morning, and I told Andy I’d headed up to Lumahai yesterday for a long walk on that beautiful beach, where the light shafts penetrated clouds of drifting ehu kai and crabs excavated white sand that was left in small conical piles atop the dark green of wet olivine.

Andy said he hadn’t walked on that beach since the 1960s, and I said it was one of my favorites, in part because it is one of the few with no houses along it. So you can walk there without getting cross over a stupid monstrosity that someone is building or taking note of violations that should be reported. In other words, you can actually still fully enjoy the beach.

“Sounds like a great place for a bike path,” said Andy, which was my cue to chime in, “Yes, and people are already driving on it so it obviously has no burials, and if it does, no one is tending them, so they don’t matter.”

Then we got to talking about ancient Hawaiian practices, with Andy saying one thing that annoyed him about Hawaiians was the way they are always rewriting their history, to which I replied: “Isn’t everyone?” After a moment’s reflection, he acknowledged that was true, which led us to the front page article that The Garden Island published yesterday about a man who calls himself `Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalani.

The article read, in Andy’s words, like a giant advertisement for the man, who apparently was selling his vision of a Hawaii united under him. What struck me were not only the lack of important details, like what island his family is from, how he is living and why he ended up on Kauai, but some of the really unbelievable things the guy said, starting with the assertion, which is repeated on his web site, that Hawaiians lived without war for 12,000 years.

There was no conquering, no demands. Wars only came when Kamehameha started killing natives in the interests of the British, he said.

Neither Andy nor I had ever heard or read that claim made anywhere else. And quite frankly, it’s a lot easier for me to believe he’s getting regular messages from “the grandmothers” than that he traveled through airports with a homemade ID card. Now that stretched the limits of credibility.

He certainly sounds like an earnest man, and many of his words did ring true, although, really, he said nothing new. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why the paper printed his story at length, yet has given virtually no coverage to Kauai residents who have been working for years toward the same goal of unification. Where are the profiles of Dayne Aipoalani, or the Pa brothers, to name but a few? Instead there’s this big splash over an unknown who has popped up out of nowhere.

The paper also followed up a bit on a story it first reported on Monday about the snorkeling visitor who was bitten by a mama monk seal with a pup.

Both articles used such phrases as “taking a few bites out of” and “attacked and seriously injured,” even though the county press release said the injuries were “superficial” and “not life threatening,” so it seems the paper was sensationalizing the encounter.

I did get several emails from folks who doubted the woman's story that currents had pulled her toward the seals. I don’t know what happened in this case, but I’ve encountered far too many people approaching seals on the beach, jumping in the water to swim after dolphins and bragging about riding on turtles to totally rule out the possibility that she approached the animals. As far as I'm concerned, wild animals should be left alone, which is why I'm not big on capturing and tagging, either. If you've ever seen it done, you know it's traumatic, and demeaning, too. Yes, tags help us monitor them, but that's primarily for our benefit, not theirs. We know what wild animals need to thrive — less of us — but we don't want to accept that fact, or act on it, so we keep on pretending there's some other solution.

I was interested in one comment left on the first monk seal story:

" dog attacks human, dog gets put to sleep.
shark attacks human, shark gets hunted.
monk seal attacks human.......
shouldnt all animals be treated similarly? Remember the guy at Port Allen? "beat the fish with a stick till it was limp..." why wasnt he prosecuted? If a "local" man admitted to beating an animal, he'd be arrested instantly. Hey Becky Rhoades, pursue an arrest for that man with a similar passion you pursue an arrest for other "animal abusers" "

Our behavior toward animals is full of contradictions. We buy presents for our pets at Christmas, and gorge on the flesh of animals we don’t know. We celebrate the nobility of wild animals, but as soon as one attacks or kills a human, people scream for its death or relocation. Folks rabidly protect the albatrosses that nest in their neighborhood, but don’t blink an eye as the far more rare Newell’s are slowly exterminated by utility lines. We fail to socialize or train a domesticated animal, like a dog, then blame it when it bites or acts aggressively.

And through it all, humans have consistently set themselves apart from and above all the other animals on the planet because of our supposedly unique ability to reason. Now there's a classic example of rewriting history.


Anonymous said...

Probably a good reason why this guy `Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalaniʻ doesnʻt say what his roots are.
Heʻs not a pleasant person and find it hard to connect this 10 year found spirituality to this same person. Heʻs been hanging around on the outskirts of issues for a few years.
Had to do a double take seeing his face in the paper.

The egos abound and all want a piece of the pie. He should have been out there utilizing his God given physical/mental health to help some of the sovereignty groups.

No, him and his wife got to a tribute to someone whoʻs truly a legend in his own mind.

Dawson said...

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why the paper printed his story at length, yet has given virtually no coverage to Kauai residents who have been working for years toward the same goal of unification. Where are the profiles of Dayne Aipoalani, or the Pa brothers, to name but a few? Instead there’s this big splash over an unknown who has popped up out of nowhere.

The preference of White American newspapers to publicize self-aggrandizing "loose cannon" Natives over those more formally involved in Native rights goes back at least to the 1880's. Whether or not it was the intent of "'Imaikalani" and the Garden Island, nothing marginalizes the efforts of those working for Native rights like a self-proclaimed Native spokesman promoted as authentic by a press beholden to the White economic base that supports it.

Anonymous said...

another detractor with zip to offer.

ought to get over himself.

Jennifer Tyler said...

Dear Joan,

I've sat with and listened to `Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalani on two occasions, and he felt inside of me as coming from his heart, and feels sincere. It might benefit us all to before commenting publicly to at least meet a person first. Yes there are several Hawaiians you named and others who put themselves on the front line, yet for people to take pot shots at `Iokepa Hanalei ‘Imaikalani, especially the "Annonymous" wimps that don't even put their own names to their words, it's quite easy to arm-chair quarterback someone else from the bleachers. And he gave up his self made millions to do his work in Spirit, how many commenters or bloggers say they have that commitment to a cause?

Point being it seems these days there is always some one unhappy with whomever is publicly proclaiming anything. First step: put your name where your mouth is on this blog to stand behind your own comment.