Sunday, May 23, 2010

Musings: Sound Familiar?

I woke up this morning to sparkle: sun squinting through thick clouds, catching the rain still clinging to leaves, setting them to twinkling. It called to us, so Koko and I went out walking in that sparkling, shimmering world, watching leaves blowing horizontally, hearing the steady drip of drops cascading from sighing trees.

In the distance, Kalepa and Haupu were enshrouded in the remnants of a shower, while closer at hand, a lychee tree hung heavy with red fruit. Clouds darkened on the northeast coast, moved mauka and hovered, hurrying us along, and we returned to the house just as a squall spattered on the skylights.

It’s a nice morning for cozying in with a book. I’ve been re-reading Doris Lessing’s short stories lately, the ones set in colonial Africa, and I’m seeing more than a few parallels between the creation of plantations in Africa and in Hawaii, the thoughts of her protagonists and the ones often expressed in the comments section of this blog.

Her characters, the whites who came to make their fortune and considered themselves self-made men, even though they depended almost entirely on the labors and knowledge of their workers, set themselves apart, living in spacious, cool homes surrounded by well-watered lawns and gardens, while their workers were crowded into hot, dusty villages. But that was OK, they told themselves, because that’s how the natives liked to live, they were accustomed to squalor; why, look at the rubbish they allowed to pile up, their broods of children spilling out of unkempt huts.

Besides, they reasoned, if you gave them anything nice, they wouldn’t appreciate it, anyway, or they’d sell it for far too cheap, or even give it away, unaware, in their childlike simplicity, of its true value.

The natives’ rituals and spiritual beliefs, though grounded in countless centuries of intimate interactions with their natural world, were viewed as total bunk, baseless superstitions held by primitive people, quaint and outdated in a modern world that could explain everything through Christianity and science. The natives were to be pitied, educated and converted, and if they resisted, whipped, if necessary, to keep them from clinging to their past, which inevitably clashed with something the plantation owners wanted for their future.

Through it all ran the uneasy tension created when natives, displaced from their traditional lands and way of life, were forced into working relationships they didn’t really want, but needed now to survive, with people who disdained, feared yet also needed them. Lessing's white “landowners” often grapple with how much force they can exert to maintain dominance, without risking revolt, sabotage, abandonment or violence from their workers.

Lessing even delves into the development of the land, the real estate agents who sell people on the dream of creating their dream from raw land, the once wild places that no one ever thought would get built up, the steady disappearance of animals, the diversion of water, the often grotesque manipulation of the landscape into something that resembles "back home."

And through it all are woven the attitudes of entitlement, arrogance, intolerance, charity with strings attached, the sense that the natives are lucky that the Europeans arrived and gave them opportunities to correct their false beliefs, make money, succeed, coupled with frustration and fury when the natives just can’t seem to get with the program and grasp what’s good for them.

Sound familiar?

Anyway, the conflict created on Kauai by the ongoing expression of such colonially-based beliefs, and the ongoing resistance to them, is also explored in my piece “Parallel Universes,” which was originally printed in “Bamboo Ridge” and today is excerpted on the editorial pages of The Honolulu Advertiser.

Just to give you a flavor, here are a few of the dialogue bits that weren’t included in the Advertiser:

“The complainers from Dana Point, the rich fuckers, that’s the ones coming to my neighborhood. They build fences on other people’s property — it’s not the local way. They put up fences; it’s like being in jail. I never grew up with fences. The beaches were always open. The new people, they just like complain. Alla them, they major complainers. They sit in traffic — yellow, green, red — they never realize the real Hawaii is just four blocks away. They don’t go to their friends’ houses, or parties or one baby luau. ‘Cause they don’t know nobody. Their cars get the heavy tint, windows always rolled up. They don’t talk to us. They make like the locals stupid. I watch them get sucked in, and I watch them get sucked out. I only look like one monkey. I see what’s going on.”
“Hey, everybody has had changes to their culture. Look at the Indians, all the immigrants. But how long are you gonna cry about it? After a while, you just can’t feel any sympathy for these people. It’s like, give it up and move on already. We can’t be compensating people for every little thing they think they lost. We don’t have that kind of money.”
“I paddle out at Pine Trees and this haole guy says, ‘Welcome! Where are you from?’ and I say, ‘Where are you from?’ And he goes ‘Hanalei.’ And I say, ‘No, I’m from Hanalei. Where you really from?’ And he says ‘California.’ And I say, ‘Don’t they have waves there?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ And I say, ‘So why don’t you go surf ‘em?’”
"We all love Kauai. We don’t want it to change, either. We all enjoy the Hawaiian lifestyle and culture. It’s what we moved here for — the watersports, the surf, the weather, the golf. In fact, I had this little sign made for my desk, and when I’m talking to customers, I turn it around and show it to them and it says: ‘I don’t sell real estate, I sell a lifestyle.’ I made that up myself. I think it pretty much sums it up. Don’t you?”


coast haole said...

it's pretty fuckin' sad how bad it HAS gotten. In 36 yrs here I've seen enough to know that 90 % of the problem is people who come/move here who have no clue or ability to respect others. Your take Joan, on the attitude of white plantation/ colonialist is pretty accurate in my opinion, and I don't want to come off racist or anything, but I'm a little ashamed of mine. The other 10% might be given to hot headed youth, but I think it serves one well to remember the old "when in Rome........". And just because you do doesn't make you a Roman, just a better citizen of Rome.

LoF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

And the solution is?

EdColl said...

"And the solution is?" Organize like these people and try take over the government

Dawson said...

"And the solution is?"

Not is, are. Multiple solutions, applied with different levels of pressure to a myriad pressure-points over many, many years.

Anonymous said...

Ilike your musings. itis interesting. I am from Oahu and have been cruising on the North Shore of Oahu for the past six months. It is just like what you have written. hardly anyone smiles on the bike path, it is full of rich people from california and they all are too cool for school. it is so fake. the locals all are looked down on.

NickSnarko said...

Interesting article on Hawaii culture, Joan. The only thing that sticks in my mind about Kauai is two words: Hawaii Superferry. Whether the protestors were local or Mainland transplants, they should learn to live with progress. That's millions of dollars wasted.

Anonymous said...

Pleae stop with the Haole vs Local nonsense.It's not White people the "Locals" hate it is White males that they don't want a nice looking White female is welcome at every "Local's" house.

Jill Engledow said...

I found your blog through the Advertiser story, Joan. Amazing collection of comments there. I wrote a book, Island Life 101, to help malihini "get" the island lifestyle and attitudes, but the problem is that they don't know they need that kind of advice! Auwe. I think we have to take a broad view, however: It's not just Caucasian "haole" who go around messing up the world (though we certainly lead the charge), and it's not just Hawaii getting messed up, as your column on Lessing's books points out. Let's remember Japanese imperialism in WWII, though, as just one other example. This is all making me depressed! What is the answer, other than to Live Aloha yourself and work for causes you believe in?

Anonymous said...

Last comment reflects the kind of attitude this post is referring to. And why animosity exists between haole and locals. Transplants don't get it. Most of them came on vacation and never left. Thanks to our mono-economy that prostitutes Hawaiian culture for profits. For them its about sand and sea, outdoor recreation and pleasant weather. For kanaka its about this being where the bones of our ancestors lie. The place where aina is familial. Where pohaku have life and all living things have value. Our ancestors existed on this land in a sustainable way for hundreds of years. Today we struggle to survive in this capitalist system that favors the rich and powerful. Tourism creates overdevelopment, lack of access to mauka and makai, and destruction of cultural sites. Yeah the natives are angry. Tourists think we owe them something for coming here. clueless to the impacts of tourism on our community and indigenous people. Worse yet when they impose their culture on ours. As the chicken story reflects. Our natural resources are fast becoming depleted under the constant barrage of visitors. Enough already.

jackbauer24/7 said...

I thought your parallel stories were astounding in so many ways.
The stories speak as a living picture; that to me is very skilled writing.
The parallels are fascinating because here you have a local person, not concerned about his grammar or sentence structure and on the other side you have the ever eloquent speaking haole: the irony of these two sides is that the localsʻ stories portray the profoundly intelligent and wise observation and the haolesʻ account comes off as terribly unworldly, self-absorbed, myopic and just in general, ignorant as in a grade school mentality even with their articulateness.

Just fascinating! NOT surprising.

Anonymous said...

The parallels are fascinating because here you have a local person, not concerned about his grammar or sentence structure and on the other side you have the ever eloquent speaking haole: the irony of these two sides is that the localsʻ stories portray the profoundly intelligent and wise observation and the haolesʻ account comes off as terribly unworldly, self-absorbed, myopic and just in general, ignorant as in a grade school mentality even with their articulateness.

Gee, that wouldn't have anything at all to do with your and the writer's biases, would it now?

jackbauer24/7 said...

how they say in california (thatʻs where you from right?)..whateva.

irk said...

Anonymous said...

I suggest you all take a minute to read H.R.S 5-6. Ya'll might learn something.

Anonymous said...

actually HRS 5-7.5

Anonymous said...

Mr "transplants don't get it"...We get it daily....It's called racism.Transplants know that Hawaii ia a State...not a "Nation" like you pretend.You live in the past...cry me a a bridge and get over it. Yesterday is gone. Do something positive and stop blaming others for what has transpired.

SLH80 said...

Thank you Joan for your writings.

For those readers and responders who still don't get it. In Hawaiian culture, one does not force themself upon another for acceptance. They are allowed to observe and learn, and when asked or invited by the teacher(or person from whom you are seeking the knowledge) to participate, only then do they "actively" participate and learn.

If there is a true desire to respect and learn the "ways", customs, and culture of the native people, then it is imperative to understand how and when "learning" begins.

One must then embrace and live in similar ways and respect what has been taught and learned.

Until then, one will always be looked upon and treated as an outsider and never accepted.

Dawson said...

"cry me a river..."

Translation: sah-weet Jaysus on a chili dog, ain't you people 'Mericanized yet?

"Yesterday is gone."

Translation: you bet your sweet ass we're building a WalMart on your great-grandpappy's bones.

"Do something positive"

Translation: bend over.

"stop blaming others for what has transpired"

Translation: shout "thank you sir may I have another!"

coast haole said...

HEY....... I stole your bicycle, I put new tires on it, a little paint on the fender,........ it's mine now!!!! Get over it!

Anonymous said...

coast haole said...
HEY....... I stole your bicycle, I put new tires on it, a little paint on the fender,........ it's mine now!!!! Get over it!

So if someone were to do the same to you, you would take the same standpoint?!

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"....Would you deal with that mindset and actions associated with it?

Anonymous said...

Bunch of whiners. Like the Indians.

People have had to adjust to "new worlds" and new socio/economic/political/ownership structures throughout history.

This is nothing new.

And nothing to whine about.

Find out what it takes to be a winner and do it, or remain a loser.

Even if it involves abandoning your culture, ancestors, etc.

All that has been done before by populations...nothing new for you.

Anonymous said...

Coast & Dawson..Stop pretending to be the "victim"...there is no "Haole" guilt being accepted.Racism is real...the "cuurent" Hawaiian Nation is a myth.

SLH80 said...

I truly feel sorry for all the posters who feel entitled to take whatever they want, trample on whomever they want, and direct people to abandon their cultures and identity so they can "get ahead, compete, and succeed".

That is the "haole way"! Hopefully you will never have to experience the same ideals, mindsets and actions.

If the tide were turned and suddenly "rights and priviledges" were talen away, or people just deciding to come and walk through your yard, or making "hana ino", would you sit there and take it, and get over it?(as you suggest)

Of course not. You'd be proclaiming the same sorts of things that we are stating right here and now, and trying to involve each and every government resource available to you.

Before you try telling someone how to react, think of how you'd be affected and feel if you were directly affected by a similar, meaningful situation.

Dawson said...

"Bunch of whiners. Like the Indians."

Translation: I've got a bust of John Wayne on my fireplace, right next to my 30-30.

"People have had to adjust to "new worlds" and new socio/economic/political/ownership structures throughout history."

Translation: my wife's making a killing in Kaua'i real estate.

"Find out what it takes to be a winner and do it, or remain a loser."

Translation: Charlton Heston is God.

"All that has been done before by populations...nothing new for you."

Translation: my ancestors were run out of every country in Europe.

jackbauer said...

I was wondering if that redneck can show us the law that says Hawaii is not a nation?

And yes, SLH80, there is the same custom all over the world; how does the saying go? when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.

But problem here, a lot of these posters donʻt have 2 cells they can claim as grey matter.

An important fact that was pointed out here is that if it happened to them, you can bet your worthless american $ they are the first to cry foul...THATʻS MINE!
Mine, Mine, Mine. First thing out of an american kidʻs mouth.

coast haole said...

the bike analogy/ metaphor was said as satirical response to a earlier post by Anonymous " mr transplants don't get it"........ a few posts before mine.
The level of clueless-ness is surprising.
should have added part about......... See it's got my lock on it, and I've got the receipt from Home Despot to prove it (for all you slow ones that would be referring to shady land titles/deeds)

Anonymous said...

"Hawaii is not a nation" actually it would be stated the other way around - you don't know jack.

Anonymous said...

"A nation is not Hawaii"?

Anonymous said...

Hawaii is a nation? NOT

coast haole said...

Hawaii SHOULD be a nation

Anonymous said...

And if wishes were horses, beggers would ride.

The world's full of "should's" from personal to international.

So what. Deal with what IS, not what should be.

Dawson said...

"So what. Deal with what IS, not what should be."
-- Anonymous


"There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were, and ask 'Why not?'"
-- Robert F. Kennedy

Anonymous said...

I like this one better:

Don't pull on Superman's cape
Don't spit in the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with the USA.

Once a state...always a state.

And it appears that Puerto Rico will be our 52nd state one day.

They check in...but they don't check out.

Jill Engledow said...

Whew. Heavy stuff going on here. The truth remains many-sided:

People have been running over other people's lands for centuries, all over the world, often with much more violence than has happened in Hawaii.

This is not a good thing. But the fact that this is now a world in which we are endlessly mobile is just the reality of it all. Money talks, and buys land, whether we like it or not.

The Hawaiian land and culture are precious, and the Hawaiian way of life is a model for how to live on Planet Earth.

So the question is, how do we preserve what's wonderful here (lots already lost) in a world we can't control? All I can come up with are my original thoughts: Live Aloha and work for what matters to you in your community. Wish I had a magic spell to fix it, because it's sad to watch the changes.