Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Musings: Discursive Bliss

My day began before the day began, jolted from sleep by that dreaded sound of a dog barfing – no, no not on the bed – oops, too late. Off come all the covers, right down to the mattress pad, and as the washing machine chugged, we set out walking to greet the dawn.

As the mountains pinked and the sky blued, I thought of the mindfulness meditation class I'm taking, and how the instructor said the mind is always wandering, and studies have shown that these mental meanderings make us unhappy at least 50 percent of the time.

I like to think my joy quotient is a little bit higher than that, but maybe I'm just fooling myself. The mind has a way of doing that, you know.

He'd also said that of the 5,400 species of mammals, only humans have the ability to project our thoughts onto the past and future – though I'm not so sure that can be stated unequivocally, because who has studied all the mammalian minds? — and while that allows us to invent and create, it also makes us unhappy.

So other than benefitting the bars and drug lords, and the pharmaceutical companies that are selling more anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs than ever, many of them to women, is that really an evolutionary advantage?

Is that the metaphorical fall from the garden, the rending that allows us to wreak havoc on each other, other life forms, believing ourselves separate and apart?

I brought my mind back to present, looking for the bird singing its little heart out – there it is, atop the telephone pole. Gladness filled my own heart.

And then I thought of an email I'd read before going to bed, the one that had as its subject line “fireplaces and puppies,” which saved it from the delete key that disappears most everything that arrives in the eastsidegrrrl inbox.

It told me about Stan and Maureen Gonsalves, the Wailua couple with the fireplace that is the subject of a bill before the County Council today, and how the publicity and negativity of Councilman Gary Hooser's over-reaching political agenda had been stressful, and given the offended/offending neighbor a broader platform upon which to air — no pun intended — her other complaints, these about the Gonsalves' dogs and pet pig, further polarizing their relationship, with no resolution in sight.

It seems the Gonsalves are retired, and of very limited means, prompting them to supplement their income by breeding Yorkies, and last Friday, while they were off-island, someone stole one of their 7-week-old puppies, but then it was returned, before they returned, economy tragedy averted.

I thought of how I'm always bummed to see purebred puppies being sold when so many mixed-breed dogs are executed daily in the shelters, but then, I've never been in such dire straits that I looked upon dogs as a source of income, rather than an ongoing expense.

And would it really help anything, or anyone, for Mr. Gonsalves to end up facing criminal charges, or a civil suit, neither of which he can afford, simply because he and his neighbor can't agree about chimney smoke?

Which made me think of an email I'd gotten from a lawyer friend, about a kanaka who has been repeatedly cited for driving without a license, a small act of civil disobedience, rebellion against the illegal overthrow — for which no white man was ever fined or jailed — that the Hawaii judicial system takes as a “no mercy” affront to its power. 

The fines have racked up to the point where he can't pay them, so the taxpayers likely will foot the bill to keep him in a cage for a while, just to teach him he'd better get that piece of paper — another person imprisoned for poverty — and since he's the sole breadwinner, his family will suffer.

Which made me think of a New York Times article covering the Justice Department's report on Ferguson, where African Americans were disproportionately targeted for traffic stops, and twice as likely to be searched:

For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become years-long ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax.

In an unrelated but similar case, the Justice Department recently filed court documents in a lawsuit over whether the city of Clanton, Ala., is running a debtors’ prison. The lawsuit says city officials there keep poor people in jail simply because of their inability to pay fines.

And while I don't think Kauai Prosecutor Justin Kollar and KPD are running a similar kind of racket, can't we come up with a system — more community service, something along the lines of the Pohaku program, sliding-scale fines — that keeps people from going to jail simply because they're poor, or kanaka?

I brought my mind back to present, watching a streak of orange stretch across the sky, dogs nosing bushes, intent on scent, and a smile came to my lips. My heart was happy.

Then I thought of a series of comments someone had left last night, demanding solutions, answers that I don't have — who does? — for solving the myriad problems facing the planet, one small island in the plastic-choked Pacific:

Now Joan, what are the next steps to take to reduce physical, mental and spiritual toxicity on our precious island. Tell us what your vision for our grandchildren's world is. I would like to hear that.

I have no vision for the world that anyone's grandchildren will inhabit. I could not have envisioned 10 years ago the world I inhabit today. Who knows what awaits humanity 20, 30, 50 years hence, what world will be created by minds that flit between past and future, making us unhappy 50 percent of the time? I can only think it will somehow be better, because people keep having children, which seems to me the ultimate expression of hope — or madness

In the meantime, perhaps there is an answer to this question:

What about the poisoning of our mental environment with stress due to the fear of illness due to poison?

I brought my mind back to present, felt the softness of the breeze blowing against my cheeks, gave thanks for the breath flowing in, flowing out, life. A smile played on my lips, sweet joy returned to my heart.

And when I got home, I found a friend had sent me a link to this video, which in the quirky workings of serendipity, somehow seemed to fit.


Anonymous said...

Joan, again you have hit the nail on the head.
Every law or tax/fee increase puts more people in danger of being criminals because they can not afford either lawyer/court fees or the actual cost of "new" legal compliance.
They raise Auto Registration a huge amount. I no can pay. I drive. I get a ticket. I can't pay the ticket...bench warrant and then Jail.
Of course, the reason people are in prison is because they break the law. Woe to the Wailua Fireplace user who has been the target of Hooser.
Same with Property Taxes. The system is set up that basically makes the Government the ultimate landlord of us all. The Council raises your taxes, you no can pay, the County sells your house to pay the tax....and then when you refuse to move, you are arrested and put in jail.
I am proud of our Council. They raise trash fees, property taxes, auto registration etc etc....hire more cops and apparatchiks to act as tax collectors and social/cultural activity Brownshirts.
A great cycle, if you are a politician....who make the laws to penalize, punish, extract money and ultimately take your money, land and freedom. Especially if you are politicians who may lie and threaten, but when a citizen exacts similar behavior, the citizen is publicly admonished to restrain themselves by the same politician who are the paragons of slander speech...oh the First Amendment is fine for Da Hoos and his "Bite Me", but not for the Council testifiers. George Orwell's prediction is complete, it seems the Pigs are in charge. As George said “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, for ever.” ....especially on Kauai.
Raise fees, regulatory standards and taxes....maybe then we can all get "3 hots and a cot."

Anonymous said...
Disturbing video of Government in action - Cyriak is Artist

Anonymous said...

We all make decisions we have to live with. Regarding the decision of the kanaka who could've gotten his drivers license (how hard is it) and saved himself and his family from loosing out on their sole source of income for the family.. Choices are something we all make on a daily basis. -Was he doing anything that horrible? No, but he was repeatedly making decision (not to get a license) and as a consequence wound him up in jail... so much for bravado. Was it worth it for him & his family? How much of a point did he make and was it worth it?

Solutions maybe be a great idea for your blog. Maybe it could be a place where we could come up with some solutions or useful ideas about how to solve Kauai's issues.. What about focusing our energy on getting more funding for Agr. inspectors or an epidemiologist on Kauai, or areas where we may not have the means to address the pesticide complaints on island. Maybe then we can make better decisions based on facts.

Peggy Kemp said...

Lovely writing, Joan. I appreciate your investigative energy and critical analysis, but I've missed your descriptions of Kauai beauty. With just a few words, you evoke the happy feeling of our neighborhoods and lives. I watched that video and found it charming but inconclusive, much like life itself. I don't expect you to have any more solutions than I do myself. Perhaps being intentionally happy is one of them.

Anonymous said...

We give amnesty to illegal immigrants. We erase old criminal records. But if you fall behind on your traffic fines with the DMV there is no escape or amnesty, ever. You can never get that license back unless you pay all of your old fines. So you drive to work anyway hoping to not get caught and pay down your fines after you pay your ohana's rent, but you get another ticket and then jail.
It keeps the poor down in that endless cycle of driving without a license. This is part of what went wrong in Ferguson.

Anonymous said...

We're impacted daily by events over which we have no control. Coal gets burned and we can't eat fish. dock workers strike and we can't get toilet paper. A war breaks out and tourists stop flying. Ain't no solution coming from within Hawaii. All we have is prayer, which does as much good as trying to find political solutions.

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with your lawyer friend’s kanaka dude continually and purposefully driving without a license. What happens if he causes a injurious or deadly accident? His insurance, if he has any, won’t pay a claim because they’ll point out that their coverage is dependent upon him being a legal driver. So his choice not to follow the law because of his political beliefs can materially injure others. I could care less if he chose to hurt himself, or his family, but when he takes out innocents and cannot compensate for his negligence, he should go to jail until he agrees to conform to our society’s needs. Even if this were still a Hawaiian Kingdom, as I imagine he believes, the Kingdom would demand that he obtain auto insurance to protect other citizens of the Kingdom. No, this guy isn’t a hero or a righteous activist, he’s a misanthropic hazard to his community and should go to jail.

Anonymous said...

10:58 are you saying that everyone who drives without a license is effectively driving uninsured?

Is there even one case you can point to of an insurance company denying coverage to a victim because the driver who hit him didn't have a valid license?

Anonymous said...

You can do your own investigation. Ask your insurance agent or read your auto policy. It's in there. If that surprises you, you should remember that insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums; not paying claims. If the guy kills someone, his insurer will do everything it can to not pay and not having a license to drive is one huge event of default by the supposedly insured.

Anonymous said...

If the kanaka doesn't have a license, do you really think he'll have insurance according to the law or the money to pay for it?

Anonymous said...

The DMV should allow an amnesty program of some kind. Civil Beat did a study showing the disproportionate percentage of Hawaiian behind bars for such things.

Is that true that if I forget to renew my license on time my insurance is not valid even if the insurance company accepted my money?

Anonymous said...

I say lock them all up. Every activist who does not get a license should be jailed until he submits, even if there are 500 of them. We need to do this because one of them might have an accident someday and their insurance might deny a claim on their $20,000 minimum limits policy.
It seems like a good investment to lock them all up so we can protect that not-yet existing potential victim's potential claim for 20k that might potentially be denied because one of the drives did not have a license. Yes this is a very good use of our under crowded jails. Lock em up baby.

Anonymous said...

@11:46 AM - I believe insurance companies have some tolerance for not getting around to your license renewal for a reasonable period of time. But do you want to trust that you'll be covered in an accident? That's pretty risky. Read your policy.

Anonymous said...

Loved that video! Thanks!

Kelvin Peat said...

I am or sure how long it has been since you referenced the dog and a morning walk. Beautifully written, I could almost smell the salt breeze.
To be honest I stopped reading your blog today after the first two paragraphs.
I stopped to rummage through an old cigar humidor looking for a map (that I still have) of the hiking trails up in Kokee. I must have looked at that map for half of an hour. I remembered sunrise at the Kilohana lookout, deep in the Alikai Swamp. I remembered the Awa'awapuhi to Nu'alolo (11 mile) loop, I thought I was going to die that day. I remembered all the fun trips to Polihale.

I am grateful for this half hour stroll down memory lane. I owe it to the first two paragraphs. It's been a long time for some of those memories.
I would say that, today I have had more than 50% happy thoughts.
Thanks Joan, for your words.


Anonymous said...

When I was a teenage driver in SoCal, I was pulled over at least once a week for "general purposes." I was constantly hassled and had lots of tickets. I was very angry about being "profiled" as a teenage driver.
Truth is, I drove an attention getting Hot Rod as fast as I could, all the time, taking big risks and being an inconsiderate jerk playing games on the road!
Sometimes statistics have alternative causes and effects than the ones you are ready to assume!

I think a sliding scale approach to a multilevel social problem is a great idea!

Finally, I ended up putting a tarp on the bed during the since my one year old doggy seems to think that's where you're supposed to barf!
Pete Antonson

Anonymous said...

"I think a sliding scale approach to a multilevel social problem is a great idea!"

I, from the left, agree with Pete Antonson --- the world might end now.

Anonymous said...

On Kauai our Council has done or tried to do:
1- make criminals out of dispensers of plastic bags
2- raising Vehicle Fees
3- outlaw fireplaces, campfires imus etc....
4- outlawing Ag practices
5- targeting property rights via TVR and TAX etc legislation
6- raising trash fees, property tax.
7-depleting the "rainy day reserve fund" of the County
8-encouraging mob midnight ranting behaviors
9-Midight/Pre-dawn appointment of a Council person that guaranteed perpetuation of the anti-Ag agenda
and -
let the roads, parks, beaches deteriorate.
And to bring it all back home....Da Hoos and JoAnn are so concerned that a route to the NEW dump will be shorter, easier and cheaper to use Grove Farm land...Our Council should realize that GF does NOT have to give "right of entry" and can sue the County for deleterious effects on it's land by the NEW dump....We are lucky GF don't hold no grudges...but in any event Da Hoos, Mason and Joann will in the long run cost every tax payer more dough as Big Land must now protect themselves from coo-coo politicians....Let's see "err GF we been targeting you and putting a stethoscope up your irrigation canals and we been tryin' to putchu out of business.....but Do ya think we can use some of your land for the Dump road, alternate highway roads, water transmission etc? we really are good people"

Mel....C'mon now.....time to lead, you can bring Kauai back to where the regular folks are proud. Keep the Council work within due bounds.

Anonymous said...

8:32 -- I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Seems like time and age hasn't changed you one bit.

Anonymous said...

I've haven't taken my drivers license out of my wallet, except for maybe at the airport in... Maybe ever.

I see at least one KPD car every day. One one has asked to see my license in years. I follow the law, don't speed, and keep my car registration and inspection stickers up to date, and never get pulled over.

I suspect your "activist" friend is doing a little more than not renewing his drivers license.

Anonymous said...

"For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become years-long ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines."

In some sense the Superferry protests were a Kauai version of the Furguson situation. Those protests also had a distinct antipathy toward the government and the police. It is what happens when police and court judges get too heavy handed. Yesterday the Washington DC police chief admitted the people hate the officers because of pot and minor traffic arrests.. When the hassle and punishment do not fit what most people think the crime merits, the whole legal system loses respect and compliance.

Anonymous said...

Without law and equal enforcement of the laws....we will descend into chaos.
That's OK, I got my guns and food supplies.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, Peggy and Kelvin. I'm glad when I can inspire, as well as incite!