Saturday, August 9, 2008

A NOT SO DIFFERENT BREED

A NOT SO DIFFERENT BREED: It seems like today is some kind of day of self examination for white people across the state, not just the supporters of the Naue protesters on Kaua`i but also the those involved in a planned cultural visit by children to Kaho`olawe in light of the refusal of the military to even test for much less acknowledge the use of depleted uranium on the sacred island.

A comment on the discussion of the direct action to preserve the north shore graveyard and the police response on Katy Rose’s Breaking The Spell was quite provocative in response to Katy’s description and discussion with Joan Conrow of some of the actions and reactions.

The anonymous poster said:

It’s amazing to observe the effects of the tremendous influx of malahini who have come here to “settle” and “immerse” themselves in the “host” culture; to hear them voice in their best PC manner their support of the island’s “indigenous” residents’ struggles bemoaning their plight. How, incredibly hypocritical this is! They totally ignore the fact that it is their continuing invasion that has caused the severe lack of affordable housing here; caused by their renting and buying up everything in that category. It is their competition for housing that has caused the steep rise in rents as more and more of these working class immigrants arrive. All that’s left available are expensive luxury homes that local folks can’t afford. So, with their true colors flying, they voice their objections to all the overbuilding on expensive properties that they helped create. It is their numbers which have contributed by their unnecessary presence to Kauai’s traffic problems, crowding of beaches and surf sights. They compete for what decent jobs there are on the island, and by their hand enable the contractors and developers to do the very over building they so openly despise. They fill the jobs in the islands tourist industry thereby enabling its expansion that they so strongly bemoan for all its ill effects on this once rural environment. This is more than hypocritical; this is duplicitous. How can they look themselves in the mirror, write their blogs and present their testimonies on how Kauai is losing its cultural identify when it is they who are the problem; it is they who are killing it. If it weren’t for them, local folks could more easily find housing so that their children can remain on the island of their birth and find decent jobs so they don’t have to leave. The voices of these patronizing malahini ring false when it is their very presence that hurts most those they seem to want to support. This is the inconvenient truth!

Some good points, as Katy said. But the problem with that is that mainlanders are not just one monolithic demographic.

The settlers causing the problems are the ones who come to develop and rip-off the local resources and culture. They come and rape the land and give back nothing but degrading low pay jobs in an offensive tourism industry, instilling plantation mentality in their wake.

And although pacific islander immigrants including the undocumented ones probably equal those from the states you don’t hear people complain about “ those stupid f—in’ Filipinos”.

It’s not the working class people who are causing this mess. As a matter of fact to say so is to blame the victims of the system whether locally born and raised or immigrant..

It’s not the transplant population explosion itself that has cause the problems but rather it’s the imposition of another culture that values money and progress over the individual rights and local lifestyle of working people who are caught in a trap, not of their making or in their ability to directly resolve it.

And there’s the rub.

Because even assuming the poster’s premise was correct and all the people who came here are destroying the island, is the correct response to say “join the club” with an “if you can’t beat them join them attitude” as many who comment in the various blogs and newspaper comment sections across the state emphatically pronounce?

Or is the right action to do all you can to curb the negative effects of the invasion by doing what you can to stop the degradation of exploitive predatory development that is causing it?

Another cultural clash within the non-native community came across our desk late this morning in an email to a list of almost 100 community activists, politicians and journalists sent by Maui public interest attorney par excellance Lance Collins in response to a letter from Big Island depleted-uranium (DU) activist Shannon Rudolpf .

Rudolpf saw a press release from Collins’ Malama Hawai`i organization announcing a workshop regarding “(a)n opportunity to go to Kaho`olawe with the Protect Kaho`olawe 'Ohana and learn about the island firsthand” for secondary school teachers and presumably students.

This caused Shannon to write to Collins saying:

Aloha,

It's completely irresponsible to take children to Kaho'olawe unless you are CERTAIN no depleted uranium has been used there. I've asked this question many times over the years but have never gotten a straight answer from anyone. I'm no expert but I would guess a lot of DU was used there. (The Target Island)

Please don't let your children go to Kaho'olawe without a working and properly calibrated radiation monitor.

I was present (across the road) from the Pohakuloa Training Range, on the Big Island in May 2007...many of us watched the radiation levels stay at or below background levels for an hour and a half, (5-20 counts per minute) on residents monitors...suddenly the wind came up and blew dust directly across the monitors... which then zoomed up to 75 cpm.

I would never have gone up there if I had known this was going to happen and would have discouraged others. Please heed this warning. Please discourage anyone from going to Kaho'olawe until there is a long term, 24/7 monitoring system in place, preferably with independent verification, such as the Hawai'i County Council has recently recommended for our training range.

Sincerely,

Shannon Rudolph– Kona

This drew what some might call an outrageous response from Collins, who has admirably worked with and represented many cultural and political Hawaiian groups including apparently this workshop. He wrote:

Shannon,

I think the issue of going to Kaho'olawe is more complex for many people than your black and white assessment -- which impregnates the issue with Western medical/scientific reasoning as the basis for your moral claims of what responsibility is for other people and their practice of culture.

During the cholera outbreaks in the turn of the century in the Philippines, U.S. military authorities used Western medical discourse to make similar black/white claims regarding what the proper conduct of Filipinos should be towards themselves and their children -- characterizing those that didn't listen to them as irresponsible and childish.

Western medicine and science has a long history of partnership with U.S. military and cultural imperialism and I would suggest caution before or nuance in telling other people how to practice their culture.

lance*

Wailuku, Maui


Ooooo- snap....

But who is the one telling whom how to help someone else practice their culture?

It’s certainly not an easy issue. It sounds similar to clashes that occurred in the northwestern US and Canada and in Alaska regarding whale hunting.

With good intentions many western activist said killing whales is killing whales and shouldn’t be allowed in an age when they are endangered no matter what the cultural importance.

The indigenous cultural practitioners and their supporters argued that even the questioning of the cultural significance is cause for outrage and to stop them from practicing their ritual was sacrilege tantamount to cultural genocide.

But then again some “cultural practice” claims regarding whales like those in Japan are seen by most as a thinly veiled attempt to engage in commercial whaling.

Rudolph was apparently just assuring the health and safety of children and the need to have the military to clean up their act and either admit to or show that there has never been use of depleted uranium on Kaho`olawe.

Does insuring that children aren’t exposed to radiation violate cultural practices of kanaka maoli- isn’t keeping children safe part of that culture too?

It seems presumptuous of Collins to attack Rudolpf even if it is in the name of sustaining cultural and religious practices. It feels disingenuous to claim that ascertaining the safety of the people going to Kaho`olawe is somehow an excuse for continuing cultural suppression.

Collins’ apprehension may be well placed because some of the most sacred places in the islands have been desecrated by the military such as Makua Valley on O`ahu.

The military has used dangerous conditions they created as an excuse to keep native practitioners out of the sacred valley of Makua, battling against practitioners in court and using and twisting court- mandated cleanup and access to actually keep practitioners out during traditional ceremonial periods like this year’s makahiki.

But the response Collins gave is not that maybe the importance of instilling culture in our children outweighs the risk of the DU but in fact he’s apparently dismissive of even finding out what the danger is much less taking the dangerous realities into account when people, especially children, visit

Would Collins object to taking a Geiger counter and keeping children away from radioactive areas if they exist? He doesn’t say

Does he want to keep the parents of those children- and for that matter the teachers and anyone else traveling to the island- ignorant of the risks and possible presence of DU on Kaho`olawe? He doesn’t say.

It certainly sounds like he is saying to Rudolph “shut up- what people don’t know won’t hurt them”.

Seems the least Collins and Malama Hawai`i could do is to insure full disclosure and the consent of those whose culture he’s defending.

Kipling’s white man’s burden thrives when westerners think they “know what’s best” for the “noble savages” and endeavor to protect them from themselves.

It’s the kind of attitude apparent in the way the state and federal governments still hold the never-really ceded “crown” Hawaiian lands they stole “in trust” and wants to pass the Akaka bill to “steal them one last time, fair and square”

Most Americans routinely say “we’d be glad to give them their land back and insure their cultural and political self-determination if they’d all just agree on what they want”.

Uh, they have- they want their land back and their cultural and political self determination insured.

As our friend, Anahola kanaka maoli sovereignty activist Michael Grace once said to us: “Hey- we big boys now- can handle”.

If they can handle, can’t we?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

You white people and your theories.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said, "It’s amazing to observe the effects of the tremendous influx of malahini...."

Andy you sit there so full of yourself basking in your sanctimony and deflect a valid criticism of your unnecessary presence on this island. You have the gall to think that we who were born here need or want your opinions and activism. You sit there with your superior attitude and know-all intelligence and direct us unenlightened locals as to how we should live our lives and what we should do with OUR island. It is your useless body that is occupying a needed dwelling and job; not the rich people. They don’t compete for jobs or affordable housing. You occupy what might otherwise have gone to someone struggling to raise their family in their ancestral home. The whole point is that you’re not needed by those who you think need your saving. Do us all a favor, be a nice guy and go back to YOUR home. It’s not the foreign immigrants crowding this island…it’s the haoles!

Anonymous said...

"Haole go home"...like "white man go home" back 150 years ago on the mainland. It didn't happen. Neither will it happen here.

The Akaka bill will most likely pass. Hawaiians will have a "reservation" here in the islands. All hopes of national soverignty will be gone.

More haoles and others will come because they want to and there's nothing stopping them.

It will happen.

Anonymous said...

Andy,

Please re-read my e-mail carefully. I did not say that informing the public about the high probability of the presence of DU was bad. It was the subsequent moralizing telling people that based on that information someone is "irresponsible" or "bad" if they decide to go otherwise.

My point was that some people may determine for themselves that entering Kaho'olawe and engaging in cultural production is more important than the risks associated with DU exposure. That is a nuance and complexity of the issue that must be adequately addressed in any moral proposition. That was the substance of my e-mail and nothing more.

The settler environmental movement in Hawai'i has a tremendous amount of unacknowledged racism that makes it easy for developers/the military/etc. to drive a wedge between white environmentalists and native peoples and other people of color and foreclose the possibility of alliance.

The emotion Shannon used is justified considering the U.S. military's alternating strategy of denying and lying regarding the use of DU in Hawai'i. However, Hawaiians and others that enter Kaho'olawe today are typically not the U.S. military and talking down to us is not justified.

lance*

ps: I do not represent and have no affiliation with Malama Hawai'i.

Andy Parx said...

Thanks for the clarification Lance. I have two concerns. One is that people might be dismissive of adults being fully informed and what Shannon was getting at- the fact that children cannot make that decision for themselves and might be exposed without their fully informed consent because they aren’t capable of understanding the ramifications.


As to other comments both here and at Katy’s blog if people were not hypocritical they’d be dead. We all say we want to save the planet but we don’t- we want to save the people. The earth itself would be happy to be shed of us- we’re destructive parasites.

The conundrum of existence is localized everywhere, not just here. No one anywhere wants outsiders to “move here” except the scum who want to rip off and exploit them. They may be outsiders and they may be locals who sell out their communities..

There’s a difference within that in-between group that that feels trapped by the external system and powerless and so doesn’t do anything about it. They move in one of two directions- some do whatever they can to dismantle the destruction and some perpetuate it for their own gain.

So all you perpetuators please- spare us your consumptive, exploitive, self-absorbed comments- we get it... you’re an asshole.

I wouldn’t expect all you self-centered me me me me me people to get it, local or haole.

You may be born and raised wherever here is for you and be doing a lot more destruction and be 10 times more ignorant and exploitive of the local culture than an immigrant.

If you want to act like a child who thinks the world revolves around them expect to be treated as such. In other words be seen and not heard and let the adults discuss solutions that benefit all, not just your resource-gobbling fat American ass.

Anonymous said...

Again an excellent example of hypocritical drivel. TY, Andy!

Anonymous said...

I think what bothered me about Shannon's message was the implied fact that Kaho`olawe probably has spent DU there, and is thus dangerous. I understand that Shannon is passionate about this topic - with good reason - but the tone of her message made it sound like she was fixated. If she had said something like "I have already talked with Lance Collins about this, and we disagree, but I think the risk of sending your children is too high" then it would've been less shrill.

She has a good point, of course - I'd travel with a dosimeter.

To the powerless wishing all malihini to "go home" - the only ones you have a prayer of convincing are the ones who will take the time to listen to you and have some measure of sensitivity. The ones who want to turn Hawai`ii into a suburb of Los Angeles don't even know you exist.

Anonymous said...

Andy,

The issue of "children's safety" has been historically used by well-meaning colonial settlers around the world to separate children from their parents as an easy method of cultural genocide.

This is why I believe the issue of entrance to Kaho'olawe and DU exposure is a complex and nuanced discussion that Shannon's moralizing simply dismissed.

Interfering with parents' ability to raise their children strikes at the symbolic heart of cultural production. This is where the crux of moralizing meets the conflict. Why is Shannon Rudolph or the State of Hawai'i or whoever a better determiner of what is in the best interest of Native children engaging in spiritual/cultural practices than their parents?

I'm not saying something certain one way or the other, but Shannon's e-mail did not address this issue. She went directly into 19th century "white man's burden" discourse and assumed that she was in the best position to determine what is and is not responsible behavior of parents.

My original point -- and my point still -- is that the issue of DU exposure and access to Kaho'olawe is a complex matter with no simple answers -- especially unwarranted moralizing statements.

I agree with Shannon and the many others who sent me all the hate mail that disclosure of the risks and informed consent are necessary, at a minimum. (This is because I believe awareness is axiomatic for the 'good life', others may disagree with this basic axiom of my morality, but it is worthy of discussion nonetheless).

Where I parted ways with Shannon (and what sparked my reply) was that I do not agree that anyone who goes to Kaho'olawe or takes their children are necessarily "irresponsible" or "bad". That claim naturalizes political choices regarding the validity and weight to give to Western medical and scientific knowledge and also naturalizes Shannon's position as a non-Native settler telling Natives and others how to live their lives.

My e-mail called for her to consider these issues in their complexity and impliedly suggested refraining from the outlandish moralizing that doesn't really further her cause either. (People do not typically listen to hysterics lecturing on responsibility.)

lance*

Katy Rose said...

I have a question to those who keep commenting, anonymously, about the assumed "hypocracy" of others:

What is your goal? To shut up all those who care enough to try dismantling social injustice? Every one of us on this earth could be accused of hypocracy. What purpose does it serve to dwell on that?

Such calls are absurd and childish. If you have a legitimate critique, make it!

In addition, I would like to thank Lance for his incisive comments here. You have much to teach Anonymous about mature, thoughtful and nuanced debate!

Anonymous said...

Ah, but of all the hypocrites YOU are the worst as you say one thing and do another. Most others don't know better, but YOU do. That's what makes you the worst.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous HAS said it. You just refuse to accept it (denial) and worse, refuse to remedy it by leaving. Free up that affordable rental; free up that job and quit taking food out of the mouths of those you in your ego maniacle manner think you're helping. Tape a mirror to your face so you can better see what you truly are. You're not needed or wanted here. As you said yourself that the protesters didn't need any help. Go back to your home where you failed and quit wreaking your own failures on the backs of others.

Anonymous said...

Good points Andy. Ignorance is not bliss, it may be dangerous to your health. Why risk the health of innocent children by ignoring the well established patterns of the US military which has no respect for life or the environment. That is the business they are in, death and destruction are their trade and lying the accepted practice.

I will post as Anonymous too because to register and get a password is a big hassle, and anyway it does not matter who I am.

Anonymous said...

The planet belongs to ALL of us. Even the so called "locals" (most whose ancestors came to work on the plantations of the Haole's) and even the true "Hawaiians" (hardly any left) came from somewhere else, Hawaii has NO indigenous people, the people that were here before the "Haole" came from other islands, and before that they can be traced to Asia, so how does that make this YOUR island??? How stupid is that to think Hawaii had indigenous humans? Plants, bats, snails, birds....but NO humans, not a theory just a fact. So by your "theory" you should go back to where-evas......

Andy Parx said...

Hi Lance- I didn’t get all that subtext from Shannon’s original email. All I got was that she was questioning whether there was DU on Kaho`olawe and whether people who were going and sending their children were fully informed. The same by the way goes for the DU activist who questioned Dr. Pang.

I understand you concerns and share them as to people telling others what to do and using children as a wedge but that certainly isn’t the case here- no one is taking people’s kids away based on health or suggesting that.

But informing them is different than stopping them. It would seem that Shannon’s question is unanswered and would be easy to answer if people wanted to answer it. Until it is answered I certainly would let the parents know that there not only may be DU there but, knowing the military’s penchant for using it and denying they used it I would err on the side of presuming it IS there rather than presume it isn’t. And if you and Dr. Pang are going to pooh-pooh those worries you will be the ones essentially giving misinformation.

I don’t pretend to know all the facts and I’m not sure the cancer rates and all that is really relevant. But I question why the discussion about full disclosure spurred anger. Is there DU all over the place or not?

Anonymous said...

Andy,

As I'm sure you read, Shannon's e-mail said it was irresponsible for parents to let their children go to Kaho'olawe. This was followed up by one of her friends saying that any Hawaiian that took their child to Kaho'olawe should be reported to Child Protective Services.

I don't think it was a subtext that you missed. It was explicitly written in her e-mail "It's completely irresponsible to take children to Kaho'olawe..." and picked up and carried by a number of Shannon's supporters through the hysterical e-mails that my e-mail generated.

An Elaine wrote to the list: "I believe this is something that should be reported to CPS, Child Protective Services. The state and the consenting parents should be charged with endangering minors. At the very least it is criminal negligence and conspiracy to solicit children."

This was exactly what my reference to my family's experience with the cholera epidemics in Batangas a hundred years ago was trying to highlight.

I had nothing to say about her statements regarding the possibility of DU presence on Kaho'olawe. It turns out from these e-mail discussions that the analysis used to support the idea that DU is on Kahoolawe are dubious from a Western scientific standpoint and that the KIRC apparently has had testing done for radioactivity. It has also come to light that Shannon's suggestion for using geiger counters will not work since the radioactivity in DU is not picked up on Geiger counters.

What ultimately, it appears, is that Hawaiians have been essentialized by well-meaning middle-class racists who get hysterical over an issue and then have to control Hawaiians and their culture to make sense of their emotional lives.

Anyhow, unfortunately, nobody would address the issue of racism which divides working class people in working class struggles and environmentalists in environmental struggles.

Anonymous said...

The Depleted Uranium Threat

by: Thomas D. Williams,
t r u t h o u t | Report