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:
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.
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:
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.
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?