ON A WING AND A PRAYER: We've all read them- national newspaper stories that attempt to make sense of a local story but instead make a mess of it.
"Parachute journalism" isn't easy but can be downright impossible when the story you're looking for isn't really there but the author is determined to pound that square peg into an existing round hole.
We came across just such a piece at the popular "Truthout" website this weekend. It's a very strange- and skewed- little article on the supposed "Occupy movement" on Kaua`i by Michelle Fawcett Ph.D., an adjunct professor in the Media, Culture and Communications Department at New York University who "is currently traveling across the US covering the Occupy movement."
For those who might have missed it when the Occupy Wall Street movement came to Kaua`i last year in its nascent days, after a fairly well-attended sign-holding rally in front of Safeway and an attempt a few days later to actually occupy the county building lawn overnight- where attendees kind of drifted away before they rolled up the sidewalks at 9 p.m.- things kind of fizzled.
We speculated that it might be because, if you're not homeless, a transient or working six jobs, you are, almost by definition, among the very privileged just to live on Kaua`i. Living here permanently means you're apt to be in the 90th percentile of the "99%." On Kaua`i the 1% is more like 75% (to pull some numbers out of our butt).
But that didn't stop Fawcett who somehow dug up a few FOB North Shore malahini who assured her the Kaua`i version of the Occupy Wall Street movement is alive and well here and that "we" are planning on permanently occupying the County Building lawn.
As to the controversy over naming a group "occupy" in the islands - what with the overthrow in 1893 and the military occupation that persists to this day - it somehow feels insulting to the real ongoing occupation. Instead of the "Occupy with Aloha" name that had been adopted by those who organized and participated in those events last year, somehow she came up with the "Occupy Movement" moniker.
But at least she tried, circling around the sovereignty issue by interviewing the Reinstated Hawaiian Government's Kane Pa- although it was apparent she didn't really "get" the irony involved in new haole group occupying a "country" that another haole group has been occupying for more than a century.
Fawcett first introduces us to her sources, writing
Members of Occupy Kapaa on Kauai, Toni Liljengren, 54, and Andy Fitts, 57, are transplants to the northernmost island they now call home. Toni, a lomi lomi massage therapist, relocated over 20 years ago, while Andy, director of a local Tibetan peace park and a real estate developer, and his wife are more recent arrivals. Speaking over lunch in a sun-washed café, both warned of an imminent global "systems shift."
Where do you start with the oxymoronic absurdity of a North Shore real estate developer as spokesperson for a non-existent "Occupy Kapa`a" group?
At least the writer kind of got the idea that there's a sustainability movement here, albeit presenting it as a self-contained part and parcel of the local "Occupy" movement- as if it all just occurred to us last October as a result of the establishment of the original "Occupy Wall Street" outpost, about a quarter-mile from Fawcett's NYU campus.
So what will Liljengren and Fitts do "when da boat no more come?" Liljengren says:
"I feel really safe on Kauai. There's fish. There's fruit. This is a very sustainable place. It's probably one of the best places to be at the time of the collapse."
Toni is confident she can survive a crisis because she already barters for food, shelter and chelation therapy. While Andy is more wary, he concludes that a systems shift will "bring out the best in everyone because all the intelligence will be called upon. It will be survival time. Everyone will be scrambling for a new paradigm. But it will be a wonderful time because people will actually stop sleepwalking."
So we'll all be okay just the way things are now- no gardens (and no land for them), little or no large scale sustainable crop agriculture, prime Ag land broken up into gentlemen’s estates, everyone working 11 jobs in the all-pervasive tourism industry- because there'll be plenty of free fish and fruit trees for Toni and Andy expects everyone to be so "awake" and "aware" that they apparently won’t need food or fuel anymore.
Yeah we'll live on love. Or better still we'll become "breatharians."
There's a certain rare skill to airlifting into town and jumping right in journalistically- one that many try but few master. Not everyone is a Tony Sommer, a Denis Wilken or a Mike Levine. But even more difficult is doing it for a "one-off." And it's even harder still if you came with a thesis and the facts on the ground don't jibe with those you thought you'd find.
The solution is to change your theory, instead of trying to change what you find on the ground, Mr. Jones.