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Island Fever

Living in Hawaii offers a mainlander, like me, a rich variety of experiences. Sure, we have nice weather here, lots of awesome nature, an active volcano, snorkeling, diving, and lots of aloha.

These are the things that are carefully packaged to tourists to come here and spend their money.

But Hawaii as other things to offer for a populist, like me.

Living here you can see how colonialism pervades in real time upon the land mass and the lives of the native Hawaiians [and indigenous population, by the way, not given the same recognition as "Native American" tribes on the US mainland].

For instance, unlike California where I spent most of my life and where the native population has long been made invisible by Spanish conquest followed by the US spread of sprawl, Hawaii offers an opportunity to see in real time how the West Was Won.

On the Big Island, site of the Ironman Triathlon, a growing number of elite resorts and private mansions owned by rich mainlanders abound. This doesn't occur in a vacuum. The lands are cleaved from the best areas in that familiar dirty trade of a promise of development and jobs.

Here is a recent standoff between native activists and officials from the state of Hawaii.

The development diverts resources to the resorts, the grossest and most visible of these is the golf course, a monstrosity anywhere.

The jobs are like the jobs our elites seem perfectly content with in this strange epoch: low-wage employment, with scarce benefits.

This is the trade-off Hawaii has gotten.

This means for the native Hawaiians, already conquered, its sovereign government overthrown by the same sort of rogue white settlers who settled the US, poverty inevitably increases with each business deal.

So it's peculiar to see not a vibrant sovereignty movement but rather an anti-GMO movement on the various islands.

An insurgent sovereignty movement did gain some traction in the 70's and 80's. One of its most prominent leaders was Haunani Kay Trask, author of "From a Native Daughter: Colonialism & Sovereignty in Hawaii" [1993 Common Courage Press].

When asked about the sad state of the once-vibrant movement to reclaim Hawaii from the US, Trask's diagnosis is simple: potential activists being where they are on the economic caste have had to take on second and third jobs, and a hustle on the side.

Trask's book is required reading for anyone who wants to lift the curtain of Aloha and see the man behind it pulling the levers.

The Big Island, which comprises the County of Hawaii, just passed anti-GMO legislation last December. While this is a victory for the global food justice movement it is also another step in the complete subjugation of the Hawaiian archipelago.

The fight to ban or label GMO crops not only comes from mostly white mainlanders but as such represents a a different sort of conquest of the the land, albeit from the "Left."

Other cultural complexities confront you if you get beyond the scuba diving and rounds of golf buffeted in vast smorgasbords for paying tourists.

Hawaii is a chain of islands with distinct histories. While King Kamehameha is doubly marketed and revered, the natives of other islands, like Maui or Molokaii, are quick to remind you they had their own kings who were conquered and killed by Kamehameha around the time of white settlers were revolting from Great Britain and consolidating rule on the US mainland.

To these islanders, Kamehameha is the Bismark of the Pacific.

This is all glossed over in tourist brochures selling an island paradise adventure to Japanese rich and middle American Iowans alike. All are welcome except native Hawaiians.

And like other cultural extermination campaigns, sprawl will soon pave over this historical diversity with golf courses, five-star resorts, and private estates just as it did long ago to California and the Pacific Southwest US.

The observant Hawaiian resident can see before his eyes the metamorphosis of Hawaii as a museum relic of kitsch or Disneyland theme park.

So the Wall Street right-wing of finance and real estate attack this island from one side and "haole" left-wing come from the other side, perhaps analogous to gun-boat diplomats and missionaries in earlier colonial campaigns.

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