The Pacific Problems of Cloud Atlas


Maile Arvin gives a nuanced and Pacific-focused read of Cloud Atlas, which I also reviewed:

Originally posted on the maile vine:


Cloud Atlas theatrical poster, via Wikipedia

This post is a preview of sorts for a talk I will be giving for the Ethnic Studies colloquium at the University of Hawaiʻi on Tues. Jan. 21, at 3 pm. More info here

Since I first saw Cloud Atlas last year, I have been haunted by many of its images. Much has already been said about the 2012 movie, directed by Tom Tykwer (of Run, Lola, Run), Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski (of The Matrix). In sum: the movie was too long and too clever for its own good, and tanked at the box offices. The book on which the movie is based, by Irish writer David Mitchell, is flush with musical metaphors and modeled around a sextet: there are 6 different narratives that make up the whole. The book’s structure is a rising and falling glissando, or as many…

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Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea: Restoration Day

July 31st is a Hawaiian national holiday – Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea. In this post I trace some of the historical background of this event, and report on its observance on Saturday, July 26th at Thomas Square, Honolulu. The date is also being observed at National Parks on Hawaiʻi Island.

The August 8th, 1843 issue of Ka Nonanona newspaper read:

AUGATE 8, 1843. Pepa 6.

I ka la 26 o Iulai, ku mai la ka moku Manuwa Beritania, Dublin kona inoa. O Rear Adimarala. Thomas ke Alii. He alii oia maluna o na moku Manuwa Beritania a pau ma ka moana Pakifika nei.
I ka loaa ana ia ia ka palapala no Capt. Haku Geoge Paulet, ma ka moku Vitoria, a lohe pono oia, ua kau ka hae o Beritania ma keia pae aina, holo koke mai no ia e hoihoi mai ke aupuni ia Kamehameha III. Nani kona aloha mai i ke alii, ea! a me na kanaka no hoi.

Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III

Nani ka pomaikai o Kamehameha III, a me kona poe kanaka i keia wa, no ka mea, ua hemo ka popilikia, ua hoihoiia mai ka ea o ka aina. Ua pau ka noho pio ana malalo o ko Vitoria poe kanaka.
O Kamehameha III. oia ke alii nui o Hawaii nei i keia manawa. Ua kuuia ko Beritania hae ilalo i keia la, Iulai 31. 1843, a ua kau hou ia ko Hawaii nei hae. Nolaila, eia ka la o ka makahiki e hoomanao ia’e, me ka hauoli, ma keia hope aku.

My rough translation:


Rear Admiral Richard Thomas

On the 26th day of July, a British battleship anchored here, Dublin was its name. The captain (Alii) was Rear Admiral Thomas. He is the head [alii] of the British Pacific fleet.

Lord George Paulet

In the taking of the documents of Capt. Lord George Paulet of the ship Victoria, he listened fairly [to how Paulet] raised the flag of Britain in this archipelago, [and] decided quickly to return the government to Kamehameha III. Beautiful is the love of the alii for [the] sovereignty [ea]! And the people also.


Splendid was the gratitude of Kamehameha III and his people at this time because the trouble [crisis, popilikia] was removed, and the sovereignty of the land was returned. Finished is the captive occupation under Victoria’s people.

Kamehameha III is the King [Ruling Chief, alii nui] at this time. The British flag is lowered [put down, kuuia] on this day, July 31st, and Hawaiʻi’s flag flies anew. Therefore, It is a day of the year to remember joyfully from this day forward.

Poster for 2014 Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea, honoring Terri Kekoʻolani Raymond and Peggy Haʻo Ross.

Poster for 2014 Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea, honoring Terri Kekoʻolani Raymond and Peggy Haʻo Ross.

It wasn’t until 1987 that Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea began to be observed again. Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell began observances of the holiday at a time when the idea of sovereignty was considered quite far-fetched. Within five years, however, the idea of sovereignty was considered, in some form, inevitable.

Last year, the movement began to become nostalgic of itself, recognizing that its early leaders seemed to be reaching the end of their lives. Two men Blaisdell and activist extraordinaire Soli Niheu were the honorees. This year, two women, Terri Kekoʻolani Raymond and Peggy Haʻo Ross were honored. Kekoʻolani spoke of others who were instrumental in the early movement, and Haʻo Ross was represented by her daughter Liliʻuokalani Ross, who gave an overview of her life and activism.

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Federal Train Wreck: Another Response to Ian Lind


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the picture accompanying Ian Lind’s July 9th article was worth at least that. For those who can’t find them, here are a thousand words to accompany the image of the speaker holding the sign that said “No Treaty of Annexation.” Ian Lind got back into the sovereignty dialog following a hiatus provoked by a debate with me in March. At first, it seemed as if he didn’t read my final response in that debate (I was writing in the Hawaiʻi Independent, where I am a regular contributor), but I found his stance softening a bit, focusing on the Hawaiian entitlements, I even found myself agreeing with him occasionally. But still there was denial of a history that is quickly establishing itself. Even the most adamant independence advocates favor keeping the entitlement programs. It’s a predicament. But there are solutions on a case-by-case basis, and this is how these programs should be approached: each according to its own particular historical trajectory.

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“Why you gotta be so rude?” Rending the Social Fabric

A prevailing social practice today seems to be violating norms of interpersonal behavior in the name of entertainment. Reality TV is the forum for what could be called tearing the “social fabric.” The metaphor is easy enough to understand: people in societies are woven together into a mutually supporting tapestry, which when torn begins to fray. Ideas of social cohesion often trace to MacMillan, Chavis and Sarasen’s work. The prevalence of this behavior is not only obvious to any follower of popular culture, but has been immortalized in a song: “Why you gotta be so rude? Iʻm gonna marry her anyway/ Marry that girl” sings Nasri of the reggae fusion group MAGIC! which reached number one on the Billboard in June. These lyrics describe many of the relationships represented or forged on reality TV, which has increasingly leaked in to real life.

The use of the term “awkward” as a constant description of social situations shows that we continually find humor in peoples social discomfort. Whether this rending of the social fabric portends some kind of social breakdown, however, is unclear. Some predicted that immigration was tearing the social fabric – it more likely did the opposite (though some still argue this point).

Increasingly harmonious social relations do seem to correlate with a kind of social evolution to more stable, even happier societies. Vico showed 150 years ago the progress Europeans had made from the time of Achilles’ “overweening anger” until his own. Another leap of this size has probably been made from Vico’s time to ours. But such “progress” (if indeed that is what it is) is fragile, backsliding is comparatively easy, and easy to feel like liberation (from overbearing social constraints). This, in my opinion, is a mistaken view. What Wilber calls the “pre-trans fallacy” describes a misguided effort to shed social conventions, and in the process, shedding hard-earned self restraints. We should not yield to the temptation to answer Rodney King’s heartfelt “why can’t we all get along?” with a brazen “because conflict is entertaining.”

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First Voices Indigenous Radio

Go to the July 3rd show. It starts with commercials then gets into the show with John Kane.

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ʻĀina and Mana, or Privatizing ʻĀina part 2

This is the follow up to my discussion on ʻāina with Dr. Lynette Cruz on Issues that Matter: New Research on Hawaiian History.

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Law and Power

The fundamental disconnect among Hawaiians today is that between law and power. As I noted in Sovereignty and Mental Models, “one side [the independence movement] sees law as the driving force behind Hawaiʻi’s ʻlimits and opportunities,’ the other [Fed rec] sees only power.” What is needed is an analysis that bridges these two ways of looking at our political reality. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek offers one such analysis. He uses film as a gauge of the state of contemporary political ideology, but in doing so, shows our relationship with our respective governments – whether democratic or totalitarian.* He often uses films that appear to have liberal themes to show underlying, conservative, anti-democratic “micro-textures.”

Slavoj Zizek

Zizek shows that embedded in ostensible democratic narratives are fascist or totalitarian undercurrents. In relation to even our most democratic governments – those with free media, checks and balances, etc. – we hear (and have a sublimated desire to hear) the message that our governments “do what [they] like.” 

This was seen in the armed police at the (ostensibly democratic) hearings of the Department of Interior on Oʻahu this week. It is seen in the passive acceptance of the governments violations of its own law at the Federal (some say we are in a post-constitutional era) and State levels. Dismissals of the legal arguments of sovereignty activists and scholars are tantamount to saying that our society is not run by the rule of law.

Using the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan, Zizek shows that we all have “fascist dreams.” It is as if we have a public and a private life in our own minds – a sublimated consciousness that we hide even from ourselves. For Hawaiians, our tradition is not one of democracy, so it takes conscious effort to become process-oriented. This is a worthy effort, otherwise we unconsciously  take on the attitude of Lorrin Thurston, who said in the formation of the Republic of Hawaiʻi, “we will shut out from participation all those who are not with us.” By bringing these subconscious tendencies to our own awareness, we can consciously decide which path to take for ourselves and the nation: one of law or of pure power.

* Films Zizek analyses include The Sound of Music and Titanic.


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