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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Media Coverage of DOI Hearings Off-Base

‘If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.’

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Randall Akee wrote in the Hawaiʻi Independent that media coverage prior to the Department of Interior hearings was “presumptuous.” Iʻm finding that the coverage during the hearings seems to miss the point. The Star-Advertiser lead article was headlined “Hawaiians Reject Federal Input.” While this is somewhat accurate if read in the right way, it could easily be misconstrued as Hawaiians rejecting the input of the Federal government. What Hawaiian rejected was the opportunity to give input on several questions pertaining to the relationship between their “community” and the Federal government. This was followed up with the headline “Conduct at Native Hawaiian Meetings Bemoaned.” Rather than conduct, the media should focus on content. Hawaiians are now asking the right questions, including “by what authority are you in Hawaiʻi?” This questions the process, their presence and undermines their assumptions – namely, that annexation was legal.

Civil Beat ran a negative headline: “Kanaka Maoli to Feds: ʻGet Out of Our House! Go Home!’” While this is also accurate in a sense, focusing on the aggressive delivery of a minority of the speakers undermines the quite valid and rational logic of the speakers (even the aggressive ones). Chad Blair writes: “’Get out of our house!’ several speakers told the Interior panel, which included Esther Kiaaina, a senior adviser to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. ʻGo home!’”

Leona Kalima at the Honolulu hearing. Photo: Civil Beat.

Leona Kalima at the Honolulu hearing. Photo: Civil Beat.

Blair goes on: “they cited analyses of treaties, bills, acts, resolutions, petitions and law that led them to passionately believe that Hawaii is quite independent of the other 49 states.” Nevermind the actual content of the “treaties, bills, act, resolutions, petitions and law,” Hawaiians, according to Blair simply “believe … the U.S. government had no jurisdiction in the islands.” Perhaps Blair was exercising journalistic neutrality, but this is where such a practice may be misguided. The entire system is biased toward the Federal viewpoint and against the Hawaiian perspective. Attempting to balance these with judgement-free accounts is taking the side of power.

The only major media site that got it right was the Huffington Post, whose headline read “Hawaiians Say ‘This is Our Country.’” This sums it up very eloquently.

Written testimony can be submitted for 60 days from the start of the hearings at this site:



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How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: If you’ve stumbled on this post, Iʻm still working on it. Check back later.

My favorite TV show by far is the BBC/Masterpiece show Sherlock, but as my previous attempts to write about TV met with little interest, I thought I’d write about what really interests me in Holmes: how he thinks. Indeed, many of my recent posts, I realized, have been about how to think (The Psychology of Mālama ʻĀina, Philosophy as Therapy, Reason’s End, Sovereignty and Mental Models). So it was with great interest that I read Maria Konnikova’s Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, which I heard about from a Big Think video, and planned to read this summer. The book allowed me to muse over my favorite TV show, but also over the workings of my own mind. I found that I’d unconsciously been doing a lot of things right all this time.


Konnikova compares Holmesʻs brain attic to Shel Silverstein’s conception – the light in this attic really can be turned on or off

The primary focus of the book is what Holmes (or more accurately, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) calls “the brain attic.” This attic is a flexible, but not infinitely flexible, physical space in this conception: “maybe it has a chimney …  maybe it doesn’t,” but according to Holmes/Doyle, a person’s brain “is  like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose” (Konnikova, 26). From a very young age, I chose my furniture based on importance – to me, there were four domains of important information: literature, philosophy, history and art (actually, that’s an updated version, but basically it was those categories). I know that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs and Roger Maris hit 61 in a season, but there my sports knowledge ends (although I’ll admit I do know a lot of running stats). At age 9, while others were watching the world series or reading A Wrinkle in Time, I was reading Brave New World. I just had the feeling that this “furniture” in my mind would be of much more use someday than sports statistics or children’s books.

Thinking of the mind in this way is also helpful in reverse, allowing one to do what Sherlock is so good at: “guessing at the contents of a person’s attic from his outward appearance becomes one of Sherlock’s surest ways of determining who that person is and what he is capable of.” If you don’t know what I mean by this, just watch the video below.

This scene was modified from the original in The Sign of Four, but replaced a pocket watch with a cell phone.

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