Sovereignty and Mental Models

When Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO (Kapouhana) Kamanaʻopono Crabbe wrote his letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry asking what risks OHA might be incurring under international law, his framework for understanding, as well as that of the opposing Trustees, were examples of mental models.

OHA CEO Kamanaʻopono Crabbe

Crabbe’s questions were:

First, does the Hawaiian Kingdom, as a sovereign independent State, continue to exist as a subject of international law?

Second, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist, do the sole-executive agreements bind the United States today?

Third, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and the sole-executive agreements are binding on the United States, what effect would such a conclusion have on United States domestic legislation, such as the Hawai‘i Statehood Act, 73 Stat. 4, and Act 195?

Fourth, if the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and the sole-executive agreements are binding on the United States, have the members of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, Trustees and staff of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs incurred criminal liability under international law?

Chairperson Collette Machado’s response in the form of a letter stated that Crabbe does not understand the extent to which the US will hold on to Hawaiʻi – ostensibly for military purposes. But she offered no evidence of this “fact,” which in reality was not a fact at all, but a belief.

In The Power of Impossible Thinking, authors Yoram Wind and Colin Crook (2006, 5) note that:

Almost every aspect of our lives is shaped in some way by how we make sense of the world. Our thinking and our actions are affected by the mental models we hold. These models define our limits or open our opportunities. Despite their power and pervasiveness, these models are usually virtually invisible to us.  We don’t realize they are there at all.

What we have in the OHA crisis is a conflict of mental models. One side sees law as the driving force behind Hawaiʻi’s “limits and opportunities,” the other sees only power. According to Wind and Crook (2006, 9), we are awash with sensory data all the time, and are only able to make sense of the world by “choosing to ignore some of the external world.”

Clearly the majority of Trustees, like the majority of Americans, choose to ignore international law. But perhaps Crabbe’s side (and I’ve made my allegiance to this side quite clear) ignores power to some extent. Keanu Sai’s  Hawaiian Kingdom blog published a post asking “were these rhetorical questions?” This post explained the legal basis for asking the questions, but did not address the strategy behind Crabbe’s action. Perhaps this is intentional, but an explanation of strategy, in addition to the legal case might make Crabbe’s position more compelling.

By exposing the mental models both sides hold, people may be better able to make informed, rather than reflexive, decisions on their positions regarding Hawaiʻi’s present and future political status. Wind and Crook (2006, 52) point out that age is a decisive factor in openness to new ideas, and we see this in sovereignty politics, with older Hawaiians understandably wanting to see something in their lifetime. This is not to say that the young are entirely better positioned – their very openness makes them more prone to fads.

In The Race for Nationhood, I posited that these two sides (independence and Federal recognition) were racing to see their model implemented, but I came to think this is a race for the meaning of nationhood. In this race for meaning we need to be aware of how our own minds free or deceive us.

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3 Comments

Filed under sovereignty, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Sovereignty and Mental Models

  1. Kawika Liu

    excellent mana’o, ‘umi. i would go farther, and say that the language is what shapes the discourse, and the power structure its grammar. so while oha ma ignores the reality of international law by being situated within the american discourse, keanu ma ignores the “reality” of power on the ground by being situated in an almost purely rhetorical discourse. does this make sense?

  2. umi

    While I normally wouldnʻt call intʻl law a ʻpurely rhetorical discourse,ʻ the “legal art” of the CA judge who struck down teacher tenure certainly lends to the argument of law as rhetoric ..

  3. Pingback: Sovereignty and Mental Models | theumiverse | PRG HAWAII NEWS WITH RUSS ROBERTS

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