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.


Filed under sovereignty, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Law and Power

  1. Luana K

    Odd thing is I’ve always thought Hawaiians actually were process-oriented though we clearly haven’t seen great evidence of late. The governing process – at least within my family and community – is based on a different set of principles but there is a method to our ‘how.’

    In my view, we just placed greater value in fairness/balance than in democratic ideas of equality. The optimal decision was quite strategic and sought to align interests – and that rationale was always explained.

    Hmmm… maybe my culture lens is the rub. My inclination to accept ‘shades of meaning’ and nuance to achieve balance may not be easily reconciled with either paths of pure law or power before us.

    Thank you for giving me something to think on. I do appreciate your speaking of disconnect. The ongoing dissonance at this particular time had me wondering if we were squandering a possibility to do some really interesting things.


    • umi

      from the mid- late-1800s thatʻs absolutely right – it was a bit complicate to explain in a short post.
      The Kingdom was actually an earlier adapter to democracy, but within a monarchy framework – thereʻs the rub.


      • The constitutional Monarchy is a form of democracy as is the similar republic, a form of democracy. There is a head of state (executive branch), Representative (legislative branch), and Judicial branch. Both have a constitution and common law that are implemented. We have a Declaration of rights and the U.S. Republic have their Bill of Rights. Great Britain has no written constitution for the people; they have a constitution on the succession and conditions of the monarchy. They utilize the common law and portions of the Napoleonic Code. Hawaiians of old knew that if the konohiki wasn’t fair and ignored their concerns, he was deposed or they would pick up and leave to another ahupua’a and strengthen the kinohiki of the ahupua’a they relocated to and that konohiki could be displaced by the stronger konohiki. Either that of the Ali’i Nui would change the konohiki or set his demise. I essence, one could say it was a haphazard form of democracy as it as a bit different that the western concept of things which they were unaccustomed to know.


  2. Chr*$TOPHer Kasak

    Zizek’s ‘Pervert’s Guide to Ideology’ is presently on Netflix for streaming


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