When Kahu Kaleo Patterson asked me to speak at the Hoʻokuʻikahi Reconciliation service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral on January 17th (it’s at 6), he used a phrase that caught my attention: “mindful nationalism.” Those familiar with the nationalist movements of the twentieth century, in Europe and other places, are keenly aware of the perils of nationalism, a concept Benedict Anderson called “imagined communities.” A mindful nationalism is needed at this time, when a war of consciousness (as Zuri Aki has called it) is being waged – simply look in the comment section of any article on sovereignty. Both sides in the debate are engaged in proving the other wrong, which may be a first step, but it cannot be the last.The last step must involve some kind of reconciliation.
WHAT IS RECONCILIATION?
Ian McIntosh, former director of Cultural Survival (the oldest Indigenous rights organization in the US), and a mentor of mine, showed me how reconciliation is a multi-layered process. In that context, it is about addressing the divisions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous (his context was Australia) – divisions that have been caused by a lack of respect, knowledge and understanding.
Reconciliation is about recognizing the truth of a country’s history, and moving forward together with a commitment to social justice, and building relationships based on mutual understanding, respect and trust. Recognizing history may sound uncontroversial, but it was a key factor in the deoccupations of the Baltic states, whose histories were covered up by the Soviet occupation (1940-1990). To merely be able to speak openly about their histories was controversial in the extreme, and a major step toward liberation. I contend that history in Hawaiʻi is nearly as contentious.
But reconciliation is more than this – itʻs about a new consciousness. This consciousness is not really new – it may be the oldest thing on Earth – as Eckhart Tolle said, it may just be “new to you.”
Iʻve written elsewhere about how postmodernism (the period weʻre sort of in) ignores development – the idea that people, even adults, evolve over time – and in doing so, must ignore the entire field of developmental psychology. This creates what Robert Bly has called the “sibling society” – a society in which all are considered equal in every way is one which devalues the wisdom of experience. Men and women in the 1960s (yes, thatʻs when it started) were trying to dismantle illegitimate hierarchies, and rightly so, but ended up dismantling legitimate ones as well. A recent headline read “Hippie parents were just the worst.” But development is not about diminishing selfishness, but about expanding the meaning of “the self.”
One is reminded of the Buddhist quote:
Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent of everything you think,
And everything you do, Is for yourself,
And there isn’t one.
– Wei Wu Wei
Rather than a strictly political process, development, and therefore reconciliation, is about something we who live in late stage capitalist cultures are really bad at: cultivating the inner life.
But there is an outward, political dimension to reconciliation. In South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission bridged the inner and outer dimensions of reconciliation, allowing catharsis but not revenge.
One could take advice from Bob Moses of the Mississippi Voting Project during the civil rights movement. When coalitions seemed to fall apart, he would always ask: “What can we agree on?” Issues like adult literacy were uncontroversial and allowed groups to reconvene when more controversial issues splintered them.