Defense Mechanisms

In her book Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, Anna Freud (daughter of Sigmund Freud) detailed multiple defense mechanisms used to avoid facing reality. By using these mechanisms, along with the overwhelming inertia of the State and Federal presence, and the vast ignorance of Hawaiian history, many people in Hawaiʻi are able to conveniently avoid facing the disturbing reality that they live on contested ground.

1. Denial – against all evidence, many will deny self-evident facts. Case in point: while reporting on the first Hawaiian college football star and scholar John Wise, KITV news put the Hawaiian Kingdom in quotes, as if it is debatable that it ever existed.

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 This mechanism is closely related to cognitive dissonance, which Frantz Fanon described:

Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesnʻt fit with the core belief.

2. Projection – One prominent environmentalist said that “Hawaiians are not environmentalists.” While it may be true that some Hawaiians litter, etc., this statement may in fact be projecting non-Hawaiian guilt over trashing the islands, which are actually becoming unrecognizable in terms of native species (there are none) and invasive species.

3. Sublimation – Pushing down feelings of horror is easy to do in Hawaiʻi, which seems to retain its beauty. But as noted above, this beauty is almost a cover for underlying environmental crises and mass extinction.

4. Regression – evading responsibility by adopting an infantile sense of our own power, is often seen in Hawaiʻi with its overwhelming military presence. An infantile argument from power, that the US “will never let it happen,” is substituted for reasoned argument.

5. Rationalization – We often see excuses that cleverly lead to the conclusion desired, such as the argument that Tahitians colonized Hawaiʻi’s original inhabitants.

6. Intellectualization – getting mired in the details of law can actually distract from the main, moral issue. Some sovereignty opponents do this, but not usually in a technical sense. One guilty of this, in my view, is Patrick Dumberry, who wrote an article on the Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom case for the Chinese Journal of Internal Law. Dumberry states simply that the Hawaiian Kingdom does not exist, but offers no evidence, despite an extended legal analysis of the case. At the end of the article, he concedes that the Acting Hawaiian Kingdom has helped its cause, leaving some ambiguity in his opinion.

7. Displacement – Hawaiians are easy target for this mechanism, in which a substitution is made for a reality that is too difficult to accept. “Sovereignty” is therefore substituted with “going back into the loʻi,” ” giving up all technology” (as if only the US has technology), and “giving up all military defense” (when in fact saying that is itself the defense (mechanism).

Anna Freud held that most of us use at least five defense mechanisms every day! So the chances Iʻm right are quite high, just due to the prevalence of these mechanisms.

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