Category Archives: academia

The Trump Administration: Children in a Fantasy

The American philosopher Ken Wilber called Trump, when he was running, “the boy who would be King,” by which he meant that Trump was at the psycho-emotional level of a young child, and urged voting against him:

Not because he is a big alpha figure who would bust up the establishment. Not because he’s vulgar. Not because lacks a coherent policy vision. Those things can actually be evolutionarily potent in their proper measure. No, the real problem with Donald Trump is that in important lines of development he is arrested at the level of a five-year-old. Keep nukes out of the hands of children. Make sure to vote!

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[For more on what is meant by “development” see my article “Integral 102”]

Now that Trump has tapped Steven Bannon for his inner circle, I looked at a Breitbart article (Bannon is a Breitbart executive). The article made the “argument” that the key to women’s happiness was to “uninvent” the washing machine and the birth control pill, both of which had made them completely “miserable.” First, nothing is ever uninvented. Once technologies catch on – especially labor-saving devices – for better or worse, we seem to be stuck with them. Second, if anything needs to be “uninvented” is it really the washing machine? Not the nuclear bomb? To think that these things can be uninvented and that there’s not a population problem is to live in a fantasy world. They want women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen – no wonder they were against Clinton for President!

Trump also speaks of using nuclear weapons, imperiling us all, as if only the US has them! Or only the US and Russia. As if he doesnʻt know that there are at least 13 nuclear states. And his responses to questions about their use is consistent with that of an adolescent boy: “Then why do we have them [if not to use them]?” This shows no understanding that nuclear weapons, to the extent that they have any valid use at all, are deterrents.

Finally, as far as I have observed, Trump has not once used the word democracy in his campaign, a campaign that has shown nothing but contempt for the idea. If things go the way many are predicting, Americans will have – proudly – voted their own, hard-won rights away by handing the nuclear codes, the Bush-Obama surveillance apparatus and the power of commander-in-chief of the US military to a child.

 

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On Knowing

This post is part of the continuing “On” series: others include On OwnershipOn CapitalismOn FreedomOn Constitutionalism and On Privilege.

Once, while working at a military medical clinic, I noticed that all of the doctors, and none of the medics, were runners. While almost everyone knows that cardiovascular exercise is the most effective single thing a person can do for their health, some people, (the doctors in this case) really know it. This type of knowing could explain why some people act on knowledge and others do not. The difference in the depth of their levels of knowledge may explain why one group, the doctors, act on their knowledge, and the other, the medics, did not.

Daniel Kahnemanʻs book Thinking Fast and Slow makes that case that there are two kinds of thinking, which he pedantically terms “system 1” (the fast one) and “system 2” (the slow one). In the New York Times review of the book, Jim Holt describes system 1 as using metaphor and available data (which may or may not be relevant) to create “a quick and dirty draft of reality.” In contrast:

System 2, in Kahneman’s scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)

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So this post could be called “Knowing, Shallow and Deep,” or “Knowing, Profound and Superficial.” One sure sign, in my experience, that people have a shallow understanding when youʻve explained something is that they say “Got it.” This is not to say that slow knowing is always better. As Malcolm Gladwell famously pointed out, decisions on topics about which a person has a wealth of experience can be made in the Blink of an eye – and be as sound or better than drawn-out ponderous decisions.

While knowledge is often denigrated at the expense of action, this is where knowledge and action intersect. It creates what the nonprofit (my former employer) Political Research Associates called “informed action.” When I want to really understand something (like a language) to the point at which it affects my behavior, I will read or listen to it multiple times, up to a hundred times. (I have no shortage of time in my daily commute!) Literature on leadership tends to argue that effective leaders make decisions quickly while “losers” make them slowly, but books like Quiet, about the benefits of introversion support Kahnemanʻs findings on introspection. So it seems the answer, as usual, depends on the context.

 

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The Greatest Books of Our Time

The literary critic Harold Bloom said that there are far too many books to read even if thatʻs all one does all day, everyday. So one needs some kind of reading list to work from. Iʻve called this the “greatest books of our time” because I canʻt claim to know the greatest books of all time. (It also evokes the title of the last book on the list, Child of Our Time). Here are my suggestions, allowing that I havenʻt read everything (Iʻd wager neither have you), and with some help from my group on Facebook called Building an Intellectual Culture:

1. The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hesse

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Hesse is certainly fond of binaries: wild vs. “civilized” (Steppenwolf), but here he is at the height of his powers. My godfather is a former professor of German, and says he got beyond Hesse at a certain point, but I canʻt see how.

2. Herzog, Saul Bellow

This may be dated, in terms of being a period piece for midcentury intellectuals, but his deeper understanding of the human condition earned Bellow the highest literary honors: he was the only person to win three National Book Awards and the Nobel Prize. Iʻm writing about him for Summit magazine – stay tuned.

3. Moby Dick, Herman Melville

E.L. Doctorow said Melville’s book (overlong as it is – he was paid by the word) was a monumental achievement, one not recognized in his own time – and who am I to disagree? Like Jonah and the whale, Melville tells us something sublime about our inner selves. (See Melville in Hawaiʻi).

4. Dubliners, James Joyce

Before he destroyed the English language (see Finneganʻs Wake, or as much as it as you can bear), Joyce mastered it. Ulysses was ranked the best novel of the 20th century by Time; Dubliners is more accessible.


5. King Lear, Shakespeare

Growing old before growing wise is perhaps a fate worse than the end itself. Shakespeare makes the fool the wise one in a way thatʻs surprisingly modern. He also hints at an answer to “the thing itself” – the essence of reality.


6. The Master, Colm Toibin

This pick may surprise people – Toibin was shortlisted, but never won, the Booker Prize. But his treatment of the subtleties of Henry James’s inner life has few rivals. Toibin is finally getting wide acclaim for Brooklyn, an inferior novel.


7. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell

Widely credited with being the soul of Star Wars, that comparison cheapens Cambells contribution to elevating mythology (with the help of Carl Jung).


8. 1984, George Orwell

The first book I ever had a physiological reaction to, Orwellʻs dystopia is coming true 30 years after itʻs due date. Think only of the terms that have entered the popular lexicon: double think, thought police, new speak, Big Brother – and their alarming relevance today.


9. Ruling Chiefs of Hawaiʻi, Samuel Kamakau

Number one on my Hawaiian list cracks the top ten here if only for its contribution to narrative style, incorporating genealogy into the tale in a way few book have (except maybe Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude).


10. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky 

Edgier than his counterpart Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky asks the existential question: why exist at all? His insights into the human psyche are nearly unrivaled.

The Second Team:

Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

Disturbingly cited in several murder attempts, Salinger seemed to capture the American hatred of phoniness – the originator of “keeping it real.”

The Stranger, Albert Camus

Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

I wrote about Lahiri’s novel The Lowland for Summit magazine, in which I quoted Interpreter of Maladies as an exemplar of her style.

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

By showing the precise moment of colonization, itʻs become the classic of African and postcolonial literature.

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

A kind of inverse of Achebe, Conrad shows the dark heart of the colonial project from the colonizer’s view, with its God-project and even the suffering it entails.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

The inverse of Orwell’s 1984 – the capitalist dystopia shows how pleasure, not just fear, can create a totalitarian state.

The Republic, Plato

The classic of political theory, Plato also hints at esoteric concerns with his parable of the cave.

Steppenwolf, Hesse

Honorable mention:

The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler

If  you wanted to know what the next 20-30 years held in store in 1980, you would have done well to read Toffler’s sequel to Future Shock. Some of his predictions, such as Mass customization – through 3D printing – are still coming true today.

Ishmael, Daniel Quinn

As I said in my post “The Generalists:”

Quinn’s Ishmael was a semi-underground cultural phenomenon. In its essence, it taught a generation of disillusioned seekers that the world isn’t here for us. This seems simple, but the amount of data that Quinn had to sift through in order to reach this conclusion was somewhat staggering.

Damien, Hesse

A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber

Below is Ken Wilber’s Integral map, which shows the four quadrants, or domains in which development (evolution) occurs. It is divided into sections based on the interior (thought, theory, ideas) and exterior (physical objects), individual and collective dimensions:


The Archivist, Martha Cooley

The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

Hawaiian Antiquities, David Malo

Renascence, Edna St. Vincent Millay

Anything by Erich Fromm

Anything by Carl Jung

As I said in my post on Jung (which is consistently one of the most read post on the universe):

Jung is best known for his ideas of archetypes, introversion and extroversion, and the collective unconscious. His method led to an entire Jungian school of practice, including the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. In some quarters, his mystical writings on topics like alchemy and synchronicity have made him a kind of Godfather of the new age movement. In Jung, we see the intersection of standard, accepted scientific practices and occult mysticism. Jung maintained his entire career, however, that he was a scientist, not a mystic.

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A page from Jung’s Red Book

Inner Christianity, Richard Smoley

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Power/Knowledge, Michel Foucault

Hawaiian Studies Professor Kalawaia Moore, a member of Building an Intellectual Culture, put Foucault’s Discipline and Punish on his list, and that’s probably the best of Foucault’s books, but Power/Knowledge is a more accessible collection.

Child of our Time, Miguel De Castillo

This one was very influential on me personally rather than a “classic” per se. It shows, as many of these great works do, that simply being with oneʻs family can be all one really needs from life.

Books that are supposed to be on a list like this but arenʻt:

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Woody Allen once said of its storied length:

I once took a course on speed reading and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia.

What can I say? Thereʻs a great miniseries happening right now, that I’m enjoying immensely.

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

Itʻs considered the first novel, but does that mean you have to read it? And why is it that the first novel is a satire?

Faust, Goethe

Most likely the only reason this isnʻt on the list is that Iʻm still reading it. Hereʻs a primer from Alain de Botton’s School of Life:

 Middlemarch, George Eliot

Iris Murdoch said this was her favorite novel, and she is one of my favorite novelists of all time. Thereʻs a bad movie version if youʻre interested.

 The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

The Guardian tell usNathaniel Hawthorne’s astounding book is full of intense symbolism and as haunting as anything by Edgar Allan Poe.

For a more mainstream reading list, see The Guardian’s “100 Best Novels Written in English:” 

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Public Schools that Work: Discussion with Amy Perruso, Part 2

I had been thinking about writing on public schools, particularly the ones that just seem to work. This got me thinking of doing a second discussion with Amy Perruso. Originally from Southern California, she is a graduate of USC. She is Social Studies department head at Mililani High School and has a Ph.D. in Political Science. She was recently elected as the Treasurer of the Hawai’i State Teachers Association (HSTA) on a progressive slate that is seen as a kind of upheaval that could lead to radical changes in the direction of the union. She is an award-winning teacher, recipient of awards from Walmart and the Hawai’i Council for Humanities History Teacher of the Year in 2012. Her students perform at a national level in History Day, Mock Trial and We the People, all of which are social studies civics and history competitions. She has taught, among other things, AP US History, Modern Hawaiian History and Participation in Democracy. We had a second chat on what works (and doesnʻt work) for public schools. You can read Part 1 of our discussion here.
UPDATE: Since this interview, Amy Perruso declared her candidacy as a progressive Democrat for the state legislature in District 19.
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Umi Perkins (UP): One thing thatʻs so strange about Hawaiʻi is that you can pay $1 million or much more for a house, and end up in a bad school district. On the “mainland” what youʻre paying for, often, is precisely the schools in the district. In Hawaiʻi, there are good public schools in moderate income communities. From what I can tell, Mililani High School is very successful across a range of academic measures, as well as athletic and scholastic competitions – you appear to be good at everything. Moanalua High School is similar, and both districts, which are moderate to middle income, are solid from elementary through high school. How do you account for this success, such as it is?
Amy Perruso (AP): I think there is a direct correlation between the relative success of the students in Mililani and their socio-economic status of their families. Not only did higher ‘original’ test scores when NCLB first rolled out buffer our Mililani schools from the most draconian measures for a long time, but those buffers (protection from intrusion of privatizing corporations like Edison, imposed mandated curricula, and hyper-control of teachers that pushed the most experienced and professional out of the classroom) continued to allow for exciting, interesting and student-centered approached to learning, focusing on inquiry and interdisciplinary exploration. This began to disappear even for us with Race to the Top. Any signs of academic excellence you now see are either echoes from the past or tightly tied to the corporatist neoliberal agenda.
UP: But that doesnʻt explain the relative mediocrity of other schools in affluent districts…
AP: I see your question. It is interesting and has everything to do with the ways in which public education is funded in Hawaii. We are funded not by property tax but primarily by General Excise Tax (GET). This a direct result of a historical refusal on the part of the socio-economic elite in Hawaii, beginning with plantation owners, to allow property taxes to be used for education of workers. In Hawaii, we have a radically segregated education system (public v. private), divided both along class and ethnic/racial lines. The public schools educate primarily the children of the ordinary worker, while private schools have flourished by appealing to more affluent families, especially in urban areas like Honolulu. Did you know that almost 40% of all school age children in Honolulu attend private school? From my perspective, children are the most important element of a school, and public schools in places like Honolulu are being robbed of a huge chunk of the children whose families are most focused on and supportive of education. We do not struggle with that problem as much in Mililani in part because of geographical distance from private schools.
UP: One more question (and itʻs admittedly a hard one): what do you see as the biggest challenge in Hawaiʻi public education and the best solution to this problem?
AP: I think that the most important problem facing public education is that we have unfortunately adopted of a model of educational reform that has been clearly debunked by international research. We need to move away, as rapidly as possible, from the model instantiated by NCLB, that is, a model based on competitive ranking, standardization, test-based accountability, deprofessionalization of teaching, and privatization. I agree with Pasi Salberg and other international advocates of progressive education who argue for investment in equity (not just excellence), collaboration and teams, time for play and creativity, existing and available innovation, and creating a culture that encourages resilience by celebrating the importance of risk-taking and failure. I think in Hawaii that means we have to do something we have never done before, and that is to fundamentally and systemically challenge the injustice of how young people in Hawaii’s public schools are being treated and educated, as if they don’t deserve the kind of education afforded to private school students.

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The Prison of Thought

This is an expanded version of a post I wrote on medium.com, a shared platform for bloggers.

I came to realize, as I began to understand capitalism, that money is a kind of prison. You’re only free when you can afford to break the rules. But as you build wealth, it is imperative that one follow the rules; be a miser, a Scrooge, sometimes in the extreme. Then it dawned on me that thought can be its own kind of prison. I used to think that even prison would not be such a bad fate as long as I had my thoughts. I realized as I spent more and more time at work, and less at school, that one of the insidious things about mental work (even of a menial variety), as opposed to physical work, is that it monopolizes one’s ability to mull things over, in short, to think.But then even “free” thought might not be so free. We become trapped in the frameworks that others create, over time.

The social theorist Theodor Adorno described modern culture as an open prison, in which seemingly free people censor themselves partly due to the “culture industry” of mass media, which established norms and constraints on behavior.

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Linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky

Linguist Noam Chomsky describes the way that the media engages in self-censorship as one in which the range of debate is narrowed, but within that narrow range very lively debate occurs. Chomsky explained how media control worked in a book of the same name:

… liberal democratic theorists and leading media figures, like, for example, Walter Lippmann, who was the dean of American journalists, a major foreign and domestic policy critic and also a major theorist of liberal democracy. If you take a look at his collected essays, you’ll see that they’re subtitled something like “A Progressive Theory of Liberal Democratic Thought. ” Lippmann was involved in these propaganda commissions and recognized their achievements. He argued that what he called a “revolution in the art of democracy,” could be used to “manufacture consent, ” that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for things that they didn’t want by the new techniques of propaganda. (Chomsky, Media Control, p.14)

Most Americans have no idea of the full range of political options available due to the two-party system. For Europeans, larger extremes are at least considered in their multi-party systems  – parties like the Green Party, Communists, Scottish Nationalists, Royalists and others have seats in Europeans parliaments (even though the results are often similar, with centrist parties usually forming the ruling coalitions).

Economically, the situation is similar. Finland’s plan to give all citizens a basic income, for example, is a kind of test of the freedom of thought. The idea that increasing productivity would free people from work was a prediction that was long in coming. Alaska, Brunei, some Indian nations have had basic income, but those are special cases, based on oil or some special status — Finland is the first country to do it that’s not some special case. We have been hamstrung by a capitalist logic of scarcity for so long that a trend that even Marx could see in mid-nineteenth century Britain is only now beginning to come to fruition. And if a basic income can free people from work, what does it free them to do? Among other things, to think more. And from that thought will come more ideas; a singularity of thought. This may be overstating the case, but as Slavoj Zizek put it, “don’t act, just think.”

 I also posted my piece “On Consciousness” on medium.com.

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End of Federal Recognition as Indian Tribe is beginning for “Real” Hawaiian Sovereignty – Williamson B.C. Chang

I took my UH Manoa students to Professor Williamson Chang’s class last week. I was surprised and honored to have Prof. Chang write a guest blog on a topic that couldn’t be more relevant right now – the seeming failure of Fed-Rec. Continue reading

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The Rule Change

The effort for Federal recognition of Native Hawaiians for the purposes of creating a governing entity went through three stages, or attempts: The Akaka Bill, direct recognition by the Department of Interior and the rule change.

Dept. of Interior (DOI) Hearings:

https://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/interior-considers-procedures-to-reestablish-a-government-to-government-relationship-with-the-native-hawaiian-community

In this latest (and what seems to be the most successful) attempt DOI looked to reestablish government-to-government relationship between Federal government and Native Hawaiian community. On June 18, 2014, the DOI stated,

The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) is considering whether to propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community, to more effectively implement the special political and trust relationship that Congress has established between that community and the United States. The purpose of this advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) is tosolicit public comments on whether and how the Department of the Interior should facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community. In this ANPRM, the Secretary also announces several public meetings in Hawaii and several consultations with federally recognized tribes in the continental United States to consider these issues.

Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell stated “The Department is responding to requests from not only the Native Hawaiian community but also state and local leaders and interested parties who recognize that we need to begin a conversation of diverse voices to help determine the best path forward for honoring the trust relationship that Congress has created specifically to benefit Native Hawaiians.” Public hearings throughout Hawaii, from June 23 to August 8, 2014, which I wrote about in the Nation magazine, asked 5 “Questions to be Answered:”

  1. Should the Secretary propose an administrative rule to recreate a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community?
  2. Should the Secretary assist the Native Hawaiian community in reorganizing its government?
  3. What process should be established for drafting and ratifying a reorganized Native Hawaiian government’s constitution or other governing document?
  4. Should the Secretary instead rely on reorganization through a process established by the Native Hawaiian community and facilitated by the State of Hawaii, to the extent such a process is consistent with Federal law?
  5. If so, what conditions should the Secretary establish as prerequisites to Federal acknowledgment of a government-to-government relationship with the reorganized Native Hawaiian government?
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Prof. Williamson Chang

On September 29th, 2015, the DOI released the rule change. UH Law Professor Williamson Chang released the following statement in response:

The Department of Interior issued its long awaited proposed rule as to a Native Hawaiian Governing body. It was not much. The Federal Government is giving very little. If this is the last word on the federal government and Hawaiians, from the point of view of the United States’ the history of Hawaii ends with a “whimper not a bang”
1. It starts by noting that only the written comments counted, not the vehement oral testimony.
2. It is premised on false history: At page 6 of the long document, it states the Republic of Hawaii ceded its lands to the United States and that Congress passed a joint resolution annexing the Hawaiian Islands. Accordingly, all that follows flows from a flawed premise: The United States acquired the Hawaiian Islands and has jurisdiction. Moreover, it claims that the United States has title to the crown and government lands.
3. Even so, it gives very little. It would make a consenting Native Hawaiian government “just like” a tribe, but not a tribe.
4. The law that applies to tribes would not apply to the Hawaiian entity. Congress would have to explicit[ly] write Hawaiians in to Indian programs—just as it is today. No gain.
5. It admits that the purpose of the proposed rule is to protect Hawaiians from constitutional attacks on Hawaiian-only entitlement programs. The Department of the Interior, however, does not control the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court would still be free to strike down Hawaiian only programs if it so desired.
6. The Hawaiian governing entity gets no lands by this proposal
7. The proposal does not affect Federal holdings or title to the Crown and Government lands.
8. There is to be no compensation for past wrongs.
9. The rule limits the Hawaiian government to Hawaiians only.
10. Only one Hawaiian government can establish a relationship with the Federal Government under this proposal.
11. It precludes federal recognition of a restored Kingdom of Hawaii, or Provisional Government that would become a State either as a Kingdom or any other.
12. The Hawaiian Government cannot be in violation of “federal laws” such as the prohibition on ‘titles” in the U.S. Constitution—thus no quasi-Kingdom either.
In summary—and this is from a very brief reading. I may be in error, I may have overlooked various important sections, but in the name of getting this to you as soon as possible. Here is the link to the proposal, its supporting documents and frequently asked questions.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking read:

The U.S. Department of the Interior is proposing to create an administrative procedure and criteria that the Secretary of the Interior would apply if the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government that then seeks a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States.  Under the proposal, the Native Hawaiian community — not the Federal government — would decide whether to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government, what form that government would take, and whether it would seek a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The proposal, which takes the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), builds on more than 150 Federal statutes that Congress has enacted over the last century to recognize and implement the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community.  The NPRM comes on the heels of a robust and transparent public comment period as part of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) process that began last year and included public meetings.  More than 5,000 members of the public submitted written comments to the ANPRM, and they overwhelmingly favored creating a pathway for re-establishing a formal government-to-government relationship.

Members of the Hawai’i Congressional delegation predictably responded in favor of the rule change, as did Governor Ige. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s statement was perhaps the most substantive:

Many indigenous groups in the U.S. have the right of self-determination, and today’s announcement acknowledges that that right also belongs to the Native Hawaiian people, one of the largest native communities in the country. These rules incorporate over 5,000 public comments submitted to the Department of Interior (DOI), and should they be adopted, the Native Hawaiian community will have the option to re-establish a unified government and self-determine their future relationship with the federal government. I encourage all interested parties to submit their comments to DOI during the 90-day public review period to ensure a collaborative final ruling.

The list of candidates for delegate to the constitutional convention was released by Na’i Aupuni the next day. It can be viewed here, but prominent candidates included John Aeto, Keoni and Louis Aagard, OHA trustee Rowena Akana, former Mayor Dante Carpenter, Prof. Williamson Chang, Jade Danner, Prof. Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, Senator Brickwood Galleria, Adrian Kamali’i, Sovereignty leader Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, Colin Kippen, Prof. Daviana McGregor, former OHA administrator Clyde Namu’o, and Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. director Moses Haia, among many others.

There is a question of whether the rule change gives the kind of legal protection that was the point of Federal recognition, or if it is merely a Federal sanction of a process already happening. The Hawai’i Independent ran a story questioning the validity of the rule change:

“We have to remember that this process started with the State of Hawai‘i, not the Hawaiian people,” [Andre] Perez told The Independent over the phone. “Hawaiians did not initiate or pass Act 195, which created Kana‘iolowalu. The state legislature did, and gave the governor the power to appoint members to the commission. True self-determination does not come with a state-initiated, state-controlled process like this.”

Keanu Sai happened to speak to my class the day after the rule change. As I pondered the question of whether this was a victory for the Fed Rec set, it seemed to have no effect on Sai’s view that it was simply more Federal legislation inapplicable in foreign (Hawaiian) territory.

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On Consciousness

This is number 5 in my “On” series. Others include On Capitalism, On Privilege, On Freedom and On Constitutionalism. Forthcoming: On Fear and On Democracy.

The philosopher Daniel Dennett tells a funny story: he says when he’s at a party and someone asks him what he does, and he says he’s a professor, their eyes glaze over. When he’s at a party of professors and one asks him what his field is and he says “philosophy,” their eyes glaze over. And when he’s at a party of philosophers, and one asks him what he studies and he says “consciousness,” their eyes glaze over. So the philosophy of consciousness is not something that inspires excitement in even the most scholarly among us, but I argue here that it is precisely where we’ve gone astray and is the solution to most of the problems we – the modern world – face.

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Daniel Dennett

I’ve written at some length about the idea of development, that is, that we change and grow over time. This is an idea about which most modern societies have some ambiguity; we both know and do not know that it is going on. We all know that children develop – that phases of development are natural and normal, and it is normal for your two year old to be self-centered in a way that would make an adult appear like a psychopath. But then we have the idea that development somehow stops at some magical age – between 18 and 21 – after which we are “all equal.” And yet we also know that this is not true, which is why you have to be 35 to be president of the United States, and no undergrads are tapped to be university presidents. What I’m saying is not new agery, but standard developmental psychology: development continues on throughout adulthood and most never come anywhere near the “end” point.

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Graham Hancock

But what I want to address here is not so much the level of consciousness, but the state of consciousness prevalent in the modern West (and increasingly, the East). I was prompted to this by a “banned” TED talk by Graham Hancock, who makes a strong case that there is something like a conspiracy against certain states of consciousness. Now Hancock holds that these preferable states are accessible through certain psychotropic plants – he is not the first I’ve heard say that it is highly likely that the substances used in the ancient mystery schools (of which Plato was probably a member) were psychotropic. I don’t condone the use of these substances, in fact I’m fairly neutral on them, but Hancock also argues persuasively that the societally approved drugs – particularly ones like caffeine and ritalin – promote a state that, while good for problem-solving, is not conducive to examining the moral questions we face. This may be why the “best and the brightest” of our societies have brought us the nuclear bomb, GMOs and a generally more dangerous world. They know “what” to do but not “why” it should be done – it shouldn’t.* This “rational” state that we are encouraged to remain in makes us good cogs in the gigantic machines we are all part of, thoughtlessly commuting to jobs that generally make the world worse.

It is my view that these preferred states are accessible without any substances; through introspection and perhaps meditation, though they probably do require the elimination of the “approved” substances and daily stresses. Hancock is quite compelling in his argument that the prevalent state of consciousness has created most of the problems we see around us and that they cannot be solved from that same state of consciousness, but require another.

  • For those who would accuse me of being anti-science: I’m not recommending going back to what was before science, but going beyond it – putting science into a larger framework which factors in moral considerations.

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On Freedom

This is number 3 in the “On” series. The first two are On Capitalism and On Privilege.

One thing I’ve noticed this year in particular is that when I explain to my students that according to a report out of Princeton, the United States is no longer a democracy, or when I show them an overview of the Kamehameha trustee scandal of the 1990s, it doesn’t seem to bother them. Can it be that they are growing up in a world in which freedom is no longer a given?

Robert Reich pointed out years ago that our newfound “freedoms” as consumers and investors (where choice really has increased) are counterbalanced by our increasing unfreedom where it really counts: at the ballot box.

We all think we know what freedom is, but do we? One person’s freedom often infringes on another’s. So John Stuart Mill gave us the most widely used definition that addresses this paradox: the greatest amount of freedom that does not infringe on the rights of others.

Slavoj Zizek is a theorist greatly concerned with freedom. Zizek warns us that our apparent freedoms are bound up in a complex set of conditions, that is, they are conditional.

There is a constant tension between freedom and security. Most people know that the US has moved steadily in the direction of security since 9/11.

But freedom, as Zizek hints at, is a tricky thing, and sometimes insecurity can be its synonym. Many advanced countries have found a reasonable balance between the security (financial security) of their citizens and their social freedoms.

For the US, this has been stifled by a political climate in which taxes have even been called a form of slavery (this is not normal, by the way, but quite an extreme position globally). It is precisely the tax burden in, say, Scandinavian countries, that allows the citizenry the time and leisure to be able to think in ways that are critical of the state. The perpetual motion required to survive in the US (and increasingly, in Britain) is a kind of bondage disguised as freedom.

Such a situation, in which one’s choices are constrained by economic dictates in a way that obscures the unfree nature of social life, amounts to a kind of colonization of the mind. It is perhaps for this reason that some are proposing a guaranteed minimum income, which, while sounding outrageous, has already been implemented in moderate ways in a few places (such as some Indian reservations). Such an income would free up time to prepare our minds for real freedom of a kind we have not yet known.

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The Ten Most Pervasive Myths about Hawaiian History

10. Hawaiian women in the Kingdom could not vote, so the constitution, and the country, was sexist

While it’s technically true the women couldn’t vote, this needs to be put into context: Lunalilo was thinking of universal suffrage in the early 1870s, but did not live long enough to achieve it (he did achieve universal male suffrage). Had he lived longer, Hawaiʻi may have been the first country to grant women the right to vote, because the official first country to do so was New Zealand in 1893! So, yes, women couldnʻt vote in the 1870s and 1880s – they couldnʻt vote anywhere in the world! In fact, women in the Hawaiʻi legislature (House of Nobles) could vote as early as 1840 – this is calmly reported in the main Hawaiian history textbook as if itʻs not a big deal, but it means that one might be able to argue that Hawaiʻi was, in fact, the first country to allow women (certain women) to vote.

9. Missionaries overthrew Hawaiʻi

Anyone who knows their Hawaiian history well at all knows this isnʻt true – not technically. None of the leaders of the overthrow were themselves missionaries. They were the sons and grandsons of missionaries, and often called the “Mission boys” – the “boys” of the missionaries – and colloquially “missionaries.” But none of them were actually missionaries because that wasnʻt the thing to do in their generation – they all became businessmen in sugar and related industries. The only exception was Hiram Bingham’s son, who became a missionary, but went to the South Pacific, and had no involvement with the overthrow. A related misconception (among those who have only a cursory knowledge of Hawaiian history) is that missionaries helped abolish the kapu system. Since they were climbing aboard a ship in Boston harbor when that happened, it’s impossible for them to have done so.

8. Hawaiians did not resist the overthrow or annexation

OK, this one is pretty well known to be false by now, but itʻs worth remembering that in the 1980s, Haunani-Kay Trask had to defend the idea of Hawaiian resistance, and could only refer to the lyrics of “Kaulana nā Pua” in support of the idea. Now, with the Kūʻē petitions, we see that not only did Hawaiian resist, they resisted nonviolently and violently (with the Wilcox rebellion). In other words, Hawaiians did everything possible to prevent annexation.

Aloha Betrayed by Noenoe Silva depicts the gathering of the petitions against annexation

Aloha Betrayed by Noenoe Silva depicts the gathering of the petitions against annexation

7. Kalākaua was powerless after the 1887 Bayonet Constitution.

Historian Ronald Williams Jr. has uncovered strenuous debates between Kalākaua and the legislature in which he pushes hard for returning power to the throne – quite a different King from the one commonly portrayed as a broken man.

King David Kalākaua (1874-1891)

King David Kalākaua (1874-1891)

6. The 1893 overthrow was “US-backed”

Louis “Buzzy” Agard has found evidence that the US planned the overthrow ahead of time. Agard found an encoded message (and then found the key!) from the State Department telling the USS Boston to attack ports in Hawaiʻi, ending in Honolulu. That makes it a straight-up US overthrow.

5. Kamehameha V was a despot

According to A. Grove Day in History Makers of Hawaii:

[Lot Kapuaiwa] believed that the example of his grandfather, KAMEHAMEHA I, gave him the right to lead the people personally, and favored a stronger form of monarchy that verged on despotism.

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This description comes partly from the period, when in 1864 “it appeared that a new constitution could not be agreed on, he declared that the Constitution of 1852 should be replaced by one he wrote himself” (Day, 1984, 70). But the power to do that was in the old constitution, and if one looks at the new Constitution, that power is absent. In other words, Lot had reduced his own power rather than increasing it. Members of the legislature thanked him afterward.

4. Pauahi was the last of the high-born Kamehamehas

The last of the high-born Kamehamehas was Albert Kūnuiakea, son of Kamehameha III. Albert seemed to be a persona non grata since he was “illegitimate” as the son of Kauikeaouli and Jane Lahilahi Young. This made him Queen Emma’s cousin, and the black sheep of that family. He was literally “the man would be be king,” that is, if the missionaries hadnʻt brought the notion of illegitimacy with them.

Albert Kūnuiakea (1852 - 1901)

Albert Kūnuiakea (1852 – 1901)

Think about it: he could have been Kamehameha IV, rather than Alexander Liholiho, and Albert lived into the twentieth century. So the son of Kamehameha III could have been king for 40 years by the time of the overthrow, making such an event much less likely. He is buried at Mauna Ala, recognition that he was a royal in the 20th century.

There are also many other descendants of Kamehameha – see the book Kamehameha’s Children Today.

3. Hawaiians lost their land in the Māhele

My own research, as well as that of Donovan Preza, Robert Stauffer and Keanu Sai, shows that Hawaiians co-created the “Western-modelled” land tenure system along with advisors, and that many Hawaiians learned the system, and had land (this is why Kamehameha V’s property requirement for voting is not as bad as it might look otherwise). Stuffer shows that they lost land mainly due to foreclosure after 1874 due to the non-judicial foreclosure law, which eliminated judicial oversight. Preza (The Empirical Writes Back, 2010) shows that the Māhele was a “necessary but not sufficient” condition for land dispossession. My research (Kuleana: A Genealogy of Native Tenant Rights, 2013) suggests that the land tenure system embedded Hawaiian rights in land rather than alienation Hawaiians from it.

2. A great majority of Hawaiʻi residents supported Statehood in 1959

Ron Williams wrote that Lamar Alexander, in 2006, expressed the commonly held view: “In 1959,94 percent of Hawaiians reaffirmed that commitment to become Americans by voting to become a State” (Williams, 2). He also shows that, while it may be true that the vast majority of Hawaiʻi residents who voted supported Statehood in 1959, only 132,000 people actually voted for Statehood – about one-fifth of the population at the time (20.7% to be precise). This is a far cry from 94%.

(See Williams, ʻOnipaʻa ka ʻOiaʻiʻo: The Truth is Steadfast)

Dean Saranillio also tracked anti-Statehood sentiment in his dissertation (Michigan, 2009) Seeing Conquest, noting that Kamokila Campbell had opposed statehood and in fact become a kind of mouthpiece for those who opposed it, but feared for the loss of their jobs or other repercussions. Campbell, who was part of the Kawananakoa family and became famous for saying “I am Hawaiʻi,” opposed “forfeiting the rights of natives of these islands for a thimbleful of votes” in Congress.

1. Annexation

That it happened. Without a treaty. Legally or illegally. This isnʻt as widespread these days as the others, but whatʻs at stake is obviously much, much greater than with the others. Those who say there was an “illegal annexation” neglect the fact that annexation is precisely the legal aspect of a conquest, thus it’s an oxymoron. Those who point to Supreme Court decisions neglect the fact (as I said in my debate with Ian Lind) that there were two countries involved, and one country’s court, no matter how supreme, simply does not have a say in the legality of their action – it is an international issue. Those who say international law does not exist fail to consider what other countries think when its understandings are violated (as with Iraq in 2003): could we be next? Whatʻs to stop the US or China from taking us over if there are no rules? That’s why these international norms are in place. China, in fact, seems to be on to the US occupation – in 2011, they said “we could claim Hawaiʻi,” to which then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton responded “weʻll prove we own it,” showing that she understood it was a challenge to the US occupation, not a threat to simply invade.

While some misconceptions have more impact than others, the cumulative effect of these, and many other myths (when combined with a plain and complete ignorance of Hawaiian history on the part of many) is to distort courses of action and decision-making processes. This is true even, and perhaps especially, among Hawaiians themselves.

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