Tag Archives: Department of Interior

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.


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First Hearing: Dept. of Interior – Honolulu

This is a quick summary of what I was able to catch from the June 23rd  hearing. 

At the Capitol building today, the independence movement was out in force. I had the sense that support independence was growing, but it was hard to back up with numbers. Even the petition supporting Kamanaʻopono Crabbe, the closest thing to a referendum on independence, topped out at twenty-eight hundred. But today seemed to show that independence is gaining a kind of consensus support – either that, or independence supporters like attending hearings.

I will say that to the Department of Interior’s (DOI) credit, the last hearing on Federal recognition was in 2001 – in thirteen years this was the first hearing on the issue.

The trick with the rule change proposed by the DOI is that most Hawaiians, even most fervent independence supporters, favor protecting existing entitlements. So how can that be done while preventing a Federal recognition government from forming? Paraphrasing a statement from Movement for Aloha No ka ʻĀina (MANA), Professor Jonathan Osorio had what I thought was the best solution to this predicament: Interior should protect entitlements directly without forming a government-to-government relationship with the native Hawaiian community.

A talking point sent out by Hawaiian Kingdom blog seemed to have reached a broad audience. A fairly large proportion of those giving testimony asked “by what authority is the Interior Department here?” Almost verbatim.

I wasn’t present for the entire hearing, but while I was there, only two spoke in favor of the rule change – one was Native Hawaiian Roll Commissioner Naʻalehu Anthony, who said that while he and Governor Waiheʻe were well aware of the historical issues others raised, he wanted the issue to stop with his generation. He stated, to applause, “I no like just leave this for my son.” He recalled being at similar hearings as a child. Another was a woman working in an industry related to tourism. She emphasized the need for a strong economy underlying a sovereign government and urged a respectful discourse. Apparently, Collette Machado spoke in favor, sparking a spontaneous outbreak of the national anthem  Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī.

When Andre Perez asked how many people were involved in the prior nation-building efforts, at one point only OHA trustees raised their hands.

Both Henry Noa and Prof. Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua questioned the “reestablishing of a relationship” between the two governments, when no relationship existed other than the treaty relationships with the Kingdom. Goodyear-Kaʻōpua called the process a small first step, but asked DOI to recognize that “you are on our land.” She also proposed free, prior and informed consent and neutral international monitoring. Several also reminded DOI that Hawaiʻi was a neutral, multi-ethnic country whose non-native citizens were being disenfranchised.

The reaction of the panel was difficult to discern, since they did not speak, but when told that they were “pawns” of their government, one speaker commented on the expressions of the panel, which seemed dubious.

Laulani Teale and Liko Martin sang their testimony

Laulani Teale and Liko Martin sang their testimony

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