Tag Archives: reconciliation

Reconciliation revisited

What I would have said at the Hoʻokuʻikahi Reconciliation service on Jan. 17 if I’d had more time:

The great psychologist Carl Jung said:

There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything to avoid facing their souls.

I noted in my talk at St. Andrew’s Cathedral that it felt strange at first to be addressing a topic as seemingly secular as sovereignty in that space. But I soon realized that reconciliation isnʻt secular at all – it is about consciousness. Reconciliation is about consciousness because it requires the taking on and consideration of other perspectives. This taking on of new perspectives, according to Integral theorist Ken Wilber, is the very definition of “cognitive,” which is why much of the anti-intellectualism that runs through the spiritual movement is misplaced.

When organizing the service, Kahu Dr. Kaleo Patterson used a phrase that caught my attention: “mindful nationalism.” It caught my attention because Iʻve always found the use of the term nationalism in the Hawaiian movement somewhat alarming. People who are familiar, or who can remember the horrors of the nationalist movements of the early- and mid-twentieth century would find the term even more alarming. So the descriptor “mindful” is absolutely crucial here – it makes clear that ours will not be the mindless nationalism of so many independence and regime changing movements. It sets into the record that we will not use easy lines of division to exclude people from the nation that is being built here (even OHA uses the term nation-building), or perhaps restored.

The consciousness required of such a mindful nationalism requires development: conscious(ness) change over time. Developmental psychology shows that people, given a reasonably healthy social environment, develop (or “evolve”) over time in predictable ways that begin to include larger and larger groups into their “circle of self.” The prevailing mode in the social sciences and humanities – postmodernism – deconstructs hierarchies, and being sequential, development could be considered a hierarchy. This “flattening” of the social landscape creates what Robert Bly has called the “sibling society” – a society in which everyone is on the same level. Without parents, there is no agreement in such a society that some people, over time, gain true wisdom. Our culture’s obsession with youthful bodies has as its parallel an obsession with youthful (immature) consciousness. Witness reality TV, in which self-serving avarice is considered a virtue.

Partly because of this flattening, both sides of the political spectrum have become materialistic, but in different ways. Thought it claims to be spiritual, and likely is (in its own strange way) the right is pretty literally materialistic: it is the party of business, and its God wants you to be rich (this explains why the US is the only developed country that is both wealthy and religious). The left is materialistic in a different way: there is a Marxist thread throughout it that sees historical materialism as a driving force of history. The material history of class struggle is  history itself. “History is the history of class struggle,” as Marx put it.

Because both sides are materialistic, progressive communities of faith are quite rare (religious but not materialistic in either of the ways described above). This is why, in my opinion, they comprise the majority of the small group of people occupying the “higher” levels of consciousness which we would all strive to reach, if only we knew they existed. In other words, science and modernity itself can put up obstacles to development. (This is not true in all cases, in fact, most of the notable quantum physicists were mystics).

When one can be driven by both the naʻau (literally “gut”, intuition) and the naʻauao (intelligence, enlightened consciousness), it is a profound state for effective decision-making and eventual reconciliation.


Leave a comment

Filed under Hawaiian history, intellect

Reconciliation Redux

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.


Ian McIntosh

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.


Filed under Globalization, Hawaiian history, intellect