In 2004 on my first flight to Hawaiʻi as we approached the islands US Department of Agriculture Declaration Cards were given out for all passengers to fill in. When I saw the list of plants and animals forbidden to be brought into the Islands I became aware of how seriously Hawaiʻi takes the threat of invasive plants, bugs, animals and even bacterial cultures! Invasive species move in and kill off or drive out the local populations… somewhat as did the early American business interests which drove out the Monarchy. Living on the Mainland plants and animals just go where they can because they can! The difference between the Mainland and the Islands is that on the Mainland these species have an entire continent to conquer whereas each island in Hawaiʻi would simply seem like a small backyard!
Kudzu is known as “The Vine That Ate The South!” This weed is completely out of control in the Mainland South and forms a dense tangle of vines that scramble up and over anything that doesn’t move out of the way! It was introduced in 1876 at the Japanese Pavilion of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and people in the South started planting it around their porches. In no time at all this demon-weed took off from the porches and took over houses, trees, cars… anything in its path! Hawaiʻi is acutely aware of the dangers of invasive plants, bugs and animals… but what about the danger of an invasive mindset which is antithetical to the values of the Hawaiian mindset? The Hawaiian mindset places a heavy emphasis on respect (for others, for land, for heritage), living responsibly (kuleana) and on relationships within the ʻOhana as well as those extended throughout the Hawaiian society. And then there is the emphasis of Aloha toward all.
The invasive mindset that I have in mind is that of the Mainland with its emphasis on “I have the right to do whatever I want and no one has the right to tell me that I can’t pursue fulfilling my desires”, on its “Gospel of Me” (versus Hawaiʻi’s understanding that “me” only exists within the context of “us”) and on the pursuit of Business at ALL costs to land, people or culture! If this sounds a bit like Chicken Little hysteria all one has to do is to look at the high-end stores on Kalākaua Avenue in Waikīkī to see that the kudzu of Mainland’s mindset has already arrived in the Islands! What will this mean for Hawaiʻi’s culture? Given time and an unconscious acceptance of Mainland values will it become “The Mindset That Ate Hawaiʻi?”