In the early morning hours of May 10th 2001 I left my monastery and re-entered ordinary civil society. Having come “back out into the world” I immediately became aware of anger all around me: drivers who ride one foot behind you because you’re not going fast enough to suit their taste, people in line at the store who deal disrespectfully with the cashier because they don’t like the prices, rage with stock clerks when the desired item is unavailable. For those first few days I existed in a state of stunned disbelief! It felt as if all civilizing restraints had been dissolved and it was officially OK to be self-centered and narcissistic! Most distressingly of all was this had become the new normal for society. I thought, “What have I done?!”
During these past eleven years of being “back” I have wondered about the Hawaiian experience of dealing with all of this anger that comes to their shores with the tourists. Since tourism is such an integral part of the economic life of Hawaiʻi today, what do you do with all of these angry hāʻole stomping all over your precious ʻāina, customs, culture and values? For those who live in Hawaiʻi it must be somewhat like having teenagers come and party while the parents are away and then having to deal with the wreckage afterwards! I observed that some in the current Sovereignty movements are approaching this by way of separation, by removing themselves from present-day Hawaiian laws and organizations… somewhat like a secular form of retreating to a monastery. Their anger is understandable. Who wouldn’t be angry seeing what you value so much being devalued by the actions of others? However if the Sovereignty people really want to move Hawaiʻi in the desired direction then they need to stop retreating and instead become more involved in Hawaiian Society’s structures as they exist today.
In other words… work from within the structures in order to change their outward form. Sovereignty people need to become elected government officials who can work at changing current Hawaiian laws to a more desirable end. Some need to become judges so that a more Hawaiian, less hāʻole justice might be dispensed. Some need to become more immersed in owning shops and in running businesses that become important to the daily lives of Hawaiians. In this way they and their values become so enmeshed in Hawaiʻi’s daily life that they begin to change the culture from within. It seems to me that an approach more subtle than Mainland anger and illegal acts is called for. If the Sovereignty movement wishes to save Hawaiian culture then they need to embrace it as it exists today and guide it from within, and stop trying to influence it from the fringes.