In the film “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne” we meet 80-year old Doris who is awaiting trial for stealing jewelry from a store. We might be tempted to think that, at 80, it must have been hunger which drove her to such a desperate act… but we would be wrong to think so: Doris has made a lifelong career out of stealing jewelry and once stole a ring from Cartier’s in Monte Carlo worth $105,400! Over her 60-year career Doris has stolen more than $2 million worth of jewelry… and spent every cent of it! According to Doris: “I’m at my best when I’m in the jewelry department.” In the film a close friend of Doris’ says, “Me, you, Jesus… ain’t gonna stop her from doin’ it. She’s a woman who thinks fast on her feet.” One of the more astounding statements that Doris makes during the film is: “My being a thief has nothing to do with my moral fiber, it just has to do with my behavior.” Upon hearing that my jaw dropped and almost dislocated! The fact is that behavior arises out of the moral character of a person… but then moral character does not seem to be high on Doris’ list of priorities as another of her statements attests, “Do I regret being a jewel thief? No. Do I regret getting caught? Yes!”
I suspect that Doris is not the only thief with such sentiments. I am constantly amazed when the evening news presents yet another young person arrested for some offense against society, said young person manifesting complete befuddlement as to what they did wrong! In their view… they wanted to do it and did it, so what could be wrong about that? What this mindset evidences is a lack of a moral focus in the individual. To put it bluntly: Rampant Narcissism! This in-your-face attitude is distressing to see in our young. But I find hope in many of the young in Hawaii who are currently protesting the desecration of Mauna Kea with the building of yet another gigantic telescope… as if the 12 up there were not enough! At the core of Hawaiian cultural values is the understanding that what makes us most human is in living respectfully with Ke Kua, other people and the physical creation of which we are just one part. The Hawaiian protest on Mauna Kea is not a luddite reaction to science but rather a declaration that just because someone wants to do something, and can do it, does not mean that it should be done. In the Hawaiian view: What’s next… a Mauna Kea Walmart?!
At the end of Doris’ trial, and despite her advanced age, Doris is sentenced to 5 years in prison since the Judge is convinced that nothing short of prison will put an end to her 60-year career. Due to over-crowding in the prison, and I guess her advanced age, she serves only 2 and a half years of her sentence and gets released. The film ends with Doris back behind bars again, at 83, for Felony Grand-Theft for stealing a $22,000 diamond ring. The moral of the story, boys and girls, is that what takes root in us at a young age becomes our moral compass. I applaud the Hawaiians who are staying true to the moral compass of the Hawaiian values of Respect, Responsibility, and the interconnectedness of our all being one family, one ʻOhana!