A Maori warrior, instructing a young boy on how to fight an enemy, said: “First, make them angry; this causes them to lose focus.” We nod our heads in agreement with the wisdom of this advice, knowing it to be true to life. The problem is that anger is, to some extent, alluringly satisfying, and anger that conflates into rage can be utterly intoxicating! And yet, when we have worked ourselves up over something… a political election, a conflict somewhere, a person… fury generally accomplishes very little, and often burns the whole village to the ground! In the end the Maori warrior is right: without focus our efforts are largely wasted. One might counter this with, “So… what?… I’m supposed to do nothing about the things that make me angry?!” The fact is that there are options in life other than just the black-or-white ones, options other than rage and destruction, options whose destination is a mystery to us. Sometimes, however, when Life pulls into the station we have to get on board whether or not we know where it is going, and yet… as time goes on even the wrong train can bring us to the right station, if we take the journey with the right mindset!
Sometimes, it’s not the things that we do to address a problem that are important, but the way in which we do them. I am encouraged by the current native Hawaiian stance to the ongoing Mauna Kea conflict, an intensely felt conflict which has not erupted into rage, even though some of the participants no doubt feel something akin to that intensity! On Mauna Kea there already exist 13 giant telescopes, and the current conflict centers around the erection of yet another telescope on the ‘aina! To state that Mauna Kea is a mountain on the Big Island is like saying that one’s Grandmother is a woman. It states the fact but not, for Hawaiians, the relationship to the heart. As Hawaiians see it, those who want to build this telescope ignore the fact that Hawaiians look upon Mauna Kea as a sacred place and not just as some kind of ordinary piece of real estate. The plain fact of the matter is that the principles by which Hawaiians have always lived are in direct opposition to the buying-and-selling orientation of the current business world, and telescope #14 is… as Hawaiians see it… yet the latest instance of crass commercialism pushing to triumph over the Hawaiian sense of the sacred. For many native Hawaiians sacredness is not simply a concept. It is a lived experience of oneness and connectedness uniting the physical and the spiritual realms. For Hawaiians Mauna Kea is sacred, as sacred as any western temple, and… as Kealoha Pisciotta has said, “You can’t make war in a temple, therefore the reality of this conflict calls for the protests to be conducted with aloha.” Since the guiding principle of Aloha is that of reverence and respect, the Hawaiian protest on Mauna Kea has a very Mahatma Gandhi character to it: peaceful protest, non-violent non-cooperation, sit-ins, even the exchanging of Aloha with police before being arrested!
Nonetheless, many Hawaiians do feel some degree of anger concerning the erection of this new telescope. The heat of this conflict, on the Hawaiian side, is fed by the reality that with the blatantly illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on January 17th, 1893 by American businessmen, Hawaiians experienced loss of control over their own home. The current controversy of Mauna Kea has nothing to do with a Hawaiian luddite reaction to science, as some have asserted; rather, it is the clash of two diametrically opposed worldviews: the non-Hawaiian business model which views the world as a large store in which everything is able to be sold and bought, and the Hawaiian mindset which views the physical world… us included… as being a sacred extension of The Divine. For Hawaiians the mountains, the land, and the sea are all Ohana (family) of which we are merely another member; therefore, to view Mauna Kea as simply a great place to erect another telescope, simply because we can, is like viewing one’s Grandmother as a commodity to be sold on the open market!
My prayer for the Hawaiian people is that this struggle might make them ever more conscious of those values which most define themselves, and that even if they feel rage they might not lose focus on two ancient Hawaiian values: Reverence and Respect.