And it’s a luxury to be able to do so. This is a blog post about writing, and cancer, and life, written by a person with that luxury. Others are not so fortunate.
In the summer of 2017, a palm reader in Pahoa said to me, “Oh, I see you’ve had cancer.” We had hardly spoken ten words, I didn’t know her or anyone who knew her and she didn’t know me. She was staring at my hand, not my face. And she was right. I had been diagnosed with melanoma in 2009. No one in my family seemed to care very much about that or understand how scary that was for me. I went through that scare with no emotional support whatsoever. But why do I think that cancer happened?
In 2004 I had hiked for a week on Hawai’i Island. It was a huaka’i (spiritual journey) along the paths of na poe kahiko (people of old), led by cultural practitioners. We did ceremony on the summit of Mauna Kea and the next day we began our journey with a hike through part of Pohakuloa live-fire military area. (Don’t stray from the trail to shishi–live ordnance is a real danger!) Then we hiked across the saddle of the island, a place where the lava was so old and worn that it’s smooth and flat as bathroom tiles. We visited the sacred Ahu A ʻUmi Heiau and then crossed part of the Judd Trail. That night we camped in what was once known as Pine Trees Camp on Hualalai. We’d hiked about seventeen miles that day.
During that first day in the center of the island, among the three mountains of Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Hualalai, a surprising thing happened to me–one of those truly inexplicable things–and others saw it happen too. I knew then that this journey was indeed a spiritual one, and it was going to be one of the most significant episodes of my life.
The rest of the week we hiked down along the Kona and Ka’u coastline, often using the old stepping stone trail made of rounded rocks carried by na poe kahiko, placed on top of the rugged ‘a‘ā and pahoehoe lava. We had many, many adventures that week. Some were actually frightening. Other results of that hike had a devastating, lasting impact on my personal life. I made some choices I now regret.
But back to cancer. I wore wire-framed sunglasses during that week-long hike. I wore sunscreen and prevented overall sunburn, but the Kona Coast sun was so hot that the frames heated enough to burn my cheekbones. No one ever told me wire-framed sunglasses could be a hazard on the Kona coast! I believe that the melanoma that showed up several years later was directly related to that burn, as it was on that exact spot. Fortunately, the dermatologist caught it early and while I now have twice-annual mole checks, and routinely have cryosurgery for keratosis spots, melanoma hasn’t come back. So, yes, the palm reader/psychic was completely correct. I’d had cancer.
Then she told me that I’d have another “cancer scare” in a few years, but to not worry. It would be only a scare. Yesterday, a medical procedure found that colon cancer was not part of my picture after all. So, a resounding “huzzah” for that. The scare was only a scare.
That palm reader had a lot of other things to say. For example, she saw I would be moving soon. True ‘dat! I was about to put my Pahoa house on the market. I’d been living there since January 2016 and it had been a mistake to move there. I was more than ready to get back to my (adult) kids and the friends I’d left behind in California. The palm reader had other odd, disconnected, and strangely precise facts and predictions for me, all of which were or have been true so far. She seemed genuinely talented in psychic arts. However, she did not comment on my writing.
By that time, I was at least nine months into the first of my Guild of Ornamental Hermits books, set in Hawai’i. I was deeply into my characters, who they were, what they did. They were becoming like family to me. And the setting of the book, Pahoa in the Puna District of Hawai’i Island, was like a farewell postcard to a place I’d truly loved, but also a place where I didn’t belong.
Writing this blog and my books (now there are four of them!) has been one of the primary reasons I’ve been able to endure a divorce; four household moves since 2016; a bad break-up with another significant other in Hawai’i; some horrible family turmoil (some still ongoing); the utter loneliness and isolation of the pandemic, living in a rural county with little to offer; a coming out that wasn’t entirely supported by certain members of my family (including a queer family member); worsening health; and the prospect of upcoming surgeries. If it weren’t for my cats and my kids, a few dear friends, and my books, I might not have made it to 2022. However, I was able to escape Lake County last August (thanks to the help of some wonderful friends) and living in a new home and community now has also helped immeasurably.
In fact, all would have been quite rosy this year except for (1) the cancer scare, (2) my upcoming surgery for a chronic condition, and (3) an estrangement that sits smack dab in the middle of my life like a bottomless pit. It is an estrangement of the cruelest kind, effected in a viciously callous and cowardly manner. Daily, and sometimes hourly, I have to navigate around it so as to not fall in. I’m at the point where I’m either going to have to build a bridge from one end of that yawning chasm to the other end, or put it all on display and start charging admission to The Pit as a gothy relic of despair.
There’s a huge sinkhole I visited once, part of a funky resort property in the Puna district, a place riddled by lava tubes and underground caverns. A part of the forest suddenly caved in, becoming an abyss with crumbling, unstable edges. In my book, I have just such a pit appearing suddenly in Hermitville. I wrote about the sinkhole, never imagining I’d acquire an (emotional) one of my own. In some ways, the books have been as prescient as the palm reader!
Even so, writing has been my respite from turmoil. My characters have been my medicine as well as the community I wish I had. They’ve also been my amusement and sometimes even my teachers. If I’d had a cancer diagnosis yesterday, I was prepared to barrel on through the last part of the fourth book no matter what. I still intend to do so, but now I’ll be doing it with a lighter lease on life, at least for now.
Aside from doing something about that horrid pit, there’s nothing I want more than to deliver my characters, as a literary midwife, and present them and their stories to the world. And I want to live with some joy now, alive to pluck the ripening figs and plums from my trees, in this summer’s harvest. And to live to write, even more than I am writing now.
Okay, so the neighborhood bear broke my favorite red flowerpot in the middle of the night and traumatized the geranium that was barely holding on. And the turkey flock who takes over my yard at least twice a day, pecking for bugs or raiding the outdoor cat’s food dish, scrapes and scratches the crab grass to bits (not that I much care). Flocks of quail skitter through as well, never any trouble. Someone spotted a family of foxes the other day, and so now I’m worried about the feral kittens I’ve just taken on…
As “difficult” as I might find my animal relatives from time to time (black widow spider, do you really need to make your web in the coil of my garden hose?) I am sure it’s nowhere near as difficult as they find me–us–humans. As a species we are clearly beyond insane and every single creature on this planet probably suffers from Post-Human Trauma Syndrome. I am not joking.
But I am pleased by my visitors, even the clumsy bear. And the earth is generous to me. I eat from this land. My neighborhood is fed by a spring–a real, living spring!–and I bless it every day. I feel emotionally held by the trees, mountain, and lake that I see from my window and greet each morning. And I believe that this act of greeting is what allows me to engage with them in a deeper way. This engagement leads to communication (I think) which engenders respect (at least on my end), which transforms into reverence (from me) for most of what’s around me. (I’m not feeling much reverence for the neighbors who were arguing loudly yesterday afternoon.)
As a child, I think I lived this way naturally. Then I forgot it for a long time. And now near the end of my life, I’m relearning and living this way again. I’m cultivating this life with devotional practices, so what I do can look a little quaint. I don’t mind. For a long time, I’ve been seeking some way to live reverently.
Yearning for Justice and an Earth-Reverent Life
Except for the uber-rich and the sociopaths who fancy themselves at the top of corporate and governmental “food chains,” I feel that many of the rest of us humans are longing for reverence. We want to get back into balance, back to a state of what the Kanaka Maoli would call “aloha ‘aina” (loving the land). We want people, plants, animals, and our planet to be treated fairly again. We need to learn how to deal fairly with all that is, ourselves.
I suspect that a yearning for an Earth-reverent life as well as justice are reasons that Mauna Kea and its Protectors (Kia’i) have become an international flashpoint this summer. Thinking and feeling people (not those who are lumpish with greed and glutted with power) see how bad it’s gotten and how much worse it can and will get. Unless… unless… unless we come together. Unless we learn how to make community again–if we live among people where such skills are rusty–and to include the Earth and its creatures in that community, as equals and stakeholders. We need a world where our mountains, forests, rivers, deserts, lakes, species, and oceans are “people” too, with legal rights. (Corporations are just golems. They shouldn’t have rights at all.)
The animists are right, you know. All matter is imbued with consciousness. Studies show…
As for justice, we also need to ensure that legal human rights are strictly observed as well, that the rights of indigenous and aboriginal peoples are upheld and strengthened. It’s a key element in the only positive future we can possibly achieve. The health and safety of every human, every creature on this planet, and the planet itself depends on our taking this very, very seriously.
And it’s imperative that those who make a request of a mountain or a lake–or an indigenous or aboriginal community–learn to take “no” for an answer, if that’s the answer that’s given. Because you know what? Consent counts. It really does. And no amount of wheedling or PR spin can change that. TMT guys are coming on like rapists, frankly, and their “you know you want it” approach to the mountain is disgusting to the rest of us.
This stunning short film, featuring Jason Momoa and a number of the Mauna Kea Kia’i, makes these issues abundantly clear, in case it wasn’t clear enough already.
Love of Place
Almost every Hawaiian mele (song) and oli (chant) is either about a beloved place, or includes references to beloved places. Almost every single one. Places aren’t “just” locations for family and community life, they ARE family. That’s as near as I can express it. I think I’ve got it nearly right.
Other examples of passionate love of place: I think of the French writer Colette, who wrote so movingly about the countryside of her childhood.
I’ve always been deeply affected by places I’ve lived, even if briefly. I attach to houses and landscape features very easily and mourn when I have to leave them. Themes of exile and homesickness are strong in my life, and these feelings of longing are often unbearable. I still miss “Nemo’s Rock” in the Coronado tide pools and the houses on Loma Avenue and Loma Lane, not far from the beach. I deeply mourn the cottage across from La Jolla Cove (below) where I lived as a teenager (it’s now demolished). I remember the light and feel of the air in La Jolla so vividly that I’ve cried over it. Certain places where I’ve lived in San Francisco and Albany also still clutch at my heart. I dearly miss the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I used to go there in the early morning, after dropping my first kid off at preschool, and sip green tea in the teahouse. Sometimes rain would dapple the koi ponds.
But the island of O’ahu gave me my first experience with exile and homesickness. When I was five I lived on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki. Though my family was there for less than a year, the feel of the ocean water, the sand beneath my feet, flowers and trees, and the sight of the Ko’olau Range east of Honolulu, all were absorbed by my soul. Later, I must have buried my yearning for Hawai’i as surely as I squashed feelings of missing my father. I say that because my yearning roared to life when (1) I saw the Hokule’a voyaging canoe when it visited San Francisco, and (2) when I returned to the islands with a series of visits starting in 2000–first Maui, then Hawai’i island. On Maui and Hawai’i I experienced a bewildering assortment of numinous and healing experiences. These were confusing because I have no genealogical connection to explain them. For many years, I felt like I was living with one foot in California, the other in Hawai’i.
I moved to Hawai’i Island in 2016, living on Mano Street in Pahoa for seventeen months. Even though I moved there with the expectation of being happy “at last,” it was a bad time for me. I had post-divorce crazies, terrible social anxiety and depression, frequent suicidality, and a longtime love affair gone wrong. But in that house on Mano Street, I began my inquiries into magic, refined my polytheism, and began to cultivate spirit relationships through devotional practices. It’s ironic. I’d prayed for so long to be allowed to move to Hawai’i, and once I was there, I prayed fervently for permission to leave. When I finally got my dismissal from the Powers there, I made the most costly and physically devastating move of my life.
But would it surprise you if I told you that now I miss my house and the Puna district? I miss the thirty-foot tall hibiscus trees dripping red blossoms on all three sides of my yard. I miss the ‘ohia lehua trees. I miss the spaciousness of my house, its high ceiling and large windows that looked out on jungle all around me. I miss my “difficult” and noisy neighbors: the shrill coqui frogs and gutteral cane toads. I miss picking up fallen coconuts; the “bathtubs” of morning rain dumped on my metal roof (which scared the cats until they got used to the noise); wild orchids and ti plants; the Ahalanui Warm Ponds (covered with lava now); the young coconut grove and view of the ocean from Kalapana, just across from Uncle Robert’s place. I miss driving the Red Road from Hawaiian Beaches past the “Four Corners.” I miss Mauna Loa and Kilauea. And yes, I miss Mauna Kea.
I believe it is natural for human beings to cherish the soil where they live, and to feel kinship with it.
So you see, Mauna Kea, is a cherished ancestor, as well as a beloved place, so how could the Kanaka Maoli ever consent to simply hand it over to people who have no reverent life at all? And why should the Kanaka have ever been asked this in the first place? Why should we ask them to break their hearts simply at the whim of a science that could go elsewhere?
This last month has felt bifurcated. On the one hand, I was finishing up two important acts of devotional service for the Norse Loki Laufeyjarson, my patron deity, and on the other hand I was called into service on behalf of Mauna Kea and Poliahu, its goddess of the snow.
I know. It sounds weird, doesn’t it?
I guess that’s just how it rolls in polytheism, especially when you work with deities from different pantheons. Bifurcation, trifurcation, whatever-furcation!!!
In my most recent work for Loki, of course I’m referring to the LokiFest Online conference and the completion of work on Loki’s Torch, an anthology of devotional work. I’m now experiencing a post-project “let down” (I hear that’s normal) with only vague intimations of what’s coming up next.
In my work on behalf of sacred Mauna Kea, I’m referring to signal boosting and writing, as an ally from afar. And of course I’m not going to stop finding ways to pass along information about the cause. It’s also a gift to connect once again with the spirit of Kapu Aloha, as exemplified by the Mauna Kea Kia’i (protectors). I so want them to win!
The above is background for an unexpected grace that’s emerged in these last few weeks. I had thought that my incongruous relationship with the “powers” of Hawai’i had been severed back in 2017, and I’ve felt a sense of exile, and a vague shame, ever since. Finding that connection fanned into life again, as part of a “call” for everyone to show up for the Mauna and for the Kanaka Maoli, has been healing. All I had ever wanted, really, was to be of use to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i).
And why is that?
Because, starting the early 2000’s, Maui and Hawai’i islands whammed me with a spiritual epiphany and then bestowed substantial healing for my environmental illness. I have no idea why, but it happened and I benefited. In return, I pledged to do whatever I could for Hawai’i as a “give-back.” I’ve often been clumsy in how I went about this, and have stumbled on the paving stones of “good intentions” as I travel my personal “road to Hel.” But I did try to keep my vow even when looking (and acting) the fool. I guess it feels good to have another opportunity to potentially contribute.
Years later, Loki also saved my life, coming to me during a time of utmost despair and shame. I made a vow to him too, oathing myself to him and his service. However he understands that I’ve also got previous commitments. He graciously stepped to the side as Mauna Kea came front and center on July 15th. (Besides I was still doing his work, as well.)
Come to think of it, I’m no stranger to bifurcation (trifurcation, whatever-furcation!). I’ve straddled worlds and juggled distinctly different viewpoints and approaches as a parent, in my romantic relationships, in my career, and in my creative work and spiritual quests. I’m always in exile, never entirely at home. Yet, there are common themes with all of this. But maybe only I can see, from my own peculiar vantage point, how it makes sense for me to honor deities of both the Norse and Hawaiian pantheons, as long as my offerings are acceptable.
My favorite Loki artist, Sceithailm on Deviant Art (aka Sceith-A), often depicts Loki as shod on the right foot, shoeless on the left, walking between worlds. How lucky I am to be at last with a deity who understands. My own right foot walks the Midgard realm known as Turtle Island. My left foot–apparently–never really did leave the ‘aina.
What follows is more “Lord of Misrule” than Kapu Aloha, but I hope I will be forgiven my foray into politically satirical lyrics regarding issues in Hawai’i. Years and years ago I re-wrote the lyrics to O Danny Boy as O Danny Boys, O Danner Girls with the help of Aunty Puanani Rogers. This was a reference to U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka and HI State Senator Daniel Inouye trying to ram the “Akaka Bills” through the U.S. federal government, as well as some other shenanigans. Puanani sang our song at Thomas Square for La Ho’iho’i Ea (Restoration Day) in 2004–the same day I was literally at the summit of Mauna Kea while a certain activist and his friends flew the Hawaiian Kingdom flags in the spirit of joyful and determined resistance.
Today is Restoration Day. It was celebrated in Thomas Square in Honolulu last weekend, as well as many other locations. I am sure that the upwelling of international support for the Mauna Kea Protectors (Kia’i) added zest to the occasion. La Ho’iho’i Ea celebrates a time when England “gave back” the Hawaiian Kingdom after a low-ranking military doofus “took” it for several months.
Anyway, back in 2014, after the TMT officials were confronted, and the “groundbreaking” was stopped, I wrote these lyrics to the tune of The Fugs’ CIA Man.
As I said, it’s satire–and far more “Berkeley” in spirit than anyone on the Mauna would want it to be. But every now and then, some people might want a bit of snarky humor, off mountain. So, I release these lyrics to the world. Public domain, y’all.
(Disclaimer: This is commentary from a layperson. I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, though I am in a helping profession. I know what it’s like to support resilience and wellness in people who’ve been damaged in certain ways. And I’ve had my own personal encounters with narcissists.)
If corporations are legally “people,” why can’t they can be assessed for pathological behavior when they damage others?
The other day I created a “thought experiment” in which I discussed the impact of a fictitious golem or “Frankenstein’s monster“–called “The Abuser,” an artificial construct made of all things TMT (the project, corporation, public relations efforts, funders, strategies, actions, intentions, etc.) Though the golem is imaginary, the effects and patterns I described were all too real.
Today I’ll simply call this being “Mr. TMT.” And I’m putting him on the couch because I’m tired of watching him run amok.
Does Mr. TMT exhibit any of the nine traits of narcissism?
Narcissism is one of several diagnosable “personality disorders.” There are a plethora of books and websites to help people identify patterns of behavior for each type. The Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), created by the American Psychiatry Association, lists nine criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), but consistent demonstration of five of them will allow a diagnosis.
Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder, according to the DSM-5, exhibit five or more of the following, which are present by early adulthood and across contexts:
• A grandiose sense of self-importance • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love • Belief that one is special and can only be understood by or associate with special people or institutions • A need for excessive admiration • A sense of entitlement (to special treatment) • Exploitation of others • A lack of empathy • Envy of others or the belief that one is the object of envy • Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes
Individuals with NPD can be easily stung by criticism or defeat and may react with disdain or anger—but social withdrawal or the false appearance of humility may also follow according to the DSM-5.
A sense of entitlement, disregard for other people, and other aspects of NPD can damage relationships.
Gosh, where to begin?
The history of the TMT project, from its inception til present day, contains persistent patterns of all of the above. Based on the following, Mr. TMT is indeed a narcissist. Whether this condition is co-morbid with sociopathy remains to be seen. If Mr. TMT decides to leave the island, maybe he’s a simple narcissist. If he insists on staying, he’s demonstrating his willingness to further damage Hawai’i’s social fabric just as much as he’s willing to damage the mountiain. That’s pretty sociopathic, the need to win no matter what.
Here are materials or quotes from TMT sources, compared to the criteria:
• A grandiose sense of self-importance
Mr. TMT claims that what he does (astronomy) is of the utmost importance to humanity’s future, therefore the rest of us need to get out of his way. The stuff he does–because he is the one doing it–is even more important than meeting the challenges of climate change, war, poverty, species extinction, pollution, and so on. His sense of self-importance leads him to completely disregard Kanaka Maoli claims and needs regarding Mauna Kea, which is the place he has chosen as his playground. His sense of entitlement leads him to act as if the end justifies whatever means are at hand.
Note: Mr. TMT’s self-importance allows mere people to feel they are this important too.
• Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Mr. TMT says he’s the biggest, the best, the really biggest ever…he’s essential to humanity’s future…everyone loves him except a few pesky obstructionists. Mr. TMT says that his “story is the story of the universe.” (This is starting to sound familiar…)
From a brochure called Building the Gateway to the Universe: “(TMT) will take us on an exciting journey of discovery. The TMT will explore the origin of galaxies, reveal the birth and death of stars, probe the turbulent regions surrounding supermassive black holes, and uncover previously hidden details about planets orbiting distant stars, including the possibility of life on these alien worlds.”
Nevermind that other telescopes do this too. Or that Mr. TMT could do all this in other places besides Mauna Kea.
Note: Mr. TMT’s grandiose vision draws mere people who want to feel this grand and special also.
• Belief that one is special and can only be understood by or associate with special people or institutions
Mr. TMT’s genealogy includes some very privileged and wealthy people, Betty and Gordon Moore and their foundation. He hangs out with international wealth, power, and academic elites as a matter of course. Naturally he feels special. And look how far people are willing to go to get him what he wants! He’s not what you’d call “a cheap date.”
• A need for excessive admiration
Mr. TMT’s self-glorification screams for admiration. This is reflected in the public relations spin and TMT materials.
• A sense of entitlement (to special treatment)
He’s just a boy who can’t hear “no.” Mr. TMT insists on his right to desecrate Mauna Kea no matter what anyone else says or feels.
• Exploitation of others
Exploitation of Mauna Kea as a “resource” for astronomy, rather than as a sacred place, comes to mind. And the fact that Mr. TMT does not pay for many things and resources that it uses is also exploitive. I recently heard about an equipment storage facility or space that is being used for free. I am glad that some officials are now calling for financial audits of the costs that the islands have born, especially Hawai’i Island, with regard to TMT’s operations.
• A lack of empathy
This has been demonstrated time and again. Just compare and contrast what comes from Mr. TMT with what comes from the protectors.
• Envy of others or the belief that one is the object of envy
I don’t know. This one is difficult to pin down. Perhaps there is a competitiveness with other telescope projects, or a belief that TMT is envied by others? Perhaps this is more at play among personnel than the project as a whole?
• Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes
The wisest elders and cultural practitioners of Hawai’i have told Mr. TMT repeatedly that Mauna Kea–the entire mountain–is a sacred place as well as a sacred being in its own right (and the home of other sacred beings), and that it is a place of paramount importance to Kanaka Maoli who do not want it desecrated. Mr. TMT is haughty and refuses to acknowedge this. Mr. TMT also does not want to acknowledge that Mauna Kea belongs to the Kanaka, who have cherished and cared for it, and observed its sacredness, keeping it kapu, for almost 2,000 years.
All actions and communication from Mr. TMT reflect this arrogant dismissal of the fundamental truths of the issue.
A Word About Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a favorite method of narcissistic manipulation. Gaslighting behavior includes the following (list quoted from another Psychology Today article).
“They tell blatant lies” to keep people off-kilter and uncertain.
Example 1. Mr. TMT says: “TMT has diligently followed the state’s laws, procedures and processes in its efforts to build TMT on Maunakea.”
Fact: State Law against desecration has been ignored, in spite of years-long, numerous expressions of concern from people in Hawai’i and around the world, which demonstrate that a “substantial segment of the population” feels “outrage” at the prospect of the TMT construction adding to the desecration of the mountain.
Fact: Kanaka Maoli have been denied full access to their sacred mountain since 2015, in violation of the state’s constitution.
“They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.”
Oh, I am sure this happens quite often. I just can’t think of an example right now.
However, given the information I’ve found (here), I think there are far deeper levels of denial at work. And behind the scenes money, donated apparently altruistically and philanthropically, could not have failed to result in pro-TMT decision-making in key agencies.
“They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.”
The most frequent and annoying example is how some astronomers have claimed that how their astronomy (in buildings which desecrate) is sacred too, just like how the Hawaiians used to look at the stars in the old days and so they, therefore, would of course approve of the TMT.
In another example, Mr. TMT spins public relations to use the sacred and cultural practices of the Kanaka Maoli against them. By insisting that any square inch or foot that archealogists don’t recognize as having been “used” for cultural purposes is fair terrain for development, Mr. TMT promotes a disingenuous fiction that that allows him to “sell” a “we’re not doing any harm” message to the general public.
The graphic above conveniently denies Kanaka Maoli statements that the entire mountain is a sacred place and ancestor, and a home of deities, and connection to Mauna Kea is essentially wholistic in nature, not peicemeal. The map below illustrates the “piecemeal” approach to regarding Kanaka relationship to and “use” of the mountain. The dots and triangles represent sites which archeaologists have “found” and noted, but again, the premise of the map, and the document whch contains it, does not convey the wholistic sacred nature of the place.
They also don’t tell you that anything that is found during bulldozing could be destroyed if inconvenient and that human remains just might end up in a box, in storage, in someone’s office (Source of page exerpts below: Same document as above).
Archaeological Monitoring Plan in Support of Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Astronomy Precinct on Mauna Kea, etc. for TMT Observatory Corporation, by Pacific Consulting Services, Honolulu, May 2013.
Archaeological Monitoring Plan in Support of Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope in the Astronomy Precinct on Mauna Kea, etc. for TMT Observatory Corporation, by Pacific Consulting Services, Honolulu, May 2013.
“They wear you down over time.”
Mr. TMT, with money to burn and community to spurn, has tried very hard to wear down the protectors. At times, with individuals, there has been temporary success as some people have endured life challenges in addition to protecting their mountain. But the movement has only grown stronger and the Kia’i now enjoy world-wide support that continues to grow.
Active resistance to the proposed TMT desecration has been going on since 2009. This tactic of trying to wear people down was demonstrated over and over in the contested case hearings of 2016-2017. If I remember rightly, it began when the contested case hearings officer, Riki May Amano, arbitrarily scheduled the first hearings on dates that conflicted with the protector’s lawyer’s schedule. He had alerted officials to a prior commitment on some of the dates given. The protectors involved in the hearings were thus forced to represent themselves, do their own cross-examinations, etc. and this took far more time, and caused them great financial and emotional hardship over several months. Even so, they stood strong.
Incidently I believe Amano worked per diem, so this strategy of prolonging the process paid off handsomely for her. Taxpayers should be annoyed.
“Their actions do not match their words.”
Mr. TMT claims: “TMT…has engaged in open dialog and meaningful discussions with community members and stakeholders to better understand the island’s issues as well as the cultural and natural significance of Maunakea.to better understand the island’s issues as well as the cultural and natural significance of Maunakea.” (Source: TMT website)
Commentary: The above statement is supposed to imply endorsement of TMT’s goals or that issues have been addressed. But in any forum, any view contrary to TMT’s objective to build on Mauna Kea is ignored.
Mr. TMT shows his “understanding” in saying he will schedule “TMT observatory operations to minimize daytime activities up to four days annually in observance of Native Hawaiian cultural practices. TMT will work with the Office of Mauna Kea Management and Kahu Ku Mauna to determine days for such observances.” (Source: TMT website)
The above might sound reasonable or even generous to someone who doesn’t know any better, but the fact is, no one has the right to determine the days and times for Kanaka Maoli activity on the mountain. Practices are invidiual, family, or community-centered and do not always conform to specific calendar days. Besides, this is like telling a Christian to celebrate Christmas in July (if convenient) or a pagan to celebrate Samhain on Christmas (if convenient).
“They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.”
This is where those “we only want to negotiate and reach a peaceful settlement” and the “we understand and respect you” statments belong. Fake “respect for the culture” also goes here. If Mr. TMT truly had an attitude of respect for cultural sensitivity, he would not be trying to build on Mauna Kea in the first place.
“They know confusion weakens people.”
Mr. TMT claims: “TMT will not impact the Big Island’s aquifer… Although groundwater is the primary source of drinking water in Hawaii, there are no wells extracting groundwater near the summit of Maunakea…
Counter Argument: Confusion doesn’t just weaken people, it can be dangerous. Contrary to Mr. TMT’s assertion, ground water isn’t just confined to wells and where people drill them, it goes where it will. Kealoha Pisciotta’s statement below refutes the above claim that the TMT couldn’t have an impact. If it uses as much mercury as other large telescopes do, any impact at all could be disastrous for everyone on the island.
Even though astronomy, by most standards, is considered a clean industry, it’s not without toxicity. The majority of the telescopes use quite a bit of hazardous materials. One hazardous material that we are particularly concerned about is the use of elemental mercury. We discovered that mercury was being used in quite large quantities. In one particular case, a telescope had already had three mercury spills.
The reportable quantities for mercury, according to the Health Department, is one pound. And one telescope alone uses 30 pounds. And that’s a small amount. Large monolithic telescopes use quite a bit of mercury. In one case, there’s one telescope I know uses 650 pounds of mercury.
Perhaps we’ve reached our limit of the amount of hazardous materials that can be brought up here. —Kealoha Pisciotta, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou
Another quote from Pisciotta on this same website mentions telescope use (and potential spills) of large quantities of diesel fuel and ethylene glycol.
Example: Governor Ige’s call for a State of Emergency and claims of drug and alcohol use at Pu’uhonua o Pu’u Huluhulu seems like a classic case of projection. He and other authorities can only anticipate the use of force, and thus project their propensity for violence onto the peaceful protectors. He was quickly shown how wrong his projections were.
“They try to align people against you.”
Example: Mr. TMT has made deliberate efforts to seek out native Hawaiians who are willing to speak in favor of TMT in exchange for possible construction jobs. This is an effort to pit workers against protectors, Kanaka against Kanaka.
Mr. TMT wants people to think that if the TMT leaves, there won’t be any money for STEM education, or jobs, or whatever, and that this will all be the fault of the Kia’i.
“They tell you or others that you are crazy.”
Example: Mr. TMT has enjoyed conveying the impression that “Hawaiians are against science,” thereby implying that Hawaiian insistence on the sacredness of their mauna is somehow backward or superstitious or in the way of progress and knowledge. This tactic is supposed to undermine consideration of Kanaka claims.
“They tell you everyone else is a liar.”
I don’t know of any example of this.
Mr. TMT’s Gaslighting in Action
Several examples of Mr. TMT’s gaslighting appear in the first fifteen minutes of this video (Oct. 2014). Lanakila Manguil, stops a TMT groundbreaking ceremony that was supposed to bestow a (fake) gloss of “Hawaiian-ness” on the desecration of the Mauna. On his trip to the ground-breaking site (barefoot, on sharp lava rocks), Lanakila was almost deliberately run over by a TMT-associated vehicle (see 3.09 minutes in). He is angry in this video, for that reason and others.
But observe how TMT officials deliberately lie to and contradict Lanakila about what they are doing here–groundbreaking for the desecration–even though the truth is blatantly obvious to all. Times are approximate: (3:39) TMT official denies disrespect; (4:48) TMT official says “we don’t talk circles;” (5:20) TMT officials deny desecration; (5:27) officials deny that they are there to build anything, but Lanakila points out that “groundbreaking” is the start of construction: (8:47 ) TMT official claims he “understands and respects” the reasons people are opposing the project (an example of “false humilty” that narcissists sometimes show as part of their manipulation). And so forth. But Lanakila, and the other Kia’i (Protectors) who arrive later in the video, continue to speak truth in spite of lies and dissemblng.
Thinking of all of the above, it is clear to me that the relationship Mr. TMT has with all of Hawai’i, and the Kanaka Maoli and Kia’i in particular, is deeply pathological. Such abusive behavior (rooted in entitlement, colonialism, and other toxic privileging) should not be allowed to continue.
Use the image below as an icon or meme on social media to add to documentation that a “substantial segment of the public” is outraged about witnessing desecration of Mauna Kea. “Outrage” is an important part of the criteria for determining desecration has taken place as per Hawai’i State Law §711-1107 Desecration (see below).
I know. I know. You’d think that what’s happening this very day, and all the long days preceeding this day–through countless demonstrations of support, vigils and encampments, impassioned court case testimonies, documentary films, petitions, songs, statements, sign waving, blogs, letters of support, social media groups and so on–would have gotten this message of “outrage” through the noggins of the powers that be. But those noggins seem to be willfully, cruelly obtuse.
Even if this gambit has been tried and rejected in the past, now in 2019, the world is paying more attention to Mauna Kea and the Protectors than ever before. And social media has become an even more powerful purveyor of social change messages. Perhaps a simple graphic, such as the above, posted by thousands or hundreds of thousands of Kiai’ and allies, could add one more helpful way to provide irrefutable documentationthat unlawful desecration exists with respect to Mauna Kea.
Take the above. Use it in whatever way will serve the cause of protecting Mauna Kea.
The State Law
§711-1107 Desecration. (1) A person commits the offense of desecration if the person intentionally desecrates:
(a) Any public monument or structure;
(b) A place of worship or burial; or
(c) In a public place the national flag or any other object of veneration by a substantial segment of the public.
(2) “Desecrate” means defacing, damaging, polluting, or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the defendant knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the defendant’s action.
(3) Any person convicted of committing the offense of desecration shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than one year, a fine of not more than $10,000, or both. [L 1972, c 9, pt of §1; gen ch 1993; am L 2002, c 198, §1]
Today, Monday, July 22, the sun enters Leo. And finally I am seeing some signs of support for the Mauna Kea Kia’i (protectors) from people in some parts of the neopagan communities.
So, here’s some good news:
The Troth just issued an open letter to Governor Ige of Hawai’i, expressing support for the preservation of Mauna Kea from desecration, and for the struggle of the Kia’i to protect it. I am proud to be a member of this inclusive heathenry organization.
And I just came across this post from Marc, on the blog, Of Axe and Plow, calling for “the wider pagan community” to show support for Mauna Kea and the protectors. It’s a great read!
Disclaimer: The following rather harsh critique is strictly limited to the impact of the Moore Foundation’s funding of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) via CalTech and the University of CA–as it affects Mauna Kea–and is not meant as a sweeping generalization of the funding impacts of other grants to other organizations, projects, peoples, or parts of the world. Let’s just be clear about that.
There’s No Place Like Home
Two years ago, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF), published a piece in the Learning section of their website called “Perspective: Grateful for this place we call home,” The photograph accompanying this article is a sweeping panorama of South Bay hills that certainly would not be as lovely should an 18-story telescope be built on the skyline. What follows is a quote from the piece:
“Silicon Valley is the place we call home. Our founders, Gordon and Betty Moore, spent most of their lives and raised their family in this region. It is the place where Gordon co-founded two iconic companies – Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. And, it is where our foundation is located.
A passion for this region is in our DNA.”
One could be forgiven for thinking that such heartfelt boilerplate is evidence that the grantmaking heads of this foundation are capable of recognizing and honoring the family values and “passion for a region” that the Kanaka Maoli have for Mauna Kea and the rest of their ‘aina. After all, the Kanaka have lived in their island home as far back as 400 C.E. Very old families, one might say.
By contrast, the Moore family has just a few generations of California settler-colonial history and yet claim “DNA-based” ties to their beloved Silicon Valley. I agree, humanity in general has the capacity to become deeply rooted in place–even new places–and can be passionate about those roots. If just a generation or two of settlement history can twang the DNA heartstrings of a Gordon and Betty, imagine the depth, the extent of the love, the connection, the ancestral ties felt by the Kanaka Maoli (and other indigenous peoples) who have hundreds and thousands of years of family history invested in their homelands.
One might think an organization of broad and beneficent vision, as expressed in the Moore Foundation “perspectives,” would be able to “grok” this, but I suppose the unalloyed enjoyment of “passion for a region” is something allowed only to the very, very wealthy.
As for the legacy of soil and groundwater contamination created by Gordon Moore’s semi-conductor companies, now Superfund Clean-up sites…
…Lovely view of the valley, don’t you think?
The Thirty Meter Telescope – 18 Stories of Desecration Planned for a Sacred Mountain
Making science, exploring the universe, discovering new galaxies, teetering on the rim of black hole event horizons–astronomy is the good guy, right? Who could object to it? Well, blithe star-bitten glamour aside, objections can be made to doing astronomy in a place and in a way that causes immense harm to any indigenous people who revere that place. It’s not the astronomy that’s objectionable, folks, it’s the location, location, location!
Below you can see how much this dream of science means to the Moore Foundation. Here is what they have invested in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)–a project always depicted in magical-thinking public relations “photos” as a structure already built on Mauna Kea, complete with a night sky of stars twinkling in the background–beckoning idealistic astronomers from afar. The same night sky, by the way, that Hawaiians and their ancestors have been accustomed to look upon with unimpeded views and important sight lines, from the summit of one of their most sacred places in all the islands, all the way over to Haleakala (another sacred mountain) on Maui and beyond.
The sums below represent how badly the GBMF and other TMT-on-Mauna Kea proponents want to get their way. Much is at stake. But still more is at stake for the Kanaka Maoli, their descendants, and the Mauna itself.
Anthony Trollope, a Victorian novelist once wrote, “I have sometimes thought that there is no being so venomous, so bloodthirsty as a professed philanthropist.” This is from his novel, North America, published in 1862. Times have not changed. I found Trollope’s quote in an article called “Toxic Philanthropy? The Spirit of Giving While Taking” (Lynn Parramore, Dec. 10, 2018). The article discussed Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, a book by business reporter Anand Giridharadas. The article was published on the website of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, co-founded by George Soros. (Link to board and staff page.)
Though the book apparently focuses mostly on a new generation of “21st-century ‘philanthrocapitalists,’” two paragraphs of the review seem relevant to classic brand of philanthropy now affecting Mauna Kea:
“Giridharadas presents searching conversations with well-educated, often well-meaning people floating above and apart from the lives of ordinary Americans, wishing to ease their consciences but failing both to clearly see the problems of society and to notice, for more than a nagging moment, the ways in which their own lives are financed by the fruits of injustice. They end up embracing a warm-and-fuzzy vision of changing the world that leaves brutal underlying structures securely in place.
The author has said what few who have traveled in this world have said plainly, lest their passport be revoked: the efforts of philanthrocapitalists are largely disruptive, rather than beneficial, to public life.”
Ruthless self-examination might be in order for the philanthropic community, especially powerful grantmakers like the Moore Foundation. Such examination and organizational assessment might reveal their own (even if inadvertant) complicity in past and present acts that perpetuate cultural violence and genocide. This is the kind of self-examination that people in other walks of life are just now starting to embark upon.
The communication model known as the Johari Window, particularly that upper right hand corner called “known to others, not known to self,” can be an effective way to approach unacknowledged privilege and entitlement assumptions, factors that cause “good” intentions, and “good” works to pave a “road to hell” for others. Sometimes we cannot see ourselves in the mirror, in the same way that others see us, looking in.
Right now, those who stand on or with Mauna Kea see “in” to the GBMF and its associates, with devastating accuracy.
Checking Your Privilege and Complicity
As of Sunday morning, July 21st, at 7:37 AM PSDT, 698 astronomers (and a few academics in other fields) have signed the letter (1) condemning the arrests of kupuna on Mauna Kea last Wednesday and (2) inviting “the astronomy community to suggest more links and ideas on how to divest from using state-sanctioned violence in the construction of facilities for our field’s future.” This is a long-overdue invitation, from within that rarified community, to consider the ethical implications of how and where they do their science, and at what cost to others.
And as mentioned in an earlier blog post, this week 100 religious leaders also signed a letter of inter-faith solidarity, recognizing the spiritual traditions of Kanaka Maoli as equally valid as their own. Many of the people signing are associated with religious institutions which have their own historical complicity of disregarding native traditions and/or causing colonial and state-sanctioned violence (e.g. missionary work in Hawai’i; stones from sacred heiau used to build churches, etc.). Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“The controversy surrounding the TMT telescope continues to highlight the struggle of native peoples to protect and preserve their sacred sites from desecration.
We the undersigned have a responsibility not to stay silent in the face of injustice. We are not against science or scientific research. But it should be done in an appropriate location.
Building one more gigantic telescope on our sacred mountain might harm the natural environment, and the spiritual integrity. In light of recent arrest of kupuna, in the act of peaceful civil disobedience, the questionable telescope project is certainly harming the deep peace of our Hawaiian community!
Some may disagree, but we believe the mountain belongs to the Kanaka maoli. It is part of their homeland.
And they must have a say about what to do and what not to do on their sacred land! We offer our prayers in solidarity with all our kanaka maoli sisters and brothers who feel oppressed, bullied, and not listened to.”
Let’s remember too that all this is taking place in the context of the present and historical belligerent occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, an occupation which has ongoing political, cultural, social, legal, economic, environmental, and personal and community health impacts, etc., on Kanaka Maoli since 1893. (Other Hawaiian Kingdom subjects were people from elsewhere who were naturalized before 1893).
To put it clearly, the above describes a state of ongoing, pervasive violence for generations, mostly impacting the Kanaka Maoli, who–if you remember from above–have a deep and abiding attachment and relationship to their ‘aina, their ancestors, and to their spiritual relationships to na akua (the deities) or ke akua (one deity). Multi-generational trauma is a comparatively recent development in psychology, pioneered by Dr. Joy DeGruy and others. It is now widely accepted by in the field of psychology. Trauma can become part our DNA and is passed to our children and grandchildren.
(Did we mention the view yet?)
Though Kanaka are not monolithic in their spiritual beliefs and traditions, it is probably safe to say–given the widespread support given to the Kia’i–that Mauna Kea is foundational and sacred, as a cultural icon, as a place of deep cultural significance, and as a felt, ancestral, spiritual presence (and a place that is the home of other deities as well.)
Back to the Future We Don’t Want: The Cycle of Philanthropic Violence
There’s quite a lot about how the TMT project has tromped on Kanaka Maoli and their indigenous rights and traditions that reminds me of an abuser who insists that you’ll enjoy it if only you’d relax and give in. Or perhaps the forces behind the TMT are inherantly sociopathic, determined to win at any cost, crushing whoever and whatever gets in their way.
Seriously. I am seriously saying this.
Sociopaths begin by charming others. Philanthropists charm others by holding out the prospect of a juicy grant for a project. “Court me as a major donor,” they wink, but nothing is free, and the power that money wields is everything.
I’ve watched the growth of the movement for the Mauna, and against telescope desecration, for many years now. I remember things. So as sort of thought experiment, I’d like us to consider the abusive nature of the TMT project, its impact on the Kanaka Maoli as a series of deliberate non-consensual violations and micro- and macroaggressions causing physical and psychological harm to other human beings. These violations have already caused multi-generational trauma for a large number of people. They already affect multiple generations. (The protectors of Mauna Kea range from toddlers to people in their 90s.)
Some of what I describe below may fit into the pattern of the above chart, some may not. I actually feel that we’re seeing several swirling cycles of corporate, government, and philanthropic abuse happening simultaneously, at different paces, originating from different groups of pro-TMT stakeholders.
For this thought experiment, you can imagine “The Abuser” as a Frankenstein’s Monster, a sort of golem animated and fed by philanthropic, governmental, and corporate privilege AND the sum total of all actionstaken to advance that being’s agenda on Mauna Kea.
(1) The Abuser makes an initial threat of violence–in this case, the threatened desecration of a sacred place of ancestral and spiritual significance, in spite of legal, cultural, and environmental objections. It will not listen when you say “no” and it will not stop.
Remember, Hawai’i has a “state” law, §711-1107, against desecration which incorporates the concept of “outrage” as one of the standards for determining that desecration has taken place. Outrage is a way of saying “no!” The law is supposed to make violators listen.
(2) Reports of outrage and harm are dismissed by authorities–or reluctantly heard and reported. No one does much of anything to uphold the law or prevent further violations. Plus, authorities often blame the targets for the harm that is done to them. The blame could sound like this. You wouldn’t have been hurt:
• IF only you wore something different. For example, ” That Kia’i hat? You look like you’re asking for trouble!”
• IF you assimilated more fully. For example, “If you were more like the settler-colonists here, you wouldn’t care and this would be a non-issue.”
• IF you felt completely differently about what is happening. For example, “What educated person would claim to be related to a mountain? Who has DNA with a landscape feature? Surely we don’t do that sort of thing in Silicon Valley.”
• IF you tried to look on the bright side. For example, “Hey, at least The Abuser is promising you a job and money for STEM education. Suck it up!”
And then there’s the dismissal: “You’ll get over it.”
(3) The Abuser questions the status and/or sincerity of the person complaining. This was in play during moments in various hearings when Kia’i were asked, in so many words, “Are you a REAL Hawaiian? Do you really do that cultural practitioner stuff? Prove it.”
(4) The Abuser gaslights, attempting to sow self-doubt:
• “Conservation district regulations have to be taken seriously? Silly! No one pays attention to those. Look at all the telescopes that are here already!”
• “No one actually tried to hit you with a car on the Access Road while you were protecting the Mauna. You must have imagined it.”
• “No one around here would have dismantled your ‘ahu. You must be crazy to think that.”
• “We don’t really want to deny you your constitutional rights of access to cultural and sacred places, we’re just worried about your health and safety.”
• “A bond? What bond?”
(5) In addition to direct threats, The Abuser threatens to harm other things or people if you don’t give in. Examples:
• arrests of kupuna with an implied promise of more arrests to come;
• Ige’s Declaration of a State of Emergency and calls for National Guard and additional police from other islands;
• the project’s potential to harm to na ‘iwi (remains of the ancestors), endangered bugs and plants, pu’u and other features of the Mauna. And so forth.
(6) The Abuser creates a climate of fear. See 5. Also, retaliating against potential or actual allies, as was done to at least one porta-potty contractor, who was threatened with fines.
(7) The Abuser placates:
• “We’ll make a committee to oversee cultural practices on the mountain. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
• “We’ll give more money for STEM education.”
• “I’m like you. I just want to go up to the mountain to pray.” (A reference to Ige’s visit to the Mauna in 2015).
(8) The Abuser retaliates by controling the movement and behavior of the target. For example, cultural practitioners have been denied their access to the Mauna for quite a long time now, in violation of their traditional and customary rights as per the state constitution. Or maybe–if they promise to be good–they could be allowed to travel up the mountain in special, supervised vans. The astronomers, including many foreigners, get complete unimpeded access. But the Kanaka cultural practitioners are treated like unruly children.
TRADITIONAL AND CUSTOMARY RIGHTS
Section 7. The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua’a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the State to regulate such rights. [Add Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]
(9) The Abuser lies about the target in order to marginalize, isolate, and undermine social support for the target. Example: “There are drugs and alcohol at Pu’u Huluhulu” to smear the Kia’i as irresponsible people who are desecrating their own sacred space. There’s a world of wrongdoing in this particular lie. This tactic also plays to racism against Kanaka Maoli.
And so on… It’s an ugly portrait of cycles of abuse writ large, but cognitive dissonance, defined as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change” allows philanthropic elites to avoid recognizing the impact of their actions on people whose rights and interests they dismiss.
Why So Much Good Work Elsewhere, and So Little Similar Concern for Kanaka Maoli, for Mauna Kea, and for Hawai’i?
Now, I’ve been hard on a lot of people here, particularly the Moore Foundation, and yet I do want to be fair. I’ve scanned many pages of Moore Foundation giving histories and they give to a number of causes and organizations that I personally support–or would like to support (had I the funds).
Here are some examples of good work the Foundation has done elsewhere, which demonstrate a history of goodwill, humanitarian values, and a thoughtfulness that could easily be extended to Mauna Kea and its protectors.
Conservation of native habitat and species.“Since 2001, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Bay Area conservation portfolio has been supporting groups working to conserve native habitat and species in the San Francisco Bay Area.” (March 2017)
Since Mauna Kea is a sensitive environment, legally a conservation district, and is already experiencing “serious, adverse impacts” as a result of the industrial-strength astronomy already in place on Mauna Kea, the Moore Foundation could easily reconsider their attachment to Mauna Kea as the site of the TMT, as such a decision would be congruent with their own vaunted conservation consciousness.
Recognition of Indigenous Lands.“The Colombian Amazon stretches across nearly half of the country, and is a priority region for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Andes-Amazon Initiative. Moore funding has supported the creation and consolidation of protected areas, and recognition and management of indigenous lands.” (Feb. 2017)
Again, in the interest of congruence with vaunted concerns about protecting indigenous areas, the Moore Foundation could easily comprehend that Mauna Kea IS indigenous land in need of protection, and act accordingly.
Women in science — making the invisible, visible.“The data on the dearth of women in science is clear and far reaching. Women are underrepresented along the pathway from undergraduate to faculty to leadership positions in most research and scientific communities. This is particularly true for women of color.” (Feb. 2018)
Great. Yay for figuring that out. However, I do wonder why some of that concern for “invisible” women of color can’t be extended to the Kanaka Maoli, people “of color” in Hawai’i, who seem to be invisible to the Moore Foundation and its TMT collaborators? It would be really easy to achieve cognitive congruence by resisting the urge to mentally erase the concerns of people of color who are standing in the way of your pet project.
The importance of accuracy in science journalism. The Moore Foundation showed its concern about “pressing issues of accuracy and honesty in media” by giving support to a report issued by “Knight Science Journalism at MIT”: The State of Fact-Checking in Science Journalism.” (Sept. 2018)
I hope the future of fact-checking in science journalism includes facts about cultural, social, and physical/mental health impacts of large-scale projects in indigenous places, in spite of the objections of residents.
Now, the Moore Foundation gives to the TMT project through donations to CalTech and the University of California. I am sure this is all right and proper, with the added advantage that this strategy of giving places the foundation carefully upstream from the numerous downstream violations to Hawai’i law on behalf of the TMT. I am no expert in the conservation district violations that would occur should TMT break ground, but I know people who are. I understand there are at least eight serious violations. I’ve also mentioned the Hawai’i state law against desecration (above), with its the criteria of causing outrage, as well as the violations of traditional and customary rights guaranteed to the Kanaka Maoli by the State of Hawai’i. Not to mention arrests for advocating for those laws and rights to be upheld. I am sure there is more that could be said.
So I would think respect for Hawai’i laws and indigenous rights would be an appropriate concern for a foundation seeking to do things in a legal and ethical manner. Such consideration would be congruent with the stated interests and values of the organization.
And just because I’m an unrepentant gadfly, I would also recommend that the Moore Foundation begin to enfold consideration of the Resolution 61/295: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (2007). This resolution does not have the force of law, and apparently the U.S. has not agreed to sign it. However, the resolution does have the force of moral high ground and integrity. The entire document is relevant to the struggle to protect Mauna Kea, but I’ve picked out three of the Articles, so you don’t have to take my word for it:
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
I would think that any entity as wealthy and powerful as the Moore Foundation could use UNDRIP as part of their criteria for assessing grant proposals which might impact indigenous peoples and lands. It would be so appreciated and set a good example for others in the philanthropic community.
The beauty of Kapu Aloha as practiced by the Kia’i is that enduring enmity does not have to be born of conflict. What has been enacted these last several years has provided unexpected, complicated lessons (and a great deal of stress) for all concerned, whether intimately involved or watching from afar. All that the Moore Foundation and other TMT stakeholders need to do is (1) agree to not build the TMT on Mauna Kea or any other place in Hawai’i and (2) sincerely apologize to the Kanaka Maoli. It would be so philanthropic!
Then the beauty of forgiveness and aloha can be extended. Healing can begin. (And all the while, the beauty of Kapu Aloha is thriving and growing at Pu’uhonua o Pu’u Huluhulu.)
As one of the Kia’i said in the Friday press conference, there is no aloha without truth–and what is contained in this blog is part of the truth and a perspective seldom offered to a popular audience. But I admit, I’ve been a bit snarky here and there, so kala mai!
I hold strong hopes for the triumph of the Kia’i and the protection of the Mauna, as well as the construction of the TMT in some other location (they do have a “Plan B”). And strong hopes too that the executives of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation might stand with us and peer into the upper right hand corner of their own Johari Window, clearly seeing the opportunities to correct misalignment with their stated values and mission, making common cause instead of inflicting corporatized cruelty.
Let what happens next be in perfect congruence and accord with Hawaiian values. It’s the only way.
Saturday Breaking News: Hawaiian Homelands agency and the governor reportedly want remove (forcibly) the Kia’i–also access to Mauna Kea is completely denied to all Hawaiians, in violation of the state’s constitution. (Unlawful restrictions have been in place for a long time, actually.)
Update: 642 astronomers have signed the letter protesting the arrest and potential use of force against the kupuna on Mauna Kea. Link here.
The Kia’i (Protectors) of Mauna Kea have established a Pu’uhonua (sacred place of refuge) at Pu’u Huluhulu, across from the Mauna Kea access road. Yesterday the governor of Hawai’i flew to Hilo and met with Hawai’i County mayor, Harry Kim. He did not go to Pu’u Huluhulu and the access road to Mauna Kea to see anything for himself. Instead, he held a press conference of lies and false rumors, designed to discredit the Kia’i and to portray them as lawless, careless, and even criminal. It’s a common racist trope, is it not? This trope is often lobbed at Kanaka Maoli (“native Hawaiians”), whether or not there is even a shred of truth in any given situation.
An additional insult is expressed in the governor’s dissing of the Pu’uhonua itself, and how it–and all the people with it–are held and cared for. This callous insult reveals the depth of Ige’s ignorance and disregard of all matters connected to the Kanaka Maoli and their ‘aina and cultural practices. Sadly, he is not alone in this.
Here is a video of the Kia’i rebuttal to Ige’s lies, in a press conference of their own. It is riveting and thorough. The first speaker is Kaho’okahi Kanuha, who refutes the governor’s lies point by point.
Background: Kapu Aloha and Pu’uhonua
Before I get more into the content of the press conference, I want say more about the concept of a pu’uhonua. The Hawaiian Dictionary (Hawaiian-English/English-Hawaiian) defines pu’uhonua as “(1) Place of refuge, sanctuary, asylum, place of peace and safety” (M.K. Pukui, S.H. Elbert, 1971). Hawai’i island has at least two historical places of refuge, one at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau (now a park) and the other was in Waipio Valley on the north-east side of the island, the site of the Paka`alana Heiau. These are highly sacred places.
In 2018, during the months-long lava flow in Puna, the local community established a pu’uhonua to help those affected by the disaster. While this flow was happening, I spent hours watching live feeds and videos from the island, including footage of people volunteering at this site, and was immensely impressed by the expert community organizing and heart-felt generosity of the entire operation. These same deft community organizing skills are obvious today at Pu’u Huluhulu, where the sacred practice of Kapu Aloha is also foundational. Kapu Aloha encompasses a commitment to peaceful, non-violent action but is so much more. (FYI- Kapu Aloha and organizing skills were also foundational and evident during the long Kia’i encampment on Mauna Kea in 2015-2016, where some of the Kia’i did endure arrests and other acts of aggression and disrespect.)
Here is an article dated July 11, 2019 which contains a press release from HULI (Hawaiʻi Unity and Liberation Institute) and provides a glimpse into how and why keeping Kapu Aloha is intrinsic to the protection of sacred Mauna Kea.
In other words, before stepping into sacred places or ceremonies, you have to get your own self right, internalize the feelings of sacredness and awe, dedicate yourself to appropriate behavior. That’s how it’s done–in almost every spiritual tradition in the world. And the Kia’i are unwavering in their commitments to such traditions.
Puʻu Huluhulu is on Hawaiian Homes Trust Lands and is home to an ahu or alter that was erected in 1999 by the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, a royal society established over 150 years ago by Kamehameha V. This ahu, that sits right at the base of the mauna, was built as a safe place so that kupuna or elders who could not make the trek up to the summit but wanted to acknowledge the mauna in their own way in a sacred space could do so. Puʻu Huluhulu therefore makes for a very relevant and appropriate space for this puʻuhonua and this was at the core of the collaborative efforts that took place today between the kiaʻi and members of the Royal Order.
So, here is clear, precise communication from the Kia’i and everything has been done “right and proper.” At least by the Kia’i. And that’s the whole point–those who are pushing for the desecration of Mauna Kea through the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), are mired in lies and deception. They are profoundly not right, and profoundly not proper.
Does Ige not understand how very serious these sacred places and practices are to the Kia’i? He underestimates the Kia’i, and Kanaka in general, every step of the way. A local guy, born and raised in Hawai’i, the son of “ethnic Japanese Americans of Okinawan descent” (Wikipedia), you’d think he’d know better. Even I, over here in California, can listen to videos and live streams from the Kia’i, and thus can understand at least something of the serious need for respect of these traditions. Why can’t a local governor, with staff and a budget, be better informed and far more truthful and respectful?
Back to the Kia’i Press Conference, July 19, 2019
The Chancellor of the Royal Order of Kamehameha is the second speaker to refute the governor’s press statements. He express his dismay that the governor would lie about drugs and alcohol at Pu’u Huluhula as the Royal Order is playing a 24/7 role in monitoring the safety, security, and appropriateness of behavior at the Pu’uhonua. (I am sorry, I have been trying to find the Chancellor’s name.)
The third speaker is Kumu Hula Paul Neves, also of the Royal Order of Kamehameha. He recounts the story of Ige’s 2015 visit to Mauna Kea, the visit I alluded to in a previous blog. (I had heard it soon after it happened, from Ku Ching, who along with Kumu Neves and one other person, graciously extended the courtesy of taking the governor to pray on the mountain, as requested). After detailing this history, Kumu Neves called strongly for the governor to apologize for slandering the Kia’i, including the ‘opio (youth) and kupuna (elders), and to apologize “to all Hawai’i.” This account, in my opinion, underscores the governor’s inability to “get it right” even when his own previous experiences on the Mauna could have prevented subsequent falsehoods.
Dr. Noenoe Wong-Wilson, one of the kupuna of Mauna Kea, was the fourth speaker. She said that due to the governor’s actions that the kia’i are “still under threat by law enforcement” and that access to Mauna Kea is still denied to the cultural practitioners. Imagine someone blocking the entrance to your church or temple, indefinitely. That’s what it’s like for the Kia’i and other cultural practitioners. And while Ige said he will not ask for additional National Guard (300 are already there), but Dr. Wong-Wilson said that the Kia’i “live in constant fear that they will be assaulted by law enforcement” (many have been flown from other islands). Dr. Wong-Wilson also points out that the governor and other public officials are harrassing companies which supply porta-potties and have not allowed one to be placed near to where the kupuna sit, many of whom use canes and wheelchairs. (Twelve are located across the road, and are paid for by the Kia’i, and are cleaned twice a day.)
FYI: In case you missed it, Gov. Ige declared a “state of emergency” on Thursday and requested the help of the National Guard to deal with a popular, peaceful, non-violent community action which so far has consisted of camping out, volunteering with chores, singing, playing music, doing hula, eating, talking, and enjoying fellowship. Usually states of emergency are reserved for hurricanes and earthquakes… In this case, the “emergency” concerns private corporate interests barging in on Kanaka land via a sub-lease! A friggin’ sublease that shouldn’t even exist, legally. Grrr… Okay, ’nuff said!
A fifth woman, whose name I sadly don’t know also, also pointed out that the state agencies are “quick to build bathroom facilities for the visitor industry” while “their own people, the residents…that descend from this land, the rightful owners of these lands, we have to ask our own government to provide us with bathroom facilities so that we can take care of our kupuna… shame, shame on you!” Dr. Wong-Wilson added that the Kia’i are not asking for the public to pay for the porta-potties–they are bearing the cost and just want to be able to place one closer to where the kupuna are spending their time. Dr. Wong-Wilson also pointed out that the Kia’i have complied with every single health and safety request made by the authorities but when they made this request for an additional “lua” (toilet) for the kupuna, it was denied.
This point is significant as one of the governor’s attempts to discredit the Kia’i is that they are causing “sanitation problems.” In truth, government agencies are causing any problems that could conceivably exist, by refusing reasonable requests and harrassing contractors. (And hey, we could get into the human waste problem caused by astronomy personnel, and mercury contamination of the island’s aquifer, caused by industrial waste from the telescopes… but why let a little thing like inconvenient truths get in the way of Ige’s alternate reality?)
Finally, Kealoha Pisciotta, a long-time activist on behalf of the Mauna, also reminded ,
“Mr. Ige, I was on the mountain with you when you came to pray. We made ho’okupu to offer to the akua, for you. Mr. Ige, it is shame, it is shame what you have done. Na akua, they see you now just as they saw you then. The akua is watching over us. That is why we would never disgrace the pu’uhonua or anywhere here. That is the rule, And you know, you need to remember that Kapu Aloha…requires truth. And now, today, you have no truth. And therefore you have no aloha…You’re hurting our heart and you know what, governor, you grew up here, you’re our family and you know the rules and you broke it today. Pau.”
At the conclusion, Lanakila Manguilaffirmed that “the Kapu Aloha still stands. The Kapu Aloha is to maintain that we all hold ourselves in highest accord, highest conduct. No one here has ever broken that.” Lanakila also described the 24/7 traffic safety system that the Kia’i have created for people crossing the Saddle Road and for vehicles transversing it. This was to counter another “health and safety” lie told by the governor.
Thus concluded the Kia’i press statements as published via YouTube video.
A Live Stream, Video Tour of the Pu’uhonua
But wait, there’s more! Last night, I was watching a live feed of this same press conference (posted by Kāko’o Haleakalā), and so caught the subsequent commentary by Kaleikoa Ka’eo. He spoke of the nature of the leadership, volunteerism, and community spirit at the Pu’uhonua Pu’u Huluhulu. Kaleikoa is an associate professor of Hawaiian Studies, Department of Humanities, at theUH Maui College.
He was clear that the governor was not being truthful about the situation and provided numerous examples to refute Ige’s deceptions. Kaleikoa mentioned the “unsung heroes” at the Pu’uhonua–people working tirelessly to clean, cook, serve food, care for the elders, pass out water, bring hot food up to the mountain and take the trash back down. He said that community support has been “overwhelming” and a lot larger than even he had expected. He comments: “by David Ige saying those things [press conference lies] he’s really dismissing the real aloha work that’s going on in our community–and this is a community–and if you were to come here and see the support…it is amazing.” He invites anyone and everyone to come and see the leadership and unity that exists at the Pu’uhonua.
According to Kaleikoa, Ige’s claims are a “false narrative” and that Ige “doesn’t see the true humanity of who we are.” Kaleikoa pointed out that the whole TMT construction process “has really been one of making our people invisible.” Instead of acknowledging the Kanaka, whose own lands have fed and sheltered Ige’s family for at least a couple of generations, Kaleikoa says that Ige’s “eyes and his heart turn to protect the interests of foreign nationals.” Ige courts foreign power elites rather than acknowledge Kanaka Maoli as “true real human beings that still exist to this day” in their own lands. I interpret this as a mindset that allows Ige to conveniently (for him) dismiss the rights and claims of Kanaka Maoli, even those left to them in the “state” constitution.
Kaleikoa then gave a tour, showing the impressive cleanliness and streamlined nature of the entire operation. Talk about unity and leadership! Not to mention collaborative community spirit! And walking the walk… and all kinds of good things like that.
Not only are drugs and alcohol prohibited, but cigarettes are prohibited too. THAT’S how serious the Kia’i are about maintaining health and safety. The Pu’uhonua is extremely safe and sanitary, and of course family-friendly (lots of kids). There was no garbage or debris in sight. The Pu’uhonua has a system to sort and remove garbage, recyclables, and compost. I saw the traffic and pedestrian safety control methods in action, including lights, traffic monitors, etc. I think it is safe to say that this intersection is the only place in all Hawai’i that is monitored for safety 24/7. There was an array of twelve, well-maintained porta-potties, the medical tent, information tent, volunteer coordination table, coconut donation table, the Royal Order members who circulate among the Pu’uhonua, a huge amount of food, and so forth.
Honestly, I have never, ever seen a large gathering (from several hundreds to over two thousand) managed with so much efficiency, love, dedication, consideration, and over-all community spirit. As a disaster prep geek, who took Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) twice–the second time in Kea’au (2016)–this footage made me want to weep with joy. I know–I know–that this kind of skill set and attitude is in short supply in most communities here on the continent.
On a personal note, I have followed the Mauna Kea/Stop TMT issues for well over a decade, thanks to a long-term partnership (now ended) with one of original Kia’i, a kupuna involved in the court cases that halted work on the TMT, time and time again. Thanks to this relationship, I had an intimate “ring-side seat” even though I was thousands of miles away most of the time. I have been well schooled and well informed, and because I also use my own eyes and ears, I have seen how Kanaka Maoli rights and interests–and humanity–have been on the chopping block since day one of the TMT debacle. And though I’ve since broken up with the man involved, I never broke up with the Mauna. Back in California, I’ve still kept my antenna up for developments. My heart has been with this struggle for a long, long time. And so it is in that spirit that I am blogging and signal boosting at this time.
And hey, apparently TMT project manager, Gary Sanders, is perfectly willing to build the durn thing in the Canary Islands instead. Won’t you politely give him a call at (626)395-2997 or email him at email@example.com and let him know–again, politely–that Kanaka Maoli and many in the rest of the world would be so happy if the telescope didn’t desecrate Mauna Kea.
Please help. Read, signal boost, write letters, send money for bail for the kupuna who were arrested. Whatever you can! Thank you!
7/17/19 Update: People are no longer chained to the cattle guard, but many kupuna (elders) are now being arrested. Some are in wheelchairs.
Kia’i–Protectors–have literally chained themselves to a cattle guard in the Mauna Kea access road, and are blocking it, to prevent further desecration of the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea. The Big Island News video (link below) shows commentary by professor Kaleikoa Kaʻeo and Walter Ritte, both well known activists and cultural practitioners, as they are chained to the cattle guard. They are still there, last I heard.
Want some backround? Watch Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege, a stunning documentary in full and for free. This tells the story of an earlier struggle to protect Mauna Kea from desecration. Many of the same people are still involved, though some have passed on. And younger activists are coming up all the time.
So for the record, I don’t just hang out with Loki and other Norse and Celtic deities, I also stand (in awe) with Poliahu and her people in this struggle, and have since the mid-2000s.