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?
(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.