by John Kelly
One often hears dismay over differences among thevarious [Hawaiian] sovereignty movements today. We believethat they reflect differences in the class outlook, and lackof familiarity with key historical happenings. Differencesare replaced by unity as the true facts of history becomeavailable.
Neither public nor private schools have ever taught thetrue plundering history of the system that created andcontrols them. In my seven years at Punahou, five atRoosevelt and three at the U.H. before WWII, nothingtruthful was ever mentioned about the mahele, for example,the vagrancy slave-labor law, or the illegal colonialoverthrow by the U.S. military. And it took astudent/faculty strike at the University of Hawai'i to forcethe government to fund the Ethnic Studies program begun byrebellious students and a few faculty members, 66 yearsafter the U.H. was created in 1903.
The omissions in our education include both theimperialist penetration and takeover of the islands and theprior rising of a tall but thin pyramidal power structure ofincreasingly self-serving and warring ali'i (high chiefs) inHawai'i in the last few generations before the arrival ofCook. Following plundering traders, missionaries, settlersand finally U.S. military interventions, the rising ali'iclass played a confused and largely negative role,especially after the self-damned missionary apologists ofthe colonial market system arrived in 1820.
The ali'i class had developed structurally during thelast several hundred years of steep population growth andresulting division of labor prior to 1778. Division oflabor, such as between coastal fishing village and inlandfarming with river and stream controls, brings about theneed for authoritative coordination -- which contrasts withthe preceding La'ila'i period. Pyramidal authority is self-serving and unnecessary.
We are convinced that many of today's divisivedifferences will yield to unity as key facts of history aremade known and shared among the people. To this end, we areplacing educational emphasis on the past structural aspectsof both the communal sharing of land, labor and resources;together with deep understanding and respect for theenvironment among the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians). Thesepositives are in stark contrast with the plundering motivesand methods brought into Hawai'i and the Pacific by thecapitalist privatized market system which still runs theshow today.
Hawai'i was in the post-statehood grip of rapid changewhen "Save Our Surf" (SOS) struggles began in the early1960's. Freeways were beginning to rip up old communities.Waikiki was turning into a concrete jungle. Familiarlandmarks were disappearing. Surfing friends were beingdrafted for a far-off war and coming home bitter, if alive. Hawaii's shoreline -- the habitat of many people -- wasunder assault. Surfing sites, fish and fishing areas, oldbeach trails, parking areas and public access weredisappearing. Once-clean shoreline waters near town wereturning dirty brown or green, and beginning to smell.Pollution almost suddenly appeared everywhere -- on roads,sidewalks, beaches, in city air and in the news.
Some blamed pollution, congestion and decay on too manypeople. Others saw a few getting rich from congestion,especially in tourism, but also in merchandizing andhousing. One day in the mid-1960's, when before our eyes, acrane dumped boulders into the sea to destroy a favorite AlaMoana surfing site, the new realism came home. Several of usdecided to act. From that decision came "Save Our Surf,"which has had a measurable impact and been a force inreversing some of the negative historical dynamic ofcolonization and exploitation. We had some experience inmedia work, research, trade union organizing. We neededfacts to answer the question, "What's happening?"
From the state transportation department we finagled abatch of semi-secret blueprints and plans for futureshoreline ripoffs. One document, "Submerged LandReclamation, Preliminary Feasibility Report, Island ofOahu," showed plans to dredge and fill all the reefs aroundthe eastern half of Oahu. Dillingham Corp., (DILCO),Hawaii's largest construction firm, owner of the only localdredging outfit from the turn of the century, had dredgedand filled most of the island's harbors, channels andwetlands. Was this to be their "final solution," thedestruction of most of Oahu's coral reefs to keep theirdredge busy and their profits up?
Looking at those blueprints and plans, we realized thatwe had formidable enemies. Clearly, Dilco led the pack. Palof the military, a heavyweight in Washington, D.C.,kingmaker in Hawaii politics, Dilco had had a strong hand inmost big plans and decisions affecting Hawaii from the 1893overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy to today. But was ourenemy just Dillingham? What about the Army Engineers, whichCongress empowered to approve and fund projects in theU.S.'s coastal waters? What about the state legislature andadministration which initiates most coastal projects?
As the answers began to emerge from our search, werealized that to save the threatened shoreline involvedpitting ourselves against many of Hawaii's largestcorporations, the governor, legislature and U.S. Army.Moreover, the appeal of a surfing site seemed at first to belimited to the surfing community.
In the early 1960's we had approached some of thepoliticians and government administrators. Look, we said,this project will destroy a public surfing site. How aboutchanging the plans? Meetings of this kind brought off fewchanges. But by the mid and late 60's, the politicaladministrators of Gov. John A. Burns began to say, "Sorry,fellas, the economy of Hawaii is more important than a fewsurfing sites. We're going ahead with these plans!"
It was at this point that we turned ourselves around. Instead of going begging without power to those with power,we decided to build our own power base, not inside thesystem where big money rules, but outside it, where bigmoney is weak. The system has money and structural power,but not people. Potentially we had the people, we decided,but not money or structural power.
Taking stock of ourselves, we saw the surfing communityas but one constituency of an overall aggrieved population.We had estimated our numbers around 30,000. A universitystudy revealed, however, that the Hawai'i surfing communitywas at least three times larger -- nearly 100,000 by 1974 --and growing at a rate four times faster than the generalpopulation! We took heart. We also learned from this studythat one of every four households in Hawaii was "surferoriented," that many others had an interest in or love forthe surf, beaches, fishing sites and shoreline atmosphere ofwhich our surfing sites were a part. Perhaps most of thepeople of Hawaii were potential allies, we thought.
If so, they needed to be organized, their powerfocused, made visible, and applied at judicious points inthe struggle.
We also learned that our subjective feelings aboutthings were important too, an energy crucible, a shareddream or desire to build something. In the beginning, thatenergy was loose, floating, nearly everywhere, but soft,compliant, unconsolidated, like foaming seas cut by the prowof a ship. We needed a method with which to gather together,aim and release that energy at the right time and place,like ocean waves that gather their force, rise and break.
In SOS, this feeling developed into a basic theme: hangtight on principle, hang loose on implementation! We seethis theme having wide application. Humanity flows aheadthrough powerful systems, changes and revolutions. Throughit all love and mutual respect for one another, for truthand for nature remain.
Some build organizations that hang tight on method butloose on principles, heavily centralize and rely onhindsight rather than insight. The seas of time inevitablybreak apart things that are bound too tightly.
In SOS, we found from experience that overly tightorganization cannot cope with the constant stresses ofrapidly changing issues, participants, times and growth. Webelieve a flexible style is appropriate for anenvironmental-political movement of its kind. SOS has hadmany thousands of participants but no membership, noconstitution, by-laws, rules, regulations, central office,overhead expenses, elected leaders or internal structure.Yet SOS won complete victories on ten major projects,totalling about $400 million in public and private funds,against the tourist industry, State legislature andadministration and the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers. Inaddition, the movement won and wrote the legislation for theSand Island State Park, against the State's plan forindustrial maritime development. We also won a shorelinesetback law, an important study in shoreline wave energytransformations, and assisted substantially in severalsuccessful community struggles against evictions of lowincome tenants, fishermen and farmers.
After more than 25 years of struggles, SOS remainsorganizationally amorphous, able to mobilize forces from thecommunity for confrontations with the establishment and tomelt back into the community when the issues resolve orstalemate so that its participants can cope with their ownjobs, changing life structures and affiliations.
At the height of the biggest confrontations in theearly 1970's, SOS met twice a week for nearly three yearswith from 25 to 100 persons at each meeting, mostly youth.The hang loose approach to implementation of principlesenabled us to adapt to many new people who flowed in and outof the movement. Those who could do so, stayed on for years,became skilled in research, media and organizing, learned asignificant part of Hawaii's history, and became politicallyaware of how the system operates.
A democratic non-centralized style characterized SOSwork. At meetings, participants sit in a large loosecircle, usually on a comfortable carpeted floor in a libraryor home facing one another with eye contact. Ideas floweasily. People sense one another, read body and facialmessages of energy, acceptance, boredom or fatigue. In thisatmosphere, newcomers feel at home.
Early in SOS struggles we learned that the twoprincipal sides of every conflict had to be thoroughlyexamined. Issues such as the Waikiki beach widening, or theKalama Valley evictions, are only the surface expressions ofdeeper contradictory forces. In struggle, we assess thestrengths, weaknesses, motives, capabilities, conflicts andcontradictions of each of the main contenders in everystruggle -- the entrenched propertied wealth of landowners,financiers, developers, etc., and their political agents ingovernment, on the one side, and on the other, the people,the movements, their allied contituencies and internalcontradictions.
Only down-to-earth two-sided analysis can preventissues of struggle from floating away in a hazy fog of moralvalues cut off from the real issues that affect the people.
To share our findings with affected communities, wefound it necessary to develop our own propaganda arsenal.SOS eventually developed or aided in the creation of severalnon-commercial printshops with persons skilled inphotography, research, writing, layout, printing and more.SOS also collected a library of the establishment's planningdocuments and studies and about 10,000 slides andphotographs of contemporary and historic subject matter.These are used for media presentations and base building.
From within the system we found many silentsympathizers, "whistle blowers" who provide us with sunshineinformation from within the dark recesses of the corporate-political machine. Audiences are stunned to see photocopies or slides of secret documents that lay bare the innercorruption and deception of the system.
An example was the joint release to the press by theNiumalu-Nawiliwili Tenants Association and SOS in 1974 offive months of secret weekly reports from the local managerof a large home builder to his boss in Florida. Its mainproject in the islands was to have been a huge touristresort at Mahaulepu on Kauai. The resort would have doubledthe population of the island. The reports containeddetailed records of manipulations, secret meetings withpublic officials, payoffs and corruption involving localattorneys, of the chairman of the State Land Use Commission,and the mayor of Kauai. Our media expose generated 8-columnheadlines. The manager was fired, the project folded, andthe corporation's operations in Hawaii collapsed for severalyears. The chairman was investigated, the once popular mayorlost the election and died soon after of a heart attackwhich his family attributed to the scandal and lostelection, and a series of subsequent Land Use Commissionhearings erupted in chaos under angry attack from hearingparticipants, to mention a few visible results of theexpose. Truth is a formidable weapon indeed. (We later heardthat the manager's wife divorced him, and that a sontragically committed suicide).
Research, exposing the truth, and struggle, are theprimary means of building a people's power base outside thecorporate-political system.
To build such bases, we found that of all the manyrequirements for success, these three basic principles wereindispensable:
Absence or weakness of any one of these threeprinciples will inhibit development of base building amongthe people. No movement, we believe, can survive withoutlove, truth, and action, more or less in that order. Fromlove of the people springs the motive, from truth themethods, and from adequate actions the necessary victories.
Finally, important facts presented in educational ornews events must be triple checked for truthfulness andaccuracy. The adversary role of people's movements vis-a-visthe corporate-political system makes movements vulnerable inthe people's eyes if they put out inaccurate or misleadinginformation, or information upon which the people cannotform reasonable opinions or take meaningful action. Bytriple checking, we mean that single-point informationsources are insufficient to rely upon, no matter who orwhere they come from. Honest mistakes can be as damaging aslies, especially in sharp conflict situations.
Among the comments SOS receives from time to time arereferences by our enemies or adversaries to the veracity andintegrity of SOS information. If mistakes are made, theyshould be honestly admitted for credibility to be upheld.
Of all the skills and attributes a movement, like aperson, can have to be effective in the struggle, honesty isthe single most indispensable trait. And in the never-endingstruggle between truth and falsehood, truth needs energeticand fearless advocates.
Please keep us informed as to how we can be of modesthelp.
John Kelly, Spokesman
Save Our Surf
4117 Black Point Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
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