Letters to Sunaina, April 19th 2015
I hope you’re well, and staying busy with things that make you smile. Yesterday I got called a “haole”, the first time someone has dropped the h-bomb on me since I’ve been here. It was pretty funny, actually, and in context I didn’t take it as too much of a racist comment even though it was, in reality. It kind of reminded me of when people call me a “hippie” because my hair is long and I have a beard, which is also pretty funny. While enjoying the peace of a mostly off-grid life, I do miss the effortless connection to internet and communication technology. Those are connections that go hand-in-hand with sustainability, in my opinion.
Yesterday I went to town for some groceries, the mail, and to check out a couple vehicles. It was a nice day, business as usual for a town run. On the way home I came across a father and son who had broken down. I could tell from the dad’s body language that he’d gotten the problem fixed, but I pulled over to see if they needed anything anyway. The dad didn’t see or hear me drive up, as he was dabbling under the hood, but the son did and as he got his dads attention I could hear him say something in pidgin, as he pointed to me, that contained “haole”. The dad looked up at his son, not quite understanding, and then he looked at me and said “oh haole!” while laughing. I started laughing too, because it felt just like a word not an ill intent, and shot him the “shaka” sign and asked if he was OK. He shot it back to me and said “we got it!” I started to drive off and he pointed at me saying “you’re the man” in appreciation for me stopping, and I’m guessing in embarrassment over his teenage son not knowing what to call me other than “haole”. If you aren’t familiar with the term it’s slang used to describe a white person, or foreign, but often used in a derogatory way. It’s got significant history, there’s even a “Kill a Haole” day that popped up in local culture, and various people claim various origins of the term. The one that makes the most sense to me is that it started after Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii, he went to shake hands with the Hawaiians, not knowing about their custom of touching noses and sharing their breath with one another. Captain Cook was eventually killed by the locals, after his and his crew’s bad manners and inhumane treatment of people finally triggered a reaction. The term “haole” literally means “without breath” or “breathless”, so it’s fairly deep, to basically say someone lacks spirit or soul. To me it was just sad that his teenage son didn’t know how to address the situation without referring to me as “haole”. When people are raised into povertous language, racism, and by a philosophy that promotes the division of humankind, that kind of ignorance is the result. There are mainland cultures and families that suffer the same ills. It’s not always malicious, though it’s always ugly.
Before that happened I was talking to another local, the owner of one of the vehicles I checked out, and we were talking about the differences in racism here and on the mainland. He had lived in Sacramento, Ca. for a while. On the mainland, when faced with a racist, they may be rude or short but they still acknowledge a person usually, just unpleasantly. In Louisiana I’d get a lip smacking, or “uh huh” as a response to “hey, how are you today”, from a racist cashier, or “checked” (looked at from toe to head, it’s used as an insult) and/or verbally dismissed by a fellow customer, at a store. Here in Hawaii the racist locals just look through you, as if you weren’t there, and if they block an aisle at a store they’ll sit there until you move, while completely ignoring your presence, and things like that. Racism happens, it’s just part of life that is a result of hateful, miserable, willingly ignorant, and intentionally uninformed people in society expressing themselves. And to be honest, I’d rather be ignored than punched in the face, as happened to me numerous times as a kid, for being white. One of my boxing coaches once told me, in reference to training hard, “There are only two things that you have to do in life. You have to stay white, and you have to die, everything else is an option.” He is a black man, and someone I have a lot of love for. Neither of us are held up by racial stigma and stereotypes and race plays no part in our daily interactions with people, we work with everyone. His words were simply facts, as there are many things in ones life that they can change but their race and their death are two things that are certain and unchangeable.
On the topic of classification/stigma/stereotype…etc., I can’t help but think about people calling me a “hippie” or commonly a “dirty hippie”, it happens a lot. It doesn’t actually bother me, but my own way of life is a pretty far cry from your traditional “hippie” culture. I strongly believe in individualism and that society is better built by a collective of empowered individuals than by people who deny their individuality for a social collective, or commune. The concept of private property is one that I value, as it is what gives people a concept of personal ownership and responsibility. If we do not own property, how do we own ourselves? Is one’s hand not their own? If we don’t own ourselves then how can we say “don’t do that to me”, if “me/I/oneself” isn’t a respected body? How can we tell governments that we do in fact have rights, by virtue of our existence and nothing else, that they have no right to take away/limit? Also, I hunt, fish, eat meat and insects, and kill some pests/destructive species. I believe in people being able to own tools of self defense, even up to equaling the ability of governments, and in the ability to be violent in self-defense. Let’s face it, if someone trusts the government, cops, military, and criminals to be the only people who have firearms, for instance, and not themselves or their neighbor…they really aren’t very secure, and it’s a pretty poor argument if they think it makes everyone safer. Who then could stop the tyrants that plague our history, and present, with their presence, if those that protect them are the ones that supposedly protect us? Also, I fully believe in the embrace of technology, both low and high tech. None of that, to me, is very “hippie”-like culturally, based on my own prejudice and experience with “hippie” culture. People see my long hair and beard and usually they assume that I’m a left-leaning, something, but they don’t realize that I grow my hair out for charity, and my beard for fun. I still want to make paint brushes out of my beard, so THAT might be something hippie-ish…and I’m barefooted. Let me stop here before I make a case for the “hippy callers”. Point is, it’s important to create a culture that judges individuals based on behavior and character content, rather than skin tone and artistic expression of self (clothes, tattoos, make up…etc.).
Last night while walking up killer hill I stopped to star-gaze, realizing how little I actually look straight up. Not having anyone to share the moments with while in-the-moment feels foreign to me. Not that I’d normally have a human with me, but I could use my phone to call a human or text, or take a pic and send a pic to someone. Here I cannot. It’s a challenge to me in ways, that I cannot whip out my little personal computer and start researching things on the spot, in the moment of discovery and discussion. To me, technology is no burden in the pursuit of sustainable living. In fact, I think it’s purely an asset. There’s nothing about TV or music or movies that keeps one from being sustainable, nothing about air conditioning, heat, power tools, etc.. I think, in reality, these are actually complementary to sustainable living and permaculture in ways or as concepts. Sure, mindless garbage plaguing television is hardly complementary to it but if culture changed TV content would change, and people putting better things on TV could help change culture. The problem is not that people have access to the world at their fingertips, it’s just that the cultures of the world are sick, diseased by single-serving convenience-based consumerism. People often blame the free-market, which I feel is a tragic mistake, as a voluntary, free, and open market is a natural human right that should be untouched by government bodies. The unregulated internet is mankind’s greatest gift to itself. There are countless libraries and more importantly immeasurable volumes of personal human experience, ever growing, documented, and explore-able from a tiny little box, all around the world. Yesterday, while in town, I even text messaged a doctor, directly, to set up a skype meeting for a consultation. He told me what time he was available, we set it up, had a fun conversation, shared some links, and that was that. Technology and human ingenuity are definitely things to embrace, the modern flaw is that people have abandoned simplicity by confusing it with convenience. They are far from the same thing. Simplicity is good.
The most recent garden that I made, and didn’t see for 10 days, is doing great! It’s been very windy here for a couple of weeks, a neighbor told me that sometimes it stays windy, without stopping, for months. That could get annoying, just a small reminder that there truly is no utopia. There’s not much else going on here, loving being alive, being amazed at the wonderful people and opportunities that continuously come into my life, and am enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. Happy Earth Day!