THIS SPACE FOR OCCUPATION
Wow, that Occupy Wall Street thing is really catching on. I refer to it as a “thing” here not to be insulting, but because the disjointed, disparate protests, sit-ins and “occupations” seem to lie somewhere between a genuine movement, with a recognizable chain of command, and a swelling mob. It’s almost as though it’s a movement that wants to be seen as a mob (numerous press accounts refer to the OWS “leaders”–such as they are–insisting on anonymity).
Anyway, whatever it is–and I still maintain it’s a backlash against the failure of our modern market economy to continue providing greater standards of living for each successive generation, which would explain why OWS seems to lack a cohesive list of demands that mark other, more traditional protest movements–it’s growing in popularity and ferocity. Not only are there OWS demonstrations (some broken up with disturbing police force) in every major American city, but lately activists have moved into the major West Coast ports (but don’t fear: Matson Navigation assured Pacific Business News this week that their Oakland facilities remain OWS-free).
Yes, OWS certainly seems to be growing, though from our Maui vantage point, this may be hard to see. There is an active Occupy Wall Steet Maui chapter (if I can call it that), but without a big urban center and major university to help feed membership, it’s kind of a small outfit. Or rather, it’s a small grouping of smaller outfits, no one of which speaks for the whole.
This seems to explain the three or four guys who were, for lack of a better word, “camping” on a small corner of the State Office Building lot a few weeks ago. They had their tents and their signs for a few days, and generally kept to themselves, as far out of the way as they could be while still maintaining some sort of presence on state land. When a state official told them to leave, they dispersed without incident.
“I didn’t even know they were there,” one County of Maui official told me a couple days after they were rousted.
They shouldn’t feel bad. Maui just isn’t an overtly political place. Most of the population probably tends to agree with their slogans denouncing modern geoeconomics and the influence of money in electoral politics anyway. Still, Occupy Wall Street Maui lives.
“Dedicated Maui citizens of all ages demonstrated with placards on Saturday, December 10th, at Baldwin Beach Park in Paia for INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY,” stated a press release sent out Dec. 12 from Judy Levy, who describes herself simply as a “local businesswoman. “They were expressing solidarity with the ‘Occupy Movement’ which began only three months ago and has spread to over 1,500 cities and countries worldwide.”
Levy’s email says that OWS Maui holds “General Assembly meetings” weekly on Wednesdays from 5-7pm on UH Maui College’s “Freedom Lawn.”
“This is democracy in action in its purest form with everyone’s voice being heard in an orderly, positive and focused manner,” Levy said in the email. “OWS Maui is focused on the ‘money out of politics issue’ and many other local issues that impact our healthy lives here on the Valley Isle. The group has ‘Direct Action Committees’ which are focusing attention on concerns about: GMO FOODS, SUPPORT FOR ORGANIC FARMERS, HONORING THE AINA, WATER QUALITY & AVAILABILITY, CHEM TRAILS, HOME FORECLOSURES AND BUILDING BRIDGES OF ALOHA BETWEEN HAWAIIANS AND NEWER RESIDENTS.”
With the exception of “chem trails,” those are all worthy subjects of debate and attention. What kind of action they get–beyond discussion on a lawn at the local college–is still apparently a work in progress.
DID THE MACHINES RISE ON SUNDAY?
Apparently not, though what actually did cause the island’s sudden loss of 911 emergency, phone and Internet service on Dec. 11 is still something of a mystery. “The problem appeared to have originated after a Hawaiian Telcom collection of fiberoptic lines in a cable was damaged in Kihei,” The Maui News reported on Dec. 12, citing spokesmen for both Hawaiian Telcom and the Maui Police Department. “It could have been a brush fire or a problem with the equipment that damaged the lines…”
That sounds straightforward, except neither spokesman chose to tell the News reporter any further details. Which at least as far as I’m concerned, still leaves open the possible that an evil artificial intelligence computer program has faked a planetary Internet virus that knocks out everyone’s cell phones and web access in a cunning plan to trick crusty but benign Air Force generals into giving it total control over our national security apparatus, which it will then use to nuke the planet’s population and then send out an army of large, scary looking robots (at least some of which bear a striking resemblance to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) in a ruthless though somewhat cumbersome attempt to “terminate” (if you will) the survivors.
SUGAR ISN’T SWEET
While driving through the flat lands that make up the center part of Maui, it’s impossible not to think of the sugar cane that grows over virtually all of it. And when I think of that sugar, my mind naturally wanders to the missionary-inspired Big Five companies that ruled over Hawaii in the 19th century as no monarch ever ruled a kingdom, and then to the modern Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company, which employs many, many residents in the rough work required to plant, burn and harvest the cane.
Where do they find such workers, I asked myself many times. Then on Dec. 12, while listening to Kate Sheehy’s report on Public Radio International’s The World program, I realized those guys actually have it good, when compared to their counterparts in, say, Nicaragua.
“Kidney disease has killed so many men here that locals now call their community not simply La Isla–which means ‘The Island’–but La Isla de las Viudas–’The Island of the Widows,’ Sheehy reported. “What the men in the area have in common is they all work in [sugar] farming. So Dr. [Carlos] Orantes thinks a major cause of their kidney damage is the toxic chemicals–pesticides and herbicides–that are routinely used here in agriculture.”
Here on Maui, the cane burns our eyes and our lungs when it’s burned before harvesting. In Nicaragua, it actually kills the men who harvest it. All for a sweetener doctors tell us we eat far too often.
I never knew insanity could taste so sweet.