OCCUPY WALL STREET MAUI CELEBRATES FIRST BIRTHDAY
The birth of Occupy Wall Street–the loose, mostly grassroots uprising that argues against the influence of multinational corporations in our government–has been well-covered in the press. But I recently learned that its local cousin–Occupy Wall Street Maui, which is just about one year old now–owes its existence (at least partially) to the paper you’re reading right now.
“Here on Maui, Occupy really began–after a couple false starts–in late September with a meeting called in Haiku, through a small note in MauiTime,” states a Sept. 9 press release from the organization. “About 25 people gathered–old-time peaceniks, Hawaiian sovereignists, environmentalists, political activists, anarchists, concerned citizens.”
There, the press release states, the activists talked and formed an ad hoc General Assembly.
“A week or so later, the very first Occupy Maui General Assembly was called, in Keopuolani Park, behind the MACC (two weeks later the meetings moved to UH-Maui Freedom Lawn, where it has met weekly ever since),” stated the news release. “About 50 people came, started to form working groups, and Occupy Maui was launched. (The name was later changed to Occupy Wall Street Maui to honor the conviction of many Hawaiians that the islands are already an occupied nation.)”
Over the past year, the group has “picketed in solidarity with electrical and harbor workers, silently protested around Kaahumanu Center, run a weeklong festival at the Monsanto GMO plantation in Kihei, and blocked illegal evictions in Hana and Kahului.” We haven’t heard much from them lately, and now they’d like to change that.
On Monday, Sept. 17, Occupy Wall Street Maui activists (and anyone else who isn’t happy about Monsanto) will meet at the mauka side of the Mokulele and Piilani highways intersection in Kihei to wave signs and generally raise hell (well, as much as is typically allowed on Maui). For more info, check out Facebook.com/OccupyMaui.
HAWAII TOURISM MARKETING GOES (SORTA) AUTHENTIC!
Did you guys catch that fascinating Associated Press story in the Sept. 8 Maui News on tiki culture? The story, headlined “Nix the tiki bar: Tourism moves toward authenticity,” discusses a move among major resorts in Hawaii to replace the coconut bras, fire knife dances and other kitschy “Hawaiiana” with actual, real culture and traditions from the Kanaka Maoli.
“Tourism leaders know Hawaii needs to highlight what makes the islands unique to compete with other sun-and-surf destinations like Florida, Mexico and Thailand,” reported the AP. “But the turn is also the latest sign of a Native Hawaiian renaissance with more locals studying Hawaiian language, reviving traditional styles of hula and learning ancient skills like using stars to navigate the ocean.”
The story focuses mainly on Oahu resorts–Disney’s Aulani Resort and the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki–but also mentions the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel (KBH), which is often credited with the distinction of being the “most Hawaiian” hotel on Maui.
“For Lori Sablas, the cultural director at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel on Maui, it is about accuracy,” reported the AP. The story then quoted Sablas as saying the following: “My mandate is, ‘How do Hawaiians think? How do Hawaiians act?’ Let’s not change it. Let’s not make it up.”
While certainly a laudable goal, the story misses a few points that greatly complicate the notion that the KBH is among the most “authentic” resorts in Hawaii. The first is that the KBH–which does indeed prominently display Hawaiian artifacts and grow taro on the resort grounds–also has its own tiki bar (the whole “tiki” movement began in California in the 1930s, the story notes).
Called The Tiki Bar & Grill, it’s a kick-ass little spot on the resort. It’s always lively, fun and is every bit as kitschy and fun as any tikified establishment you might find on the Mainland.
“Everyone envisions themselves at a Tiki-themed bar with an exotic cocktail while in Hawaii,” states the KBH’s official website. “The Tiki Bar at Kaanapali Beach Hotel is the first and only outdoor Tiki Bar on Maui.”
Here’s another issue, and this is by no means limited to the KBH. Ever go to a hula or dinner show or some other such big gathering of people in Hawaii? What’s the first thing the host or emcee says? “Alooooha.” Not “Aloha,” but “Alooooha,” with a big emphasis on the “ooooo” part.
In his 2011 book Aloha: Traditions of Love and Affection, University of Hawaii cultural specialist Malcolm Naea Chun wrote that the word “Aloha” is, historically, far more intimate and personal than the word currently used on resorts and even in supposedly culturally accurate events.
“[A]loha is special because it upholds, reaffirms, and binds relationships,” Chun wrote. “Aloha should not be taken lightly. It should not be used casually or frivolously.”
No less an authority than Queen Lili‘uokalani helped guide Chun to that conclusion.
“Never… never say alo-o-oha,” the queen told a crowd in 1910, according to Chun’s book. “It is a haole word. Aloha is ours, as is its meaning.”
While we’re on the subject, here are two other haole words: “private property.” If we really want to know “what Hawaiians think,” as Sablas asked, then we’ve got to understand that, according to HawaiiHistory.org, “[t]he concept of private property was unknown to ancient Hawaiians.”
That kinda throws a whole lot of really cold water on this whole search for the most “authentic” representation of Hawaiian culture in our tourism industry. But really, when have we Americans ever let a bunch of historians dictate terms in our marketing efforts?
MECO FALLS ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH
Oh, and in case you were wondering, that little power outage last week in Kihei–the one that cut power to 13,000 South Maui customers for not quite an hour on Wednesday afternoon–was due to “An inadvertently closed switch at a substation,” according to a blurb in the Sept. 7 Maui News.
According to the story, “[a]n investigation of the power blackout determined that, during testing of substation equipment at [Maui Electric Company’s] MECO’s Kealahou substation, a switch was left closed that resulted in an ‘automatic relay scheme’ that opened all circuits that provide power to Kihei and Wailea, [MECO spokeswoman Kau’i Awai-Dickson] said. And that brought about the power outage.”
Also–again, just in case you were curious–the phrase “improve service reliability” played a huge part in the justification MECO used to convince the state Public Utilities Commission to grant its requested 3.2 percent interim rate hike (which went into effect on June 1 of this year).
Hey, I’m just saying.