I first want to apologize to all of you who didn’t grow up in Hawaii prior to the 90’s, this Op-Ed is not meant to magnify a difference but rather remind those of us who lived it, about something valuable that I think we’ve forgotten.
Do you remember “Hog Cheese” (some communities would say “Whole Cheese” — same thing) and can you recognize how priceless a phrase it was to our community?
Calling a person a “Hog Cheese” meant the person was being selfish, deeper it meant that the individual wasn’t thinking about others. We would remind each other, “don’t hog all the meat, don’t hog all the hot water, don’t leave a mess, don’t waste water, share your best not the stuff you don’t want.”
There were many, many more insertions of the values of thinking of others and sharing. Many of us in the community reverenced the philosophy of sharing and thinking about others and it manifested in simple terms that blended our heritage by living in a limited resourced place. Over time we were criticized for speaking pidgin and these priceless phrases that were more than words were replaced and sterilized with words like, compassion, don’t be selfish, and share. Terms that today many reference not hold in reverence.
It was shameful to be called a “hog cheese” and the paradox is today we have shows that emphasize the way to survive is to off your neighbor until you’re the last one left, the big cheese, the winner. Oh great, now you’re by yourself, congratulations!
I see kids crossing the street without looking both ways, because the law says “they have a right of way”, that’s “Hog Cheese”, it’s all about them. Same thing cars speeding around turns to beat the light, that’s “Hog Cheese”! Interesting more pedestrians seem to be getting hit by cars. Are jaywalking tickets the answer?
I hear folks talk about picking “low hanging fruit” and it is so contrary to what I was taught. The low hanging fruit were for the keiki or kupuna who couldn’t reach the high fruit. And reaching for the high fruit helped us to strive physically, intellectually, spiritually, and creatively. Summarized so simply by Queen Kapiolani in the term “Kulia I Ka Nu’u” or strive for the summit. How have we become people who are resorting to such low bars? We’re depending on legislation to solve our problems when personal leadership might be the first place to start, personal leadership in our own lives.
“Hog Cheese” was not about blame it was about identity and understanding that I might have privileged resources that I must share and likewise others will share. Nearly 40 years ago Senator Kenneth Brown gave remarks to the State Senate about sharing, caring, and preserving. It provided insight to the values of the parts, the urban core to build the population base of the economy so that the financial resources of the large population base would help to subsidize the needs of the communities who held a population not large enough to sustain itself, the rural areas to preserve our natural resources, heritage, and our spirituality, and much more. With sadness I hear the screaming question “why must we help Honolulu” and likewise, “if those guys don’t want it screw them, we’ll take it somewhere else, let em suffer.” Wow look at the abundance of “Hog Cheese”!
I hear terms like “Keep Country Country” and I don’t know what it means. Is that why we use them? So that everyone can define according to themselves? The person who just retired from the mainland who purchased his retirement estate has a different definition than the man who inherited his home from his grandparents and who cared for it for over a hundred years and now has his property taxes increased because of the recent addition to the “Keep County Country” mantra and struggles to pay the taxes. Look at the “hog” trying to act like he’s not. There’s a difference between reference and reverence.
All of this is not shared as leverage to get what one person wants, it is a reminder to understand that things are not one sided and not meant to be. We live in the most beautiful place in the world, defined by a word that the world clearly embraces and can be inspired by, ALOHA, and it is the antithesis of “hog cheese.” This is a reminder that maybe we shouldn’t always look to new laws to make us share or make things equal, they’re not equal. This is a reminder that when we use the term sacrifice with sharing, it isn’t truly sharing. And I believe that most of all this is a reminder that it’s okay to be proud of phrases that helped us to reverence our values and they can never be replaced with proper English terms that are used as reference. That’s just shibai-fake.
I extend my prayers to our elected officials as we enter this Legislative session and if we see someone “Hog Cheese” maybe we should remind them, “No Hog Cheese.”
About the author: Pono Shim is President and CEO Enterprise Honolulu, Oahu Economic Development Board.
He currently serves on 15 boards, advisory board and task forces, including the Friends of Iolani Palace, Department of Hawaiian Homelands Kaupuni Advisory Board, University of Hawaii West Oahu Advisory Board, Ohia Productions, Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association, Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative Steering Committee, Hawaii Economic Development Task Force, Chamber of Commerce Public Health Fund Advisory Board, Malama Hawaii Advisory Board, Manehu Leo, Governing Board Member of Punawai ‘O Pu’uhonua, and others. He attributes his success in his efforts to the working knowledge and practical application of Aloha. When he speaks of Aloha, he clarifies that he’s not only referring to the Aloha Spirit, but rather the practical applications of the values working in concert.