There’s an old cartoon of a giant, hairy monster conversing with a poor soul locked in a tiny box.
“Why are you so depressed?” the monster asks. “Because you keep me locked up all day long and never let me out of this box!” the prisoner shouts.
“No, that’s not it,” the monster replies compassionately, “but I promise you that together, we’ll get to the bottom of this problem!”
This is life in Hawaii, where problems and remedies are glaringly obvious, but politicians insist on pursuing every possible course of action except the ones that will actually fix our state.
The fact of the matter is that in 2019, the people of Hawaii are locked in a box and being run less like citizens of a state and more like subjects of a colony where the experimental ideas and crony capitalism of outsiders are given free rein.
The answers we seek are here, not on the mainland or elsewhere across the Pacific .
In a colony, controlled opposition is a key strategy in minimizing the effects of public discontent toward the ruling powers. Well-meaning people who have natural leadership talents or exceptional integrity are steered into meaningless partisan causes that distract or deplete them of energy, time or finances that would otherwise be used to bring about real change that threatens the establishment.
Yes, there are many good people in local elected office and in civil service.
But far too often, rather than considering Hawaii’s unique needs and crafting appropriate policies, our government looks for a cookie-cutter policy template abroad to impose upon the islands. This is precisely what allows outside special interests, multinational corporations and greedy individuals to keep Hawaii backward and in a perpetual state of colonial plantation.
Last session, the state Senate pushed for local implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. That our elected officials would even think this necessary suggests a kind of patriarchal view where Hawaii needs outside guidance to save us from ourselves. While the UN goals have merit, Hawaii needs to be responsive to the desires and needs of locals, not the best practices of an international committee composed of foreign leaders.
More recently, Hawaii legislators went to Singapore and Hong Kong in search of policy solutions for local housing, labor and economic woes. But why there? Instead of touring Southeast Asia, they should have toured Kalihi, Waipahu and Waianae and asked themselves why there is such a sharp disparity with places like Mililani, Kailua and Hawaii Kai.
Far too often, our government looks for a cookie-cutter policy template abroad to impose upon the islands.
My greatest fear of the 2019 policy expedition is that Hawaii legislators may import Singapore’s caning policy, except here we will be struck for the “crimes” of using plastic straws, operating monster homes or, worst of all, failing an environmental impact assessment.
I don’t hear anyone today daring to still compare Honolulu rail to SkyTrain, because as it is now appallingly obvious, Vancouver’s political, economic, demographic and geographic context is so vastly different than Honolulu that implementation of its practices doesn’t work here.
Even the bizarre idea of creating a special fund serviced by $20 internet pay-to-access pornography fees that emerged last session had its origins off-shore.
Many of the gun control measures that were introduced in 2019, such as gun violence protective orders (also known as “red flag laws”), likewise had origins on the mainland. Why are we shaping Hawaii according to the dictates of outsiders?
I could go on about how both the Legislature and various departments go in search of “model legislation” to govern Hawaii, but we need to be honest: Honolulu is not San Francisco, Vancouver or Singapore. Hawaii is not California, New York or even Florida. Hawaii is and always will be Hawaii, and these islands need to be governed according to the unique situation that our people face.
Don’t talk to people on the streets of Singapore for policy suggestions; seek out the local nurses, teachers, hotel workers, small business owners, and struggling residents right here for original ideas on how to fix Hawaii.
Thomas Jefferson warned about the dangers of allowing outsiders to rule one’s local sphere of influence. Take the power out of the hands of international and mainland forces and put the power back into the hands of Hawaii residents.
I’m not talking about voting left or right or throwing the bums out of office. That’s a scam that only leads to different faces with identical policies. I’m talking about recognizing that Hawaii belongs to Hawaii’s people. Break the cycle by resisting the policy mold. This is our Hawaii, and our future.
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Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist, a proud union shop steward, and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.