A SLOW BLOG TO SHIBBOLETH....
Time was when the individual’s opinion did not count in the larger context of life, due to the difficulty that existed in getting that opinion into circulation (via conventional printed matter). Along came the electronic revolution and suddenly EVERYONE’S opinion started being aired in millions of blogs scattered across the internet. How ironic, then, that due to the proliferation of blogging and the popularity of individual expression and opinion mongering (on the web), the individual’s personal take on reality is right back where it more or less originated from: the relatively obscure anonymity of that same new electronic medium! Ah well! Thus, understanding fully that very few shall ever stumble across these words, here’s another installment of breathless opinionising in blog form.
Several days ago on the Honolulu Advertiser’s website, I made a comment in response to news items about the recent incidents of severe domestic violence that have marred Honolulu. In each of the cases, a younger Hawaiian woman had been battered, threatened, or been murdered outright (in at least two cases) by a ‘local’ male she had a relationship with.
In the most recent case, a 31 year old Samoan man (Toi Nifoa) from Kalihi gunned down his 25 year old girlfriend as she sat in her vehicle, near her home. Nifoa and his victim, Royal Kaukani, had been involved in a stormy relationship characterised by Nifoa’s violent harassments, threats, physical abuse, and what the HPD term ‘terrorising activity’ focused on Kaukani.
Tragically, as seems to be the inevitable case in most ‘domestic violence’ situations, the victim was co-dependently responsible to a significant extent for her own murder (as it turned out) by making repeated allowances for Nifoa’s brutal behavior, trying to rationalize away his violent nature, and apparently feeling she could ultimately ‘save him’ from himself (according to one analyst who reviewed the case). At one point Kaukani was granted a restraining order to keep Nifoa at a distance, but somewhat later rescinded the same court order, subsequently reconciling with Nifoa and stating that they were getting along ‘excellently’ and planning to marry.
Clearly, the feeling that they were getting along well together was a classic example of one-sided wishful projection on the victim’s part, since her murderer (Nifoa) continued to maintain the same pattern of domestic abuse he had manifested originally until he most recently rode his motorcycle up to her and shot her multiple times (once in the head) before riding off.
The comment I made in response to this Honolulu Advertiser article (one of a continuing series on developments centered on the tragic circumstance) and a similar article concerning an attempted rape of a U of Hawaii student in her dorm room, was that “Yes, this may be the 'land of aloha', but just as many bad things happen here now (thanks to imported malihini sub-culture) as they do on the mainland. Due to substance abuse, ETOH, pop-culture, and the less-happy effects of cultural diversity, our former paradise is often just another crime scene waiting to happen. Personal safety requires mature responsibility and awareness; if you don't HAVE it, GET it! Aloha kakou! Malama pono!”
In response to my comment, another reader responded shortly thereafter by stating “Do not blame transplants, as many of the killers here on island are not mainlanders.... There was and is no such thing as a completely peaceful nation or nationality.”
The reader in reference who left the above reply clearly did not understand the essence of my comment, which I paraphrased in the following rebuttle: “You miss my point. The American mainland's pop-culture has had and continues to have an extreme and profoundly negative impact on island life. That's not the same as saying that many of the perps of serious crime here are from the mainland. Help control commercially ($$$) packaged media violence, substance (meth), and amoral attitudes, and you will better control of social violence in Hawaii. Any macho, sexist culture (the USA) that subtly encourages predatory treatment of women as sexual playthings (instead of complete human beings) is perverse, unconscionable, and unhealthful. Aloha kaua.”
I do not normally fight duels with unarmed individuals, since cheap 'snap-shots' are not my specialty and are usually an expression of small-mindedness in any conversation, direct or virtual (via internet), but I felt this was an excellent illustration of how so many people today still do not ‘get it’ about the significantly adverse effects of our tawdry American pop-culture myth that glorifies ‘bad boyz’ (i.e. the popular adolescent paradigm of a trash-talking , ‘gangsta’ emulating, abuser of substance and women who is ultra-cool).
Now, most Americans (and certainly many Hawaiians) are NOT noted as deeply reflective, thoughtful individuals. Most live rather superficial intellectual lives at best, focused on self-concentric materialistic consumption, and simply gravitating from fad to fad like an infant would be attracted to one shiny toy after another that was flashed before its eyes. Cogent reflection on the worthiness or quality of a life seems to be far beyond the capacity of most, if the examples of the extreme behavioral excesses that turn up in the news each day are any reliable indicator of anything other than rampant cognitive ignorance. Given that half of ANY target population is below average anyway (this is an indisputable statistical fact, of course), it is therefore easy to see what sort of mindset would prompt a remark similar to the one directed towards my own (“…many of the killers on our islands are not transplants….there is no such thing as a completely peaceful nation or nationality.”). The individual who voiced this opinion is obviously so enmeshed in our mainland consumerist dross and pop-culture schlock that he/she can’t see what’s going on about him/her in the context of a larger, broader picture.
The point I was hoping to make was that as a capitalistic democracy that has always hewed to the sentiment that the ‘the best commercial regulation is as little as possible’, America has habitually allowed commercial corporations to do largely as they please in terms of marketing, advertising, and selling their products in order to make their profits. The implied and ascendant (if unspoken) dictum has always been that they will satisfactorily regulate themselves insofar as ethics, morals, and scruples are concerned in the continuation of their commercial activities.
Sadly, as we have recently seen in the egregious examples of Wall Street’s failure to regulate its own greed, profits, and business ethics (that have nearly managed to put the entire world’s economy into recession), putting a kid in charge of a candy shop is about as effective a strategy as appointing a street pimp to be in charge of the surgeon general's STD program.
In the past half century, during which time the increasingly sophisticated American advertising industry has succeeded in remaking reality into its own conveniently self-serving commercial fantasy, one especially effective tactic developed by commercial marketers has been to tap into the jugular vein of adolescents (whose personal discretionary income today translates well into business profits of multiple billions of dollars each year). This insidiously vampirical exploitation of immature adolescent awarenesses takes primary form in marketers seizing whatever popular youth trend is thought ‘cool’ by youth and converting that ‘coolness’ into marketable consumer items. Although many examples of this marketing strategy abound (one of most successful of the earlier ones was the co-option of the surfing craze), perhaps the best current one that comes to mind is the multi-billion dollar consumer market that has developed around hip-hop music and ‘gangsta-rap’ culture. I reference the popular youth image of the gansta-rapping, substance-abusing, foul mouthed and misogynistic thug as an youthful icon of anti-social rebellion.
The image of anti-social ‘cool’ that is projected in pop-culture media (music, action movies, etc.) has been repeatedly shown to be fatally attractive to immature minds that are obsessed with throwing off constraints of parental and social authority. The profits made by companies that market such consumer items that glorify the violently ignorant mind-set of this sort are immense. So successful has been the marketing of this extremely anti-social, iconic image of ‘hip rebellion’ that even middle-aged adults routinely buy and wear ‘gang’ inspired fashion clothing, affect mannerisms and attitudes reflective of the gang subculture, and behave in reckless parodies of related ‘gangsta’ style.
A simple examination of any commercial retail store will reveal many fashion styles that are directly inspired by gang-related customs, culture, and apparel. No one at the highest level of the corporate headquarters worries, of course, about the ‘message’ that such philistine commercial pandering to prurient sub-culture is sending to impressionable kids, with their attenuated reflective reasoning abilities. The uniform reply to any such suggestion is invariably “We’re just giving the public what it wants…” Yeah, right! (Giving it what we have succeeded in making them think they want, at a huge profit to us.)
The same advertising and marketing model is active throughout the entire economy of the United States, having a hugely harmful impact on our society in general, but on our adolescent kids in particular. Automobile advertisements on televised media don’t dwell on practical things like economy, utility, functional reliability, and environmental advantages; instead they pander to speed, horsepower, reckless driving, and unconstrained release of male hormonal surges. Watch any TV ad of a high-powered new car speeding down a highway and squealing around corners at ill-advised speeds (or smashing through streams, raising exciting clouds of spray) and tell me that doesn’t scream out “Just DO it!”. If a complaint were directed to these commercial manufacturers about the sort of unhealthy suggestion this advertising plants in the minds of youthful consumers (e.g. 'buy this car because it’s dangerously overpowered, capable of giving you cheap thrills, and will make you a sexy stud all the girls will want to be seen with'), you can be assured they won’t even bother to respond (or if they do, it would be via a bland and generic “Thank you for sharing your opinions with us; we ARE always interested in hearing from you.”
So what’s the ‘point’ here? The point is pretty obvious that corporate business is not interested in anything that might curtail their sales and profits, or…perish the thought!...in assuming a vestige of social responsibility instead of exploiting the reliable youthful tendency to reject authority and rebel against convention. And yet these same highly manipulative and extremely sophisticated commercial marketing philosophies and advertising campaigns are perhaps at the very core of our American social decline, a growing philosophical rot that threatens to ultimately destroy any chance we may have once had as a nation to shape responsible, thoughtful, and discerning minds as they transit through their formative adolescence.
Seen against the backdrop of the foregoing, just about every adverse effect being felt in Hawaii today is either directly or indirectly attributable to the wholesale subscription of Hawaii’s majority of less-reflective individuals (always at least half or more of any population, remember) to these deceptively alluring influences. As long as Hawaiians (whether males or females) think American mainland youth pop-culture excesses are cool, these extremely adverse social effects will simply further degrade Hawaiian society. Until it is clearly seen (and understood) that violence, gang-related associations and practices, substance abuses (meth and ETOH in particular), and misogynistic attitudes (abuse of women, domestic violence, and sexist depredations) are destructive, and until the association between unethical commercial marketing of material consumer goods and these bad influences is perceived fully, Hawaii will continue to suffer from more recurrent violence such as has recently been noted in and around Honolulu.
Of course, the example in particular reference focuses on the island culture of Hawaii, but Hawaii is simply a smaller reflection of the same unhealthy influences on the mainland that have managed to turn the positive term of ‘cultural diversity’ in America into a dirty phrase. Since the same unreflective bourgeois proles and intellectual drabs who mindlessly and enthusiastically embrace superficial American pop-culture schlock probably will NEVER get the ascendant message here, it is all the more important for those who DO think critically about the quality of life in American society to speak out publically and make an effort to communicate the urgency of this concern.
In Hawaii, it has become a favorite reflexive habit to blame extreme behavioral aberrances and unlawful behavior on one ethnic group or another. People of Samoan ancestry are a favorite target, for example, of Hawaiian-blooded locals. EVERYONE loves to criticize haole (“Whitey”) for degrading and destroying indigenous Hawaiian culture, by way of another. What is overlooked entirely by far too many (including local Hawaiians or ‘kanaka maoli’, long-time residents or ‘kama’aina’, and recent arrivals or ‘malihini’) is that the predominant cultural intrusion of the American mainland’s materialist, exploitative commercial influence is the principal culprit in almost every situation in which violent anti-social behavior is involved.
Yes, violence exists in all societies and cultures to varying degrees. Inherent ethnic violence, however, is vastly different from corporately marketed (and highly profitable) cultural violence that is cleverly ‘sold’ to unthinking people. It is this profound difference that characterises the primary argument against not ‘buying into’ materialistic mainland ‘pop-culture’. Hawaiians, Samoans, Tahitians, and other Polynesians do not need the additional unhealthy influence of imported ritualized social rebellion (i.e. corporately marketed material exploitation of prurient influences and aberrant social subcurrents) to augment any inherent natural tendencies they may already have to act stupidly. It’s one thing to act stupidly because one is simply an ignorant oaf, but another entirely to be cleverly fooled, by commercial corporate interests, into believing that being an ignorant, violent oaf is somehow ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’.
Make no mistake about it, American corporate entities are about as co-dependently to blame for much of our present wave of execrably thuggish behavior as any other social or economic influence and it won‘t be until islanders manage to understand this and throw off the worst exploitative intrusions of mainland materialist culture that things get a bit better.
The skeptic half of me agrees with the pragmatic realist other half in understanding that things are not going to change much, if at all. Even if Hawaiians were to suddenly smarten up and take note of the crap they are being forced to not just wade through, but to appreciate and enjoy, the status quo will likely continue. Hawaiians will continue to think ‘gangsta-rap’ and hip-hop culture is cool, that substance abuses are just a minor inconvenience, and that commercial schlock mirroring those trends is desirable to consume. They will continue to embrace the image of the physically powerful, substance abusing, willful, dominant sexist male as a desirable cultural model to emulate and as surely, corporate American will continue to pander to this same fantastic distortion of moral reality that annually generates so much profit for shareholders.
Sure, it’s sad. It’s tragic. It’s a damn shame and yet no one seems to care (that’s the REAL tragedy in all of this). At least I’ve worked a few more bits of transcendent angst out of my system in expressing my take on it, so mahalo for your forbearance.
My thesis remains undiminished, however, and that is this: Throw off the oppressive yoke of unreflective material (American) consumerism, start thinking again about the quality of life that existed in the islands before the haole malihinis (white mainlanders) started ruthlessly restructuring Hawaiian society to suit their own economic and religious purposes. Try to imagine an island culture in which ethnic and racial differences are once again benignly overlooked and tolerated, the common welfare and collective betterment of all people is sincerely embraced, the economy is tailored to actual human needs (instead of corporate profit margins), and the wonderful, loving essence of the true ‘aloha spirit’ of selfless giving once more becomes an ascendant motivation in every Hawaiian’s daily life.
Aloha kakou! Malama pono!