We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.
You make the choices which affect you most, and I would argue, are much more important in the grand scheme of things. The Serenity Prayer advises us well;
“Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Here is my RFL for August, 2019:
The month has been a roller-coaster, and I need to preface my RFL list of 5 learnings with a bit of introduction.
I’ve never been one to shy away from taking a stand, even when they are controversial, and I risk knocking my life off-kilter a bit. I did so when Donald Trump was elected president, and most recently, I did so on July 18th: TMT and Hawai‘i—Where do we go from here?
That last one was published just 3 days into the Maunakea controversy, and it kicked up a storm of conversations for me in a variety of different places, online and off. Most have been respectful, a few were downright ugly, as can happen with controversy. Many of those respectful conversations continue, yet to be honest, even when respectful, controversial conversations are exhausting. I think about them, sleep on them, say the Serenity Prayer, and think about them some more long after the conversation itself has ended.
However, I still believe in taking a stand as a practice of clarity and courage.
Clarity, because you’d best reflect on your values, and think things through as completely as you can before you take a stand publicly. In doing so you learn more about an issue, and hopefully, will break away from any cognitive bias keeping you from being more thorough in your learning. You can learn about yourself as well. Hopefully, the stand you take is all about you, without a trace of ‘should-ing’ attached to it as your unauthentic burden. Taking a stand is an exercise in speaking up for your values, in asking good questions, in listening well, and in decision-making.
Courage, because controversy has a way of leading to confrontation once you put yourself out there and let others know of the stand you’re taking. You have to be willing to go the distance in seeing disagreements through to a good resolution, even if some prior relationships get altered or broken, for many times they will get strengthened, especially when unconditional Aloha for each other is in play as well. If not, you should have kept your stand to yourself, to be satisfied with having reached your own clarity, at least, or for the time being.
As Pico Iyer has noted, “The more we know about something, the less we’re likely to start lecturing about it. We can allow it the space and privacy that we don’t permit to what has not been properly assimilated.”
I lose count of the number of times I’ve wanted to publish an update to my July 18th letter, mostly to offer even more clarity, but primarily because my stand has changed as the Maunakea stalemate has continued. I know I will rile up a few who want me to stand firm with what I previously wrote, but my investigations have given me a better clarity: After learning much more about both environmental and cultural concerns, I now support TMT and believe it should be built, though with changes to the observatory decommissioning process, and with changes to how the mountain is protected and shared.
That’s become the operative word for me; SHARED. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching on two values I hold dear; ALOHA and KĀKOU.
I wrote about how each of those values are about sharing the Hawaiian culture throughout Managing with Aloha. I speak about that sharing, and teach it ALL THE TIME, and it bears the weight of my professional footprints. I must be true to my values.
I feel I have done an extraordinary amount of research and due diligence on this issue, to the point of my closest conversationalists about it saying, “Enough already!” I have also been reaching out to the other kūpuna I had studied with before Managing with Aloha was published (sadly, my then-kumu Dr. George Kanahele is no longer with us). Interestingly enough, every one of them so far feels the TMT project should be allowed to continue.
I’m holding off on publishing a more extensive update because this whole situation is far from over, and remains explosive and still-developing, yet I have come to firmly believe there is an ‘and’ solution to how we use Maunakea, celebrating the mauna with utmost respect and not desecrating it, wherein Aloha Intentions can prevail and be fostered. My weighing of the possibilities continues, and I don’t want to be premature in what I now say about it beyond what I just wrote above for you.
I will however, reflect on the process of what I’ve learned so far via Managing with Aloha’s Rapid Fire Learning practice, for that’s the third thing about being willing to take a controversial stand: You’d best learn from it.
RFL: The Maunakea Edition
Good timing counts for a lot in leadership.
When should you be expedient in your decision-making (and decision declaring), and when should you bite your tongue and take the time to learn more?
Sometimes it is very useful to share your process of thinking things through with others: Austin Kleon calls it being a process nerd; he wrote a book about it called Show Your Work. Other times, it’s best to wait as you deliberate more fully. As one example, though I think he may be overly generous with this, Hawai‘i political commentator Stan Fichtman wrote a very interesting post about Governor David Ige “playing the long game” with Mauna Kea: Ige and Gerald Ford.
Bringing this back to my learning, my July 18th letter was very much a part of inviting my Ho‘ohana Community into the process of my thinking as the Pu‘uhuluhulu occupation had begun. Now, I’m playing the long game, and even I’m curious in how much more patience I can have!
This quote has helped me take pause: I printed it out and taped it to the cover of the laptop I normally publish from: “You don’t edit as you write; your goal is let the words flow so you have something to work with and strengthen. With leadership, it’s the opposite. You can’t vomit your worst all over people and expect them to stick around while you massage your message to strengthen it.”—Leadership coach Alli Polin
When you’re willing to be wrong, a wealth of new possibilities can present themselves.
The solutions we have in mind become the result of whatever we consider to be the root causes of the problem we’re grappling with, and looking for a solution for. Redirect your thinking, and change your mind on those root causes, and possible solutions change.
In reference to Maunakea, I very purposely would shift conversations away from sovereignty and self-determination for Hawaiians initially, wanting instead to focus on the issue of desecrating a sacred place and Aloha ‘āina. It was never about science versus religion for me, though I found, and still find those conversations rather fascinating, and in entertaining them I learned more about the TMT project in particular, and its associated environmental facts and myths.
As time went on, and more conversations ensued, talking about sovereignty and self-determination became unavoidable—and necessary to assuring my full comprehension of what’s at stake here. Much as I support the Hawaiian culture, issues involved with sovereignty have not been conversations I enjoy, because I grapple to understand the wisdom of ‘the end game’ in many respects; I feel a sovereign nation must be ready with a self-sustaining economy to feasibly support itself and care for its people well. Yet in avoiding those conversations connected to Maunakea, I came to realize I was spinning my wheels in refusing to talk about self-determination as the real root cause in play here.
Part of my due diligence on the issue, dove back in to recalling the self-determination efforts of 2014, studying this article and others: Native Hawaiian ‘Aha Adopts Constitution for Self-determination.
This one has hurt, I admit, but it is what it is: Ethnic sensitivities have ramped up considerably since I wrote Managing with Aloha, placing it in an unexpected cross hairs.
Protecting Maunakea has become a tipping point for the swelling nation-building efforts of native Hawaiians. The Hawaiians who call themselves Kū kia‘i mauna protectors and those within the ‘aha of self-determination and the Lāhui (Hawaiian nation), solidly and emphatically reject sharing their “we belong here” Hawaiian identity with residents of Hawai‘i who are not the descendants of the aboriginal Hawaiians. It does not matter how long non-ethnic Hawaiians and their ancestors have lived here and made Hawai‘i their home too, even when those roots predate the overthrow of the monarchy and statehood. Therefore, Hawaiians today solidly and emphatically reject this passage in my book as they find their own, modern voice:
That passage is sixteen years old now, and the mood has shifted. People do get upset when I talk about sharing Hawai‘i and they feel justified in rejecting Kākou within this issue. The fact that the words I quote are Dr. George Kanahele’s, a native Hawaiian scholar and historian, and not my own, is a fact that holds no weight—his words may have been acceptable before, but not now, as modern nation-builders stubbornly speak of Pono as righteousness and not as rightness and balance (as I do in Managing with Aloha).
As an informational point here, Hawaiians are aboriginal to Hawai‘i and not actually indigenous, for they came from the Marquesas and/or Tahiti and arrived at Hawai‘i in those two migrations. The more important point for them however, is that they have nowhere else they can claim as their home except for the Hawaiian Islands, and they expect acquiescence from the rest of us so that can happen.
I’ve never claimed to be Hawaiian in my ethnicity, just in my residency, and have done my best to be honest and authentic as a 4th generation Hawai‘i resident who is not ‘of the blood’ but has learned much about Hawaiian values. Living in the Hawaiian Islands is the only life I can truly say I know, yet that’s not where the hurt is for me, for I love my own ethnic ancestry as well. The hurt has been in the insistence within this controversy, that if you are not a “true Hawaiian” in bloodline you have no voice in the matter, none—that is the first part of our ‘acquiescence to justice.’ Your kuleana doesn’t matter, even if you are an ally and supporter, for you are still “a foreigner” despite the length of your residential ancestry (my ancestors migrated here in the 1700s).
I can accept the definition of who ‘a Hawaiian’ is ethnically, but I cannot accept the rejection of Kuleana, Aloha, Kākou and Pono, for they are Hawaiian values.
Non-Hawaiian residents should not be regarded simply as “foreigners” or “illegal settlers” since the monarchy was overthrown. That overthrow was wrong, no question about it, but non-Hawaiian residents in Hawai‘i today deserve a voice in Hawai‘i issues—exactly which ones may be up for debate, but for goodness sake, let’s extend more aloha, dignity and respect to each other.
That said, I’ve learned quite a bit about being an ally, though it may currently be said to put non-Hawaiian residents in their place more often than not. Here is a good article which was shared with me, which was published by Amnesty International: 10 ways to be a genuine ally to indigenous communities.
Click in above for the detail to this list:
1. Listen to, and follow the community.
2. Centre the stories around community.
3. Know the historical and cultural context.
4. Never show up empty handed.
5. Always seek consent and permission.
6. Be responsible for yourself.
7. Know when to step back.
8. Saviors are not needed, solidarity is.
9. Be mindful of others’ time and energy.
10. Do no harm to the community.
I think this advice goes both ways in regard to allowing people their dignity, and assuring civility in discourse. Reality however, usually requires that the non-indigenous and/or non-aboriginal person have the larger dose of humility at first, much larger. Yet it remains my belief that at some point all relationships and ‘cultural brokerages’ in today’s world need to accept our connectedness and prospects of co-living cooperatively (Lōkahi). We can arrive at a win-win vision, where sculpting our future together acknowledges and embraces the fact that we will still have to live together, and will indeed benefit from that synergy. …yes, I am stuck on Kākou, for living on planet Earth is not a solo proposition. We learn from our histories, but we don’t continue to dwell within them.
In being “stuck on Kākou” I dug back into my research old and new on EDI: Equality, diversity, and inclusion, and I serendipitously stumbled upon these distinctions from Dr. Max Liboiron, urging us not to conflate inclusion with diversity. I like what she writes; the three quotes which follow, including the photo caption, are hers;
“Diversity means difference. It’s all those categories: disability, age, gender, race (or “visible minority” in Canadian labour law), country of origin, LGBTQ2+, Indigenous peoples…. Diversity without equity or inclusivity can be really crappy.”
“Inclusion is about creating environments for equity and diversity to flourish via respect, accessibility, removal of barriers, etc. It requires plans, reflexivity, learning, humility, etc. So do the other ones, but conflating inclusion with diversity is something I see a lot of.”
I give Maya Angelou the last word here, on Identity: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
And there you have it; my RFL for August 2019.
There was more, but one of the things I love about our RFL practice, is how it gets us to condense our learning, and reflect on the biggies. I am also doing my best to practice number ONE in regard to the timing of leadership voice, and sharing one’s views—for now, these will only be published on my own blog. There is certainly more to learn, and weave in as this controversy continues, for I do believe we are at a significant inflection point and tidal shift: Sovereignty is still a long shot I think, but self-determination for Hawaiians may be inevitable… will it happen in our lifetimes?
Your turn: What is your Rapid Fire Learning for August?
Postscript: You may have noticed that I have switched to using Maunakea in my reference to the mauna, as does Ke Ola Magazine and others. Maunakea as a single word has been suggested by the UH Hilo School of Hawaiian Language. While Mauna Kea means “white mountain” and works as a description, Maunakea is now used by UH, the Office of Maunakea Management and the Hawai‘i Board on Geographic Names as it recognizes the name ‘Ka Mauna a Wākea’ in Native Hawaiian legend and tradition.