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A sign in the crowd at the 2011 anti-APEC protests. Photo by Ikaika Hussey

Refocusing on Globalization

The vision of the grassroots should expand to include globalization's effects on Hawaii and our Pacific cousins.

Jon Osorio

In 2010 a small group of people began planning a conference to be held during the two week Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting scheduled for the fall of 2011. The conference known as Moana Nui, and more appropriately now as Moana Nui I, was intended to provide a place for critical examination of the global partnerships, trade agreements, and especially the various globalist discourses with which summits like APEC and G-8 routinely adopt.

What really impelled our work was the recognition that nation states and multi-national corporations now routinely conduct most of their deliberations in the privacy and secrecy of these summits, producing very detailed trade agreements without being required to consult with local governments, never mind the communities that will bear the impact of economic change. In fact, as Lori Wallach, director of the agency Public Citizens Global Trade Watch in her 2012 article in The Nation asserts:

Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules—in effect, a corporate coup d’état. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences that invest in the US economy would be banned, and “sweat-free,” human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged.

As a Kanaka Maoli teacher and activist for the past 25 years, I have along with many others pursued, I hope relentlessly, the restoration of our own government. Like 20,000 others I joined Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi in 1988 and hoped for the creation of our own sovereign nation within the State of Hawaiʻi where we could begin to address the historic dispossession of the Hawaiian people in our own land. Over time I have joined the thousands of Kanaka working for the independence of our nation from the United States, recognizing that America has no legal claim to our country whatsoever.

But the extent to which manufacturers, investors, bankers, pharmaceuticals and oil drillers have managed to seize the ability to obtain special agreements through secret negotiations like the Trans Pacific Partnership remind me that the real enemy to Native peoples in the world are not just the clumsy, slow to react national governments like the United States, with their overwhelming military forces, but the far more dangerous maneuvering of multi-national corporations and the huge sums of capital they command. As lethal as the US government can be, it is still a country that must answer to its own citizenry and increasingly, it is a country that is finding it almost impossible to generate a cohesive and sustainable domestic or foreign policy.

Investors and manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and mineral prospectors suffer no such impediments and we would do well to heed the warning of observers like Wallach and pay much closer attention to the economic agreements and the commercial developments that are drawing Asia and the Pacific Islands into a net in which even national autonomy may increasingly be, like Monarchy, a romantic anachronism.

So while I am fully persuaded that the correct legal solution to the illegal territorializing of Hawaiʻin 1898 and the illegal creation of the State of Hawaiʻi is the restoration of our once independent Kingdom, I am equally determined that Hawaiʻi’s government should not follow in the policy footsteps of Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines (to name only a few). As we prepare ourselves for self-rule we must pay more and more attention to what is happening to “independent” governments in the rest of the Pacific. Moreover, we must strengthen our own claims as indigenous peoples to recover and revive the practices and values of our ancestors that allowed us to live healthy and productive lives for millennia.

The vision for Kanaka Maoli activists in the second decade of this century must extend, I believe, past the mere insistence on the return of our legitimate government and imagine what kind of society we would create with or without that government. It must look back not just to the year that Kamehameha III created our constitutional monarchy or the year that we received international recognition of our existence as a nation, but to the thousand years before them when our people named every rock and every bend in the stream and knew how to make the land live and nurture the people. This vision calls for this generation of Kanaka to be even better equipped than my generation to carry on a more complex and critical struggle. I certainly believe that we are up to the task.