War and everyday violence

M.T. Kato

Still fresh in our memory is the killings of 29-year-old mother in Kailua and 2-year-old toddler in Honolulu that happened on the same day. Both murders were done by males of mature age in a chillingly cruel manner. Regardless of the judiciary's final judgment, the public has tried to find consolation in some sort of aberration in the perpetrators, attributing their unusual cruelty to ice addiction and mental condition.

Even if we are to accept such explanation, it maybe hard for us to deny unsettling feelings, haunting us as an after-effect of the murders. Personally, those incidents invoke in my mind the historical instances of Nanjing massacre and other Japanese wartime atrocities in Asia. The Japanese military forces reduced women, children, and elderly to mere life that was clubbed, raped, and slashed to death, and tossed into a pit for a live burial. Such cruelty has been repeated time and again, for instance, during the Vietnam War (e.g., My Lai massacre), the "ethnic cleansing" in Yugoslavia, the civil war in Sierra Leone and perhaps in the ongoing "war on terror" in Iraq and Afganistan which we will know sometime in the future.

Those murders in Kailua and Honolulu force us to rethink the conventional understanding of the relationship between war and everyday violence, which focuses on a psychological impact of war upon the individuals. What we are witnessing today, I argue, is an intrusion of war into the very fabric of our society. In other words, war is no longer confined to its designated territory: War has become extra-territorial or deterritorialized.

Now Hawai'i's relationship with war is two-fold. On one hand, war impacts Hawai'i through its dependency on the US bubble economy inflated by war. After a brief impasse immediately following 9/11, Hawai'i has enjoyed the trickle down effect of the U.S. war economy boom in the areas of tourism and real estate market. The bubble has burst as indicated, for instance, by the decrease of visitors to Hawaii in the year 2007, the first time decrease since 2003.

On the other hand, Hawai'i has come to be directly besieged by war. Since 2001, there have been significant military expansions in Hawai'i: the deployment of Stryker Brigade, the inauguration of a classified military research center at University of Hawai'i (UARC), the B-2 stealth bomber's monthly bombings of Pohakuloa, and the launching of Superferry that is designed to transport Stryker Brigade and other military equipments. Besides those I would add the buy-out of Hawai'i's telecommunication system by the Carlyle Group as an "invisible" war machine. As the Carlyle Group – which is closely tied to the Bush family – is the 11th largest arms dealer in the U.S., our telecommunication system has come to be part of their arms-based economy.

Squeezed between the demise of dependent economy and the direct implantation of war, Hawai'i may see more instances of everyday violence of cruel nature. A fundamental response to the everyday violence in Hawai'i, therefore, requires the process of rehabilitation of a war-torn society. For such society-wide rehabilitation, the indigenous cultural value of aloha 'aina can be the most viable guiding concept to help heal the wounds of society as well as individuals, and to envision the future without violence and war. The concept of aloha 'aina, to take on a Kanaka Maoli activist Andre Perez's interpretation, is not confined to the land in its territorial aspect. It can be applied to the care and love for one's body, for one's family, and every being constituting 'aina that feeds us both in material and spiritual sense.