Friday, July 20, 2007

To Steal a Kingdom

This fascinating book, subtitled Probing Hawaiian History, details a non-standard, Hawaiian-based view of Hawaii's contact with outside influences. One of it's major theses is that Hawaiian history as it is written about and presented by various institutions, has been tightly controlled by members of one prominent family, a family whose wealth is based on land-grabbing and exploitation of Hawaiian people and resources. It's interesting, then, that this book was recommended to me by a guide at a museum run by the Hawaiian historical society, one of the institutions specifically mentioned by name

One easy reading of this book is that the Hawaiians were overwhelmed by the diseases, religions, and greed of white men who came to their shores. In my opinion, though, it's impossible not to see that various Hawaiian nobility attempted to use the white men for their own personal gain, and in so doing, sold out their people and their country. King Kamehameha, for example, widely known for gathering all the islands under his personal rule, used European military power in his conquest. This is not to say that the Hawaiians could, in any event, have maintained their independent sovereignty. The chain of events that led to Hawaii's annexation, however, seems to me to be a real-life tragedy on an epic scale, with the short-sightedness and selfishness of the nobility as only one factor among many. Certainly the greed of sugar manufacturers is appalling.

I have a friend who grew up on Maui (her parents are from Molokai), and she told me that in many respects, native Hawaiians are worse off than the native Americans. Before Europeans came to their shores, the Hawaiians had lived for thousands of years in a stable, prosperous culture. Today, their numbers have been reduced until their voices are drowned out in the land of their ancestors. Many live in poverty. There has been no compensation.

Given that so many of us love our Hawaiian vacations, I think this book is a good dose of reality; something to think about when we're admiring the enjoying a luau, wearing a lei, engaging in any of the thousand tourist activities the islands have on offer.



Blogger Lesley said...

Wow--- so many posts. I can't keep up!

11:20 AM  

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