Hawaiians vs Americans: Tale of Two Cultures and TMT

Seth Keller posted this philosophical meme on social media. Explains the Great Debate here in the islands.


Fisherman expresses Hawaiian way. Work to live. Catch enough for today, pau.
Industrialist is American way. He builds wealth. He grows a business. Lives to work. Works all the time.
Why the difference? Americans face seasons. Won’t be fish in winter, for example. Must have stores saved. If you must save, need way to can or refrigerate. Need electricity; need solid home for cold. Need much infrastructure support. Competition against nature forces American to innovate and evolve.
Hawaiian has food year round. Has basic needs year round. No need for stores of wealth. No need to grow. Catches what he needs when he is hungry.
One day, American meets Hawaiian. American has bigger ship with iron and steel. Hawaiian still uses simple canoe. American takes over Hawai’i in 1893. Competition led to innovation and growth. Wealth created more power, higher technology.
Lack of competition leads to stagnation. No growth.
Today, Kanaka fight to block TMT. See no need to grow. Want to keep Mauna Kea “as it was” hundreds of years ago. Americans want to travel to the stars.

Grasshopper and Ants

The Ant and the Grasshopper, alternatively titled The Grasshopper and the Ant (or Ants), is one of Aesop’s Fables, numbered 373 in the Perry Index. The fable describes how a hungry grasshopper begs for food from an ant when winter comes and is refused. The situation sums up moral lessons about the virtues of hard work and planning for the future.


The fisherman may be young. No need for stores of food. He can fish everyday. What happens when he is old, sick or infirm? The fisherman has an idyllic life. Maybe this is why people call Hawai’i paradise. But nature is cruel. So are other humans.

Native Hawaiian Public Opinion

The majority of Native Hawaiians support construction of TMT on Mauna Kea: An independent poll conducted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2018 found 72% of Native Hawaiians (registered voters) support TMT, 23% oppose it and 5% were undecided.

Similarly, many Native Hawaiians and others believe Mauna Kea is sacred and yet can still be home to astronomy. A statewide poll conducted in 2018 found 88% of Hawaii residents agree there should be a way for science and Hawaiian culture to co-exist on Mauna Kea. [source]

Hawaiians vs Americans

In 1776, European settlers who had formed colonies in north America suffered a tyrannical monarch, King George III of England. They rallied to fight. It was a horrible, brutal and terribly violent war. Many bled; many died. The American Revolution was born and the democratic experiment of the United States of America was entered into the pages of history.

In 1893, Polynesians descendants of bold voyagers from the Marquesas Islands, led by Hawaiian Queen Lili’uokalani, faced a growing insurgency from haole (foreign) interest groups. On Jan. 17, 1893, a group of businessmen and sugar planters forced the queen to abdicate her throne. She didn’t want her people to bleed or die. She stepped down. The Kingdom was lost.

SUGGESTED READING: Loss of telescope would harm state’s investments in science, business, supporters say, Sophie Cocke, StarAdvertiser

Anti-TMT “protectors” rally with “Ku kiai mauna” (guardians of the mountain).

Pro-TMT “protectors” answer with “Imua kilo hoku” (moving forward with astronomy).

Today, there remains much resentment and frustration in Hawaiian culture due to the perceived theft of land and overthrow of their culture. We are currently about eleven days into a major protest at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu on the island of Hawai’i, what is commonly referred to as Big Island.

“Again, we call upon TMT, go to the Canary Islands. We are not willing to negotiate. We are not willing to compromise. Compromises have been made over and over and over again for the last 50 years through the mismanagement of Mauna Kea and way beyond.”

“We will not allow TMT vehicles up, we will continue to monitor the road and ensure that Mauna Kea remains safe from further desecration.”
Kaho’okahi Kanuha (7.25.19)

This is an extremist position. Religious fanaticism. I received a request to take a survey on my social media newsfeed. I asked Kachina Aimee Woolger why she urged readers to say NO. She said the mountain was sacred to Hawaiian families. I asked what made it sacred. She unfriended me. This is why extremism is dangerous. No discussion. No reason. Support us or die. This is not aloha; it is not Hawaiian.

Unfriended Me For Asking Why Mauna Kea is Sacred

The battle focuses on TMT — Thirty Meter Telescope. The underlying issue is the 1893 overthrow of the kingdom. The protestors are led by Kanaka Maoli or native Hawaiians.

Brother Timmy Represents the Agenda of the Kanaka Maoli

I’ve been in the islands over ten years. As a political scientist, I am fascinated by the ongoing struggle of the Kanaka. They are organized, have United Nation’s backing, and are passionate about regaining their independence. They are also highly fragmented, divided and suffer much infighting — similar to mainland U.S. political groups.

The Kanaka have found a common cause — opposition to TMT. They have rallied around a mountain, Mauna Kea, which was one of the first icons in their ancestral history. TMT will reside on the top of Mauna Kea. There are currently 13 telescopes.

Thirteen Scientific Telescopes on top of Mauna Kea

Claiming an entire mountain is THEIR SACRED mountain is unreasonable. Sacred is a religious belief — and religion demands love and sharing. Mauna Kea is HUGE. As evident in the photo above, there is plenty space for science and religious observation.

Youthful, but inexperienced, organizer and “protector,” Kaho’okahi Kanuha, leads the Kanaka saying no more. Aware both of the history and frustration, I forwarded a proposal last Saturday to U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, through her father and state senator, Mike Gabbard. I consider this as an emergency and explosive situation. Time will tell.

I have also been writing to key groups. Republicans in the islands are not sympathetic to the demands of the Kanaka. Late Democratic Senator Daniel Kahikina Akaka had advocated for the Kanaka. Then Republican governor, Linda Lingle, and U.S. President GW Bush thwarted his action. The movement seemed to die with his death in 2018.

I have nurtured a relationship over the years with a former Kaua’i police official and community organizer, Mel Rapozo. He articulately presents the position of the Kanaka. I have answered him. I post our conversations to help the world understand the complex situation we face in the islands, and that possibly will impact mainland America soon.


Here’s a summary: Desecration of Their History; Their Stories; and Their Traditions on Their Land. My oh my! A simple telescope project did all this? See what I’m saying. Not a shovel full of dirt has been taken from the ground. TMT represents the entire evil of the world to the Kanaka.


I responded to Mel. He replied:

It’s not about better environmental controls. The Kanaka are not on Mauna Kea to seek better environmental controls. The Kanaka are on Mauna Kea to fight against the desecration of their sacred mountain, their place of worship and culture.

While I agree that this is a failure of government, you cannot have it both ways. TMT would provide the same benefit at a different location.

And electricity, smart phones, air travel, communications and Facebook are not desecrating the sacred lands of the Kanaka.

This is not about a telescope. This is not about science and technology. This is about respect for our sacred lands and our native Hawaiian people. Appreciate the dialogue.
Mel Rapozo

The Danger of Religious Fanaticism

I post my comments to Mel below and follow with my letter to leading Republicans. The Kanaka have taken a “no compromise” position.

I’ve been here over 10 years but will always be haole malihini in these islands. Yet I respect Hawaiian culture and appreciate all the good friends and aloha I have received. I am a political scientist and study culture around the world.

You do not have to believe me; I doubt if any will. I write these words today hoping to find a solution to this tension and impasse. Keep in mind I sent U.S. Rep Tulsi Gabbard a proposal last Saturday suggesting a compromise: return Big Island to the Kanaka and grant continuation of TMT to the U.S. government. This is compromise — and compromise is required in modern society.

I wrote to Republicans today as their impatience and anger is building. My comments are below. Youthful, but inexperienced, leader Kaho’okahi Kanuha has now stated they will not compromise. This turns the movement from protest into fanaticism. Fanaticism in any dispute is dangerous.

To my Republican brothers and sisters, I suggest considering the Big Picture. The Protectors have become religious fanatics. Youthful leader, Kaho’okahi Kanuha, told the media yesterday they were not willing to compromise.

This is dangerous. Most wars in history have come from religious fanaticism. 9.11 occurred due to fanaticism. The perpetrators believed Allah guided their destiny. The mujahideen in Afghanistan to this day claim Allah led their victory against the Soviets — we all know it was secret shipments of Stinger missiles by the CIA. LOL

TMT has Desecrated Their History; Their Stories; and Their Traditions on Their Land.

When facing fanaticism, it is virtually impossible to negotiate. Kanuha wants TMT gone — no options. If they win, they will demand the entire mountain. If they win, they will work to reverse 1893. There is no negotiating with fanaticism — as fanaticism soon evolves into terrorism.

There is much simmering anger in our islands. It extends across America. We are aware of this — it is the growing Victim Mentality.

The Kanaka are victims of their own failure. They blame haoles (foreigners). Between 1782-1810, King Kamehameha I waged a violent civil war. Ancestral Hawaiians were not pacifists. The king unified the islands in blood — as did the first Americans.

Modern Kanaka claim they were peaceful and they now are innocent victims. They do not record history in books here. This is a verbal culture. They have romanticized their history. They have forgotten the lessons of their kings and queens.

In 1893, Queen Lili’uokalani failed to protect and defend her land. King Kamehameha would never allowed himself to be imprisoned in a small room in the ‘Iolani Palace for a year. He would have fought. His men would have fought.

This is major difference between men and women in principle. The queen had no training in warfare. She was never a fighter. We see this with some of the female presidential contenders. Queens of England, on the other hand, had foreign policy and military training. They were raised in a violent world.

It’s dangerous when leaders have no formal military experience. Peaceful coexistence is a beautiful ideal. Yet our world is one of evil and aggression. War is hell. It’s horror. But sometimes we must sacrifice a hand to save the body.

The queen gave up without a fight. The Kanaka harbor deep guilt for their failure to defend their queen. Contrast their history with that of the U.S.A. Our ancestors faced a brutal King George. They fought. We earned our land in blood.

The Kanaka took a different path. Now, they suffer shame — and a Victim Mentality. They blame America for the struggles they face today. They always will. It is a trap that imprisons them in a cycle of failure and frustration.

Hawaiians are good people. They are great people. I urge us to love them; to sympathize with them. They hate haole culture — thus they reject and defy it. They don’t read well. They prefer pidgin. They are not interested in STEM-type education. This forces them to suffer in menial service jobs.

They are dying as a people and culture. To move forward, they must embrace the future. They must become doctors, lawyers, professionals and scientists. They do at Punahou Academy. They do not in most other places. TMT should delight them. It is a window to the universe for their keiki.

Those who protest are dinosaurs. They fear TMT — as it represents the future. They want to go back. Backward is death.


This mentality can motivate deadly fanaticism. We see the same dynamic in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Religious fanatics want to expunge modern technology. They want to return to the time of the prophet in 640AD. This is death. They cannot see this — and they are also most likely to strap on an explosive vest.

This is the fear of elected officials here. Protestors will not don explosive vests, but there could be violence and chaos. People could be killed.

This is a very dangerous situation. Fanaticism always is.

Let’s find the moderates at this time. Hawaiian culture has much to offer the world. We must understand their fear of being forgotten and overrun by a fast and ever-changing world. Yet they must accept TMT does not stand in their path to progress and prosperity. TMT represents jobs, innovation, knowledge and new learning opportunities. Their religion coexists with TMT. Both seek to find God.

Try extend patience, humility and love. Search out the reasonable minds. In youth there is always impatience and a feeling of invincibility. Fanaticism is dangerous!

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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”

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