Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hawaiian Shenanigans

Gene Ward is on the attack.

He continues to fan the flames of anti-industry hatred and is circulating this piece of despicable populist shit. Click on it for details: this is how a self serving politician is trying to kill Hawaii's tourism industry.

And what about "chairman" Makani Christensen?
A quick Google search reveals an xenophobic activist and guess what - a spearo and fisherman! Despite of his fake eco-branding (or can anybody please tell me what part, exactly, of teaching tourists how to kill Fish is to be considered "eco"?), he obviously got zero knowledge of the Ocean, or he would not be propagating this irresponsible anti-Shark rubbish. Or is he really encountering Stefanie's Galapagos and Sandbar Sharks on his Fish killing sprees?
Gene and Makani are old allies and have formed the Shark Task Force aimed at shutting down the Shark tour operators - smack in the middle of a recession, where every penny and every job count!

The "invitation" is of course nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Mr. Ward knows all too well that after their recent experiences, nobody from the pro-Shark faction is anymore willing to endure the abuse of an irrational lynch mob. The inevitable result of that town hall meeting will be yet another "public outcry".
Such a sham and oh so predictable!

What however continues to rile me most is the reference to "traditional Hawaiian cultural practices" and the like.

You really need to go through Stefanie's brilliant website and read the comments concerning the purported "Disrespect of the Aumakua".
But she's obviously right smack in the middle of it all and there's no way she could ever dare to properly respond to those ridiculous allegations. I've said it before: Hawaii is a glaring example of how the natives are unabashedly playing the racial card and abusing of the naivety and fashionable collective guilt of the haoles.
Or do you really believe that stuff like E komo mai. Welcome. Come to Hawaii and re-connect to your aumakua. Learn the old chants with us under the trees by Kealakekua Bay. Swim with us at Waipio valley. Walk with us into volcano craters in Volcano Park. Let us ride the winds together at Ka Lae. Meditate with us deep inside a lava tube. is anything but cold-blooded pandering to our credulous stupidity?
Wanna really know what respectable people have to say about the Aumakua?
Read this!

Contrary to Stefanie, I got the advantage of not being subjected to the same pressure, and of being allowed to tell it as it is. I also live in a vibrant cultural environment where I can just go out there and hear it from the horse's mouth.
And that is precisely what I have done!

So there.

This is a scam, and a particularly nasty one on top of it!

Contrary to Hawaii and despite of its colonization and the advent of Christianity, Fiji has managed to preserve much of its indigenous ancestral beliefs and traditions.
To this day, Fiji has a dual system of government: a post-colonial westernized system with President, Government, Parliament and Judiciary and a highly stratified indigenous community that resides in villages which are organized under a local and regional chiefly system. These indigenous villages are the repository of Fiji's native culture that has been handed down (mind you, orally, by storytelling, dances and ceremonies) in an uninterrupted line since time immemorial.

After reading about the racial shenanigans in Hawaii, I've gone out and interviewed several people about Fiji's rich tapestry of beliefs linked to Sharks.
This has not been easy, as not everybody is empowered to make authoritative statements about this matter. That authority is only conferred to storytellers and sometimes, people whose hereditary ranking would correspond to that of an indigenous "priest".
Like everywhere in the Pacific, there is however no shortage of native scamsters who make a good living at cooking up some self serving pseudo-cultural ethno-bullshit aimed at impressing some naive and google-eyed kavalangi. Inevitably, these stories turn out to be false and more than that, in indigenous culture, these people are actually committing sacrilege.

The lesson being that next time some brown skinned half-cast who happens to have an indigenous name comes along and starts lecturing you about his "culture", "tradition" and "pride", you need to question his motives and ask for his credentials.
I betcha that in 99.9% of the cases, he will turn out to be a self serving fraud. Legit storytellers are very reserved about these matters and will generally only share with a foreigner after lengthy introductions and after having thoroughly checked out your intentions. Keep in mind that sharing determined religious beliefs is an important defining and cohesive element of social groups and that very often, it is strictly tabu to divulge them to outsiders.

Over to the Fijian Shark beliefs.
Fiji has a multitude of languages ("Fijian" being a lingua franca derived from the dialect of Bau) and cultural beliefs that are linked to a large and diverse number of clans. Several of them believe in rather generalized Shark guardian spirits and others, in veritable Shark gods, Dakuwaqa being the most widely known of the latter.

Depending on where you go, Dakuwaqa is purported to fulfill different roles.
The islanders of Kadavu believe that Dakuwaqa has lost a battle against their own protector deity, the Octopus, and that he had to promise never to harm any Kadavu islander. The people of Taveuni believe that Dakuwaqa will punish the sinners and when somebody gets attacked by a Shark, they believe that the victim was obviously a bad person and that his fate was merely the just punishment for a misdeed. Our Beqa islanders will tell you that Dakuwaqa resides on the island and that there is a covenant whereby no Beqa islander will ever harm a Shark and in turn, the Sharks will protect and even assist them.

When talking to elders, I've asked the specific question whether it is reproachable to observe and dive with their gods and the unanimous response was that it is perfectly OK. In fact, our feeders from Beqa have the specific permission to do so.
It is however completely
tabu to fish, kill or otherwise harm the animals.

The exact same answer was given to Eroni when he went and interviewed other clans as part of his TEK: some clans have various Shark spirits who protect the people and nobody from those clans fishes for Sharks or eats their meat.
Here's a textual example from an upcoming paper on the matter.

Our father told us that a big white shark that lives at the mouth of the Navua river had decreed and warned other sharks not to hurt or spill any human blood or otherwise face the consequence of being killed by the big white shark.

Now this is Fiji - and Fiji is essentially Melanesia, albeit heavily influenced by Polynesian culture.
I've thus also inquired about any Shark beliefs in Tonga. This is a pure Polynesian country and with neighboring Samoa, very much the place from which the Polynesians have set out towards the east all the way to French Polynesia and the onwards to Hawaii.

Like Hawaii, much of Tongan culture has been eradicated by Christianity and by the overpowering drive towards the "benefits" of the western cash economy. In fact, most young Tongans know next to nothing about their history and their culture, expect for a highly romanticized and sanitized version which is being handed down by the government and the churches. Like in Hawaii, there's a cultural renaissance movement but most of the original culture and traditions, like the art of navigating, have already been lost forever.
I was however lucky in finding an elder who confirmed that some people did believe in a "punishing" god very much like the Taveuni islanders, and that contrary to the majority of the population, those people would not fish for Sharks nor eat Shark meat.

When conducting the interviews in Fiji and Tonga, I also told the elders what was happening in Hawaii.

That there is a Shark viewing tour where customers observe Sharks from the safety of a cage far out in the open Ocean.
That this operation educates their clients and turns them into Shark lovers. That on top of it, they are active in sponsoring research aimed at pushing through pro-Shark legislation. That they are instrumental in preserving the Sharks for future generations and that by doing so, they are preserving the reefs which are the sustenance of the indigenous people.

That on the other hand, there are plenty of recreational an commercial fishermen that kill Sharks and kill the reefs as a consequence.

And that there is a nasty politician wanting to close down the pro-Shark tours but who does nothing to stop the killing of Sharks. That his anti-Shark movement is aided by some natives that claim that looking at Sharks is culturally insensitive whereas they raise no objection to the activities of the Shark killers.

They all shook their head in utter bewilderment.
And we all had a good snicker at the suckers who got conned into believing that pseudo-cultural rubbish.

I can thus unequivocally confirm that were Stefanie in Fiji, she would not be reviled and persecuted but hailed by both the Government and the indigenous community alike.
She deserves our gratitude and our respect.

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