I have been back from Hawaii a little over a week now. Catching up with work and home has kept me busy, but there were a few lessons to be learned, or at least things to mentally process. The greatest thing about Western Culture has to be our wanderlust. The only peoples on the planet that migrated further than the descendents of the Roman empire and Sons and Daughters of Scotland have to be the Polynesians. The Romans went forth in search of riches and glory. The Scots migrated due to the desire to be left alone, and the Polynesians did it for room to live…but under it all in all three cases must have been a desire to see what else was out there. As for Western Culture as the Europeans moved Westward they always seemed to want to remake the world in their image. They had a definite view of what “civilization” was. Great meddlers we all are. I am not commenting on the justness of the situation or whether it is a positive or a negative. I am just stating a fact. 200 years ago Hawaiians lived in huts on the beach, fished all day and did whatever native people do.
*disclaimer – the following is just my perception from a week on the island…people who have lived there or have more insight please chime in*
How did Hawaii make me think about this? We were on Oahu. Honolulu may be the most touristy place I have ever been. They do not have a manufacturing economy. The sugar cane and pineapple growing is in decline due to production costs. Leaving Tourism as the main industry, followed by the Military . Because of its’ beauty there are also a lot of movies and TV shows filmed there. This, as well as old Sugar and Pineapple money fuels the wealthy part of the island.
From Waikiki go northeast and you see very nice homes that would not look out of place near Malibu, or Miami, and with real estate prices the way they are this is the Beverly Hills of Hawaii. Just down the street from our Hotel was any store you could see on Rodeo Drive. These people have some amazing Ocean Views and great beaches.
Continue past the ritzy neighborhoods up to the north shore and you see much more lower-middle class housing. One night while we were just driving around seeing the sights we got all the way up on the north end of the island, because we were searching for the highly rated shrimp truck/shrimp shack food.
At the time I thought that the areas we were driving through were not unlike some Indian Reservations I have seen. A day or so later while on an official sight seeing tour our tour guide confirmed that this was basically what we had seen.
At some point in the past, right after statehood presumably, the US government and the government of Hawaii made a deal for natives to homestead certain Hawaiian lands for a dollar a year lease. Then they could build whatever home they could afford to build on that land and it was theirs for a dollar a year. There were schools built and other services to manage the homesteading. These were not shantytowns, but some looked more like Tijuana than San Diego… Of course, we being, Mid-Westerners in the proud Puritan and Pilgrim traditions had all kinds of discussions on the state of affairs that this treatment brought. Our last day in Hawaii we decided to road trip up the northwest shore. The is an area that looks very very much like San Bernadino county CA, or parts of Phoenix, AZ. Housing, landscape, etc. I got the impression this was where the upper middle class lived. Past that up the coast (up just before the road actually stops) between the road and the beach we came across a huge Shantytown area.
Tents, Shacks, old Cars and boats, fences made from pallets, junk, you name it.
But as evidenced by the young boy getting a haircut in the front “yard”, some had electricity. We saw water tanks on trailers and things of that nature.
But they had great ocean views. Now, I do not know if living in this manner was a choice for these people, one assumes it was not as much of a choice as a condition, but when others of my group saw this they were highly offended.
“They should do Something” And that is how it starts. who "they" and "do" what exactly? Sure maybe some of those folks are down on their luck, lost the big condo and bought a tent or slept in their car, but the age of many of the domiciles of this settlement lead me in a little different path.
Some are probably young folks who are “beach bums”, some may be old folks who don’t have anyone to take care of them, some may be more like our usual homeless here on the mainland, but those were evident too in the Honolulu. Remember, anyone of Native heritage can have a house lot for a dollar a year on the Res. But then they have to give up their view and their beach. My main point to the rest of the group, was ITS AN ISLAND, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THESE PEOPLE? JUST MOVE THEM? This was how many of these peoples’ ancestors lived, potentially right on that beach. For all we knew this was their ancestral land, maybe that was the site of their great grandparents village? I don’t mean that in any pejorative way. Perhaps it was a choice, after all living in a small cabin on the one of the greatest coastlines in the world for basically free has to be pretty sweet. There were quite a few serviceable looking cars in evidence and electricity, as mentioned.
What “Something” should be done? Make them move to government housing? Make them move to the Reservation? You going to ship them to the mainland to add to our indigent population? It. Is. An. Island.
Let me ask you this, who are they hurting, other than our more wealthy sensibilities. Are they unhappy? I don’t know, I didn’t poll them; I just drove by in my rental minivan. But there were wind chimes and rock marked walkways…it was home to at least some of them…and think of the view…
But no, Google “Hawaii Homeless” and this area pops right up “Waianae Coast”. You learn many do have jobs, and some lost homes, rent skyrocketed from $300 a month for an apartment to over $1000. Some want to move, some don’t, some like the beach and the views. Of course, the Government has gotten involved and is trying to move them to rent assisted housing, converted warehouses, shelters, trying to change eviction laws, doing what NY did; the article I read was from 2006. 4 years later…I can tell you firsthand…not much has has changed.
And they still have great weather and a million dollar view, ostensibly living similarly but better than the Hawaiian natives did long ago.
-via my iPhone