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Avatar movie, white messiah syndrome, and Hawaiian sovereignty

(c) Copyright 2010 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

The movie "Avatar" fits the pattern of the "White Messiah" syndrome. Both of those are clearly relevant to an understanding of the politics of the Hawaiian independence movement and also the Akaka bill. This webpage begins with a brief analysis of those conceptual interconnections. That analysis is followed by a short compilation of published articles moving from a general description of concepts to a specific Hawaiian application of the movie's viewpoint. An article published in a California newspaper (The Sacramento Bee) actually relies on the plot of "Avatar" to explain "indigenous" Hawaiian opposition to the placement of telescopes on Hawaii's Mauna Kea. The article raises the question whether ethnic Hawaiian protesters and their allies might be justified in using violence to defend Hawaii's environment and ethnic Hawaiian religious/cultural values, as the indigenous Na'vi and their Caucasian Earthling allies used violence to defeat the bulldozing of Pandora's rainforest to harvest unobtainium to satisfy Earth's needs.

The movie "Avatar" has been the biggest box-office hit in history, already pulling in more than two billion dollars before February 2010. The movie is of great interest to political liberals, conservationists, anti-development activists, and socialists who find it useful as propaganda. Because of the movie's subject matter, plot, heroes, and villains, it is an especially powerful metaphor to support special rights for "indigenous" people. Its viewpoint can be regarded as bashing economic capitalists in general, and the U.S. in particular, for oppressing primitive peoples and underdeveloped nations, invading their homelands, and destroying their environment in order to seize control of natural resources for corporate greed.

Several published articles have described the movie as belonging to a genre that serves and celebrates the "White Messiah" fable in which Caucasian heroes come to the rescue of non-Caucasian indigenous natives. One type of rescue is helping the natives overcome threats to their existence such as disease or natural disasters. Examples might include Albert Schweitzer who built a hospital in an African jungle and saved thousands of lives; massive American aid to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Some variants of the White Messiah fable envision Caucasian liberals as protectors against economic exploitation or military takeovers by Caucasian corporate developers or Caucasian colonizing nations. Examples might include the economic boycott in America against the apartheid regime in South Africa and against American companies doing business there; and protests against the U.S. war in Viet Nam. White Messiah protesters thus fight against their own race and/or nation, which they regard as immoral violators of international law or indigenous rights. Some protesters even take action against the entire human race to protect animals and plants; for example, "save the whales" activists, and "tree-huggers", who sabotage fishing boats or sawmills, and who might even be willing to cause severe injury to human beings who threaten the animals or plants needing protection.

The word "White" should probably be dropped from the label. It's simply a "Messiah" syndrome. Wealthy people with high status feel a sense of noblesse oblige toward those less fortunate; religious people feel an obligation to God to exercise good stewardship over the animals and plants which God has entrusted to their care. As Asian economies have prospered, the "White Messiah" syndrome is no longer limited to Caucasian heroes. There has been Japanese philanthropy toward victims of disaster in underdeveloped nations, and there are Japanese protesters against the Japanese whaling industry. There have been Indonesian protesters against their government's policy in East Timor, Sri Lankan protesters against their government's treatment of the indigenous Tamil tribesmen, etc.

In Hawaii, both the ethnic nationalist independence movement and the racial separatist Akaka bill seek support from people of Caucasian, Asian, and African ancestry. Such support is requested (demanded!) on the basis of many claims, all of which are open to dispute, and many of which fit nicely into the metaphor of the movie "Avatar." There are historical, legal, and moral claims such as: genocide through introduction of new diseases; colonization through imposition of a new religion, suppression of native language, and economic exploitation; armed invasion; illegal overthrow of the monarchy; illegal annexation; illegal statehood vote; continued military occupation; disproportionate rates of incarceration, alcoholism, drug abuse, and disease; etc. 'Auwe! Those poor, downtrodden, colonized, oppressed Hawaiians are greatly in need and deserve the support of all who claim to be morally righteous.

So in Hawaii there are many sympathizers who have no Hawaiian native blood. They believe the claims described above. Some of them are married to ethnic Hawaiian entertainers or political activists whom they serve out of personal loyalty, others claim to owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid, and others simply attached themselves to a liberal political or cultural cause and became Hawaiian wannabes.

Here are four examples of the White Messiah syndrome. Scott Crawford, Caucasian, created and manages dozens of Hawaiian activist websites -- he came to Hawaii after some time as a Greenpeace activist, met his Hawaiian wife Kekula while helping Bumpy Kanahele establish a colony in Waimanalo, and later they moved to Hana where they grow taro. Puakea Nogelmeier, Caucasian, came to Hawaii on the way to Asia, got stuck here with no money, was taken in by some Hawaiians in Wai'anae, and became an expert on Hawaiian language and culture. Robbie Alm, famous for a red-shirt speech he gave supporting Kamehameha Schools' racially exclusionary admissions policy, is senior vice president of public affairs at Hawaiian Electric Company, chairman of the board of PBS Hawaii -- and also an Honorary Ali'i of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I. Jim Kelly, Caucasian, formerly worked in newsroom management positions at the Honolulu Advertiser, perhaps helping slant the news reporting to be favorable to the Akaka bill and the Kamehameha admissions policy. His wife is Advertiser columnist Lee Cataluna, who often writes commentaries strongly supportive of sovereignty, and who is daughter of OHA trustee Don Cataluna. On February 3, 2010 Kelly got a new job as editor of the Advertiser's editorial page. Clearly he would have severe domestic problems if he were to allow the Advertiser to take any editorial position in opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty.

All four men are examples of the "White Messiah" syndrome. But another example is Senator Dan Inouye, Japanese, who says his mother was in poverty and was taken in by a Hawaiian family. Inouye says that's why he owes a profound debt to ethnic Hawaiians, has obtained billions of dollars in federal grants for race-based programs, and is the primary pusher of the Akaka bill. Other Asians with no native blood, less well known than Senator Inouye, have been very active as allies of the Hawaiian independence movement. An example is medical doctor Baron Ching, Chinese, whose grandfather was a naturalized subject of the Hawaiian kingdom. As the examples of Inouye and Ching clearly show, the Messiah syndrome should not include the Caucasian racial designation.

Following are several published newspaper commentaries. The first explains the concepts in the "Avatar" movie and how the movie illustrates the White Messiah syndrome. The second article is from a liberal perspective and defends the movie against the charge that it embeds the White Messiah syndrome. The third article is by a CATO Institute conservative who says political conservatives are wrong to attack the movie, because the movie is a defense of the rights of private property owners (i.e., the Na'vi). The fourth article, published in a New Zealand entertainment magazine, makes a connection between the movie and New Zealand's real indigenous people, saying "The blue aliens that star in the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar speak a fictional tongue based on Maori." The fifth article says that ethnic Hawaiians are engaged in a real-life version of the "Avatar" movie as they seek to protect their indigenous religious/cultural values and defend their sacred Mauna Kea against the encroaching astronomical telescopes.


Here is a syndicated column from the New York Times of January 8, 2010, which was reprinted in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on page 25 on Monday January 11, 2010.
The New York Times, January 8, 2010

The Messiah Complex

By DAVID BROOKS, Op-Ed columnist

[NYT Editor's note: Readers intending to watch the movie "Avatar" should know that major events in the plot are revealed.]

Every age produces its own sort of fables, and our age seems to have produced The White Messiah fable.

This is the oft-repeated story about a manly young adventurer who goes into the wilderness in search of thrills and profit. But, once there, he meets the native people and finds that they are noble and spiritual and pure. And so he emerges as their Messiah, leading them on a righteous crusade against his own rotten civilization.

Avid moviegoers will remember "A Man Called Horse," which began to establish the pattern, and "At Play in the Fields of the Lord." More people will have seen "Dances With Wolves" or "The Last Samurai."

Kids have been given their own pure versions of the fable, like "Pocahontas" and "FernGully."

It's a pretty serviceable formula. Once a director selects the White Messiah fable, he or she doesn't have to waste time explaining the plot because everybody knows roughly what's going to happen.

The formula also gives movies a little socially conscious allure. Audiences like it because it is so environmentally sensitive. Academy Award voters like it because it is so multiculturally aware. Critics like it because the formula inevitably involves the loincloth-clad good guys sticking it to the military-industrial complex.

Yet of all the directors who have used versions of the White Messiah formula over the years, no one has done so with as much exuberance as James Cameron in "Avatar."

"Avatar" is a racial fantasy par excellence. The hero is a white former Marine who is adrift in his civilization. He ends up working with a giant corporation and flies through space to help plunder the environment of a pristine planet and displace its peace-loving natives.

The peace-loving natives — compiled from a mιlange of Native American, African, Vietnamese, Iraqi and other cultural fragments — are like the peace-loving natives you've seen in a hundred other movies. They're tall, muscular and admirably slender. They walk around nearly naked. They are phenomenal athletes and pretty good singers and dancers.

The white guy notices that the peace-loving natives are much cooler than the greedy corporate tools and the bloodthirsty U.S. military types he came over with. He goes to live with the natives, and, in short order, he's the most awesome member of their tribe. He has sex with their hottest babe. He learns to jump through the jungle and ride horses. It turns out that he's even got more guts and athletic prowess than they do. He flies the big red bird that no one in generations has been able to master.

Along the way, he has his consciousness raised. The peace-loving natives are at one with nature, and even have a fiber-optic cable sticking out of their bodies that they can plug into horses and trees, which is like Horse Whispering without the wireless technology. Because they are not corrupted by things like literacy, cellphones and blockbuster movies, they have deep and tranquil souls.

The natives help the white guy discover that he, too, has a deep and tranquil soul.

The natives have hot bodies and perfect ecological sensibilities, but they are natural creatures, not history-making ones. When the military-industrial complex comes in to strip mine their homes, they need a White Messiah to lead and inspire the defense.

Our hero leaps in, with the help of a pack of dinosaurs summoned by Mother Earth. As he and his fellow freedom fighters kill wave after wave of Marines or former Marines or whatever they are, he achieves the ultimate prize: He is accepted by the natives and can spend the rest of his life in their excellent culture.

Cameron's handling of the White Messiah fable is not the reason "Avatar" is such a huge global hit. As John Podhoretz wrote in The Weekly Standard, "Cameron has simply used these familiar bromides as shorthand to give his special-effects spectacular some resonance." The plotline gives global audiences a chance to see American troops get killed. It offers useful hooks on which McDonald's and other corporations can hang their tie-in campaigns.

Still, would it be totally annoying to point out that the whole White Messiah fable, especially as Cameron applies it, is kind of offensive?

It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. It also creates a sort of two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration.

It's just escapism, obviously, but benevolent romanticism can be just as condescending as the malevolent kind — even when you surround it with pop-up ferns and floating mountains.

MSNBC, entertainment section, Monday January 11, 2010

Does ‘Avatar' have a racist message?
Critics say film perpetuates idea of white hero saving primitive natives

By Jesse Washington

Near the end of the hit film "Avatar," the villain snarls at the hero, "How does it feel to betray your own race?" Both men are white — although the hero is inhabiting a blue-skinned, 9-foot-tall, long-tailed alien.

Strange as it may seem for a film that pits greedy, immoral humans against noble denizens of a faraway moon, "Avatar" is being criticized by a small but vocal group of people who allege it contains racist themes — the white hero once again saving the primitive natives.

Since the film opened to widespread critical acclaim three weeks ago, hundreds of blog posts, newspaper articles, tweets and YouTube videos have said things such as the film is "a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people" and that it reinforces "the white Messiah fable."

The film's writer and director, James Cameron, says the real theme is about respecting others' differences.

In the film (read no further if you don't want the plot spoiled for you) a white, paralyzed Marine, Jake Sully, is mentally linked to an alien's body and set loose on the planet Pandora. His mission: persuade the mystic, nature-loving Na'vi to make way for humans to mine their land for unobtanium, worth $20 million per kilo back home.

Like Kevin Costner in "Dances with Wolves" and Tom Cruise in "The Last Samurai" or as far back as Jimmy Stewart in the 1950 Western "Broken Arrow," Sully soon switches sides. He falls in love with the Na'vi princess and leads the bird-riding, bow-and-arrow-shooting aliens to victory over the white men's spaceships and mega-robots.

Adding to the racial dynamic is that the main Na'vi characters are played by actors of color, led by a Dominican, Zoe Saldana, as the princess. The film also is an obvious metaphor for how European settlers in America wiped out the Indians.

Robinne Lee, an actress in such recent films as "Seven Pounds" and "Hotel for Dogs," said that "Avatar" was "beautiful" and that she understood the economic logic of casting a white lead if most of the audience is white.

But she said the film, which so far has the second-highest worldwide box-office gross ever, still reminded her of Hollywood's "Pocahontas" story — "the Indian woman leads the white man into the wilderness, and he learns the way of the people and becomes the savior."

"It's really upsetting in many ways," said Lee, who is black with Jamaican and Chinese ancestry. "It would be nice if we could save ourselves."

Annalee Newitz, editor-in-chief of the sci-fi Web site, likened "Avatar" to the recent film "District 9," in which a white man accidentally becomes an alien and then helps save them, and 1984's "Dune," in which a white man becomes an alien Messiah.

"Main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color ... (then) go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed," she wrote.

"When will whites stop making these movies and start thinking about race in a new way?" wrote Newitz, who is white.

Black film professor and author Donald Bogle said he can understand why people would be troubled by "Avatar," although he praised it as a "stunning" work.

"A segment of the audience is carrying in the back of its head some sense of movie history," said Bogle, author of "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films."

Bogle stopped short, however, of calling the movie racist.

"It's a film with still a certain kind of distortion," he said. "It's a movie that hasn't yet freed itself of old Hollywood traditions, old formulas."

Writer/director Cameron, who is white, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that his film "asks us to open our eyes and truly see others, respecting them even though they are different, in the hope that we may find a way to prevent conflict and live more harmoniously on this world. I hardly think that is a racist message."

There are many ways to interpret the art that is "Avatar."

What does it mean that in the final, sequel-begging scene, Sully abandons his human body and transforms into one of the Na'vi for good? Is Saldana's Na'vi character the real heroine because she, not Sully, kills the arch-villain? Does it matter that many conservatives are riled by what they call liberal environmental and anti-military messages?

Is Cameron actually exposing the historical evils of white colonizers? Does the existence of an alien species expose the reality that all humans are actually one race?

"Can't people just enjoy movies any more?" a person named Michelle posted on the Web site for Essence, the magazine for black women, which had 371 comments on a story debating the issue.

Although the "Avatar" debate springs from Hollywood's historical difficulties with race, Will Smith recently saved the planet in "I Am Legend," and Denzel Washington appears ready to do the same in the forthcoming "Book of Eli."

Bogle, the film historian, said that he was glad Cameron made the film and that it made people think about race.

"Maybe there is something he does want to say and put across" about race, Bogle said. "Maybe if he had a black hero in there, that point would have been even stronger."

Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2010
Also Cato Institute

The Right Has Avatar Wrong

By David Boaz

Forget its left-wing themes. At its core, the movie is about defending property rights — something conservatives should embrace. Conservatives have been very critical of the Golden Globe-winning film Avatar for its mystical melange of trite leftist themes. But what they have missed is that the essential conflict in the story is a battle over property rights.

Avatar, written and directed by James Cameron and set in 2154, is the story of young American Jake Sully, who joins a military mission to the distant moon Pandora, which has a supply of an expensive and almost impossible to obtain mineral (thus its name, "unobtainium"). Living among the tall, blue natives in the form of an Avatar — a lab-created body hooked up by Wi-Fi to his own brain — Sully comes to doubt his mission and to join the Na'vi people in resisting the earthlings' designs on their land.

Despite its magnificent 3-D special effects, it features a tired plot and merely serviceable dialogue.

But conservatives have focused on the ideas that the film embodies. In National Review, Frederica Mathewes-Green mocked its dreamy vision of "the apparently eternal conflict between gentle people with flowers in their hair and technology-crazed meanies."

Ross Douthat in the New York Times called it an "apologia for pantheism." John Podhoretz in the Weekly Standard complained that it asks "the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency." Lots of conservatives complain that a movie about American soldiers invading another planet and killing people is an allegory about the Iraq war. And many agree with Bolivia's socialist president that Avatar is anti-capitalist.

They all have a point. The film is a perfect souffle of left-wing attitudes.

But conservative critics are missing the conflict at the heart of the movie. It's quite possible that Cameron missed it too.

The earthlings have come to Pandora to obtain unobtainium. In theory, it's not a military mission, it's just the RDA Corp. with a military bigger than most countries. The Na'vi call them the Sky People.

To get the unobtainium, RDA is willing to relocate the natives, who live on top of the richest deposit. But alas, that land is sacred to the Na'vi, who worship the goddess Eywa, so they're not moving. When the visitors realize that, they move in with tanks, bulldozers and giant military robots, laying waste to a sacred tree and any Na'vi who don't move fast enough.

Conservatives see this as anti-American, anti-military and anti-corporate or anti-capitalist. But they're just reacting to the leftist ethos of the film.

They fail to see what's really happening. People have traveled to Pandora to take something that belongs to the Na'vi: their land and the minerals under it. That's a stark violation of property rights, the foundation of the free market and indeed of civilization.

Sure, the Na'vi — who, like all of the people in lefty dreams, are psychically linked to one another and to all living creatures — probably view the land as their collective property. At least for human beings, private property rights are a much better way to secure property and prosperity. Nevertheless, it's pretty clear that the land belongs to the Na'vi, not the Sky People.

Conservatives rallied to the defense of Susette Kelo when the Pfizer Corp. and the city of New London, Conn., tried to take her land. She was unreasonable too, like the Na'vi: She wasn't holding out for a better price; she just didn't want to sell her house. As Jake tells his bosses, "They're not going to give up their home."

Avatar is like a space opera of the Kelo case, which went to the Supreme Court in 2005. Peaceful people defend their property against outsiders who want it and who have vastly more power. Jake rallies the Na'vi with the stirring cry "And we will show the Sky People that they cannot take whatever they want! And that this is our land!"

That's a story conservatives ought to be able to understand.

Avatar has its problems, from stilted dialogue to its embrace of the long-discredited myth of the "noble savage" in tune with nature. But conservatives should appreciate a rare defense of property rights coming out of Hollywood.

David Boaz is the Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer and The Politics of Freedom.

----------------- (New Zealand entertainment magazine)
January 21, 2010

Avatar language 'based on Maori'


The blue aliens that star in the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar speak a fictional tongue based on Maori.

Avatar director James Cameron says the language of the Na'vi alien race is based on Maori sounds he heard in New Zealand.

"The way that the language was created, it started off innocently enough as I was writing the script," Cameron said at a London press conference.

"I came up with some place names and some character names and so on. You know, I was just sort of free associating, and I had been to New Zealand a few years ago and really liked the sound of the Maori language and some of the Polynesian form, so I put that in."

Cameron used language expert Paul Frommer, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, to mould the alien language, mixing Maori with languages from Europe and Africa.

Avatar has become a box office juggernaut, grossing US$1.6 billion (NZ$2.16b) worldwide and $10 million in New Zealand.

The use of Maori was welcomed by the Maori faculty dean at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Hana O'Regan.

"That is quite impressive. I am not too possessive over the language being used for something like that, which is something that some people might get disturbed about," she said.

Avatar won best film drama and director at the Golden Globes this week.

Sacramento Bee, March 9, 2010

My View: Hawaiians, mountain in 'Avatar'-like struggle

By Tom Peek
Special to The Bee

If you're one of the millions who sat riveted to James Cameron's blockbuster movie Avatar, you probably sympathized with the indigenous Na'vi when American colonists bulldozed their magical rain forest to mine unobtanium, the prized mineral on Pandora, planet Polyphemus' moon.

When the corporate/scientific/military confederation "negotiated" with Na'vi elders to quell growing unrest – bearing the usual "community benefits" trinket – you probably groaned. And when the invaders, unable to cajole the natives, bulldozed their Tree of Souls, where guiding ancestors' voices could be heard, and bombed their giant Hometree dwelling, did your fists clench with rage?

Were you relieved – maybe you even cheered aloud – when the native defenders turned back the invaders before they could destroy their holiest Tree of Souls, connecting place to their deity, Eywa?

If you responded like many people did in the Hawaii theater where I saw Avatar, the answer is probably yes.

It doesn't take a cultural anthropologist to recognize Avatar's story line parallels in Hawaii, except that in the movie, ambitious (if sympathetic) biologists rather than Christian missionaries laid the groundwork for business and military interests, using genetically engineered human-Na'vi hybrids to infiltrate the culture. Unlike on Pandora, it took a century of bulldozing Hawaii's revered places to finally reach native Hawaiians' holiest spot – 14,000-foot Mauna Kea. Here, too, people connect with ancestors and deities.

Leaving the theater, I bumped into some Hawaiian friends waiting for the next show, a family with deep ancestral roots to Mauna Kea. This got me thinking about the campaign by the University of California and Caltech (allied with University of Hawaii astronomers and pro-business politicians) to bulldoze a pristine plain below the mountain's already-developed summit cones to add another giant observatory to their science colony – the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT.

The California astronomers' "unobtanium" quest – research papers revealing "the secrets of the universe" and identifying planets beyond our solar system – is certainly more noble than mining minerals, but it's another example of promoting one culture's notion of progress by overriding another's reverence for the land. As in the movie, behind the Mauna Kea invaders stands the big money of a starry-eyed entrepreneur, Intel co-founder and telescope donor Gordon Moore.

For Hawaiians, Mauna Kea's summit is where their genesis story took place; it's the burial ground of their most revered ancestors. Hawaiians still conduct traditional spiritual and astronomical ceremonies there, despite the visual and noise intrusions of 20 telescopes crowding the summit. Biologists also revere the mountaintop, home to species found nowhere else on Earth, including plants and insects that rival those in Cameron's film.

Decades of insensitive development have fueled public anguish over Mauna Kea's industrialization, replete with weeping elders and young activists gritting their teeth in rising frustration. Two legislative audits lambasted state agencies for collusion with astronomy interests, and two courts ruled against the last UC/Caltech telescope project – the Keck Outriggers – for violating state and federal environmental and cultural laws, one ruling halting the project.

Seeking a peaceful solution to the increasingly polarized controversy, Hawaiians and local Sierra Club leaders met last year in private with TMT board chairman and UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang, Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau and a Moore representative, to implore the Californians to build the TMT at their second-choice site in Chile.

Ignoring all that, TMT officials decided in July to forge ahead with their Mauna Kea plans, pulling out all the stops to get what they desire. But this is America, not Pandora, so instead of enlisting military mercenaries, as in the movie, the Hawaii invaders hired an army of attorneys, lobbyists and planners to put a positive spin on their intrusive project and get around environmental and cultural laws governing the state conservation district where the telescope colony resides.

Hawaiians and environmentalists are again forced to defend in court the state and federal laws designed to protect places like Mauna Kea and native people like the Hawaiians – the same laws the last UC/Caltech project violated.

After spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars supporting California astronomers' fight against the islanders, the University of Hawaii (desirous of sharing TMT's prestige and precious telescope time), recently asked Hawaii's legislature for $2.1 million to "ensure" the TMT bid. Local businessmen and politicians are being courted by astronomers – and pressured by powerful members of Hawaii's congressional delegation – to back a huge project that will bring lucrative construction contracts to the summit.

Last month, the same Hawaii judge who in 2007 halted the previous UC/Caltech project dismissed islanders' first legal challenge in the TMT battle – while observatory and construction workers picketed his courthouse with pro-TMT signs.

Whether that decision means Hawaii's judges are now under intense pressure to support TMT is anyone's guess. But if islanders are prevented from using the legal system to protect their sacred mountaintop, what choices remain for them?

Fortunately, no one is talking about following the Na'vi's tactic of fierce resistance – aloha is too strong a tradition here.

Even so, peaceful civil disobedience could be just around the corner if islanders' next day in court is like their last one.

Tom Peek, a former astronomy guide for the Mauna Kea observatories, writes and teaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.


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(c) Copyright 2010 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved