In light of the current overall climate in the United States and, indeed, the world at large, I felt that an appropriate topic for our first blog is: ‘O ka lāhui kanaka mua loa (Humanity First).
Though this is not a literal translation, it is the translation that most closely embodies the spirit inherent in the concept of “Humanity First”. You may recognize this verbiage as a slogan used in Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign. Although his campaign did not fare too well, the concept is solid and enduring.
Simply put, “Humanity first” means to put the needs of the people before corporate profits… corporate greed. The true wealth of a society (any society) should be measured by the overall well-being of the people, by their health and healthcare, education, and opportunities and in their overall standard of living. These things should always take priority over companies, corporations, and the stock market.
Although the word humanity generally refers to all human beings collectively, the concept runs much deeper than that. Humanity denotes compassion, sympathy, empathy, generosity, tenderness, benevolence, and above all kindness and consideration. As people, we should offer all of those qualities, these “humanities,” to each and every person that we come into contact with regardless of race, religion, color, creed, size, age, status, sexual orientation, level of ability or level of education. To be truly humane, to have humanity, one must believe in co-existence and must be willing to accept, acknowledge and, above all, VALUE the life of all other human beings.
This concept seems to be in frighteningly short supply these days. Most often people seem to be closed off, guarded, unwilling to extend even the benefit of doubt to their fellow humans, let alone offer any of the attributes previously mentioned. We see it every day in many different ways – impatience, intolerance, irritation, sarcasm, anger and the list goes on. However, in recent years, the concept of humanity seems to have fallen by the wayside and intolerance has been pushed glaringly to the forefront.
Just a bit over a week ago, the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd. This heartbreaking event unleashed a cataclysmic plethora of emotions ranging from denial and indifference to confusion, heart break, and devastation. As the dust began to settle, the prevailing emotion emerged – white hot, gut wrenching anger. Righteous anger such as this goes hand in hand with humanity for one cannot truly value the life of other human beings without being angered and disgusted by the treatment and ultimate killing of this man. One must be soulless to not respond to the pain and fear heard in the last words of this man. “I can’t breathe,” “Momma! I’m through”. His please resonate in the hearts of millions as “loud, disjointed sounds from the clash of belief systems and competing visions of sovereignty, of ownership, of authority over black bodies” (Lonnae O’Neal, National Geographic). Though many pleaded with the officers to allow George to breathe, repeatedly crying that, “He is a human being” in a desperate attempt to reach the officers’ humanity, to engage their compassion and reason to no avail. The officers were well beyond their own humanity… if they ever had any.
Incredibly, the officers’ complete lack of humanity, ignited the best of humanity in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people around the world. Compassion and empathy flooded in along with a deep desire to do something, to take action! Funds were setup, donations made, petitions distributed and signed, and protests organized. It was and is incredible to behold, the cooperation, consideration, and camaraderie. Yes, I am choosing to focus on and highlight the positive. I refuse to give any power or energy to the individuals and groups that are behaving as greedy opportunists in an effort to hijack the message of the peaceful protests. These peaceful protests are the embodiment of humanity.
Neither of these concepts are foreign to Hawaiians. From birth, we are taught to always embody the “aloha spirit” … to “live aloha”. We are taught to show respect for others, to think of others, not just ourselves, to revere our kupuna (elders), to protect all that is dear, and to commit each action with thoughtfulness, care, love, respect, and compassion. Over the last several decades, it has become increasingly difficult to “live aloha”. In particular, the part where one commits to perform each and every action with thoughtfulness, care, love, respect, and compassion. In today’s world, this is not always an easy task. It is not easy to show consideration when you are most often presented with selfishness and greed. It is not an easy task to offer love and care in the face of hate and intolerance. It is near impossible to offer compassion and empathy when met with indifference and apathy. More importantly, why should you bother to “live aloha” when it is not only unappreciated, it is not returned. Therein lies the rub – the less people demonstrate the concept of living aloha, the more we desperately need it as a society because the aloha spirit is, simply put, the essence of humanity. Now, more than ever, this is what we need to teach our keiki (children) and society at large. Apparently, we need to go back to basics and teach basic human decency (didn’t we learn this in preschool and kindergarten?), because it seems society lost the concept somewhere along the way.The best way I know to teach the aloha spirit is not just through our words, it must show in our actions. We must live it, breathe it, BE it at all times.
Along these lines, Hawaiians are well versed in peaceful protests. We have respectfully protested many things since the hostile takeover of our island home and the overthrow of our queen. Our most recent, and most significant protest has been ongoing since October of 2014. This series of protests are known as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) protests or A’ole TMT and the protestors are known as Ku Kia’i Mauna (Protectors of the mountain). Because that is most often what a protestor really is - a protector. In this case, protectors of our most sacred Mauna, our aina. And all of our protectors on the Mauna and elsewhere always act in Kapu Aloha. If you don’t know about the fight for our Mauna Kea, I implore you to read up on it and join us in the fight.
Next blog: What is Kapu Aloha?