We have been in New York City for the past week, and we are loving the concentration and intensity of creative energy on this other Island. A new friend, in casual conversation, brought up the historic and current plight of the South African people. Her intention was to gently mitigate the seriousness of the aboriginal Hawaiian losses.
'Iokepa said: "I refuse to compare one person's pain with another."
But I ask now:
Which is more destructive? To live in a dominant culture that segregates and denies all rights of that culture to the oppressed minority: (as in South African apartheid, or Jewish shtetl life in Eastern Europe). Or, is it more soul crunching to live in a dominant culture that outlaws every identifying ritual or trait of your own culture (the Native Hawaiians, for 150 years).
In the first: You know who you are. You are not them! They are the oppressors - you are denied that privilege. In the second case, however: you are mandated to abandon every identifying, comforting, familiar piece of who you are.
Again, I don't have an answer. I am an old journalist by training, experience and temperament. Questions are my comfort zone.
However, I hear, on our Islands and elsewhere: A recurring tendency to belittle one people's pain and suffering by comparing it to others - or accepting that pain, by declaring that oppression of one people by another, is an enduring element of life on earth, and therefore inevitable.
'Iokepa says: "I come from a people who believe in change. Because something has always been one way does not mean it will always be that way. Anything and everything can change in a breath. I have to believe that, because I've lived it."
I say: When we compare the degree of oppression between peoples - or we speak of oppression as a permanent condition of human life - we are rationalizing the status quo. We are throwing up our hands and saying we personally can do nothing to change it. I believe the opposite to be true.
This Return Voyage celebrates change - every soul's ability to move that mountain.