Thursday, April 12, 2018

Where the American dream remains democratic

Bruno Kaufmann,; article contain links and additional illustrations

Six decades after joining the United States, the 1.5 million people of Hawaii have a very different take on the American dream. It is a community-based vision with open government and participatory democracy.

Image from article, with caption: 'New Old Wisdoms': The mural in the Convention Center in Honolulu features “colours of hope, fires of urgency and a lot of bleeding as a consequence of exploitation and imbalances”

The relationship between Hawaii and Washington – the capital of the US – has never been uncomplicated. Hawaii (or Hawai'i in the local language) was an independent Pacific monarchy for almost a century before American business leaders staged a coup in 1893 and abolished the monarchy. A full-fledged annexation followed five years later.

“Our people have been under foreign rule for so long a time, many of us have forgotten our roots,” says Meleanna Meyer, whom I meet in the Honolulu Convention Center.

Together with artist-teacher colleagues (kumu) and stundents (haumana), she has created a massive mural called “New Old Wisdoms”.

The three-metre-high and ten-metre broad mural gives an impressive insight into the state of the Hawaiian mood, 59 years after it joined the US as a state of equal rights. Before that – between the Washington take-over in 1898 and 1959, Hawaii was a US colony with no self-determination at all. ...

“Hawaii is a US state but a very different one,” says Derek Ferrar, who works at the Honolulu-based East-West Center and adds, that “our hearts beats almost 8,000 kilometres away from Capitol Hill in Washington”.

This is much more than between Washington and Paris (6,200 km) or between Honolulu and Tokyo (6,100 km).

Located in the lush Manoa Valley above downtown Honolulu the East-West Center was established during the first year of statehood and is a very powerful expression of the Hawaiian ambition to become a genuinely democratic place, supporting people power in its own state and also across the giant Pacific Ocean.

“With our Asia Pacific Governance and Democracyexternal link initiative we support leadership education programmes for both civil society organisations and governments across this fastest-growing economic region of the world,” explains Ferrar.

The mission of his institute is to “engage people in actively pursuing ideas transnationally”. With more than 65,000 alumni and more than 1,000 partner organisations, the Hawaii East-West Center is today one of the most impressive pro-democracy public diplomacy [JB emphasis] institutions worldwide.

And there is much more to the Hawaiian American dream, which is a far cry from the backward-looking slogans of ‘Make America Great Again’ that are championed an eight-hour flight away in Washington.

Hawaii really practices – as a former US president once called it - government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. ...

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