Under the Sun
Myth belies a real place with real problems
IN a rush to get on with the day's activities, I forgot to pack up the camp stove, leaving it in its bright red-and-black bag on a picnic table at the campground.
When I went to look for it later, it was gone. Besides being disappointed with my carelessness, I was sad that whoever came upon it had not tried to find its owner, which wouldn't have been difficult since the campground was small.
Campers know how essential equipment is, that without a stove anyone of them would be sorely inconvenienced. They usually are a neighborly sort, I thought, but I'd bought into a generality.
The same thing often happens when visitors come to Hawaii. They are surprised when cameras, backpacks, wallets and other possessions left in rental cars at the Pali, beach or a mall are stolen.
At home, they probably wouldn't have chanced a theft, but captured by the myth of idyllic islands, they let their guard down. Then they ask, what happened to the spirit of aloha, how could such a bad thing happen in such a beautiful place where people are supposed to be nice and kind?
Despite overdevelopment and overpopulation, there are still parts of Hawaii that remain beautiful. Despite being battered by the pressures of modern life, many local people are nice and kind and, despite an erosion, the aloha spirit -- however ill defined and abused by commercial interests -- still subsists.
But Hawaii is and isn't like any place else in the United States. We have the problems that cities and rural areas in states on the continent have, only the effects are sharpened by limited space, separation without and within by sea and a thin veneer of reputation.
The tourism industry, the state's economic well-being, lives and dies on the notion of a laid-back locale that's exotic but safe. The unpleasant conflict over the Hawaii Superferry playing out over the past month scars that ideal, and, as Gov. Linda Lingle said this week, "is giving us a very bad reputation."
It may be time that outsiders look upon Hawaii more realistically and see that we are in a struggle to retain our "sense of community," to quote Lingle again. It is a fragile thing, easily torn when yanked between conflicting needs and objectives.
Much ado is being made about a plan grandly called Hawaii 2050 that's supposed to guide the whole of the economy and our physical and social environment through mid-century.
The plan's goals aren't original. They've been talked about, think-tanked, task-forced and conferenced repeatedly for decades.
They don't all readily mesh, either, like building more housing for an increasing and uncontrollable population while preserving open spaces, shorelines, agricultural lands and water resources. Others, like economic diversification, seem shopworn.
Still, the plan profoundly reflects our hopes for the future. The hard part comes with having to make major compromises and defining what is enough and accepting the limits of our physical and social resources.
Not to say that the plan is useless, but it won't be worth the paper its printed on if it's just a feel-good exercise. It is past time for local people, business and industry and political leaders to stop worrying about outside perceptions. Those will change if and when the real stuff gets fixed.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org