Hawaii stands as a beacon atop the Polynesian triangle. It sets the standard for success and prosperity for all the islands that spread out from this point like a soaring fisherman’s net. And yet the cost of this triumph to the people who once called these islands their own can only be compared to the fate of the American Indians on the Mainland. Hawaii puts the paradoxes of post millennial life under a microscope.
Once this archipelago was rivaled only by Tahiti in the Society Islands for the reputation of Pacific Paradise. But in truth, these two places shared the fate of most pre-contact islands of Oceania. They were wracked by tribal warfare and infected with life-denying superstitions. The central issue in these societies, as it was for ancient societies around the world, lay in the practice of human sacrifice and the disregard for common human life. There is a thread in Hawaiian folklore suggesting that the early settlers who came to these islands migrated from the south in search of freedom from evil customs. This may explain why Hawaiian culture has always prided itself on being a cut above the others.
Since childhood, I have loved the traditions and ideals of the Hawaiian Islands. It can be a shock, as you may know, to land in Honolulu and find the indigenous culture of Hawaii buried under a veneer of marketing messages, hotels and resorts, real estate pitches, and urban sprawl. Look a little deeper, however, and there is evidence of Hawaiian lore at almost every turn. There are those who deplore the displacement of Hawaiian traditions and others who trumpet the opportunities created by modernization. If Hawaii can find a balance between old and new, East and West, commerce and reverence for the land, spiritual and secular, then it can help to show the world a way to the future.