One of the U.S.’s first ventures into imperialism and colonialism was a mere 125 years ago: Overthrowing the Kingdom of Hawaii. The sons and daughters of missionaries stayed on and created vast wealth, controlling the lands, and with U.S. political and military might, taking it away from an indigenous culture that values community and in which land ownership was indeed a foreign concept.
The sugar and pineapple plantations dominated the politics, economy and laws, and made a shameful amount of money on the backs of the people and the land they exploited. After they exploited the lands and the people, these corporations being protected as they were then (and still are today by virtue of limited liability laws and laws they wrote/write with their political control of the courts, politicians and government institutions for personal gain), pulled up and moved out lock, stock and barrel (as corporations are still allowed to do). They found other places on this good earth to exploit: cheaper land, cheaper labor, less to no oversight and still to this day maintain the majority of the land they essentially stole from the Hawaiians!
We must pay attention to all of our history, not just what we want to know and feel good about, and conveniently ignore the rest. This is an example to remember. Abuses such as this are still rampant today with corporate globalization.
Capitalism in and of itself is not necessarily “bad.” Making money for shareholders is a corporation’s nature and total purpose. But having no corporate conscious or responsibility is unconscionable!
We The People need to be protected and in fact must demand protection from exploitive practices which do not take into account collateral damage, decisions that devalue communities, and people and resources. It is called ethics, morality and simply doing the right thing as part of the interconnectedness of everything. The Roberts U.S. Supreme Court declared the “corporations have the same rights as We The People” in their deleterious 5-4 decision in the “Citizens United” case which essentially unleashed a floodgate of corporate money and unchecked influence into democracy.
These money-making, specially treated, limited liability corporations must be held responsible and accountable for cleaning up their messes and to be good neighbors. Yes, governmental oversight, regulations and penalties with teeth in them and that advocate for health, safety, human and environmental responsibility as a part of doing business in our public domain and for using our air, water, people, souls and more has a price extracted beyond profit and depletion has a deep and dear price beyond profit, power and control.
Sustainability and stewardship must be expected and enforceable priorities. And yet today in the year 2018 we are witnessing the complete dismantling of agencies charged with protecting and balancing these rights and responsibilities.
Have we not learned anything about why responsible legislators, citizens and agencies gave years of thought and action to these concerns, listened to We The People and developed laws, rules and effective public policy?
Is deconstruction and destruction of institutional memory, scientific decision making, safety and doing the right thing for We The People simply a lost expectation as corporate criminality and overt/covert influences over politicians and all policies, agencies and oversight they do not like or want prevail over reason and without a modicum of services and support for the citizens who have allowed these corporations to become grossly rich and paying so little of their share? Is this what we signed on for? I doubt that any of us has.
Have we not learned anything about checks and balances? History repeats itself.
James Ahasay is a resident of Lihue.