Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Choices

“If you hate violence and don’t believe in politics, the only major remedy remaining is education.”
      
-George Orwell


“Finally, the youth of Kaua’i are standing up.”

     - Random guy on the street 



“With Mayor Bernard Carvalho Making such BAD decisions for the Future of OUR home and Kids. WE are Left with NO other choice but to Take his Chair and BRING IT BACK TO THE PEOPLE OF KAUA’I!!”
    
- Dustin Barca
's FB announcement of his mayoral candidacy


If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few months I'm sure you've noticed that I have a pretty simple theme.  And my once-a-month postings are reflections of Kaua’i-centric issues through the lens of that theme.  Three years of blogging boil down to these six sentences:



The status-quo isn’t working for Kaua’i.  The dual crisis of environmental decline in the face of rising inequality necessitates a structural shift in society. We can’t expect the tools of the open market or politics-as-usual to fix Kaua’i’s problems.  Likewise, rhetoric and blame are ineffective drivers of lasting change. Our problems are complex, and the solutions will be equally complex.  The only path forward is to engage in inclusive solutions based dialogue.  




On that note, I’ve been watching with mixed enthusiasm as this year’s election season heats up.  

There is finally a candidate, Dustin Barca, who is the literal embodiment of change.  His entire campaign is formulated around fighting the status-quo and he is engaging with many of the people who are left behind by our current political establishment.  Most importantly, food production and sustainability are his two biggest talking points.   

However, I am also really worried.  In a recent article Barca said that the anti-GMO movement on Kaua’i was inspired by Gandhi and that he’s “on a mission from God."  Yet, Gandhi's most important lesson is Satyagraha, which is an insistence on finding the truth through non-violent methods.  And violence, as defined by Gandhi, includes aggressive rhetoric and any form of oppression. 

At the same time, Barca defines himself as a warrior.  As an MMA fighter, he literally makes a living through violence.  But, most relevant is the underlying rhetoric of violence in the anti-GMO movement on Kaua’i. While there have been threats of physical violence to some of our policy makers, the real violence comes in the personal attacks (such as this website) and the myriad of offensive memes distributed through Facebook (such as this one) from both sides.  

Even the holy grail of the movement, bill 2491, was passed in an atmosphere of extreme aggression. 

Since I don't know Barca personally, and because his campaign website is lacking on details, I browsed through his public Facebook profile to see where he stands on issues other than GMO.  While nobody should be judged based on an FB profile, it is illuminating into who he is. He denies the evidence behind climate change, yet believes the government is manipulating our weather.  He rails against federal fire arm restrictions and repeatedly appeals for the people to "stand up and fight."  He believes in the far right conspiracy theory popularized by Glen Beck that UN Agenda 21 is a secret government takeover aimed at collectivizing private property.  All while repeating the refrain that he's "on a mission from god."

Gandhi famously wrote that “the pursuit of truth does not permit violence on one’s opponent.”  Barca’s candidacy is currently painted as a protest against Mayor Carvalho.  And there are many who will vote for him solely because of that.  But, in order to have a realistic shot at winning, he needs to do more to separate himself from any threats of violence, aggression, and conspiracy theories.  Most importantly, he needs to make this a campaign about finding real solutions to our gravest systemic issues.

How exactly will he fight the status-quo?  From the important issues that he points out on his website: How do we "reverse our 90% food import with 90% food production"  or solve "our reef pollution crisis"?  Without bio-tech, what happens to the land?  To the workers? Since the county doesn't own any ag land, where would the agricultural drug rehab centers go?  In the process of regaining our water rights, how do we restore water to the south fork of the Wailua River while ensuring that Lihu'e continues to have a source of drinking water?  As mayor, what is the administrative route to achieving these noble aims?

As George Orwell stated, we have three agents of social change: politics, violence, and education.  On Kaua’i, we now have a clear choice between two of those three: politics or violence.  

In the same way that I hope that Barca can move beyond the rhetoric of violence that often defined the anti-GMO movement, I hope that Mayor Carvalho sees the inherent anger and disenfranchisement of the Barca campaign as a wake-up call to move beyond back-room politics.  Barca has identified some of the problems, can Carvalho do any better in identifying solutions? 

It’s time for both candidates to leave behind violence, politics, and rhetoric in pursuit of effective solutions.  This election season could be an unprecedented opportunity for dialogue and engagement on Kaua’i’s deepest issues. Or, we can continue with our current path, driving a deeper rift through the heart of our community because of an insistence on blind rhetoric; leaving us no closer to any solutions for our most pressing issues.

11 comments:

  1. I will agree there are some contradictions in some of Barca's statements. I expect that these will be addressed and explained as the election unfolds. I am glad you pointed out that Carvalho hasn't supplied any answers to the big questions as well.
    I generally think you are very fair and objective to consider various points of view, however, I do not think it is fair to reference personal attacks and Kauai Snarkclectic without addressing the decline of the previously respectable Kauai Eclectic and the apparent reason that it came into existence - lack of factual information, personal attacks and lack of solutions. While Snarkclectic may also not provide all the solutions it does back up indivuduals who are trying to do just that.

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    1. Thanks Katie. I am actually less concerned with the contradictions of the campaign, and more with the lack of details and aggressive atmosphere of the movement as a whole. At the same time, I'm inspired and hopeful that youth like Dustin are standing up. I've never seen the people of Kaua'i this engaged in politics before.

      Regarding Kauaisnarklectic, I really can't understand any attempt to justify a hate website. It's important to debate the issues, not resort to character attacks. While I won't condone Joan's periodic personal attacks, her viewpoint is an incredibly important piece of the conversation. I'm not sure what value kauaisnarklectic brings, other than to degrade the level of conversation and, IMHO, take away validity from the very movement it tries to support.

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    2. As far as aggressive behavior goes, I don't think being portrayed as a warrior necessarily transcends aggression. We all know that football is far more dangerous than MMA fighting and yet Carvalho has never to my knowledge been accused of being aggressive when he constantly uses football references and speaks of his UH Warrior glory days.

      I fully support Barca. He has my vote. I would love if he had had more experience before running for mayor and I imagine he would as well, but nobody with more experience and the right values was willing to run. I respect that Dustin is willing to do what it takes to give us a mayor who represents the people. I think that there are some very competent people that the mayor has appointed to various county positions and there is no reason to believe that the people doing a good job would need to be replaced. They agreed to serve kauai and would likely want to continue to do so. We need a mayor who respects that the county council was elected by the people and that when they vote on a bill that passes 6-1 their decision should be respected.

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    3. Sorry to post in two segments....

      Regarding Kaua'i Snarkclectic. I agree with their initial motivation and I think they have been on point with everything they have printed about Joan Conrow, however I thought the response to this blogpost was rather juvenile and could have been much more about what you actually said and not a criticism of you as a person. You stuck to what Dustin had said or posted - I would have liked to see an actual quote in context to be more fair with respect to a FB post - but they were just attacking you or some idea of you. I don't think they did much research to be honest.

      As far as Joan Conrow, her personal attacks are constant. To call them periodic makes me start to question how often you read it and I promise I say that without any snarkiness. Go back to her blogs leading up to the 2012 election to see the stark contrast. She is against everything and yet constantly rips on those she calls "antis." She has lost the respect of so many. I would just hate to see people associate you with her (and Lasker ouch!) because of her periodic shout outs to you and your blog in her blog.

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    4. Thanks for commenting again.
      You make a few good points.

      1) Regarding Dustin's candidacy: I am happy that he's running. There is a legitimate reason why many on the island are upset with the direction we're going in. And, I think it's important that those people have a voice in the coming election. If the ultimate outcome of Dustin's candidacy is that Mayor Carlvaho reaches across the aisle and engages in a real dialogue on the role of industrial ag on Kaua'i, the future of ag for our island, and the issue of water rights-- then I think that Dustin's candidacy is a success. His lack of experience or qualifications for the job aren't relevant if that is the goal of the campaign. Further, as you said, I'm also impressed just by the fact that he's willing to put himself out there as a candidate. However, the reason I wrote the above post is that I strongly feel as if the movements reliance on aggressive rhetoric is detrimental to the cause (far and beyond what I've seen from the other side). And, any mention of conspiracy theories ultimately delegitimizes the actual argument on hand. If the campaign goes in that direction, then Carvalho won't have to address the real issues that sparked the movement.

      2) Regarding Joan's blog again: she has criticized many people on Kaua'i that I have a lot of respect for. Some criticism was warranted and some, in my opinion, definitely wasn't. And, I agree that that type of criticism can detract from her argument. But, regardless, her perspective is valuable as is her insistence to continue to look at the bigger picture (land use, etc). None of these issues are black and white. And, though I may sometimes disagree, I think that she has been effective in illuminating the grey area. However, many of the anonymous comments on her blog are as vile and polarizing as snarklectic (from the other perspective.) I think that we all need to denounce that type of rhetoric, regardless of where we stand on the issues.

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  2. You hit it on the nail about the "how" in this mayoral election. I too perused through Dustin's website and only found what issues he is focused on and no solutions or insight into how he would effect change in those issues were mentioned. Granted Mayor Carvalho's website does not have that information either, my main concern with Dustin is that we do not know anything about him to start off with other than he is a pro surfer and MMA fighter. As a voter, I want to know: educational background, work history, community involvement, etc. I want to know if he served on any board/committee/commission, and if so, what were his contributions, what did he accomplish (I'm sorry, but organizing a march doesn't cut it for me); if he did have a job, was it a management position, does he have supervisory experience? Also, on his site it claims that he has been involved in politics most of his young career...what exactly is that?Did he testify at the State Leg? Did he help draft legislative amendments, etc.?

    According to the Charter, the Managing Director needs to have at least a college degree and have held a supervisory or management position for a year or so I believe...So I would assume the Mayor have similar qualifications.

    While it is commendable this young man is throwing his name into the hat, being Mayor is SERIOUS business which involves not only making decisions on behalf of the best interest for the people of Kauai, but it also involves managing an entire corporation.

    While Mayor Carvalho has had his share of questionable decisions in the past, you can't deny that he has put together a stellar cabinet of Department Heads - County Engineer Larry Dill, CIP Manager Keith Suga, Planning Director Mike Dahilig, Housing Director Kamuela Cobb-Adams, etc.

    Eyes and ears are open.

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  3. Hey Luke, thanks for the awesome mention in your blog! Wow, way to be aloha. Isn't it funny, Luke? lo and behold, we came across this post of yours. Well, since we still have you on our bloglist, but we have denoted you to the List we reserve for "snarkists", since you have decided to enter that arena, you don't either have a sense of humor, have any idea what a "hate blog" actually consists of, and don't understand the concept of our blog, which we in no way try to hide, and we make uku piles of disclaimers on it as well.
    We see you as floundering, a bit Luke. Not really sure what team to root for. We don't take sides, we root out the snark, pick it apart, and expose people for the hypocrites they are.
    We also, are pretty darned funny. But a hate blog? Seriously? a hate, blog, really? Come on, Luke, we use biting sarcasm, and we are no holds barred, but we don't hate on anyone. Not unless they hate on us first.
    And if you are so concerned, scared and nervous about Barca, please, Luke for God's sakes, do not vote for him. Seriously. Its not like one vote counts, or anything. Right Luke?
    SO, you just stay there, be scared, and terrified, and nervous, and hide under the bed. We will tell you when it is safe to come out, Luke. Don't worry, there is a blankie, a cookie, and a binkie waiting for you.
    Oh, by the way, apparently you never read our blog before. There is a disclaimer on it, that says we have absolutely NOTHING to do with Barca's campaign for mayor, and they do not endorse us what so ever. We are renegades, Luke. We fly our own freak flag, thank you very much
    We don't hide behind anyone's skirts. And we don't pretend to be something we aren't. We are diss, and snark, snarking dissers anad snarkists, wrapped in deep dark humour, and chocolaty goodness. Try to keep up, Luke. hate doesn't enter into it whatsoever. perhaps, you have never experienced real hate. Luke.
    One persons snark and so called "hating" is another persons hilarious funny rant. Luke.
    So don't stress.
    Oh, and thanks for asking others to go to our blog and read it! What a shameless free plug!
    We Love being dissed on other blogs. It's like mothers milk to us. Please feel free to hate on us, and diss us as much as you like. Just be a big boy and wear your big boy pants, when we throw it right back.
    As for bringing down the level of conversation on our island, Luke, it was brought down already, we are just trying to show people how to wallow in it, deeply, and just get all covered with chocolaty goodness.
    Of course, people must really hate our so called hate blog as you call it, because we have had literally thousands of pageviews and on google plus we are approaching 40,000p views, and we have been up less then 8 weeks.
    So, think you should check your hypocrisy at the door.
    T By the way, Joan has dissed you several times, and then not dissed you. B
    It is too bad that you lost the Gold Standard Blog level on our blog, but we bet that you will LOVE being on our other list. Way to go!
    Since we are such haters. Unlike yourself, who doesn't hate on people right, Luke? Right?
    Welcome to the life of a professional snarkist, Luke. You have now been ordained. Bless you!
    Amene.
    BTw, feel free to remove this comment. It will be up on our blog, and a big headline on monday saying "Luke Disses and hates on Us for dissing and hating on Joan, who disses on Luke, (often.).
    isn't blogging fun?
    sincerely, The Kauai Snarklectic Publishing Team.
    yeah we posted as anon. isn't sarcasm Fun??????

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  4. No, Luke, thank YOU! For dissing a fellow paddler, a fellow waterman, a fellow kauaian, a fellow guy in the same age category, a fellow athlete, thanks for calling Dustin, whom you have never met, even though you grew up in Wailua, and he grew up in Kilauea,

    Thanks for falling into the hands of people who really wanna diss our entire island and way of life, thanks for without even realizing it, making it seem that now, every paddler for kaiola canoe club should be against Barca, because of your influence with them. yeah. Thanks Luke. Way to go.l Way to back up Kauai people. Y

    ou should really take a good look in the mirror and think about what you have written here today. About Dustin, about our blog, about what your words and rhetoric could actually do. You have just launched a "personal attack". Not just one, but two.

    Therefore, you have just negated your own "high road", and "High Ideals.". Your parent is a doctor. You have had apparently a very good life. You have done quite well for yourself, granted through determination and hard work. Dustin is also a good guy, with determination, and hard work ethic, although you and he took a different path to achieve those goals.

    Who are you to rip on Dustin? What makes you better then him, Luke? Why would you put something like this out there? It is pretty shameful.

    Not to mention, we have a lot of friends and ohana that paddle for Kaiola. And a lot of those people are Dustin Barca supporters. There are paddlers all over this island that support him. You really need to re read what you wrote. Before you press the send button, make sure you are willing to own the words that you put out there. you don't think this is going to send a firestorm through the paddling community?

    Isn't that what it was supposed to do? Isn't that the strategy? Calling Dustin right wing extremist? Do you have any evidence to support the statements that you made? That is what is known as a "personal attack",. Luke. You are doing the exact thing you portend to despise.

    If you ever needed help out there in the ocean, Dustin is the kind of guy that would be right there to save you. No matter what you called him on your blog. Think about it Luke. Let's hope that your next blogpost is an apology.

    Kauai Snarklectic Publishing team

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  5. We really do need to question our candidates and I also need more than bullet point slogans (no matter how good they sound.) I also want details of how they're going to enact change. The ability to understand our County Charter, ordinances, and the legal and financial implications of bills,are important qualities that any real candidate vying for the seat of Mayor should have. It's up to them to prove they have the knowledge and understanding to do this. As a candidate, it's their job; that's why it's OK for us to question them. -It's all part of the democratic process, right? Thanks for your thoughtful commentary Luke. Snarky comments & threats, just discourage real conversation and get us nowhere.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope that by questioning the details we can continue to move the dialogue along. I support the idea behind Dustin's candidacy, as the island needs a "champion" to fight the status-quo. But, in order for me to support the candidate, and not just the idea, the fight needs to be respectful, inclusive, idea oriented, and solutions based. And, we also need to recognize that the current administration has set up an effective team and made some real accomplishments in terms of sustainability. But, there are still massively systemic issues that we need to grapple. Such as the fact that 7,400 acres of tillable land have gone out of agricultural production between 2007 and 2012, which was accompanied by a 28% decrease in small farms (1-9 acres) in that same time period. And we are the only county in the state that is moving backwards in that respect. What's the action plan to reverse that? Both candidates need to answer that. And yeah, as you said, questioning is part of the democratic process. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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