December 1986 Home   Newsletters

January 1987

February 1987

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
League in Action: Oahu GP Due for 5-Year Review
League in Action: P & Z - Citizen's Guide Book
League in Action: League Opposes GP Ammendments
League in Action: Planning and Zoning Committee
League Testifies before Planning Commission Meeting
League to Interview Council Members
Leaguers Hold Key Posts
Cayetano Bill to Bring Presidential Primary to Isles
Barbara Marumoto at Common Cause
Water Conference
General Membership Meeting
Dr. Phyllis Turnbull Is Speaker at December Membership Meeting
League on Channel 20
Meeting Basic Human Needs
Orientation Meetings Are Scheduled
Membership Update
Vote Count Schedule
Happy Birthday!

Dr. Phyllis Turnbull Is Speaker at December Membership Meeting

Land and Water Enduring Themes of Hawaii's Politics

In her address, titled "Reflections on Elections", delivered to the League's December 13, General Meeting on Planning, Dr. Phyllis Turnbull, associate professor of Political Science, University of Hawaii-Manoa pointed out that "the enduring theme of Hawaii's politics is land - its use and control - and increasingly, water. This endures often submerged beneath the current 'issues'. It endures through giving shape to the historical forces that always are present in our elections. Issues, forces, interests, etc. appear in the forms in which they do in order not to challenge seriously the system of domination, which surrounds land."

Turnbull added that land is the basis of power and vast amounts are controlled by a small number of landowners.

"Thus, in a sense," she continued, "all elections in Hawaii are about land and increasingly, water. And in a sense, most of them have nothing to do with it. These forces provide the context in which electoral politics and issues are played out. The issues are called housing, jobs, etc., but are formed by a largely unchallenged pattern of land control, which has fostered mono-crop agriculture, mono-crop tourism, speculation in housing and land and urbanization unending."

Other excerpts from Turnbull's talk:

"Whoever is elected responds to this system of values and pressures of land ownership. There is a sense in which it is immaterial who is elected because of the permeation of the notion of development and the taken-for-privileges property in the legal code."

So, elections are one of the means by which a particular structure of power reproduces itself through the ritual, the laws, etc. In another sense, elections are not about the control and use of land.

But about personalities and images -- particularly since 1970 but always before then, too. Rather than interrogating the structure of power and appraising the political culture in which we live, they take those for granted, misreading that culture.

The object of a campaign is to be selected; in our culture, it is to be loved -- in the deep Freudian sense -- an appropriate love object, identification, etc. Nothing sinister such as problems. Sponsoring media ' endorse this approach. Newspapers depend . upon advertisers so they have little incentive to do any investigative reporting; by being neutral, they reinscribe the system. Electronic media is primarily an entertainment media that shuns much controversy.

"'Informing citizens' -- carries with it the possibility of unmasking power and of serving power's interests. So long as the media formats dominate, the interests of power are served. What is needed is more vigorous language about the stakes in elections: who is to be benefited by the way that the benefits of the use of the primary resources are distributed and who is to be enabled."

"Confront power, don't accommodate it."

During the business session that preceded the talk, Evelyn Bender's motion that League eliminate its Tax Study from the 1986-87 Program was unanimously approved. Another motion that won approval was made by Jean Aoki: That League adopt the Basic Human Needs Study recommended by National. The Board of Directors took final action on both motions at its January 19 meeting.

The meeting was held in the Lagoon pent-house of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, through the courtesy of Dorie Marsh. Forty two members heard Dr. Turnbull's powerful speech. This was followed by a sumptuous lunch prepared by some of the best cooks in the League.

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