JUNE 3, 2017

Filipinos Play a Major Role in Lanai’s Transition

Every community periodically must face the sobering reality of change. Sometimes transition comes subtly, gradually; other times change is dramatic and forces us to quickly reassess our sense of community, identity. For Filipinos living in Lanai, the change in their community is perhaps somewhere closer to subtle than dramatic.

As with all communities in transition, the economy or industry in the area shapes the outcome. When the pineapple plantation closed in Lanai in 1992, it signaled the end of not just the plantation era, but an entire lifestyle. One long-time Lanai resident explained it this way: “In the plantation setting, workers started and ended work at the same time. This made it easier for them to get together after work to pursue shared interests, weaving the social fabric of the community in the process. When the plantation closed, tourism offered work schedules that were all over the place. It became more challenging to do things together.”

Similar to the pattern of other island communities in the state, Lanai’s plantation economy is being replaced by a common-sense alternative -- a tourism-based economy. But the scale and magnitude of establishing a grand, flourishing tourism industry in Lanai is limited due to land base, population, and most importantly, the owner of the island, billionaire Larry Ellison, who purchased 98 percent of the island in 2012. Ellison’s vision of Lanai is nothing close to having a bustling Waikiki, or even the smaller tourism hub of Lanai’s closest neighbor, Maui. Ellison wants Lanai to be the “first economically viable, 100 percent green city.” He wants to “create a sustainable community through plans to diversify the economy, establish a college and address environmental issues.” The impression is that he wants Lanai to remain largely underdeveloped and tranquil. As long as Ellison remains the owner of Lanai, it’s safe to assume that the island will undergo smart development. In other words, a few resorts will be allowed to be developed; not chains of hotels and motels; infrastructure will be kept to a minimum; not massive roads or strip malls.

But there is no certainty how long Ellison will keep the island, or how much of it he decides to retain or sell off that could change the current character of the island and its very small-town charm. Remember, at one point, James Dole purchased most of the island in 1922 to use it to build up Dole Food company. Corporations and CEOs’ goals also change.

What is certain is whatever lies ahead for Lanai, its Filipino community that comprises close to 70 percent of the population, will be a big part of any transition. Their roots in that community run very deep and it bodes well for the state and Ellison that not only should Filipinos be appreciated, but given a stake in shaping Lanai’s future. That would entail among other possibilities, holding important positions in governing bodies that decide on matters relating to Lanai, opening up rights to home and land ownership, and bestowing opportunities to create small businesses, at minimum. These three basic components -- access to governing, property ownership, and financial opportunity through entrepreneurship -- are the building blocks to any community. The reality is without these features present in a community -- that community is not truly empowered. We hope Lanai’s Filipino community will assert themselves and work towards achieving more of these basic rights.


Introducing the Fourth Power in Our Democracy -- The Media

ike it or not, the U.S. media has ascended as the fourth power of checks and balances in U.S. democracy. There is the presidency, Congress, the Judiciary, and lastly, and arguably the most influential, is the awesome power of news media outlets. The media may not have the ability to create policy, law, or interpret law, thus creating law by precedence, as the other constitutionally endowed branches of government, but this fourth power influences the psyche of the masses on what policy and the law ought to be.

The caveat is obvious. While each branch of government, at least in theory, is vested authority to place a check over the other; who places a check on the media? Professional ethics are the only guiding principles from which the media places a “check” onto themselves. The threat of lawsuit could be a deterrent to publish outright lies, or what President Donald Trump likes to call “fake news,” but slander is hard to win in court. It goes without saying how important Freedom of Speech is, that empowers the press to do what they do as constitutionally protected. But in this digital age when information flows faster than the speed of light and reaches every corner of Earth, it’s even more imperative that the media practices responsible journalism and use its mighty power with great purpose and caution.

There are towering examples of the media’s shortcomings. It has become a corporate conglomerate which limits real criticism and dialogue on the built-in failures of the country’s economic system. Pressure from other conglomerate corporations who advertise in media outlets is a real factor in determining the extent of news content, more than people realize. Even if the media were to suddenly begin having serious discussions on our failing systems, economic and political, how believable would they be as a source? The media giants have also become elitist and out of touch with large sectors of Americans. The best example of this is their miscalculation of the recent presidential election. For all the thousands of hours spinning news, giving their hand-picked expert guests a platform, and utilizing high-tech, sophisticated polling, they still got the result wrong.

In the face of all the U.S. media’s shortcomings, Americans can be assured that it still is one of the most free, bold, balanced, and reliable sources of information compared to other media around the globe. Of late, the U.S. media should be commended for their reporting on the possible Trump-Russia collusion in the presidential election. The U.S. media has been relentlessly reporting on the probe with such intensity that perhaps no other media in the world would dare do against its own sitting president, something not possible in the other superpower countries like China or Russia. The U.S. media also has been vigorously challenging the president every step of the way since assuming office, highlighting his policies discrimination such as the travel ban or his policies that impact on our elderly and poor such as Trumpcare.  The U.S. media has truly become an imposing force -- a fourth power in U.S. democracy.  While this reality may be beneficial as an added checks and balance in society at this juncture, abuse of power in the media can lead to harmful consequences in the long run.

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