Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that celebrates the Anglo-Christian-colonial erasure of a native people’s spiritual ways.
Ironically, although this is a Christian holiday, it’s traditionally the international holiday for consuming as much alcohol as possible. Could be that the Irish, stereotyped as the champions of imbibing, had to numb themselves with alcohol to survive the religious, cultural, economic and material doctrine of their oppressors. Or maybe the stereotype was invented by the colonizer, aka British, to cover up their crimes.
Hmm… colonization and alcoholism. The two seem to belong together. Could alcoholism among the Irish actually be a centuries old response to grief over living in a constant state of resistance? Could it be an ongoing wake… the mourning of cultural and spiritual loss?
Another powerful tool used in the colonial project is, of course, military might, which was (and some would say continues to be) visited upon the Irish. And still yet, the ultimate power, after a people have been killed off or forced to assimilate or migrate, is the control of their story. The absence of a people’s self-representation is victory for the oppressor.
It’s worth considering the Irish diaspora today. I say this not just because I am descended from Irish immigrants on my father’s side, but because half of the Hawaiian population lives in the diaspora.
And with regard to controlling our own stories we share much with the Irish, although they have more control over the telling of their stories than Hawaiians do.
How many stories of us are shaped to suit the colonizer, the occupier, the foreigner? And when stories about us are told in film or print, they are stories that rarely, if ever, hold anyone accountable in any meaningful way for the wrongs done to us, our kupuna, our homeland.
Some years back I read an article about how the British government attempted to intervene on the depiction of the Irish Famine in New York state’s curriculum– I am still looking for this article and when I find it I will link it here. (Please see update below) But I mention it because even in the 21st century England does not want to be held accountable for what it as a nation has done to the Irish and to Ireland.
This article, “The Real Irish American Story Not Taught In Schools” https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/03/15-4 , is about the absence in the U.S. education system of the history of how the British Empire literally starved a million Irish people to death in the course of about 7 years as they, the English, sold off Ireland’s bounty, and how this led to millions of Irish being forced into an exodus that went on for over a century. It wasn’t until about a decade ago that the out-migration of Irish from Ireland was reversed. So the legacy of empire, racism and forced diaspora has been generational for the Irish.
The article was authored by Bill Bigelow, editor of Rethinking Schools http://www.rethinkingschools.org/index.shtml, a publication for teachers, but it’s also an intelligent advocate for justice in the education system. The lead story on their site, “Stop the School to Prison Pipeline,” is super important for us in Hawaii to read, given the disproportionate number of Kanaka Oiwi in the prison system.
So I went in search of the article about the British government criticizing the attempt to include the Irish Famine in U.S. curriculum. After an email to Mr. Bigelow, who directed me to Alan Singer, I learned that the matter went further back than 10 years. Also, the controversy of including the Irish Famine was around the issue of categorizing it as genocide.
This gets more interesting to me because I, and other Hawaiians, have long believed that the 19th century so-called “population collapse” of Hawaiians was intentional, as was the introduction of STDs by Captain Cook and his crew and other foreigners who followed them. What they did should be seen as the equivalent of unleashing AIDS on an unknowing population.
Most people do not speak of the 90% of Hawaiians who perished from the earth in less than a century as genocide even though it was known ahead of time that diseases from America and Asia would kill them.
And most people do not consider the ongoing erasure and removal of Hawaiians via U.S. policies and laws that allow for desecration and physical removal of our kupuna from their burials, so that non-Hawaiians can have vacation homes and golf courses, as cultural genocide. Nor do they speak of the economic and social policies that force Hawaiians to flee to the continent for a living wage as part of a systematic, ongoing agenda to remove us from our homeland.
When I was shooting “Noho Hewa,” only Kawika Tengan and Haunani-Kay Trask were willing to reference what is going here as ETHNIC CLEANSING or ETHNOCIDE.
The cost of denying what has and is happening in Hawaii is immeasurable… especially when no one wants to measure it! Unless, of course, it falls into their well funded area of scholarship. What a pity to have a people’s intelligentsia controlled in part or whole by the state and the non-profit/NGO industrial complex.
I was glad to find this site ( http://www.freewebs.com/irishgenocide/apps/forums/topics/show/2922720-history-wars ) by Sandy Swifty because as it turns out it was her initial inquiries that began the process of the Irish Famine being included in U.S. curriculum on the subject of genocide.
I was also inspired to see that none other than Francis Boyle, the law professor and attorney who has advised and represented Keanu Sai on the matter of Hawaiian independence, wrote a legal opinion in support of including the Irish Famine in curriculum about genocide. In it he says:
“Clearly, during the years 1845 to 1850, the British government pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland with intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnical, and racial group commonly known as the Irish People….”