Kānāwai Māmalahoe – Law of the Splintered Paddle
Declared to the people of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i by its ruling monarch, Kamehameha I, ca. 1797.
Oh my people,
Honor thy gods;
Respect alike [the rights of] people both great and humble;
See to it that our aged,
our women, and our children
Lie down to sleep by the roadside
Without fear of harm.
Break this law, and die.
YFNA has been meditating frequently on this wise law of late – a law that, he reads, was a condensation, by the absolute ruler of all the Hawaiian Islands except Kaua‘i (which he would add later), of what the people of Hawai‘i considered right and proper. Disregard of which, even before the law was pronounced, could get you killed.
Like Kamehameha I was almost killed.
The legend has it that, as a young ali‘i (noble) and warrior, Kamehameha led a party into battle against fellow ali‘i and was defeated. Smarting from his loss, he resolved to reassert his manhood by assaulting, alone, a small fishing community. They were commoners, they were disposable, worthy only of bowing, yea succumbing, to the will of their betters.
Rather like billionaire bankers and industrialists feel about Sanders supporters, or intellectuals feel about Trump supporters …
[ahem] But Kamehameha’s humiliation quota for the day had not yet been filled. His deadly intentions were thwarted by a crack in the lava rock that dominates practically all of Hawai‘i Island’s shorelines. A crack that snared one of Kamehameha’s feet and held it fast.
Two of the fishermen saw their chance at ensuring their escape and that of their families (and perhaps gaining a measure of revenge against a heritage of ill-treatment?). They ran to Kamehameha, and one of them knocked him upside the head with his paddle, which broke – the splintered paddle cited in the Law – and rendered the ali‘i unconscious, perhaps dead.
Now might be a good time to remind the modern-day reader that, for a commoner even to look upon a noble in the Hawai‘i of Kamehameha’s time was a crime punishable by instant death. To strike one, whatever his offense …?
Kamehameha survived, and eventually (and bloodily) ascended to the throne of Hawai‘i’s first united monarchy. And, again so says the legend, he remembered. He summoned the two fishermen to his court, where they expected to pay the ultimate penalty for saving themselves. Indeed, the assembled ali‘i called out for them to be stoned.
“This is bad how, dude?”
Because they didn’t know anything about weed, dude. Just rocks. Big ones.
Yeah. ‘Ew’ is right. Or maybe ‘ow’.
Where was … oh, yeah.
“It is I who should be stoned”, Kamehameha The Great is quoted as saying. And then pronounced the Law of the Splintered Paddle. To the dismay, no doubt, of those assembled ali‘i, who saw one of their sacred privileges swept away at a word.
Like ‘taxes on the wealthy’. Or ‘living wages for workers’. Or ‘affordable rents’, ‘affordable energy’ …
But, the nobles remained silent, presumably bowed their heads in assent. Because, hewa no, make. And neither they themselves, nor their King, had any patience for legal finagling, for 25-year stays of execution. You made it to the heiau, and the kahuna proclaimed sanctuary and absolution for you, well and good. Otherwise, pau.
Perhaps, dear reader, you will forgive YFNA for thinking that this election cycle in America is all about this little group, that little group, or t’other little group, all demanding to be king (or queen, as the case may be). In a land where everyone who’s in a village not your own is subject to attack.
Seems to YFNA that, if We are going to go that route, We should identify and bow down to those who have the history, the cred, the mana. Y’know, like Elizabeth II Regina, the rightful Queen of the American colonies.
Those promoting Hawaiian Sovereignty are promoting just this, the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy. And given the leadership choices that mainland Americans are offering these islands, who can blame them?
And may that monarch make wise choices for all the people. And make them stick. Even when the people haven’t a clue.
ABSOLUTE, adj. Independent, irresponsible. An absolute monarchy is one in which the sovereign does as he pleases so long as he pleases the assassins. Not many absolute monarchies are left, most of them having been replaced by limited monarchies, where the sovereign’s power for evil (and for good) is greatly curtailed, and by republics, which are governed by chance.
– Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary