We Need Radical Imagination: Hawaiian Independence

Imagination, as Hawaiian Native rights advocate Poka Laenui describes it, is more than an antidote to hopelessness. It is a source of power.

There are many consequences to the near daily barrage of lies, violence, bigotry, and vulgarity produced by the Trump administration. One impact: This atmosphere crowds out space for imagining and creating new possibilities.

So it was refreshing to hear that for Poka Laenui, radical imagination is not dead. His favorite thing to imagine: What his beloved Hawai’i will be like once it regains sovereignty.

Laenui is one of the leading voices for Hawaiian independence, a radio host, attorney, convener of the Hawaiian National Transition Authority, and an international advocate of indigenous peoples recognized for his work at the United Nations.

Imagination, as Laenui describes it, is not only an antidote to hopelessness. It is a source of power, and when it is missing, it weakens the spirit.

Laenui is inspired by Native Hawaiian storytellers—the prophets, he calls them, who traditionally created “imagery and dreams, and let them fly, so other people [could] understand and participate.”

Today, Laenui tells such stories—or prophecies—himself. And he encourages others to do the same.

“Begin the dreaming process!” he says, explaining. “If I prophesize wrong, at least other people will be inspired to try it themselves. Otherwise we just grumble about what we don’t have.”

His recent prophecy takes the form of a fictional guide for a visitor to Hawai’i in the year 2035. The story describes life in Hawai’i once it regains sovereignty, which was taken from the Hawaiian people in 1893 with the overthrow and imprisonment of Queen Liliuokalani and the subsequent annexation by the United States.