A Time of Reflection… or Having the Time to Reflect!


When I think about the monetary phenomenon of economics and of the complex interaction of individual actions that lead to unintended patterns of predictable and orderly outcomes of wealth and prosperity as Adam Smith states in his book, Wealth of Nations, I feel that his words ring true in this time of self-isolation, of social distancing, as it has created, IMHO, a more moral, ethical and loving society…where love for humanity truly can be seen in our neighbors helping each other.

We bear the consequences of our choices. Life is never that simple. Our individual choices can lead to important social outcomes… outcomes that might be more important than the price of apples or, shall we say, “goods and services.”

A result of reflecting.

What is the role we each play in creating a moral society, a society where all love humanity, a society that many of us are fortunate enough to live in? Questions come to mind: How honest should I be when I really need milk for my baby but have no money to pay for it? Should I take advantage of my kupuna aunty if I help myself to her social security check just this once so my baby can have food?

These are “trying times,” drastic times which result in drastic measures. Much of the time, we know the right answer to these questions. We usually know what is proper or improper; what is illegal or legal. We know what people consider to be the minimum standard and what it takes to go beyond. These are rules that go way beyond what we call social interaction.

Who decides what is honorable and noble and kind? WE DO! We decide! We decide these things, and the outcomes are the result of ALL our interactions with each other. Our interactions are neither controlled nor determined by any one person.

What is the process?

First and foremost, we want to be LOVED. When people approve of us we are pleased. When they don’t approve we are disappointed, we are hurt… This desire to be loved, our desire to seek approval and avoid disapproval, to seek honor and avoid dishonor; this desire is embedded within us by God. But it is also embedded in us by our ancestors, or by nature, depending on your worldview. Good behavior is encouraged by approval. Bad behavior is discouraged by disapproval. Those are the incentives created by those around us, our beneficiaries, the actual spectators of our actions as Trustees, but more so now as residents of our beloved islands of Hawai‘i. My eyes fill with tears as I reflect on how our race was almost destroyed by disease, famine, a different way of life brought to our shores by foreigners, for good or evil, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally.

Each action we take affects those around us. It’s like the little girl finding starfish stranded on the beach by the low tide and tossing them back into the ocean. A passerby, seeing the thousands of starfish left stranded, tells the girl that her task is hopeless. How can she possibly make a difference? “I made a difference to that one” she said. Every good deed we do has an immediate impact… but the ‘ripple’ effects created by our actions and our approval/disapproval of others creates additional impacts on the world around us.

Let us reflect at this time of self-isolation and carpe diem

Ke Akua pū, a hui hou,
na Trustee Leina’ala Ahu Isa, your Trustee-at-large