My Hawaiian Aloha (III)

Jack London

Cosmopolitan Magazine/December, 1916

EDITOR’S NOTE – In this, his concluding article on “Alohaland,” Mr. London deals with several of the interesting problems that loom large in Hawaii’s future, and about which it is important that every American citizen should have some knowledge.

Hawaii is a great experimental laboratory, not merely in agriculture, but in ethnology and sociology. Remote in the heart of the Pacific, more hospitable to all forms of life than any other land, it has received an immigration of alien vegetable, insect, animal and human life more varied and giving rise to more complicated problems than any other land has received. And right intelligently and whole-heartedly have the people of Hawaii taken hold of these problems and striven to wrestle them to solution.

A melting pot or a smelting pot is what Hawaii is. In a single school, at one time I have observed scholars of as many as twenty-three different nationalities and mixed nationalities. First of all is the original Hawaiian stock of pure Polynesian. These were the people whom Captain Cook discovered, the first pioneers who voyaged in double canoes from the South Pacific and colonized Hawaii at what is estimated from their traditions as some fifteen hundred years ago. Next, from Captain Cook’s time to this day, has drifted in the haole, or Caucasian — Yankee, Scotch, Irish, English, Welsh, French, German, Scandinavian — every Caucasian country of Europe, and every Caucasian colony of the world has contributed its quota. And not least to be reckoned with, are the deliberate importations of unskilled labor for the purpose of working the sugar plantations. First of these was a heavy wave of Chinese coolies. But the Chinese Exclusion Act put a stop to their coming. In the same way, King Sugar has introduced definite migrations of Japanese, Koreans, Russians, Portuguese, Spanish, Porto Ricans, and Filipinos. With the exception of the Japanese, who are jealously exclusive in the matter of race, all these other races insist and persist in intermarrying, and the situation here should afford much valuable data for the ethnologist.

Of the original Hawaiians one thing is certain. They are doomed to extinction. Year by year the total number of the pure Hawaiians decreases. Marrying with the other races as they do, they could persist as hybrids, if — if fresh effusions of them came in from outside sources equivalent to such continued effusions as do come in of the other races. But no effusions of Polynesian come in nor have ever come in. Steadily, since Captain Cook’s time, they have faded away. To-day, the representatives of practically all the old chief- stocks and royal-stocks are half-whites, three-quarter whites, and seven-eighths whites. And they, and their children, continue to marry whites, or seven-eighths and three-quarters whites like themselves, so that the Hawaiian strain grows thinner and thinner against the day when it will vanish in thin air. All of which is a pity, for the world can ill afford to lose so splendid and lovable a race.

And yet, in this period of world war wherein the United States finds it necessary to prepare against foes that may at any time launch against it out of the heart of civilization, little Hawaii, with its hotch potch of races, is making a better demonstration than the United States.

The National Guard has been so thoroughly reorganized, livened up, and recruited that it makes a showing second to none on the Mainland, while, in proportion to population, it has more of this volunteer soldiery than any of the forty-eight states and territories in the United States. In addition to the mixed companies, there are entire companies of Hawaiians, Portuguese, Chinese (Hawaii-born), and Filipinos; and the reviewing stand sits up and takes notice when it casts its eyes over them and over the regulars.

No better opportunity could be found for observing this medley of all the human world than that afforded by the Mid-Pacific Carnival last February when the population turned out and held festival for a week. Nowhere within the territory of the United States could so exotic a spectacle be witnessed. And unforgettable were the flower-garlanded Hawaiians, the women pa’u riders on their lively steeds with flowing costumes that swept the ground, toddling Japanese boys and girls, lantern processions straight out of old Japan, colossal dragons from the Flowery Empire, and Chinese school girls, parading two by two in long winding columns, bare-headed, their demure black braids down their backs, slimly graceful in the white costumes of their foremothers. At the same time, while the streets stormed with confetti and serpentines tossed by the laughing races of all the world, in the throne room of the old palace (now the Executive Building) was occurring an event as bizarre in its own way and equally impressive. Here, side by side, the two high representatives of the old order and the new held reception. Seated, was the aged Queen Llliuokalani, the last reigning sovereign of Hawaii ; standing beside her was Lucius E. Pinkham, New England born, the Governor of Hawaii. A quarter of a century before, his brothers had dispossessed her of her kingdom; and quite a feather was it in his cap for him to have her beside him that night, for it was the first time in that quarter of a century that any one had succeeded in winning her from her seclusion to enter the throne-room.


And about them, among brilliantly uniformed army and navy officers from generals and admirals down, moved judges and senators, sugar kings and captains of industry, the economic and political rulers of Hawaii, and many of them, they and their women, intermingled descendants of the old chief stocks and of the old missionary and merchant pioneers.

And what more meet than that in Hawaii, the true Aloha-land which has welcomed and loved all wayfarers from all other lands, that the Pan-Pacific movement should have originated. This had its inception in the mind of Mr. Alexander Hume Ford — he of Outrigger Club fame who resurrected the sports of surf-boarding and surf -canoeing at Waikiki. Hands-Around-the-Pacific, he calls the movement; and already these friendly hands are reaching out and clasping all the way from British Columbia to Panama, from New Zealand to Australia and Oceanica, and on to Java, the Philippines, China and Japan, and around and back again to Hawaii, the Cross-Roads of the Pacific and the logical heart and home and center of the movement.

Hawaii is a Paradise — and I can never cease proclaiming it; but I must append one word of qualification: Hawaii is a paradise for the well-to-do. It is not a paradise for the unskilled laborer from the mainland, nor for the person without capital from the mainland. The one great industry of the islands is sugar. The unskilled labor for the plantations is already here. Also, the white unskilled laborer, with a higher standard of living, cannot compete with coolie labor, and, further, the white laborer cannot and will not work in the canefields.

For the person without capital, dreaming to start on a shoestring and become a capitalist, Hawaii is the last place in the world. It must be remembered that Hawaii is very old . . . comparatively. When California was a huge cattle ranch for hides and tallow (the meat being left where it was skinned), Hawaii was publishing newspapers and boasting schools of higher learning. During the early years of the gold rush, before the soil of California was scratched with a plow, Hawaii kept a fleet of ships busy carrying her wheat, and flour, and potatoes to California, while California was sending her children down to Hawaii to be educated. The shoestring days are past. The land and industries of Hawaii are owned by old families and large corporations, and Hawaii is only so large.

But the homesteader may object, saying that he has read the reports of the millions of acres of government land in Hawaii which are his for the homesteading. But he must remember that the vastly larger portion of this government land is naked lava rock and not worth ten cents a square mile to a homesteader, and that much of the remaining land, while rich in soil values, is worthless because it is without water. The small portion of good government land is leased by the plantations. Of course, when these leases expire, they may be homesteaded. It has been done in the past. But such homesteaders, after making good their titles, almost invariably sell out their holdings in fee simple to the plantations. There is a reason for it. There are various reasons for it.

Even the skilled laborer is needed only in small, definite numbers. Perhaps I cannot do better than quote the warning circulated by the Hawaiian Pro- motion Committee: “No American is advised to come here in search of employment unless he has some definite work in prospect, or means enough to maintain himself for some months and to launch into some enterprise. Clerical positions are well filled; common labor is largely performed by Japanese or native Hawaiians, and the ranks of skilled labor are also well supplied.”

For be it understood that Hawaii is patriarchal rather than democratic. Economically it is owned and operated in a fashion that is a combination of twentieth century, machine-civilization methods and of medieval feudal methods. Its rich lands, devoted to sugar, are farmed not merely as scientifically as any land is farmed anywhere in the world, but, if anything, more scientifically. The last word in machinery is vocal here, the last word in fertilizing and agronomy, and the last word in scientific expertness. In the employ of the Planters’ Association is a corps of scientific investigators who wage unceasing war on the insect and vegetable pests and who are on the travel in the remotest parts of the world recruiting and shipping to Hawaii insect and micro-organic allies for the war.

The Sugar Planters Association and the several sugar factors or financial agencies control sugar, and, since sugar is king, control the destiny and welfare of the Islands. And they are able to do this, under the peculiar conditions that obtain, far more efficiently than could it be done by the population of Hawaii were it a democratic commonwealth, which it essentially is not. Much of the stock in these corporations is owned in small lots by members of the small business and professional classes. The larger blocks are held by families who, earlier in the game, ran their small plantations for themselves, but who learned that they could not do it so well and so profitably as the corporations, which, with centralized management, could hire far better brains for the entire operation of the industry, from planting to marketing, than was possessed by the heads of the families. As a result, absentee ownership or landlordship has come about. Finding the work done better for them than they could do it themselves, they prefer to live in their Honolulu and seaside and mountain homes, to travel much, and to develop a cosmopolitanism and culture that never misses shocking the traveler or newcomer with surprise. All of which makes this class in Hawaii as cosmopolitan as any class to be found the world over. Of course, there are notable exceptions to this practice of absentee landlordism, and such men run their own plantations and corporations and are active as sugar factors and in the management of the Planters’ Association.

Yet will I dare to assert that no owning class on the mainland is so conscious of its social responsibility as is this owning class of Hawaii, and especially that portion of it which has descended out of the old missionary stock. Its charities, missions, social settlements, kindergartens, schools, hospitals, homes, and other philanthropic enterprises are many; its activities are unceasing; and some of its members contribute from twenty-five to fifty per cent of their incomes to the work for the general good.


But all the foregoing, it must be remembered, is not democratic nor communal, but is distinctly feudal. The coolie and peasant labor possesses no vote, while Hawaii is after all only a territory, its governor appointed by the President of the United States, its one delegate sitting in Congress at Washington but denied the right to vote in that body. Under such conditions, it is patent that the small class of large landowners finds it not too difficult to control the small vote in local politics. Some of the large land-owners are Hawaiian or part Hawaiian, as are practically all the smaller land-owners. And these and the land-holding whites are knit together by a common interest, by social equality, and, in many cases, by the closer bonds of affection and blood relationship.

Interesting, even menacing, problems loom large for Hawaii in the not distant future. Let but one of these be considered, namely, the Japanese and citizenship. Granting that no Japanese immigrant can ever become naturalized, nevertheless remains the irrefragable law and fact that every male Japanese, Hawaii-born, by his birth is automatically a citizen of the United States. Since practically every other person in all Hawaii is Japanese, it is merely a matter of time when the Hawaii-born Japanese vote will not only be larger than any other Hawaiian vote, but will be practically equal to all other votes combined. When such time comes, it looks as if the Japanese will have the dominant say in local politics. If Hawaii should get statehood, a Japanese governor of the State of Hawaii would be not merely probable but very possible.

One feasible way out of the foregoing predicament would be never to strive for statehood but to accept a commission government, said commission to be appointed by the federal government. Yet would remain the question of control in local politics. The Japanese do not fuse any more than do they marry out of their race. The total vote other than Japanese is split into the two old parties. The Japanese would constitute a solid Japanese party capable of outvoting either the Republican or Democratic parties. In the meantime the Hawaii-born Japanese population grows and grows.

In passing it may be significantly noted that while the Chinese, Filipinos, and Portuguese flock enthusiastically into the National Guard, the Japanese do not. There are no Japanese in the National Guard.


But a truce to far troubles. This is my Hawaiian aloha — my love for Hawaii; and I cannot finish it without stating a dear hope for a degree of honor that may some day be mine before I die. I have had several degrees in the past of which I am well proud. When I had barely turned sixteen I was named Prince of the Oyster Pirates by my fellow pirates. Since they were all men-grown and a hard-bitten lot, and since the term was applied in anything but derision, my lad’s pride in it was justly great. Not long after, another mighty degree was given me by a shipping commissioner in San Francisco, who signed me on the ship’s articles as A.B. Think of it! Able-bodied! I was not a landlubber, nor an ordinary seaman, but an A.B! An able-bodied seaman before the mast! No higher could one go — before the mast. And in those youthful days of romance and adventure I would rather have been an able-bodied seaman before the mast than a captain aft of it.

When I went over Chilcoot Pass in the first Klondike Rush, I was called a chechaquo. That was equivalent to newcomer, greenhorn, tenderfoot, short horn, or new chum, and as such I looked reverently up to the men who were sourdoughs. It was a custom of the country to call an old-timer a sourdough. A sourdough was a man who had seen the Yukon freeze and break, traveled under the midnight sun, and been in the country long enough to get over the frivolities of baking powder and yeast in the making of bread and to content himself with bread raised from sourdough.

I am very proud of my sourdough degree. A few years ago I received another degree. It was in the West South Pacific. A kinky-headed, assymetrical, ape-like, head-hunting cannibal climbed out of his canoe and over the rail and gave it to me. He wore no clothes — positively no covering whatever. On his chest, from around his neck, was suspended a broken, white China plate. Through a hole in one ear was thrust a short clap pipe. Through divers holes in the other ear were thrust a freshly severed pig’s tail and several rifle cartridges. A bone bodkin four inches long was shoved through the dividing wall of his nose. And he addressed me as “Skipper.” Owner and master I was, the only navigator on board, without even a man I could trust to stand a mate’s watch; but it was the first time I had been called Skipper, and I was mighty proud of it.

I’d rather possess these several degrees of able seaman, sourdough, and skipper than all university degrees from Bachelor of Arts to Doctor of Philosophy. They mean more to me, and I am prouder of them. But there is yet one degree I should like to receive, than which there is no other in the wide world for which I have so great a desire. It is Kamaaina.

Kamaaina is Hawaiian. It contains five vowels, which, with the three consonants, compose five syllables. No syllable is accented, all syllables are pronounced, the vowels having precisely the same values as the Italian vowels. Kamaaina means not exactly old-timer or pioneer. Its original meaning is “a child of the soil,” “one who is indigenous.” But its meaning has changed, so that it stands to-day for “one who belongs” — to Hawaii, of course. It is not merely a degree of time or length of residence. It applies to the heart and the spirit. A man may live in Hawaii for twenty years and yet not be recognized as a kamaaina. He has remained alien in heart warmth and spirit understanding.

Nor can one assume this degree for oneself. Any man who has seen the seasons around in Alaska automatically becomes a sourdough and can be the first so to designate himself. But here in Hawaii kamaaina must be given to one. He must be so named by the ones who do belong and who are best fitted to judge whether or not he belongs. Kamaaina is the proudest accolade I know that any people can lay with the lovewarm steel of its approval on an alien’s back.

Pshaw! Were it a matter of time, I could almost be reckoned a kamaaina myself. Nearly a quarter of a century ago — to be precise, twenty-four years ago — I first saw these fair islands rise out of the sea. I have been back here numerous times. As the years pass, I return with increasing frequency and for longer stays. Of the past eighteen months I have spent twelve here.

Some day, some one of Hawaii may slap me on the shoulder and say, “Hello, old kamaaina.” And some other day I may chance to overhear some one else of Hawaii speaking of me and saying, “Oh, he’s a kamaaina.” And this may grow and grow until I am generally so spoken of and until I may at last say of myself: “I am a kamaaina. I belong.”

And this is my Hawaiian Aloha:

Aloha nui oe, Hawaii Nei!

The works of Jack London and other American journalists are freely available at The Archive of American Journalism.