A Decade, Looking Back

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11.11.11-11.11.21– It’s been ten years since the first Moana Nui conference was launched in Honolulu. Moana Nui was organized as a partnership between the International Forum on Globalization and local activists, artists, academics, and practitioners to counter the 2011 APEC meeting that set into motion Obama’s legacy projects: the military and economic rebalance that was the Pacific Pivot and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The work of those who participated in this event is a testament to the people on the ground who have taken the expression contained in our Moana Nui Statement and continue to win victories in struggle despite ongoing setbacks against investment and legal cabals, as we have seen with the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawai’i, for example, or the fight against Deep Seabed Mining in the Pacific, or fighting the TPP, or raising awareness of the exhaustive and fully comprehensive militarization of our planet that is being led and pursued by military contractors and the investment regime.

This rebalance shifted resources from what has since become the failed neoliberal Middle-East projections to the heavily militarized anti-China program that Washington has been promoting in the Asia Pacific.

What Moana Nui set out to do was to really build upon the work of local activists, academics, artists, and practitioners, and more firmly establish a cross-oceanic solidarity to create our narrative of resistance to what many considered then as far fetched. Some saw us as ants struggling beneath the behemoth of empire. But the empire is unsustainable and if it is we who hold it up, then it is we who can also let it crumble.

Let me explain. Although we can take this narrative back much further, to the genocide campaigns of our First Nations, to Manifest Destiny, to the slave trade, the promotion of free trade, military occupations, and the the evolution of colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, and neoliberalism, to a history that continues to promote these spurious narratives of “American freedom and democracy.” The focus for Moana Nui was to build our Pacific capacity for resistance by restoring our local shared histories against the imposed narratives of colonization, occupation, and privatization.

In 2008, after the financial collapse, we mostly understood that this long legacy of US hegemony may finally be over. When Obama became president, he inherited a country that was on the brink of financial collapse. One option that he could have chosen was to use the economic parachute he was given in trillions of dollars of Quantitative Easing, was to bring this country down softly, and reemerge as a cooperative player in what was shaping up to be a new 21st century multilateralism, a multi-polar world that could seek to restore the original promise and intent of the United Nations.

Instead, Obama pursued the bidding of Wall Street and military and industrial lobbyists, and sought to re-emerge with even greater consolidation of wealth going to the 1%. APEC 2011 was this moment. This was the moment that the United States sought to use the full arsenal of its capacity and cooperation with partner economies to obstruct and contain the multilateral cooperation of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the regional cooperations within the African Union, in Latin America under both Mercosur and the Bolivarian Alliance, the potential for Pacific and Caribbean Regionalism and the deepening of alliances between Russia, India and China.

Since then, every international potential was used to obstruct, and reverse the promise of multilateralism. This included regime change, executions, kidnappings, destabilization, misinformation campaigns, sanctions, “legalized” theft, and sometimes just promises that Washington could not keep. The full bully power of Washington’s influence was used, and one can look at almost every single event from 2012 on as and attempt to regain its former neoliberal unipolar hegemony.

But we know this and this has been the history of the United States and this is the history that global peoples know, even if those living in the empire believe a different story.

For example, today is Veteran’s Day in the United States. This should not be celebrated as a history of victories, but observed as a history of defeat. Since WW2, veterans have suffered one defeat after another. How the US imposes its will is that it has the capacity to exact punishing and destabilizing events. The US has the tools to dramatically break things, just as it did with the dropping of the Atomic bomb. And while the tools to rebuild after WW2– which was the Marshall Plan– it was only a tool to coalesce those partners into an economic and military organization used to manipulate, exploit and contain the rest of the world with the kind of lawfare that has only reinforced financial theft and greed. That is the bully power that is the United States.

The strength of BRICS is that the multipolar program had the capacity to rebuild the world, something that the US can no longer afford to do. This has since re-emerged as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), potentially the most successful access and development initiative in the history of the world, one that would give developing regions and impacted peoples the capacity to enhance their standing regionally. Instead all we hear about in the west are lies and innuendoes about how the BRI could be China’s attempt to replace US hegemony, when there is literally no evidence to uphold that, other than a litany of manufactured and fabricated disinformation reverberating in an echo chamber of its own making.

So what does this have to do with the 10 year anniversary of Moana Nui?

The presenters– while they may not all fully agree with this brief summarizing rant, but as experts in their fields, they all understood that another world is possible, one that requires the capacity and cooperation not of the APEC program, but of those who are on the ground defending or promoting food and water security, better local stewardship over our ecological biodiversity and environmental sustainability, indigenous rights for free, prior and informed consent, health care, education, and the belief that we “cannot cooperate with the commodification of life and land as represented by APEC’s predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements.”

So I ask, what have we gained after we first invoked our rights to free, prior and informed consent, after we choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy, and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom?

If you look at the people who participated in this event, this is a tremendous network. There is a vision, and people on the ground organizing and doing amazing work across various networks. For me, as having played a role by initiating and coordinating this event with the support of the community and with the invaluable connectivity of IFG, I have only just realized that Moana Nui directly informs the work that I am doing now with the Intemerate Accounting program. In fact, I would say that much of this program is predicated upon the work of those who contributed to both Moana Nui 2011 and the follow up program of Moana Nui 2013.

–Arnie Saiki, Coordinator, 11.11.2021

Moana Nui Statement

We, the peoples of Moana Nui, connected by the currents of our ocean home, declare that we will not cooperate with the commodification of life and land as represented by APEC’s predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements.

We invoke our rights to free, prior and informed consent. We choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy, and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom.

E mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.

–2011 Moana Nui Statement