Memories of Dreams Past: Hawaii as the “Geneva of the Pacific”


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

24 Oct 2020 – Happy Birthday, Johan Galtung!  Years will pass, but your legacy as a voice for peace and justice will not! The footprints of your days in Hawaii remain.

Gatherings of Peace Leaders, Peace People, and Native Hawaiians

I recall those heady days in Hawaii, when a few stood against a formidable foe of government, military, and commercial forces seeking to control Hawaii’s sacred lands, to sully and stain them with a war appellation, to abuse them using bombing practice and assault training. The foes were oblivious to the will of Native Hawaii people, and to those who envisioned a different Hawaii, a hallowed land of peace. Let me remind you, Johan, Glenn, and scores of others of those days.

Hawaii is a gift from the gods, sacred in so many ways; its beauty and grandeur, undeniable. Mark Twain, in early visits to Hawaii, described his experience in the following words:

“For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the splashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers perished twenty years ago.”

— Mark Twain, a Biography. Source: Day, Grove A. (Editor) Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii. Appleton-Century; New York: 1966

Native Hawaiian activists and advocates spoke of their enduring commitment to restore peace and justice to the land Hawaii.

“We, the Hawaiian people, who are born from the union of  Papahanaumoku and Wakea, earth mother and sky father, and who have lived in these islands for over 100 generations, will always have the moral right to the lands of Hawai’i now and forever, no matter what any court says.”  

Lilikalā K. Kame’eleihiwa, Prof. Hawaiian Studies

The foe won! At least for now, Hawaii remains a military bastion, the third largest military base in the United States. A fortress of technological power capable of decimating any foe. Buildings, facilities, and programs in Hawaii are named in honor of powerful government and civic figures who sealed Hawaii’s fate as “War State,” on behalf of their own interests, and the favors of a powerful military, concerned with protecting “national security.”

Today, Hawaii looms as a target for nuclear attack as evidenced by the recent government release of public statement to all citizens offering advice on surviving a nuclear attack. Students hiding under desks is so 1950! Security comes from peace, not war!

Is not a chosen identity as a “Peace State,” a “Center for Global Nonkilling,” a “Geneva of the Pacific,” a preferred and protective mantle for the State of Hawaii? This is the paradox of our time; as quests for unlimited military power rise in pursuit of empire, global destruction looms as a tragic consequence.

Remembering Times Past . . .

It is comforting now to recall those heady days in period between 1986 and 1992, when scores of ideas blossomed, framing new visions and futures for Hawaii, only to be cast aside and denied. There were those who envisioned Hawaii as the “Geneva of the Pacific,” an international resource, model, and refuge for nurturing peace as a global ethic and ethos.  It was a special time, when people, ideas, and hopes converged, resulting in a new Hawaii.

I remember, the following ideas and events occurring, building off one another, creating for a brief shining moment a cascade of hopes for peace.

Some called it days of Camelot.

I remember conversations with Johan Galtung, Glenn Page, David Chapel (Buddhist Studies), Haunani Kay Trask,  Lilikalā K. Kame’eleihiwa,  Kekuni Blaisdell, Majid Tehranian, Antonio C. S. Rosa, idealistic energetic faculty, and a score of visitors eager to share and to gather ideas for return to their lands.

We were driven by visions of what was possible before our visions were shattered, oppressed and denied by those seeking personal power, position and control. They sought militaristic visions for Hawaii and the world.

The embers of our visions remain as Native Hawaiians (Kanaka Maoli) and their friends continue to struggle for an identity consistent and continuous with the beauty and traditions of land, place and possibility, free from exploitation and abuse for selfish individual and national reasons.

Some of our ideas and visions were:

  • Hawaii as the “Geneva of the Pacific,” an entire State, dedicated to peace and non-violence, modeling individual, group, and institutional possibilities for a new world.
  • The University of Hawaii as a Peace University, with a requirement all students take three courses, regardless of their major, from any of the following menu of courses: Peace and Conflict Resolution; Global nonkilling; Future Studies; Globalization; Native Hawaii History and Culture; Peace Leaders; Peace Psychology.  The idea was to make peace a priority in college education; a counter to the pervasive culture of violence in the USA and the world.
  • Peace across the Curriculum: Each course asked to include peace material as an integrated part of a course.
  • A Masters’ Degree in Peace Studies, proposed by Johan Galtung. The degree would be the first graduate degree ever from a university with a curriculum concentration on peace.
  • A Department of Native Hawaiian Studies, later to become part of the School of Asian and Pacific Studies, led by Haunani Kay Trask, and other Native Hawaii Leaders.
  • Jewish Studies, yes, Jewish Studies because it was felt Jewish Studies would offer insights into one of the pressing conflicts of the day. A grant of $50,000.00 was made to the Office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs.

These wondrous ideas and hopes were not to be! At least for now! The future of Hawaii as a military bastion was planned and sealed long ago.  When does power yield easily?  There is today a rising consciousness and conscience, an awareness peace and justice must be pursued.

One day, one day, perhaps Mark Twain’s 1868 words will be repeated again and again in celebration of peace à Mark Twain on Hawaii (1868):

“. . . the Sandwich Islands — to this day the peacefullest, restfullest, suniest, balmiest, dreamiest haven of refuge for a worn and weary spirit the surface of the earth can offer. . . . There they lie, the divine islands, forever shining in the sun, forever smiling out of the sparkling sea, with its soft mottling drifting cloud shadows and vagrant cat’s paws of wind, forever inviting you.”

— Frear, 1969, Quoted in Nordyke, 1989, p. xix

This then, Johan, is your legacy on your birthday on October 24, 2020:

“Footprints in Hawaii’s sands, escaping incoming tides.  Indelible Footprints!”


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 19 Oct 2020.

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4 Responses to “Memories of Dreams Past: Hawaii as the “Geneva of the Pacific””

  1. Thank you, Anthony, for your message of love to Johan, Hawaii and Geneva, which I share.

    There is danger of a misconception when calling Hawaii “the Geneva of the Pacific”. As you clearly state, the foe won. This is a well known fact, not only by Hawaiians but by the whole world. To the very public military operations we have to add the sinister underground work of CIA and NSA.

    Geneva represents the opposite. The city of lies, of pretending, of hiding their inhuman mission: to make money out of the misery of the rest of the world.

    Switzerland refused to actively participate in two World Wars, but where happy selling weapons to all fighting nations and offered their territory as a store room for all the looted money and objects that resulted from those wars. The shrewd Swiss introduced Banking Secrecy, so that the billions illegally made by dictators, dirty arms contracts, mafias, terrorist organizations could be safely ‘looked after’ by the Swiss.

    They offered Geneva as the European headquarters for the most sinister Club of Nations, cynically called UNITED Nations, when, as we all know, they are the most DISUNITTED organization in the world. The ONE things the UN are in agreement with, is: 1- increase military research, production and activity. 2 – increase poverty, hunger, inequality, unemployment, homelessness, illiteracy, religious, patriotic and ethnic divisions and strife. 3 – keep the world fearing of nuclear war. This is why, at a UNESCO meeting in Paris, UN member countries chose Geneva as the ideal city to build their own Nuclear Power Research Center (CERN)

    UN hypocrisy extends to creating refugees, to develop their own Refugee BUSINESS and inspiring abuse of Human Rights, to help them pretend they protect the world from Human Rights violations.

    Geneva laughs at the world by allowing dictator Paul Biya, President of Cameroon for 42 years to live close to the UN. The cruel dictator occupies the entire 3rd floor of the intercontinental Hotel, rom where he organizes the civil armed conflicts in his country. The dictator, together with many other African dictators, was invited to dinner in the White House and Buckingham Palae.

    I hope you see the BIG difference between Hawaii and Geneva.

  2. Anthony j marsella says:

    Dear Alberto: I agree Geneva suffers the sins and stains of its past. This is true of most. If only Hawaii …….tony

  3. […] Memories of Dreams Past: Hawaii as the “Geneva of the Pacific” […]

  4. Poka Laenui says:

    Those heady days of Hawaii did not come to an end with the departure of Johan, Glenn, Anthony and the rest of the gang. Left back were analytical frameworks and tools which have been used to continue discussions of a new Hawaii. The idea of Hawaii as the Geneva of the Pacific continually runs into one major problem, Switzerland is an independent nations-state. Hawaii is colonized by the U.S. The idea not only raised the centrality of Hawaii in the Pacific, but also brought attention to the need for decolonization and independence.

    We continue to have vibrant discussions of identifying the current leading deep culture in Hawaii (Domination, Individualism and Exclusion) D.I.E. and try to analyze an alternative deep culture which runs through the informal system (`Olu`olu, Lokahi and Aloha) O.L.A. which in our Hawaiian and other Pacific Island languages mean health and life.

    We speak of a new economic system for Hawaii, using the approach of a rainbow which these island filled. Green should form the foundation of economic, which represents preserving our pristine environment, investing in local agriculture, protecting our oceans, etc. Red should represent the social services and caring programs for those unable to meet their basic needs. Blue should stand for the high technological economy such as international trade and monetary exchange.

    We speak of models of a changed national security system consisting of 4 pillars, Defensive Defense, Outer Usefulness, Inner Strength, and non-alliance in defensive pacts.

    These and many more ideas were results from those heady days of heady folks which has stayed with us who have stayed in Hawaii. Many of those ideas have been captured and expressed in the web site both in documentation forms as well as videos.

    Aloha. Poka Laenui