Peter Apo: Aloha is the Law of Hawaii, a global brand and system of positive behavior
In 1986 the Hawaiian Legislature took the interesting step of paying special attention to the word “aloha” and adding it to the revised Hawaiian statutes. This section of the statutes is entitled “Aloha Spirit Law”.
The language of the statute contained a popular definition of aloha already created by Aunt Pilahi Paki, who was a renowned educator, philosopher, linguist and poet.
Aunt Pilahi defines Aloha as follows:
ONkahai means kindness, which should be expressed with tenderness;
L.okahi, which means unity, to be expressed with convenience;
Ãluolu, which means pleasant, to be expressed with kindness;
Ha’aha’a, which means humility to express with humility;
ONhonui, which means patience to be expressed with persistence.
The legislature meant well by introducing a Hawaiian word into law that characterizes a system of behavior that is celebrated by all Hawaiians. The challenge is that the word aloha has so many manifestations that it is impossible to limit its meaning to a single definition. Aloha has no English equivalent.
The word aloha is actually the amalgamation of two words. Alo, which means to be in close proximity – and – Ha, which means breath, like in the breath of life.
Aloha was usually played between two people with a so-called honi – two people greet each other by pressing their nose and exhaling at the same time, and performing aloha with an alternation of breath – the breath of life.
Over time, the honi was replaced with a simple hug, although a honi could still be seen between two Hawaiians from time to time. Of course, in the age of pandemics, there is no hugging. No matter – Honi or hug – the meaning remains the same. In its primary manifestation, Aloha is an unconditional extension of love, trust, friendship and taking responsibility for the good of the other.
Aloha is going global
This greeting of unconditional friendship, called aloha, was broadly extended to include thousands of soldiers and sailors who immigrated and emigrated to Hawaii and traveled to and from the Pacific during World War II. After the war, thousands of tourists experienced the same aloha, then went home and told their friends. It was a marketer and advertiser’s dream to work with such a self-evolving brand.
Today aloha is a strong global brand. The dynamic of tourists appreciating their Hawaiian experience can best be explained in the words of poet Maya Angelou: âI’ve learned that people forget what you said, people forget what you did, but they do People will never forget how you felt. âI can’t think of a better way to describe the essence of the early Hawaiian tourism experience. In the end, it took visitors beyond the sunny beaches, palm trees and starry nights and sent them home with a little aloha in their hearts for Hawaii and its people.
The globalization of the word aloha naturally gave it a high marketing and advertising value. The word Aloha has become a sought-after brand for companies operating at home or abroad. Today literally hundreds of companies – not just in Hawaii – have Aloha in their names.
As the word aloha became more widely recognized around the world, some foreign companies tried to use the word as a trademark. So far, such efforts have been blocked successfully. The word aloha alone cannot be trademarked. But it was settled for OK when combined with another word, as in the case of a prominent Chicago restaurant chain branded with the words “Aloha Poke”.
Despite the backlash from legal scholars who believed that both words, Aloha and Poke, are culturally significant Hawaiian words that should be protected from cultural misappropriation, Aloha Poke has been recognized as a legal trademark.
Aloha – The reflective prism
Aloha emerged as a Hawaiian cultural concept that functions as a living prism through which all other positive behavioral values ââare broken. And it is important to understand that aloha is not limited to a person-to-person exchange. Aloha speaks for humanity’s relationship to all things – humans, animals, plants and everything that keeps the world going.
So the substructure of the word Aloha is a framework of Hawaiian values ââthat deal with quality of life challenges. A codification system of the word Aloha, introduced in a training program developed by the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, comprised 32 Hawaiian values. Aunt Pilahi Paki’s definition of aloha is expanded by leaps and bounds into a whole value-oriented guideline for life.
I would be remiss if I did not note an important aspect that is seldom recognized. It’s supposed to be a one-way street. The Hawaiian term for the concept is – aloha aku, aloha mai – aloha expanded, aloha returned.
Aloha aku’s comprehensive concept, Aloha mai, is actually an overarching goal of the Hawaii Tourism Authority‘s action plans. The goal is to educate tourists to reciprocate aloha by educating them in activities that respect Hawaii and its people and make it a better place than they found it.
The universality of Aloha
Aloha is fundamental to Hawaii’s community mind, embraced by all Hawaiian residents, and is routinely performed with thousands of kindness, tolerance, understanding, and benevolence. Aloha is innate to the Hawaiian state and seems to define us as a society. President John F. Kennedy was so impressed with the attitude of the Hawaiian people on a visit to Hawaii that he said, “Hawaii is what the rest of the world wants to be.”
Aloha, in its deepest manifestation, is an entire lifestyle system. It is a personal behavioral system that transcends religion, race, skin color, belief, political party, gender, and other conditions of existence. Given the state of a shrinking world, with all of its escalating political, cultural and racial conflicts, the world has never needed so much aloha.
It would be transformative if the concept of Aloha were defined globally as the language of âweâ and promoted as an international system of behavior under a one-world banner, whose global citizenship is linked by a common value system. Let the word aloha represent a global commitment to peace, human dignity and love for one another.
Perhaps we can start with simple, random acts of Aloha. If each of us had an awareness of small opportunities to express aloha throughout the day. A simple and sincere smile for a stranger. Pick up a piece of rubbish. Open a door for someone. A readiness to drive. A small donation for a good cause at a supermarket checkout. Make a list. I leave you with this simple thought – if you are not living with aloha you are below par. Aloha.
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