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Editorial | Island Voices

Column: COVID-19 pandemic puts mediation up front

                                Gerald (Jerry) Clay is a partner in a Honolulu law firm and is on the board of advisers of the Mediation Center of the Pacific.


    Gerald (Jerry) Clay is a partner in a Honolulu law firm and is on the board of advisers of the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

As we all individually and collectively do our best to ride out this pandemic, it is worth thinking about how we will behave when we emerge from these dark times. Will we engage in the same processes that have failed us all too often or will we be wise enough to turn to alternatives that can lead us to better outcomes? I hope we choose the latter.

As a lawyer with more than four decades of experience in litigation, I know only too well how the system, more often than not, fails the individual and fails the community. We need to use this crisis as a prompt to pivot and seriously adopt the use of mediation to solve problems.

Mediation is a very different way of problem-solving. Right now, problem- solving is based on who is right and who is wrong. That is a very destructive way of thinking. Mediation, on the other hand, is based on recognizing what is in my own and your “best interests.”

For this kind of pivot to take place we need new leaders — or leaders who are willing to abandon tired ways of looking at longstanding problems and pursue new solutions. Do we have those type of leaders here in Hawaii? This is a critical election year. Will we elect more leaders who are willing to think and act differently or will we continue to let ourselves be represented by those who have perhaps taken voters for granted or disregarded whole communities because their low voter turnout suggests they will not threaten the comfortable seats of incumbents?

Young people are fast becoming as important a voting bloc as baby boomers. The big question is, will they exercise the power they have? They are very active on social media but will they translate their online outrage and pay attention long enough to realize that Hawaii will vote by mail this year? How many have taken the time to check their registration status at and update it as needed? How many will return the signature cards they will receive in the mail from the Office of Elections in April? Do Democrats know that they have to be registered with the party in order to receive their ballot to vote in the presidential preference poll that has replaced the caucus? Republicans are all in with President Donald Trump, so there is no Republican primary.

Right now, look around the world and what you find is old people in power. And, they are doing a bad job of using their power. The world is spinning with negative forces. They are hurting the chances that their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have a livable world. There needs to be a revolution — yes, a revolution — where the people most affected by today’s decisions take over the power to make decisions. The young people need to oust their fathers, grandfathers and old uncles who keep telling them how to think.

Everything we do in our working day starts with a decision. Most decisions are automatic habits based on a default thought. The worst thing that the old people have gotten us into thinking is that we need to spend $1.2 trillion per year to “defend” ourselves. What a stupid waste of money. This pandemic should teach us that money spent on health care yields a far better return than money spent on weapons of mass destruction. It’s time to reexamine our values and put our money where we say our values are. To do anything less is foolish and dangerous. That is one of the clearest lessons of this pandemic. Will we heed that lesson? Mediation should be front and center if we really take that lesson to heart.

Gerald (Jerry) Clay is a partner in a Honolulu law firm and is on the board of advisers of the Mediation Center of the Pacific.

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