The Murupara situation
The draconian-style laws parliament is passing - both National and Labour - in respect to gangs are not designed to address the causes that create and the conditions that entrench gangs, they are designed by the officials (esp. the police) in order to expand their powers and budgets and passed by populist politicians who can only view solutions in terms of one dimensional, conventional, law and order crack downs. The solutions in vogue currently to "the gang problem" is an attack on the symptoms. At the flax roots however - under the radar of the media and the parliamentary slanging - there are community initiatives underway. As someone who has lived and worked with gang members in prison and with contacts concerned with tackling the escalating Murapara gang crisis I must comment on the exchange in parliament yesterday. NZ Herald:
Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said there were better ways to deal with gangs than ramping up enforcement and imprisonment.
Gang and community engagement was more effective than "short-term hysterics" such as putting offenders in jail and throwing away the key.
Communities needed to be empowered so they could help deal with issues on their own terms.
Mr Flavell referred to a situation in Murupara where two young people had been murdered in the past year. The town's community had recently imposed a rahui - a prohibition of violence in their town - and banned patches on a local marae.
I have had reports that this meeting was a break-through of sorts as there is now consensus amongst the Iwi affected to curtail the influence of gangs - starting with this marae patch ban. This is part of a cease-fire arrangement - and that language is not hyperbolic in the slightest. Unfortunately this has come after community leaders who have spoken up against the gangs have come under threat. The community are finding courage. For while the gangs seem pervasive and visible they are certainly not in the majority.
But then there was this from the great waha of the North:
Labour MP Shane Jones took offence at claims from the Maori Party that gang members were "our people".
"Stop calling them our people; they are not our people," he said.
"Our people don't go to jail for killing teenage boys, our people don't go to jail for raping, selling P and celebrating it as a mark of distinction and success.
"They're not our people. In fact they are not people ... They are the slaves that would have been dispatched before Christianity without a sliver of doubt."
Slaves? Who became a Labour MP after they passed the Foreshore and Seabed confiscation? And never crossed the floor I bet - a career of following orders even against "our people" - that's an order worse than slavery because he's chosen to be a tool of the Pakeha power elite.
That's the issue though - even if the fool from the Far North has grasped the wrong end of the stick. With the Crown undermining of traditional Maori society - where career paths are now largely determined by the economic and social policy of the government - what options for self-esteem and status do young Maori men have in provincial areas? The police and other Pakeha controlled, designed and dominated institutions are there to keep Maori in a state of subjection - to enforce the property rights and culture of the invaders and occupiers - they offer no authentic and credible inspiration to most Maori.
These are the meta issues that underlie the rise of the gangs and these are the issues that must be addressed to "solve" the "problem." Even if the gang lifestyle was once chosen by those deemed misfits and attracted to it by the rebellious notoriety it attracts and the camaraderie it provides it is now an inter-generational reality removed from those initial motivations. Kids are being brought up in gang households and they will find it almost impossible to opt out without moving away from their family and moving towns. Even if they choose not to define themselves by their family's gang affiliation the rival gangsters still will. That is one of the links in the chain that must be broken, and the community of Murupara are starting to do that themselves. The method of using social and cultural intolerance by their peers is a good first step and means much more than any law parliament can pass or that the police want to enforce. More and more statutes and regulations against gangs - that will be turned on any group of three or more people the police take a disliking to - is never going to be a solution because this is a social problem, not merely a crime problem.