Yesterday’s editorial in the Dominion Post was pretty standard – gangs are bad, and this is what they should do to improve:
As a start they could stop beating their wives and kids, get proper, 40-hour-a-week jobs that don’t depend on funding from government social agencies, and stop intimidating their neighbours. They could even join social organisations of a different sort, say, the local Rotary club, and give up their spare time to help build facilities for the communities they have, till now, preyed upon.
I’m no fan of violence, but let’s deconstruct this a little – men in Rotary don’t assault their wives and children? Really? Tell that to Women’s Refuge.
‘Proper’ jobs are those not funded by the government? What about the tens of thousands of Wellington’s civil servants?
And when gangs become involved in local community initiatives, they often face discrimination and resistance by the media, in articles just like this one.
But actually, this editorial is not talking about all gangs in Aotearoa – only Black Power are mentioned by name – and this becomes even clearer towards the end when the writer tells us what the police should do:
They should tear down their fortified pa(d)s, cripple their drug businesses and prevent them gathering together in public places to intimidate and jeer at their fellow citizens, something that is already prohibited in law.
Please read first phrase carefully. Gangs have fortified pas as well as fortified pads apparently. For those of you not familiar with te reo, “pa” is a Maori word – it means fortified village – and it was how iwi living in Aotearoa before Europeans arrived defended territory from one another and later from colonisers.
This one phrase tells us everything about this editorial. Gangs are bad, Maori, and have a safe sanctuary amongst Maori.
Unfortunately, we have all kinds of gangs here in sunny Aotearoa.
White supremacist gangs who try to influence Maori jurors by sending racist hate mail.
Bikie gangs, predominantly white, like Hell’s Angels, Highway 61, the Road Knights, the Headhunters, the Nomads and the Lost Breed – thought by police to be involved in manufacture and sale of drugs, violent crime and prostitution.
Triads who have been linked with kidnapping within the Chinese community.
But the most well-known are Black Power and the Mongrel Mob, who according to the police are predominately Pacific Island and Maori – which perhaps explains their high profile.
I’m not attempting to analyse how gangs happen, or to make excuses for their violence. But anyone who pretends that the vast majority of Pacifica and Maori have any time for the violent behaviour of gangs is sadly mistaken.
What Maori mostly will refuse to do though, is not place gang membership in a social context of poverty, family violence, racism, inadequate housing, education, and employment options etc etc etc. Condemning and mopping up after gang violence is part of many iwi and marae based services. Let’s face it, most gang violence is not directed against affluent Pakeha.
If the Dominion Post needs evidence of Maori condemnation of gang behaviour, why not talk to marae about how they treat gang members?
By insisting gang members follow the tikanga (cultural rules, like no alcohol or drugs) of the marae for example?
By pointing out when reality is a little different from that reported by the media?
By refusing to be cowed by, and publicly naming, gang intimidation when it takes place within Maori decision-making processes?
By asked for gang insignia to be removed when on marae, to promote peaceful discussion?
Or this, maybe my favourite, by creating communities in which violence is not welcome.
In Kaikohe, population 4113, Waitai says everyone knows everyone; everyone keeps everyone safe. Recently, heading home, she saw patched gang members talking to a group of teenagers. “I said `f— off, we don’t want you here’.”
This will no doubt not be the last time I criticise the Dominion Post for bashing Maori. Research on the media in Aotearoa/New Zealand shows a tendency to portray Maori world-views in negative terms, if at all.
Doing it differently is not impossible though. How about these Dominion Post editorials about the settlements of southern North Island iwi with the Crown – which acknowledge both how overdue the settlements were, and describes the process as a godsend because it allows previous wrongs to be named and partially redressed.
Did the same person write these editorials and the one this blog is about?