Gang Really Should Suck the Kumara

Gangs suck. The sentiment so succinctly yet elegantly worded by the kids from Otangarei – written on a placard on their hikoi against gangs, marching for a healthy 'clean' place to live. I hope I live long enough to see one of you kids campaigning for Mayor. You've got my vote. Gangs may suck but you really rock. And it's so true. Gangs really do suck. Gangs suck because there are no real winners in a gang – there might be one head honcho but there are never any real winners just like there are no real choices. Slaves don't get choices and whatever way you look at it gangs are full of slaves – you're always going to need a lot of clueless minions to bully your way through life.

Ask how many young prospects doing time for stupendously stupid acts of random violence or eating the time from someone else's offending, just how much choice they've ever had in their situation.
Sure – there's the sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself – people join bowling clubs for the same reasons. Or go to church. Those people don't tend to corner the market in methamphetamine over a few beers or on the way home from mass though. There's the sense of brotherhood; I suppose that's a bonus, but you could always play sport or join the Lions or something and it's not all just about the brothers because I haven't heard a lot of stories of women in gangs feeling the love from the sisterhood – there's a fairly cruel and exacting pecking order there.

Gangs don't recruit too many happy, well adjusted kids with great family backgrounds and heaps of opportunities either. That's because they're not offering any opportunities that anyone would really want if they really had any choice. Sure there's the odd refugee from Remuera who runs away with some mobster for 5 minutes for the novelty of doing the books and filing the GST forms for the non-existent businesses he runs, but once she realises that there are very few old gangsters and even fewer older good looking ones and virtually none that ever get to keep any of the money in the long run, she can usually be clocked heading back at record speed to the safety of the family business and the trust fund. She may also discover – as did the Freakanomics guy when he actually did the maths – that drug dealers often end up living with… their Mum. That's because, contrary to popular mythology gangsters rarely make much real money and what they do make they have to make disappear.

What I think the kids from Otangarei were saying was; 'gangs are deeply uncool,' and that their own aspirations far outstrip anything a gang might have to offer. It was as if the Killer Beez had become the Funny Honey Bee, Angry Fist Club had taken a break for Rainbow Power Tie-dying Day and Hello Kitty had eaten the mixed Breed Canines for Breakfast. It was like they were saying 'We're so over this – we deserve better." And they do. They deserve to be the original gangsters and start to run this town for real. But first they'll need a law degree, join the rugby union and the young nationals and then buy a farm. Or they might do something refreshingly different. Who knows?

What is certain is that they'll need access to the healthcare, education and a safe environment that'll get them to a place where they are confident enough to be helping themselves to a decent slice of the pie rather than accepting any of the crumbs that some gang might leave behind. And one day one of those kids just might be sitting in a boardroom somewhere and remember that they once marched down the street with a sign saying 'Gangs Suck' just before the gangs in their part of town sucked the proverbial kumara forever.

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Look out!

Look out. It’s coming. Picking up the sky tv guide and seeing Prince Willy’s gormless grin and Katie’s bridal pose sent me reeling. Within minutes I was itching all over and was having difficulty breathing. I threw the offending image across the room but to no avail. Weddingness emanated from beneath the sofa. Must burn image!! I muttered as I staggered about looking for matches. The seven year old offered me her asthma inhaler and to call the ambulance and I noted abstractly to self that it might not necessarily be a good thing that the most mature person in the household is only 7. “Are you allergic?” she asked. As a matter of fact I am. I suffer from gamophobia. I’m scared, perplexed and generally allergic to marriage.
Specifically: other people’s weddings, in particular royal ones.

I’m scared of weddings in the way that other people are afraid of clowns or Rodney Hide. Which is why I’m in love with Richie McCaw. He must be the only sane person in the world who actually turned down an invite to the big rubber stamp of official approval of the bedroom behaviour of Prince Willy and his not so royal consort. Richie had better things to do – and I get that.

I just don’t get weddings. I’m officially banned from ever being a bridesmaid again amongst my friends. This could be because instead of a back up make up kit, I’d organised a getaway car for the back of the church. Just in case. In fairness to my intuition that she was possibly about to make a huge mistake, she did a runner not much later with a girl on a Harley. Didn’t see that coming. I’d witnessed the full on meringue – the huge ring and the flower detailed Cinderella shoes - it was as if the person I had always known had been possessed by a wedding daemon. There is photographic evidence of me in full green meringue (groom’s idea) with a number one skinhead hairdo holding a bouquet of roses like a Westie girl holds a broken beer bottle. I can testify that it is not a good look. And it’s not just me.

Weddings do strange things to people – I have to agree with Bob Jones on this one: weddings make people lose any sense of taste or good sense. Otherwise normal people decide that pearls and a crown is a good look. Wedding cakes are defaced if not up to fashion standards. People have domestics over too much champagne and not enough to eat and the best man ends up bonking the bride. Or is that just my friends’ weddings? One of the funniest phone calls I’ve ever received was finding out about a close friend’s wedding while away in Argentina. She rang to say she was getting divorced: ‘But I didn’t know you were married!!’ I said shocked. “When did that happen?!” “Well I’d been told I only had a few months to live so I went and did the full wedding bridesmaid dress thing… you know.. every girl has got to do it.” I didn’t but I murmured something vaguely assenting. “And so, what happened? Why didn’t it work out?” I asked, scared of the answer… “Well, you know…’ she said in her laid back laconic fashion ‘ I got married because I thought I was going to die… and then I woke up one morning and he was watching videos and drinking beer and I thought: “Oh. My. God. What if I live?!!! So I left him.” The divorce – not the wedding was her affirmation of life. And to this day – that is the best wedding I’ve never been to.

In order to survive the next few sick-making weeks of royal wedding mania I know I will develop optophobia. This is when the world becomes just too weird that you are too scared to even open your eyes. Wake me when it’s over.

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