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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