I wouldn't say Michael Laws is some throwback to an earlier era of politician. He's emphatically a modern guy. But all this fulminating about the gangs really does take me back. It's been years since we've had politicians making capital out of shabby thugs in greasy leathers. A generation ago, you could get yourself guaranteed headlines by promising to take the wheels off the bikies. But that all died away.
It's possible the political urgency wore off because the gangs deliberately took a lower profile. According to this article in Biker magazine, they stopped offing each other and having brawls outside burger bars because they had a new business plan. Well, who didn't have the direction of their life changed by Rogernomics?
My gang experience is slight. One time at Sweetwaters a bunch of Black Power guys went by us late in the afternoon and I launched myself into a chemically-compromised dialogue with them. This was one of the many fortunate moments in my young adult life when my mates were in a position to save me from myself.
Outside of that, as far as gangs go, I have consistently surrendered to the instincts of the lesser primate in an alpha male world.
One night in Wanganui we ended up as guests of the Golgothas. I was very careful to mind my manners, but it was relatively benign. Led Zeppelin, Lion Brown, a little weed. For the most part it was indistinguishable from a night in a rough public bar. The DB Frankton springs to mind. I got the mates' warning not to do anything stupid before we went into that one. I also spent a few weeks in 1988 relief-managing the Kaiti Hotel in Gisborne for some friends. The public bar was pure 60s suburban booze barn - leaners; pool tables; no patches allowed, but invisibly recognised by all the patrons. You had some big fuck-off bouncers, and an uneasy calm, but occasionally, there'd be blood. The bottle store had been held up a few times, and there was a shotgun in the manager's flat. Like that would help me.
But that's as near as I've got. The brutal stuff you read in Once Were Warriors or Stone Dogs is entirely foreign to me. I'm happy for it to stay that way. All the same, if one of our celebs were game to do an Intrepid Journey to a gang headquarters for a week, I'd watch. I nominate Matthew Ridge.
There's nothing funny about the harm these people can do, but there is something vaguely risible about the way we engage with them. If being staunch matters to them so much, then we probably need to be consistently staunch back. If that's right, then Laws is probably smack on the money.
I'm disappointed to see, though, that with all this 21st century savvy, no New Zealand gang has yet got themselves a website. Even at the prices Theresa's own gang is charging, broadband's surely not that expensive, not for any seriously-organised criminal.
But mongrelmob.co.nz is not taken. Neither is blackpower.co.nz. Enter hellsangels.com and all you get is some aging biker Frenchmen. I know it would be a very foolish attitude to take with you to Marseille, but I find it very hard to take violent French guys as seriously as the ones who speak any other language. I have no idea why. Perhaps it's because all my French teachers were women. We all have our bigoted little prejudices.
But what about the bro's? Do they not get online at all? Well, go read this this cached Google entry from the Wairoa.com site. Its content suggests that some of them may do.
On the Internet, no-one knows you're a pit-bull or a pit-bull owner, so who knows if the people doing the talking are the real deal or not. It's culturally instructive, whatever the true identities might be.
You can learn plenty about the Mighty Mongrel Mob and its many supporters, as they argue back and forwards with the Black Power and the occasional outraged bystander.
You'll see more Seig Fucken Hiels (and that's only the start of the grammatical impairment) than you will surely ever find on a single web page, along with all kinds of taunting:
Give me your hardest Mobster and chuck him in a den full of lions and I bet he would piss his fucking pants. for that Matter send him to thailand and ask him to try and steal from a shop, and the shop keeper and his family will cut his fucking nuts off with a spoon then fuck him up the arse till even Lance Brogan cried.
Oh, the voice of the people! When Judy was the mother of the nation, did she count these as her children, I wonder?
It can get quite bleakly hilarious, with the occasional encouraging interjection:
I am a University student that is on his 2nd year of study on a 4 year degree course. I have affiliations with the Mongrel Mob. What is the point on coming on here and trying to battle, its so easy to say a lot on the net but in reality if half of you people lived up to what you said, most of you would all be in jail for living up to your words when saying them.
But the coda comes if you browse off elsewhere to, for example, the Parole Board, and read about this poor sod
describing what might stand in the way of his going straight. I can't imagine it's anywhere near as difficult to make the break from Rotary.
Reader RB of Pt Chev writes:
Nah, mongrelmob.co.nz *is* taken, bro - registered two weeks ago from Wairoa. But blackpower.co.nz is still there if you're hard enough.