Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Assault on 4 year old boy for wearing 'gang colours'!

Yesterday a 4 year old boy was playing in a park in Whakatane when a male approached him while his father’s back was turned, poked him in the chest, yelled at him and threatened him to remove the red shirt he was innocently wearing. The man then forcibly removed the shirt before his father could intervene.
The male was wearing gang colours associated with the Black Power gang, known to run the area.

This act is obviously despicable beyond words and I have decided not to make this blog about the act itself, or the scared and traumatised 4 year old boy or his family, or gang intimidation, or governmental policy regarding these issues, although they would all be valid and multi-dimensional topics.

The response from the Black Power gang today is that they will find the guy and ‘give him a good clouting’ which the public seem to be supporting; violence begetting more violence and the cycle continues. The media are widely reporting this angle (of course) and several people I have spoken to have thought it great that the gang is going to take care of the situation. I mean, give me a break!

Is this the point we have come to? A society where the immediate reaction to this situation is to support and condone a violent backlash from other criminals to solve a crime? Criminals policing criminals - great idea that is - let’s put our faith in the morals and ethics of criminal gang members to sort out these issues. I asked two of the people who supported this action by the gangs why they didn’t support letting the police and justice system sort it out. Both of them just laughed.

But what is the message we are sending behind this? I mean don’t get me wrong here; this cowardly and despicable act makes me sick. I want to see the offender punished for his crime too. But what is the message we send as a society when we support a violent response by criminals as the means to solve a problem like this? That the only way to beat violence is with more violence? That we should put the responsibility for justice into the hands of other criminals? Let’s just throw more fire on the fire and not expect it to get hotter? Look at the bigger message, it is a vicious self perpetuating cycle and if we buy into it we become part of the problem. Interesting too that half of the people who support this violence-to-solve-violence response would be the first to scream the roof down if you were to mention capital punishment for murderers, or castration for rapists (I am not endorsing support for either here BTW). So where does the line get drawn?

It is totally normal to feel anger over this crime. It is normal to feel empathy for the child and his family, and for the community as a whole. It is normal to want to see justice bought to the offender. What matters though is which form of justice we decide to support. If we lower ourselves to their level and adopt a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” (can’t beat violence, so might as well use it) attitude, we are lost, and this guy’s crime will seem like a picnic compared to what our kids will have to face in the future.

One person made the comment to me this morning; “I’m all for zero tolerance policy to violence, I hope the gang find him and knock his teeth out to teach him a lesson”. Do you see what I mean?

Anyway, as always this is just food for thought, if you’re not hungry, don’t eat.

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