Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Identifying bad men in our midst

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There are a number of emails doing the rounds that compare the Islamic State with the murderous Nazi regime of World War Two. The emails remind us that the German people in general were later to say that they didn’t realise what was happening around them at the time and were therefore powerless to do anything about it.

The emails then postulate that the rank and file Muslims should be doing something about the radical element within their ranks and be halting the jihad that seems to be gaining frightening momentum.

A compelling argument perhaps, but totally unfair and unrealistic.

I thought about this last week when I was watching the widely-acclaimed New Zealand film The Dark Horse. This true story concerns the plight of a Maori man named Genesis Potini who has mental health issues and is released from a psychiatric ward into the care of his older brother, Ariki.

Ariki is the head honcho of a major criminal gang in Gisborne and leads a violent lifestyle.

Genesis is a skilful chess player and gets involved with a group of at-risk youngsters and sets up a junior chess club in Gisborne. He instructs them well and convinces his protégés that they are worthy of attending a National Junior Chess Tournament in Auckland.

One of them actually wins the championship.

Ariki has a teenage son named Mana and Genesis teaches his nephew to play chess. Mana’s father is not having any of this and toughens his son up with a brutal beating. He then sends him off with one of the more sadistic members of his gang to “get patched” by committing a violent home invasion and robbery at the home of an unsuspecting suburban family.

The portrayal of the gang is hugely disturbing, and tends to induce flashbacks to the film Once Were Warriors which twenty years ago graphically exposed some of the harrowing features of life for a certain section of our community. The Dark Horse reveals that in the interim not much has changed and is yet another film about Maori failure and life at the bottom of the heap.

The unkempt gang house is about as sordid as you could possibly imagine. Life there seems to revolve around acts of violence, with members sitting around continually sucking at pint bottles of beer and smoking cannabis.

Furious that his mentally disturbed brother has taken Mana to the chess tournament in Auckland Ariki evicts Genesis from the gang house and he ends up homeless, eventually curling up on the steps of the memorial on Gisborne’s Kaiti Hill; an obelisk resembling a giant chess piece.

Watching the film I started to wonder if the gangs aren’t our very own version of the Islamic State.

A long bow to draw you might say, but there are some alarming parallels.

The home invasion as depicted in The Dark Horse was an act of terrorism, certainly for the family on the receiving end who were brutally violated. The gangs don’t behead their perceived foes, and tend to kill each other rather than slaughter innocents, however the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine and other mind-bending drugs is a form of death, spiritually and mentally at the very least and for some physically as well. They don’t have the religious fervour to blow themselves up; nonetheless they tend to dress in black, often wear face masks and carry weapons and flags.

I guess the point I want to make is that no one is blaming the majority of the law abiding Maori community for this sore that festers in many of our towns and cities, nor are we asking or expect them to do anything about it.

So it’s a bit rich to ask the vast majority of law-abiding Muslim folk to take up the issue with those members of their particular brand of worship who terrorise in the name of their God.

Our gang problem is quite rightly in the hands of our police force and we must, along with other nations both Western, and Middle Eastern, collectively use our professionally trained armed forces to fight the evolving evil that is the Islamic State.

Our government will likely commit us to this course in the not too distant future. Although I wish we didn’t have to go we should heed British philosopher John Stuart Mill who said in an address to the University of St. Andrews in 1867: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

“No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” - Mary Wollstonecraft


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