The 1970s and 80s are a long time ago. Many readers of this post were not even born or will have been too young to remember how common gang wars were back then. They crept into the 1990s too, but by that stage they were becoming more rare and nowadays they are largely unheard of.
This might be about to change. Likely, even.
The gang scene is growing. Outlaw motorcycle clubs are popping up at a rate that seemed unimaginable just five years ago. Not only are established groups like the Rebels and the Bandidos establishing here but homegrown groups are also springing up like mushrooms. This growth means an inevitable jockeying for position and territory. And in a room that’s too crowded, somebody will get elbowed.
Furthermore, as younger members join who are not knowledgeable or fearful of war, and without wise heads to rein them in, they may be quick to strike out. This doesn’t just affect the established outlaw clubs, of course. The patched street gangs won’t allow new start-up clubs to gain too much confidence either. And the ever-growing LA style street gangs are ever keen to etch out names for themselves.
But it’s not just the growth in the scene - offence can now be spread so quickly via social media like Facebook. By displaying prizes of war (such as opposition patches) on the internet, private shame becomes public humiliation and tensions increase.
In PATCHED I describe the intensification of gang conflict as a process of ‘intimate escalation’. This occurs when the abstract idea of an enemy, based on territorial notions or perceived superiority of one group over another, is replaced by grievances through personal experience or loss. This, in turn, creates an increase in ill-feeling and enmity.
All it takes is a spark for open warfare to erupt and I get the feeling that in many parts of New Zealand right now, for the first time in a long time, the scene is tinder dry.