Each Atom of the Stone

I write this on 19 December 2005. Today is the 125th anniversary of the death of Tareha Te Moananui MP of whom I have written much in previous blogs. The regional newspaper ‘Hawke’s Bay Today’ has a full page about him to mark the occasion, repeating an obituary written in 1880 as a tribute. I sometimes feel that this famous old chief has reached out from his grave and locked me into servitude. No joking. On December the 14th 1974 I first arrived at Waiohiki with our rock band of those days “Storm and Friends”. We were on an Arts Council funded tour and Waiohiki was our first Marae venue. In the style of Blerta we had the obligatory tour bus, a converted railway workers’ vehicle, half seating and half for equipment. The Mahauriki brothers, on lead and rhythm guitars, were both Wellington Black Power as was Danny Makamaka on base. My Pakeha mate Ross France, now an Auckland lawyer, was lead singer and Dave Alexander was on drums. Anyway, at the marae my eyes fell on a beautiful Maori maiden, a direct descendant of Tareha, and not only did lustful thoughts occur in my mind but I was damned determined to get the rest of my body into the act as well – and I did. As I earlier intimated, I’ve being paying for the privilege ever since. Today was no exception as this morning in the urupa (cemetery) I clambered over Tareha’s tomb, a grand raised crypt-like affair, water blasting moss stains off the marble and generally cleaning up in preparation for the memorial service. The service was a beautiful whanau affair, with three of his great-granddaughters in attendance. We all ended up around home sharing a cup of tea and Christmas goodies – Taape baked a fantastic Christmas cake – and discussing the possibilities of a whanau re-union. After Tareha’s death a whakatauki (reverential saying) arose ‘Kua mate Tareha, kei te uri ki te ora’. (Tareha is dead but his seed is healthy). It is a clever piece of Maori because it uses past, present and future tenses, and effectively summarises the continuum of Maori cosmology. Besides, the statement is true. Tareha’s legacy endures. God bless his memory and God bless his descendants.

Someone on who’s behalf I might well make supplications to the Almighty is the late Stanley Tookie Williams, one of the founding members of the notorious North American street gang the ‘Crips’ (Community Revolution in Progress). Two things; whether Tookie did the crimes for which he was jailed (he denied them) I do not know really know. There seems to be reasonable doubt in some quarters, but I’ll accept the decision of a properly constituted Court and accept the verdict. However it seems bizarre to keep a man locked up for 24 years in a brutalizing environment such as a maximum security prison, allow him to promote what look to be powerful effective pro-social campaigns amongst hard to reach communities powerful enough for him to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, then to execute him. As a youthful believer one of the apocryphal stories that most warmed my soul was that of the ‘good thief,’ the penitent criminal who made amends and was forgiven at Galgotha. For this son of Irish guilt the possibility of redemption provided a skylight of hope and made sense of a sinful world. These are times of a punitive penal policy. Our current prison muster is 7,352 (Sept 05 figure) and the rate of recidivism is high. Tookie Williams encouraged prisoners who were to be released;

to prepare an agenda to survive outside the walls of incarceration. Learn about computer technology, politics and the sciences’.

He said

“It’s time to flip the script. You or I can complain 24-7 about the problems of poverty, drugs, violence, racism and other injustices, but unless we choose to initiate a personal change, we will remain puppets of unjust conditions. Unless we change, we will be incapable of changing the circumstances around us”.

With due respect, and with aroha to the whanau of those Tookie was convicted of killing, I think I’d rather have the man still around to pump his positive korero. It sounds like a redemptive and sustainable message to me. In a way the same debate about the integrity of and real possibility of enabling change from the edge is also happening here.

Storm and Friends

A recent 60 Minutes programme raised questions about the authenticity of change amongst one of the Mob chapters and a week or so ago I ended up getting a sideswipe from the deputy editor of Hawke’s Bay Today, Paul Taggart, following an allegation from Napier Police that ‘gangs weren’t keeping their anti-P promise’. Its one of those ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ type questions-cum-allegations. The local CIB head, Bill Gregory said he thought our kaupapa was all PR and that ‘he’d believe it when he sees it’. Not unexpectedly my “you’ll see it when you believe it” stance has us at philosophical polar opposites. When I rang up Bill to find out what had triggered his attack he told me that we’d met before, in the early 1970’s when I had apparently made a complaint to the Police Complaints Authority about him. I’d forgotten but he, apparently, had not. I’ve got to say the whole issue locally really pissed me off and has had me re-evaluating many of the roles that I play and the way in which I play them. Gangs are an unclean caste and if you get close, let alone stay a member, then inevitably you get tarred by the same brush. The fact of the matter is that at times of their life the guys do get into crime and are part of an outlaw subculture. The nature of my effort is to mitigate harm and to maximize potential, reduce drag, increase sail, turn criminals to legitimate taxpayers, whatever little shibboleth best sums up the current call to action. Maybe I’m tired and its pre-holiday blues. I’ve had this notion of Sisyphus finishing one haul with his rock up the hill and getting ready for another. On the other hand, that’s what I do so I need to find satisfaction in my travail. In ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ Albert Camus says;

“Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Baxter reckoned that ‘Yin and Yang will never meet on Calvary St’ so I’ll do away with the self-crucifixion bit and move on. The ‘move on’ has commenced by way of a meeting with new Napier MP Chris Tremain. Chris fired some nasty shot (eg a racially oriented advertisement on Jan 22nd 2005 carried in HBT) in the build up to the election and was well rewarded for it. I nearly fell over when he started speaking in Maori in his Maiden Speech. He cited the Treaty of Waitangi as the foundation document of the nation and espoused several other sentiments with which I concur. I ran into Chris recently at our local coffee shop “hey Chris, are you bi-polar or something?’ Anyway we agreed to hook up (and have done so) to swap notes and express our mutual views and aspirations about building a better, ‘less crime’ Hawke’s Bay.

Yesterday I went to see a guy who is allegedly paying his workers in points of ‘P’. Rumours and allegations are one thing and facts are often something entirely different. Anyway, if I’ve heard the allegation so have others, and some of the others will wear blue hats and carry handcuffs. If he has a problem then a firm word of warning from the street and an offer of support might have been the best Christmas gift I could give.

Last month (November 2005) Dr Chris Wilkins and his team from Massey University/ Shore published their latest ‘Key Findings from the Methamphetamine Module of the 2005 Illicit Drug Monitoring System’. They have a deep probing approach using frequent users as a ‘sentinel group’. These Key Informants give an accurate insight into what’s going on without having to rely on big populations of respondents. (Look up the whole report here)

The Key Points are:

  • ” Methamphetamine is well established in the illicit drug market place with high levels of availability and innovative marketing techniques being employed to encourage use.
  • ” Three out of ten (3/10) of the frequent methamphetamine users interviewed reported injecting methamphetamine in the previous six months
  • “The frequent methamphetamine users reported a range of psychological problems from their methamphetamine use including ‘strange thoughts, ‘short temper’ paranoia’ ‘depression’ ‘ suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts’
  • ” There is evidence of ongoing law enforcement successes in disrupting the local methamphetamine market
  • ” LSD seems to be in decline, with half of the frequent methamphetamine users describing it as ‘difficult’ to obtain and three out of ten (3/10) saying it had become ‘more difficult’ to obtain in the previous six months

The frequent methamphetamine users reported the selling of small amounts of new drugs, such as methamphetamine, ketamine and ecstasy in ‘starter packs’ to encourage people to try a drug. They also reported the selling of drug cocktails made up of combinations of drugs such as methamphetamine, ecstasy, ketamine, and GHB. A number of participants and key informants noted the increased selling of drugs by heavy drug users to cover the cost of the users own drug consumption. One participant observed that more users were ‘making their own methamphetamine’. Participants observed there was now ‘greater competition and lower prices for drugs’.


The meth brain

On a similar theme another participant said they were getting ‘more for their money/larger quantities’. Participants also observed there was now a greater variety of drugs being sold. One participant reported you could now buy methamphetamine in $50 rather than $100 bags. Another said that they could now buy methamphetamine for $80 a point. Two participants reported more injecting of methamphetamine. Another participant reported young people ‘getting IV kits for speed’, that is paraphernalia required to inject methamphetamine intravenously. Several participants mentioned it was now easier to score off the streets and that there were many more tinny houses. In terms of demographics two thirds (2/3) of frequent methamphetamine users were male with a median age of 28 years range (16-49). Two thirds were European and approximately a quarter of the sample was Maori. Half of the frequent methamphetamine users were employed, one in five was a student, and three out of ten were recipients of government income support. Just over quarter of the sample were currently in some kind of drug treatment. Three out of ten had been arrested in the last twelve months. Nearly half interviewed lived in Auckland. In terms of patterns of use there were high levels of other drug use. Three out of ten had injected methamphetamine in the last 6 months. Three quarters of the frequent methamphetamine users had binged on a drug in the last 6 months (binging is defined as using a drug for more than 48 hours continuously without any sleep). The physical problems commonly reported from frequent methamphetamine users were; ‘poor appetite (77%), ‘loss of energy (57%), weight loss (49%), muscular aches (49%), tremors/shakes (48%), and heart palpitations (43%). The psychological problems commonly reported from frequent methamphetamine use were; ‘trouble sleeping (84%), ‘short temper (58%), strange thoughts (56%), paranoia(55%), and anxiety (51%). Four out of ten of the frequent methamphetamine users (43%) reported ‘depression’. One in five (22%) experienced ‘suicidal thoughts’; and one in eight (12%) ‘suicide attempts’ related to their methamphetamine use. One in four (23% participants reported experiencing violent behaviour from methamphetamine use.

In chatting with Chris a week or two back he suggested that there may well be a glut of methamphetamine on the market and it may be entering the ‘maturity’ stage of the product life cycle. If this is so my marketing training suggests that we should be looking for signs of ‘product re-launch’ and that well may be evidenced by the repackaging in smaller amounts for sale and the rise in intravenous use – new depth of experience from the same quantity. Damn, I didn’t want to end the year on what sounds like a tired or frustrated note but it all sounds like a job for Sisyphus in 2006.

God bless over Christmas, may times be good, and may the New Year bring peace and achievement.

The frequent methamphetamine users reported the selling of small amounts of new drugs, such as methamphetamine, ketamine and ecstasy in ‘starter packs’ to encourage people to try a drug. They also reported the selling of drug cocktails made up of combinations of drugs such as methamphetamine, ecstasy, ketamine, and GHB. A number of participants and key informants noted the increased selling of drugs by heavy drug users to cover the cost of the users own drug consumption. One participant observed that more users were ‘making their own methamphetamine’. Participants observed there was now ‘greater competition and lower prices for drugs’.
The meth brain

On a similar theme another participant said they were getting ‘more for their money/larger quantities’. Participants also observed there was now a greater variety of drugs being sold. One participant reported you could now buy methamphetamine in $50 rather than $100 bags. Another said that they could now buy methamphetamine for $80 a point. Two participants reported more injecting of methamphetamine. Another participant reported young people ‘getting IV kits for speed’, that is paraphernalia required to inject methamphetamine intravenously. Several participants mentioned it was now easier to score off the streets and that there were many more tinny houses. In terms of demographics two thirds (2/3) of frequent methamphetamine users were male with a median age of 28 years range (16-49). Two thirds were European and approximately a quarter of the sample was Maori. Half of the frequent methamphetamine users were employed, one in five was a student, and three out of ten were recipients of government income support. Just over quarter of the sample were currently in some kind of drug treatment. Three out of ten had been arrested in the last twelve months. Nearly half interviewed lived in Auckland. In terms of patterns of use there were high levels of other drug use. Three out of ten had injected methamphetamine in the last 6 months. Three quarters of the frequent methamphetamine users had binged on a drug in the last 6 months (binging is defined as using a drug for more than 48 hours continuously without any sleep). The physical problems commonly reported from frequent methamphetamine users were; ‘poor appetite (77%), ‘loss of energy (57%), weight loss (49%), muscular aches (49%), tremors/shakes (48%), and heart palpitations (43%). The psychological problems commonly reported from frequent methamphetamine use were; ‘trouble sleeping (84%), ‘short temper (58%), strange thoughts (56%), paranoia(55%), and anxiety (51%). Four out of ten of the frequent methamphetamine users (43%) reported ‘depression’. One in five (22%) experienced ‘suicidal thoughts’; and one in eight (12%) ‘suicide attempts’ related to their methamphetamine use. One in four (23% participants reported experiencing violent behaviour from methamphetamine use.

In chatting with Chris a week or two back he suggested that there may well be a glut of methamphetamine on the market and it may be entering the ‘maturity’ stage of the product life cycle. If this is so my marketing training suggests that we should be looking for signs of ‘product re-launch’ and that well may be evidenced by the repackaging in smaller amounts for sale and the rise in intravenous use – new depth of experience from the same quantity. Damn, I didn’t want to end the year on what sounds like a tired or frustrated note but it all sounds like a job for Sisyphus in 2006.

God bless over Christmas, may times be good, and may the New Year bring peace and achievement.


Tags: Crips  Denis O'Reilly  Tareha Te Moananui  Tookie Williams