Thomson Lawrence was right when he told a gathering of Whatuwhiwhi residents that the best response to three individuals who are widely regarded as effectively holding the community to ransom was to laugh at them. He was right, too, when he conceded that that would be easier for some than for others.

There are those, the writer included, who would have difficulty laughing at a physically imposing character who is standing in front of them with anger in his eyes and threatening to rearrange their skull, but as Mr Lawrence said, "We have to do something." And the fact is that Whatuwhiwhi, and every community, largely has to do that something for themselves.

The meeting at Whatuwhiwhi a couple of Monday evenings ago was remarkable for two things. It revealed an extraordinary depth and breadth of anger at the manner in which three individuals were behaving, and it did not descend into criticism of the police for failing to do their job. No one audibly disagreed with Mr Lawrence when he said the police were under-resourced, and that while many of the calls they responded to were very small beer, or 'bullshit,' as he put it, they could not be ignored. Their workload, and the fact that Whatuwhiwhi was some distance from the nearest police station, meant that help in a blue uniform would not always be immediately forthcoming, certainly not quickly enough to intervene in the sort of incident that some clearly fear will inevitably, one day, result in severe injury if not loss of life.

Hence the advice to laugh in the face of danger. Or, more realistically perhaps, for the people of Whatuwhiwhi to band together, at a moment's notice, to stare down those responsible for behaving in a manner that shows absolutely no respect whatsoever for others.

Advertisement

The foundation stone of this anti-social behaviour is undoubtedly provided by methamphetamine. That is certainly what Whatuwhiwhi believes, and that makes this issue an even tougher one for the community to confront. This is not about a handful of ill-mannered, selfish individuals who like to throw their weight around. It's about a handful of individuals who, to use the vernacular, have fried their brains, and are not likely to be receptive to reason. That, perhaps, is the flaw in the suggestion that laughter is this community's best medicine.

That saying, incidentally, is supported by science, in that laughter is credited with the ability to reduce pain, to connect people socially, and to improve the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain. Whether or not extra oxygen will have any beneficial effect on a brain that's been 'fried' is open to debate.

You have to take your hat off to this community though. Some who live there are genuinely frightened, to the point of pondering whether they should sell up and move elsewhere. But they are not without support from further afield, judging by the social media response to news that the they have "had a gutsful." ' ... expel the offender from the community if he won't leave, then use brute force; 100 angry residents should be enough people to get rid of him,' one Facebook poster said. 'Tumeke whānau. Should do the ... same over here go around with the biggest ... trash bin and start clearing the trash out,' said another. ' ... Sure kick those so-called 'troublesome' whānau out of one town into another town and see the same behaviours and scenario repeat itself elsewhere. I am not an advocate of addictions. Ask for help in that area. It could be a start,' another suggested, perhaps more reasonably.

Certainly life would be better at Whatuwhiwhi if methamphetamine was eradicated. The people there know that. They have been making their views on methamphetamine very clear for some time. Haititaimairangi is certainly doing its bit to express the community's zero tolerance, but it's a tall order. If this community can rid itself of this most pernicious of drugs it might well be setting a world first.

The alternative, to lie down and take whatever the meth users and dealers want to dish out, is as unpalatable there as anywhere else though, and as Thomson Lawrence says, "We have to do something."

The big factor in Whatuwhiwhi's favour is that it is a small community, with more than its fair share of genuinely good people who desperately want to do something. If anyone can Whatuwhiwhi can, even if that means exporting those who are responsible for this awful situation somewhere else. Where they go is not Whatuwhiwhi's problem.

And if their resolve begins to wilt, perhaps they could watch The man who shot Liberty Valance, the great 1962 film about a gentle, peace-loving man who stands up to a bully. A work of fiction, of course — the film was based on Dorothy Johnson's short story — but extraordinarily apposite. Mind you, this particular means of dealing with a social misfit wouldn't be quite as legally acceptable on the Karikari Peninsula as it was in the Wild West.

And, for all his fine qualities, Thomson Lawrence is no John Wayne.

Advertisement

It has become very noticeable, however, that the Karikari Peninsula has a real determination to stick up for itself. It is well on the way to completing a massive effort to install CCTV cameras to discourage dishonesty, it has defended, and doubtless will continue to defend the inshore fishery that is of huge value to the people who live there against unsustainable plundering, it has made very clear its determination to protect its fragile sand dunes from two- and four-wheeled vandals, and it has left no doubt that methamphetamine is not welcome there.

Communities, particularly smaller ones, across this country could do well to take a leaf or two out of Whatuwhiwhi's book. It hasn't won all its battles, and is a very long way from winning its wars, but it is standing up for itself. It has defined standards of behaviour for those who live there and those who visit. No one can be in any doubt regarding what is expected of them, and that is exactly how it should be.

Using scorn as a weapon against violent thuggery might not be easy, but if anyone has a better idea Whatuwhiwhi would no doubt be very keen to hear it. In the meantime, all power to their collective arm. Good on them for sticking up for themselves.

Whose culture?New Zealanders' collective display of empathy, and apparently genuine desire to embrace Islam and its followers, has been spoiled somewhat by plans for a service in Christchurch on the anniversary of the March 15 mosque attacks. The service has been organised by the Christchurch City Council, which said it had 'been in touch with those affected' for some months as part of the planning process.

Otago Muslim Association president Mohammed Rizwan said, however, that many of the victims and their families had not been consulted, and did not want the service to take place. Other Muslim associations have reportedly expressed similar views. They don't want a bar of it. To be fair, Al Noor's imam does.

Part of the problem, it seems, is that marking anniversaries in this way is not part of Islamic culture. So whose culture exactly will be served by a formal commemoration? Not the victims'.