At my local cafe of late, I've noticed that I'm far more at ease when patched gang members sit down at a table near me than when a bunch of men in suits do.

The men in suits? I always wonder what they're up to. Plotting the next environmental rape and pillage fest? Or maybe they're talking about how best to maximise profits by engaging a more creative accountant. Whatever it is, it always feels somehow dodgy.

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Maybe it's my rural Whanganui upbringing, or maybe it's my love of the underdog. Whatever it is, I'm not alone in thinking this. I've polled on the issue, and God only knows what the margin of error is, but there are definitely others out there that feel exactly as I do.


So when Paula Bennett said, while referring to gang members, that "some have fewer human rights than others", I nearly choked on my large, single-shot, trim, extra-hot flat white. I did burn my lips when she tweeted "scum gangs that peddle drugs don't deserve protection. They have zero regard for the harm they cause."

Trumpesque? You betcha. Fortunately, a sense of perspective was restored by a steady stream of commentators. You see, there's this thing called the rule of law, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. These enshrine the principle that everyone is equal before the law, and guarantees everybody's rights under the law equally.

Our Deputy Prime Minister didn't seem to know this when she got all swaggery, and shoot 'em up-ish. She appeared to be fair fizzing about the prospect of treating those "scum" gang members differently from other citizens, by police not requiring a warrant to enter their homes, or search their cars for firearms.

I have a problem with this type of blatant profiling. You see, the myriad experiences I've had in my life tell me that some of the most real people in the world don't wear suits. But sometimes they do.

Sometimes they also wear gang patches. They look after their kids, feed the poor, care for and respect their elders, and generally believe in the concept of family. Sometimes though, they beat their wives and kids. Even kill them. Just like the men in suits.

Sometimes too, they're also involved in the drug world. They make money from it. They get a thrill from it, and it pays the bills. Just like the men in suits.

Tax evasion and white-collar crime is generally the domain of the men in suits. Not too many patches in that realm - although "cashies" are a form of tax evasion. No doubt about it. Indeed, I think the men in suits partake in that too.

Intimidation of women, rape, stalking. No one has a licence on those. My experience? The men in suits are pretty adept at that stuff too.


I've owned a couple of pitbull crosses in my life. Best dogs ever. Not a bad bone in their body - unless rabbits and possums were around. Yet every dog owner between Bluff and Cape Reinga would see them coming and clasp their fluffy purebreds to their breasts and cry "put that dog on a lead". Even though theirs wasn't on one.

Sure, they could do damage if pushed but they never did. Ask your local vet whether it's pitbulls that cause the real problems or golden Labradors. I call it "dogism".

What Paula Bennett doesn't seem to understand is this. Out here in the real world things are not so black and white. Some of our friends and whanau are gang members. And men in suits.

Profiling is a rickety, out-of-date business but I guess it plays well to National's base. It's straight out of Donald Trump's playbook to try and make one group of people appear scarier than another.

But, you see, where National's got it so wrong is in the framing. In 2017 - and feel free to join us Paula - New Zealand is far more diverse than just men in suits. My hope is that men in suits will soon be relegated to their rightful place. Just a part of the fabric of society, rather than the dominant force.

To me, men in suits represent power, control, patriarchy and conformity. Why I feel like this may have something to do with the fact that for decades they've tended to run the financial and political world. That's huge. Bigger than they'll ever truly appreciate.

The suit is just another gang patch. One that says don't come to me if you're poor, or needy, or homeless, or different. I have nothing for you. I made it on my own, and I've pulled up the ladder.

Something about that makes me squirm in a way that I imagine a gang member can totally grasp.