Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Crystal Crusher Collins' Meth-Attack Is Strung-Out Scare Politics

Meth use and addiction is a serious issue. And, as with all serious issues, it remains disappointing to see it trivialized by a pavonine politician in pursuit of a self-aggrandizing headline.

Given her previous modus operandi with law and order issues, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the Minister for Grandstanding who's attempting to make political bank out of jumbling scary sounding words together this time ... is Judith Collins.

She's clearly set her sights on restoring her reputation as an MP and a member of Cabinet by scaring Middle New Zealand into finding her relatively reassuringly appealing.

So let's take a look at her latest outburst.

Collins is breathlessly claiming that there's some sort of organized cabal-conspiracy of the most famous gangs in the country, who've geared up in order to bring bags of premium-priced pseudoephidrine-derived crystal to "middle class kids" at some of the "best schools" in Auckland.

Considering this seems to be a response to a recent report about the costs to the taxpayer of gang members and their own children ... you'd perhaps be forgiven for expecting a little more emphasis upon *those* kids, rather than the children of predominantly wealthy, National-voting families able to afford to send their scions to "the best schools".

But instead, we get sweeping statements studded with salacious hooks for middle class paranoia.

Let's get one thing straight. Meth in Auckland's well-heeled suburbs is absolutely nothing new. In fact, for a good decent whack of the early-mid 2000s, it was the go-to party drug for the Remuera rich-kids set of the day. One of my associates has rather vivid memories of smoking it out of champagne glasses at some scene-kid's dad's mansion, for instance. Further citations for the phenomenon are not exactly difficult to come by:

"For our generation, it wasn't the drug but the lifestyle that went with it. The majority were middle class, upper class kids with money to throw around. It was that Remuera crowd. The town was filled with (methamphetamine). It was living life through a music video. It was all about having fun."

Further, it's not as if the meth many an upper class precocious P-consumer was actually coming from terribly further afield. There's been a litany of P-lab and P-dealer busts in Remuera over the last few years. To pretend that meth is therefore a new thing to the children of National's (sub)urban Auckland heartland electorates - and that it's now only a thing due to predominantly brown gang members from South and West Auckland - smacks of the worst kind of reality-obfuscating sensationalism.

But there's something else that's been troubling me about Collins' recent outburst, and it's summed up beautifully by none other than Police Association President Greg O'Connor. You know ... one of the most senior public servants within Collins' own portfolio area of Police.

"The last time this happened was at the turn of the century when the gang-backed methamphetamine epidemic started claiming victims in the nicer parts of town.

Until the family members of the middle classes started turning up with meth habits and shady friends, the problem was ignored by those who matter [...]

In the case of the dead prisoner, the fact he represents a social group that middle New Zealand can relate to will mean the issue will not go away – a little like the meth habits of the Remuera teenagers.

O'Connor's talking about the issue of prisoner abuse occurring elsewhere in Collins' Corrections portfolio, but the point equally applies here to Collins' headline-grabbing meth-outburst.

These problems are not new. Gangs have been peddling drugs - and drugs have been turning up in schools - across Auckland (and particularly out South and out West) for years.

Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that Collins' statement is an attention-seeking full-frontal Amygdala-hijack to the brains of urban-core National supporters.

What she's actually saying, if you look at it, is that these problems only began to really matter once they started (in her limited view) to happen to the kids of the upper-class elite.

You couldn't ask for a clearer picture of National's - and Judith's - perspectives and priorities if you tried.

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