I remember watching an episode of 21 Jump Street where a girl was gang raped. She wasn’t dressed provocatively. She wasn’t drunk. She wasn’t high. She was just walking through the park. A bunch of guys were walking through the park as well. When they saw her, they started heckling and ran after her. Then they took turns. There must have been twenty of them.
I’ve always wondered about the mentality of gang rape. One rapist is bad enough, but what happens with a gang? What runs through their minds as they stand by and wait for their turn? Don’t they feel their insides shrivel as they watch the victim struggle, fight and scream?
There’s a scene in Purple Hibiscus that describes a ‘nice guy’ participating in a gang rape. We hear his thoughts as it happens. He doesn’t want to do it, and he looks away as the others have their go. But then they taunt him and ask if he’s a coward, so he plays along to save face. He takes his turn, watching the girl’s face contort with hatred and rage.
I imagine that when there’s a gang, the victim gives up after a while. You might fight off the first two, but by the third, something inside you snaps. You realize the futility, or you freeze from exhaustion, or maybe you just tune it out and pray for it to stop. But what about them, the ones that attack you?
I’ve seen mobs perform their justice on a thief. Half the time, they don’t know who he was or what he stole. They don’t care if he stole nothing at all. Half the time, the mobs are just people with their own problems. They’re just glad for an excuse to vent their pent up anger. And there’s a lot of pent up anger in the world, so at some level, it sort of makes sense.
But what about kiddie mobs? Because I’ve seen those in action too, and I can tell you, they’re shit scary. You see this swarm of children under two feet tall, and they gang up on this one kid and attack. Sometimes they pick on him because he’s fat, or poor, or geeky. Sometimes, it’s because they think she’s pretty.
The reason makangas bully people is that they feel inferior. They think the whole world looks down on them, so they hit back. I think some kid mobs are like that. When they bully the fat kid, it’s because he’s an easy target. When they take the geek’s glasses, it’s because he can’t fight back. When they go for the rich kid, the smart kid, or the pretty kid, it’s because the target has something that they don’t. They assume the target is proud of what they have, so they try to cut him down to size.
I’ve seen that three times in the recent past. Today, a gang of kids gathered at my door. They accused my baby of something utterly silly. I say it was silly, because they couldn’t explain it. They said my baby liked to size them up. Anapenda kuwapima. They said it in both languages, so that was funny.
I knew exactly what they meant, but I wanted to see if they knew it, so I asked them to explain. They couldn’t. So I asked them to tell me what they wanted me to do. They suggested I spank her. And naturally, they wanted to watch.
I resolved the issue by trying to reason with them. If she had offended them could they simply talk things out? No. Apparently, they had tried, and she wouldn’t listen, so they wanted me to teach her a lesson. My own baby. And that’s when the ringleader said i:
I looked right into this kid’s eyes and calmly asked her if she thought it was a good idea to threaten a child in front of her own mother. Wrong move, kid.
As it turns out, the ‘sizing’ had happened the previous day, and the girl had stewed overnight and decided that she felt affronted. Microaggression whatwhat. So she had gathered a mob and come for revenge, literally plucking my baby from where she was playing and dragging her to my house. My baby responded by running inside, locking the door, and grabbing me like her life depended on it. Seeing the fire in that little mob’s eyes, I could see why she was so scared.
I was scared on another level, because when I was exactly her age, the same thing happened to me. I was caught standing under a tree, squinting at the sun, and screwing my eyes shut to keep them safe from dust. A little girl that I know decided I was screwing up my eyes because I didn’t like how she looked.
‘Why are you looking at me as ift I’m mavi?’
Yes, she said ift. That’s not a typo. She threatened to yank off a tuft of my hair and give it to her auntie, who was allegedly a doctor from Tanzania. Yes, that kind of doctor. I was too shocked to think up a response, but luckily, the bell rang and saved my little neck.
The next day, on the school bus, a prefect ordered us to sit down. I was daydreaming and I didn’t hear the order. So I was traumatized when the prefect yanked my arm and forced me onto the ground. He said I was ignoring him because thought I was too clever to obey him. He said just because I was always number one in class, that didn’t mean I could do whatever I wanted. The prefect was the little girl’s brother.
Mobs have come for my baby on five separate occasions. Two times, it was a case of lost-in-translation, and it was quickly resolved. One time, it was genuine, and I delivered a spanking and a time out – after chasing the mob away. Discipline is not a spectator sport for me. Today, it was just children being vindictive. Each time a mob appears, she runs inside, slams and locks the door, and hides behind me, so maybe the mob thinks it’s some kind of game.
Thing is, today they’ll come in a mob, and tomorrow they’ll be here one by one, asking her to come out and play. She’s a pretty popular kid most days.
I’ve noticed something about these mobs. They’re usually incited by outsiders. The kids play happily all week, but every once in a while, some child from a different neighbourhood will show up. And one way or another, the newcomer will incite a mob, and I’ll end up referee-ing.
Mobs are also a little … you know … stupid. I mean, I know they’re only children, but on what planet does a gang of 20 children take a kid to its own parent and expect the parent to side with the mob? Really?
The worrying thing is that mobs lose their minds. They think as a hive. The children in this mob visit here all the time. They play in my house, eat my food, and collectively turn my flat into a nursery. They seek my baby every day, to just hang out. But the second a ‘case’ appears against her, they forget all signs of friendship and join the chants of ‘spank her! spank her!’
I pulled one of the girls aside and asked about it. They’re best friends when it’s just the two of them, and they routinely have sleepovers. But when things get thick, she’s always the spokesperson for the mob. I asked what that was about, and she couldn’t answer. I guess she likes to go with the crowd.
These mini-mobs are scary in one other way. With adult crowds, we can say we’re acting out. We can say we’re stressed over fuel prices or prissy bosses or makangas. We can say we’re mad at MPs and rape-thirsty thugs. We can say we’re just unleashing pent up tension.
But what about these kids? They range in age from 3 to 11. They have nothing to be angstious about. Their biggest struggle is homework, and not all of them are spanked at home. They come from various backgrounds, and individually, they’re angelic. So what are they acting out? What is this spirit that possesses them when some outside force invades? What makes them forget their friendship and their love, and turn viciously on one of their own?