Apparently the new right wing attack line is that Metiria Turei wasn’t really poor when she was a young mum. Because she was in law school, because she had a mother, because she was on speaking terms with the father of her child. Because there’s a photo of her on the internet with a ring on her finger. Something like that. Probably daring to have fun is part of it. There’s also some pretty fucked up insinuations based in fatphobia whereby poor people can’t have body fat, ergo if they are of a large body size they can’t really be poor. Yes, we are in the land of that degree of ignorance and prejudice.
So that’s the line up. I don’t even want to get into that stuff, because it’s the manipulative use of blatant bigotry for political ends from the people who brought us Dirty Politics. It tries to focus the conversation on random and judgemental speculation of what someone may or may not have done 25 years ago instead of on the real lives of people living in poverty and what can be done about that.
Of much more interest to me is using the opportunity to talk about what being poor is. As many have pointed out, the right, including the National government, have consistently refused to work with research-based definitions of poverty, and have instead run distraction lines about relativity, shifting the goal posts and dropping whatever pathetic excuses they can come up with to avoid taking responsibility for causing so much suffering.
What the Greens are doing is opening up this conversation so that we get to directly hear the voices of the people affected by poverty. It’s now ok to talk about what being poor means for poor people, who are no longer objects but subjects bringing their own level of expertise to the debate.
This is radical and in the commitment to building a movement, the genie isn’t going back in the bottle. Poor people exist as real people whatever the bigots might say.
So here are some voices. In this outstanding video, Manurewa residents talk to RNZ’s Mihingarangi Forbes about their experiences of poverty and about Metiria Turei’s decision as a single mother to break the benefit rules to make ends meet.