Metiria Turei told the truth: you cannot live on a benefit in this country. You cannot pay your bills, do a decent grocery shop, heat your house, provide your children with books, new clothes, occasional treats, and cover rent on the sole parent support. That reality is there for anyone to see who cares to look. It’s the reality of poverty across New Zealand.
It’s winter at the moment. Torrential rain covers much of the country. There are children living in damp, cold houses that will make them sick this winter. Some of them will die as a result. There are adults living in these houses, too, and they too will be made sick. Their sense of worth and autonomy is stripped from them by a system making them feel guilt for every expression of independence and pleasure they may be able to take, from a night out to a cigarette after the kids have been settled. Years of images of ‘bad’ mothers and ‘bludgers’ barrage us and put the blame for joblessness on the jobless.
Metiria Turei told the truth: you cannot live with dignity on a benefit – Work and Income New Zealand bully, harass, humiliate and punish people seeking justified entitlements. They can cut a woman’s money if she will not name the father of her children. They can pry into the most intimate areas of our lives, and withhold money to force us into confessions and compliance.
The bourgeois media, politicians, a host of well-paid and comfortable commentators and assorted know-nothings across the country led howls of outrage against Metiria Turei for telling these truths. This is the truth they resent – the reality of poverty in New Zealand. It’s a situation they benefit from and it’s a situation their side has created, from the 1991 benefit cuts from the last National government through to the culture at WINZ today. This is what they have hounded Metiria for, not the details of her own case.
They talk about benefit fraud. What’s a few dollars to a solo mother in her early twenties compared to the millions rorted by corporate fraud, the scandals of the banks bailed out, the billions sloshing through the Rich List?
They talk about a world they choose not to understand. David Seymour, ACT MP by the grace of National’s beneficence, earns over $175,000 a year. Mike Hosking blathers to the tune of at least two hundred thousand annually. The figure he sucks from the public broadcast is, curiously, undisclosed. These are the voices of entitlement, and they heard a threat to their system. So they went after it.
Whatever details are debated in the coming days, we express our solidarity with Metiria Turei. She told the truth. Who benefits from her resignation? Those who would have that truth ignored. The rich, the powerful, and their lackies.
The poor, workers, unemployed workers on benefits and all the oppressed will suffer. Our struggle became harder tonight. The powerful will take comfort from seeing this message knocked back.
But reality has not changed, and the struggle it will spur cannot be imagined away either.
Today as before we say: Kick National Out! Build a Socialist Alternative!