As a follow-up to my (incredibly, overwhelming well-read!) post from Wednesday, Thank you Metiria, I wrote this for Radio NZ: I will remember Metiria Turei differently.
I will remember people skiting on social media and fronting television broadcasts declaring it was their investigation, their dogged pursuit of the sex life of a 23-year-old, that got the scalp of a once-destined deputy prime minister – a very unfortunately loaded phrase.
I will remember how it became about whether she could really be hungry if she were fat, or really be poor if she were smiling in photos, about anonymous sources crawling out of the woodwork to declare, horror of horrors, that her family might have been supporting her more than was strictly allowed by a system that treats whānau as a mere accumulation of economic units.
I will remember that it was never about any of these ‘facts’; it was about sending a clear message that she would never be allowed to move past this, never be allowed to live in peace, and that her child and her family were fair game. The same message everyone who’s suffered and dares to challenge their oppression receives.
But I wasn’t the only person reflecting on the chaotic events of the past few weeks, so here’s a few of my favourite pieces by others.
Leonie Pihama wrote Māori, woman, mother: #IAmMetiria.
Those leading the right wing media attack were always going to ensure that Metiria Turei would never be treated with any level of respect because Metiria does not look like those privileged white male journalists that have made it their duty to ensure that she doesn’t ‘get away with it’. Everything about these past few weeks should serve as a reminder that racism, sexism and classism are alive, well and thriving in this current neo-liberal economic context and that we only need to look to what is happening internationally to know that this will worsen and deepen if we do not stand up and make change.
Yvonne Tahana wrote at 1News that Turei’s demise sends a clear message to Māori:
The great bloated centre can celebrate.
Its importance in political discourse remains pre-eminent.
Dr Claire Timperley made an incredibly important point: It’s all about class:
Beneficiary fraud is a uniquely class-based problem. The only people who are in the position of having to make difficult choices about whether to ‘play by the rules’ and by doing so risk not having the means to support their family are those who are in the poorest group of New Zealanders.
The fact Turei lied to the authorities demonstrates the very difficult position many beneficiaries find themselves in. Whether or not Turei made the morally or legally correct decision is not relevant to the issue I am raising (although there are undoubtedly important questions it raises about the beneficiary system).
What is important, however, is that by dint of her experience of this specifically class-based conundrum, she is no longer considered fit for high office.
Auckland Action Against Poverty issued a statement saying:
“The sustained attack on social welfare over the last 40 years enables people to blame the poor for their situation and justifies punitive policies which place people in further financial hardship.
“The wealthy have to justify poverty by blaming the unemployed for unemployment in order to mask the reality that the wealthy profit from poverty.
“Poverty is not an individual behaviour or choice. It is, however, a political and economic choice by the rich who continue to accumulate wealth at the expense of those who actually produce it.
Gordon Campbell wrote, on the Turei finale:
Instead of empathy, Turei mostly got finger pointing. Had she really been that poor, back then? Had she been over-stating how desperate her situation had been, back then? The media has condoned its quest for blood by saying that she started it – she had quote, opened the door, unquote on this issue. Yep, anything goes once you suggest your empathy is based on personal experience. Unless Turei could substantiate that her plight was the worst of the worst, she was fair game. (How poor and desperate exactly, did a solo mother have to be at the height of the benefit cuts of 1992, in order to qualify for a dispensation from today’s well-fed inquisitors?)
And the final word(s) to everyone’s favourite Kiwi Twitter account, Kupu Hou:
The great work continues.