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August 14, 2017 | by  | in Opinion |
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Losing Metiria

“godDAMN this stupid milkloving piece of shit dumbass mean spirited sale at briscoes racist sexist 40% off deck furniture piss country” — Hera Lindsay Bird

 

There’s something inherently lonely about politics. For so many New Zealanders, talking about tax or climate change is inaccessible. Representative democracy seems foreign. Even as a fifth year, nearly-university-educated, Pākehā law student, I often feel like I’m on the periphery of understanding and inclusion. It’s tiresome and tedious.

I’ve been thinking about this place on the periphery, which I feel part of at times. Soundbites chanted by politicians can be confusing. The Opportunities Party’s Deputy Leader, Geoff Simmons, talks about being a “radical centrist”; Bill English keeps talking about “social investment”; Jacinda Ardern is remaining “relentlessly positive.” Everyone seems to be talking without actually saying anything.

When Metiria Turei first presented the Green Party’s “families package” on July 16, she considered herself to be “one of those women, who you hear people complain about on talkback radio.” One who was residing on the periphery of a system who made her feel she had no choice but to lie.

The personality of the announcement ignited something on the margins of Aotearoa for voices not usually welcomed in the discussion. An arm reached out to the people left behind by politics. Suddenly, we were there with Metiria and her then-baby daughter. And Metiria was there with us. She embodied a politics of love and the promise of a community.

The people of Manurewa, the electorate with the largest proportion of beneficiaries, told Mihingarangi Forbes that Turei “is an inspiration for women, an inspiration for Māori.”

Yet, in response, a good chunk of the New Zealand community reacted to Turei’s disclosures in disgust. The talkback community at large — magnified, angry, and shouting. Stuff comments personified. A vox pop of bile masquerading as fairness, suffocating any meaningful discussion that would include those on the margins.

“The law is the law” they told us, again and again. As if the law exists as the purest of art forms, devoid of all circumstance and context. The law was the vehicle that stole Māori land. The law disenfranchised and othered sectors of society as punishment. The law enables those who will never need to rely on WINZ to receive the student allowance through clever accountancy.

The New Zealand Herald wrote a piece justifying this outrage by concluding that Bill English intentionally claiming a housing allowance not designed for him, in contrast to Turei’s “benefit fraud”, was “technically legal.” Duncan Garner demanded Turei’s resignation to “stop the rot.” Alienating, tiresome, tedious.

This outrage also ensured that in condemning and stifling the action of one, it stamped out the attention of many. The message to anyone on the periphery is brutally clear — stay there.

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