In the last few decades, NZ has built itself an underclass, and a poverty industry which entirely revolves around making sure the underclass stays where it is.
There are countless charities and agencies which “work” with under resourced people, and most of them would be out of a job should the government and employers decide to do primarily one thing.
Raise benefits and pay everyone a living wage.
Imagine the drop in crime if people had enough to live on?
Imagine how less full our prisons would be could people afford to get their licence in a timely manner or not have to sell drugs to make ends meet? If the stress of economic fragility was removed, imagine how few people would end up before the courts for petty thieving/crimes of violence that occur when life is inherently shit so why not kick against the system in any way you have available to you?
Imagine how many Māori babies would be born to their mothers, and stay with their mothers, because there was enough financial means that she meant she valued herself enough, and believed in herself enough, that she didn’t end up with someone exactly like her father, generations of violence borne from generations of under resourcedness and racism which has eaten away at her whānau so much that everyone is dispossessed, nobody has a job, and on it goes?
Imagine a world where WINZ wasn’t a loan shark placing people in life time debt that they will never get out of, and so they end up having no idea of what money looks like or what to do when you have a bit extra because you’ve never had extra.
Imagine a world where WINZ case workers had professional supervision and told people what they were actually entitled to, and not act like the money was their own? Imagine if kindness and compassion – because they recieved professional supervision and understood that their clients don’t want to be there but things are a bit tough right now -were the order of the day, and there was no mean spiritedness or judgement or forcing people to beg for what they are duly owed.
My words are jumbled, my thinking compromised, because I think about the women I work with, the people I have worked with over the years, whose lives would have looked very different had they not been dependent on WINZ for their lives, their very beings. Not dependent on employers who take the piss and pay them the minimum wage. Not grateful for any little crumb.
Not had to negotiate asking, begging, for food/healthcare/housing. Not having to sit in front of another pakeha person denying them the care they are entitled to because they are the wrong ethnicity/are presumed stupid/are obviously under resourced so they won’t complain so who cares how they are treated.
I am angry today.
I am angry every day.
I am angry because there is an entire nation of people employed to oppress and shit on another nation of people and there is yet another nation of people who are oblivious to all this. And I don’t know what to do about that except to love. Love the women I work with. Love them hard. Put food in their mouths. Yell and scream and rage at the unfairness. Praise them for their extraordinary light. Tell them time and time again how beautiful they are.
Because that’s one thing the agencies and government departments don’t deal in. Love. Respect. Kindness. Power.
And if the government did just one thing today, raised benefit levels, then maybe more employers would start paying a living wage, and maybe the women I work with would have a chance to love themselves because they were able to provide their children with what was needed, and not rely on anyone else.
No more abusive partners.
No more foodbanks.
No more waiting in line to see a dismissive case worker.
To walk in their power. Find their light. And scream and yell and rage with me.