Being Poor

16 Feb Being Poor

When this piece was first published in the Press (23.12.15) people described it as me “getting my rage on”. They meant that in a good way. I’m pleased I did. By way of context, there were two incidents in the week prior involving the NZ Prime Minister – he dismissed a report on Child Poverty; and in the same week participated in a joke about rape (bending down for soap in the showers) on commercial radio.

 

Bloody poor people, am I right? With their drugs and their inability to budget properly and their lack of initiative.

 

Last week a report from the Children’s Commission revealed nearly one-third of Kiwi kids are living in poverty. Our Prime Minister says that’s partly because their parents are too whacked out on drugs to get a job. “Go ask any employer… they’ll tell you, if they drug test people, some of those people that they are testing they cannot hire because that’s the issue.”

 

Sure, that’s not backed up by stuff like facts. Figures released last year suggest very few beneficiaries are taking drugs. Of about 8000 beneficiaries sent for job drug tests, only 22 tested positive or refused to take the tests.

 

But I dunno. I watched the news on Monday and there was a story about Auckland City Mission giving out food parcels. Last week they were visited by 3,000 people. One third of them have never been to a food bank before. They start queuing as early as 1.30am. Someone writes a number on their hands in felt pen and then they wait for up to five hours for food they can’t afford to buy.

 

Lazy, right? Standing around all day. And they’re up that early because of the P. And that look in their eyes as they wait? That’s not sadness and desperation and embarrassment. Stoned.

 

And where does the Children’s Commission get off calling it “child” poverty? It’s like they’re only focused on children, like that’s their area of responsibility. Those 300,000 kids belong to someone. Someone who clearly doesn’t know enough about budgeting to turn the $80 left over each week after rent and bills into 21 nutritious meals for four people. What they need isn’t affordable housing or better pay. They need maths. If they could work out how to divide $80 by 84 meals, they’d be fine.

 

And look, if it’s not the drugs, it’ll be the flat screen TVs and smokes. Though, you know, if you can’t take a holiday at a bach in Maui, you’d probably want to watch a bit of tele on something you got for no deposit, interest free for 3 years, and roll yourself a fag.

 

Because some drugs are ok. Lots of people with money use them. But the good drugs, like a quality pinot or the party stuff the nice kids use for a bit of fun at the school ball.

 

Besides, the Prime Minister points out, when they say “poverty”, it’s not poverty Dehli-style. He means the city, not pastrami on rye. Over there, they’re living on a dollar a day. Which actually, in Dehli, goes a comparatively long way.

 

But like he says, some of the criteria are pretty subjective – like whether you can afford Christmas presents. Christmas presents are a luxury item. We can’t all expect to get them. Though if anyone’s thinking of getting a little something for the Prime Minister, go for your life. Maybe a pay rise of $13,500. Or soap-on-rope so he doesn’t have to bend down in the shower.