Turei slaps Pakeha privilege in the face!
Metiria Turei's AGM admission has exposed the inequality, racism and meanness that thrives in New Zealand society.
There are few people who can look back at themselves as young adults (18-24 years) without remembering past decisions and actions that we wish could be replayed with our current knowledge and experience. Times when we badly mismanaged relationships; broke the law and got away with it (or not); impulsively squandered money or said or did something stupid while intoxicated.
We also know now that no matter how intelligent or educated a young adult is, their brain isn't yet fully developed until the age of 25. Until then impulsiveness and risk taking are common features of any early adults' behaviour. The internationally respected Dunedin Study revealed that more than 90% of young males will break the law in some way. Most stop their criminal behaviour, settle down and become responsible citizens who contribute positively to society and the economy.
However, this transition into adulthood can be very different depending on socio-economic background. Our society and justice system treats the risk and law breaking phase of young adults very differently depending on an individual's social status. Maori and beneficiaries are regarded as the bottom of the heap and Maori beneficiaries are even lower. A post I wrote some years ago about the racism that exists in our criminal justice system is still valid as the statistics remain the same. We still lock up young Maori disproportionately and destroy their ability to succeed later in life because a criminal record will substantially reduce options.
My Pakeha experience as a student and young adult, and that of my children, is one of privilege. A stable home life, financial support and having educated parents usually creates a helpful pathway to success. It is a much harder road for many young Maori. Unemployment, poverty, poor housing and few resources to support academic endeavours can be insurmountable barriers.
Metiria Turei is statistical outlier for young Maori women. Despite Metiria's childhood being dominated by hardship and her early adulthood involving sole parent responsibilities, she was able to gain a law degree and became a co-leader of the Green Party by the age of 39. Such achievements for Maori (who generally lack financial support from their families) are only really possible with state support. Paula Bennett's removal of the training allowance for solo mums effectively kicked away the ladder used by both Paula and Metiria to climb out of the low waged economy.
Most offending by young adults is hedonsitic stuff involving alcohol, drugs or thrill seeking, but Metiria's dishonesty was motivated by her responsibilities as a mother and loyalty to a friend. While there is no disputing that her actions were unlawful, they are considered at the minor end of offending and there was little profit to herself. It is also interesting to note that few politicians have come out strongly condemning Metiria. Given the intense scrutiny of her 25 year old offences I'm sure many would rather not have that same attention brought to their own early lives.
The strident attacks on Metiria are mainly from the right-wing media, who flock like sharks at the sight of left-wing blood (Todd Barclay has got off lightly in comparison from main stream media). I find the framing and intensity of the attacks, for historical offences that have been openly admitted, bordering on the hysterical.
More recent behaviours of National Government Ministers have been far more questionable in terms of morality and fiscal impact. Murray McCully's pathetic Saudi bribe cost the country $11.5 million and he was never held to account for his lies over this dodgy deal. The previous Prime Minister's support of New Zealand's tax haven status was also a saga full of conflicts of interest and lies at a level that should have brought down the government, if only it had the media scrutiny it deserved. Knowingly allowing money laundering and tax evasion, through a lightly regulated investment regime (involving billions of dollars,) makes Metiria's dishonesty pale in comparison.
For the Right, Metiria still represents everything they despise. To them she is still a young Maori solo mum living off 'good honest taxpayers' while promoting cannabis and poking fun at our sacred institutions. Stories of her heinous crimes are accompanied by shots of a dreadlocked Metiria with her baby, people smoking huge joints, and McGillicuddies dancing in kilts. The fact that she has worked as a commercial lawyer, is a Co-leader of New Zealand's third largest political party and has been a hard working and respected MP for fifteen years has been shamefully ignored.
Major fraudster and bully, Joanne Harrison, has had lighter media treatment than Metiria, which only the supports the evidence that white collar crime is considered a lesser evil than benefit fraud.
Personal attacks and abuse are nothing new for Metiria. She was cruelly criticised for wearing designer clothes (when such challenges would never be made to a Pakeha MP) and she generated much anger by daring to question PM John Key's ignorant view that the colonisation of New Zealand was nonviolent. The underlying racism is clear.
Metiria Turei has again spoken truth to power and slapped Pakeha privilege in the face. While Mike Hosking and Patrick Gower bristle with indignation from their right-wing media pulpits, there is a steadily growing crowd (from the marginalised and disenfranchised many) coming out of the shadows to stand behind Metiria. At last there is someone in Parliament who has walked in their shoes (and who still remembers) and is openly admitting what they never can.