Being poor sucks in 2017

I always get highly emotional at election time. Like many of my friends, I have a privileged adult life. I've worked hard to get where I am, I have nice things, I travel and get to take part in experiences that many would only dream of. I have no dependents, am a freelancer and my overheads aren't high. I'm a bit shit with money, but I am not poor.

Many of my friends and colleagues are very wealthy and many of them share similar ideas about how we think the country should be run. Many don't. I'll get into friendly debates with them and we'll agree to disagree, but we stay friendly - I stick to my guns saying we need to take better care of the disadvantaged, we should help those who have been dealt a bad hand in life, etc. I've always been like this, I always will be and you will never change my mind.

Because I, and many of my family were these disadvantaged people. We experienced poverty daily, and for someone like me, it was statistically unlikely that I'd ever get a good education, ever travel or do the things that I have managed to. I'm grateful for the breaks that I got, for a system that allowed me to get student loans and allowances, for grandparents who spent their pension on sending me to ballet and drama, for the nun at my high school who wrote off my years of overdue fees.

Most of all I'm grateful for my Mum. Before she met my step-dad (who I'm also eternally grateful for), life was really tough. The three of us were always poor, but those years when it was just Mum & I were particularly hard. I remember feeling like people thought we were dirt and I remember the way people sneered at us in the street. I remember listening to my Mum crying about money and how she was going to feed me, how the shame of being on the DPB (solo parent's) benefit affected her.

I also remember when I was that little, wondering if anyone would care if I just disappeared.

I was bullied by kids through my primary school years for being poor, for not having a dad, for being weird, for being fat, for having yuck second-hand clothes. I was socially awkward because all I knew of people outside of our immediate circle was that everyone thought something was wrong with me, so I'd retreat further into myself.

Eventually, I came out of my shell and as a teen, I made friends and have built a good life for myself. However, I'll never forget how worthless we were made to feel for being poor. The shame of going to the social welfare office and to the food bank. Worst of all the names the kids would call me. Where did they learn them from? Their parents no doubt.

Which is why when I see so many comments on social media that seem so close-minded, selfish and uncaring, calling all beneficiaries lazy, saying we don't need a nanny-state, and unwilling to consider the good of others; it breaks my heart. I think of that little girl who wondered if anyone would care if she disappeared. I can empathise with why so many people don't vote. Because why would they when it seems like others wish they would just evaporate?

Please vote with your conscience in this election and as well as thinking about yourself and your immediate family, think about those who can't or won't. 

Aroha Harawira1 Comment