As an initial hilariously awful note, I realised I should find out who my local MP is now. It used to be Ruth Dyson, who votes the right way on things and also turned out to be unexpectedly awesome when I started following her Twitter, but now I’m on the northern edge of the Ōhariu electorate – that’s right, Peter Dunne. Peter Dunne is actually, seriously my local MP. I’m really not quite sure what to do with this knowledge.
My main point, though, is that if you’re going to argue with someone, you should probably know something about them before you start making personal attacks. Like, you should probably know whether they struggle with disability, live on well below the minimum wage and have a lengthy history of involvement with community organisations before you say that they’ll never be as qualified as Paula Bennett because they don’t work hard enough, got all their knowledge out of a book and have no real life experience. For example. Relatedly, I spent half of this morning practically crying with laughter as Tau Henare flailed madly attempting to make an insult stick.
Now, sure, I’m not that badly off. I have safety nets and I know how to navigate bureaucracy, though whether I have the energy to is another matter. I grew up in a stable household, went to good schools and got a pretty good secondary education, which are things that are not accessible to everyone, and I’m extremely lucky in that regard. But when I was a wet behind the ears middle class eighteen year old, my higher education goals were Classical Studies and English, not Māori Studies and Social Policy. I imagine very few well off people with no life experience choose social policy as a field (backed up by conversations with classmates on the forums and contact courses), so if I were to try to insult someone who I know studies it, that would really not be my first choice. Mind you, “do-gooder” and “you read books” aren’t exactly my top choices in insult either, so clearly I’m already coming at this from a different place than Tau.
It says something, though, that an MP for the governing party thinks like this. Not only is he willing to get into an argument that involves personal attacks against members of the public, the attacks themselves are very, very revealing. If you think education and wanting to do good are bad things, what does that say about what you think is good? If you have to ask people how something affects them to understand why they don’t like it, how much does it reveal about your own priorities? Shouldn’t the government be concerned about how policy affects everyone, particularly the most vulnerable, and shouldn’t they educate themselves about the ramifications? It’s not even as though they’d have to do much work – there are private citizens and interest groups putting in incredibly detailed submissions about these bills that explain exactly what negative impact it could have. But over the last couple of years there have been numerous bills passed that have had overwhelming opposition at the select committee stage, including some that have had well over 99% of submissions opposed, at least one where the only submission in favour was from the Police, and currently the GCSB bill which is strongly opposed even by the Human Rights Commission.