Anni is not poor, but affected by poverty. The 39-year-old attaches great importance to this statement. “I have friends and my family. Being poor sounds like I have nothing in life,” she says. But it is above all the economic situation that she is suffering from. One notices: the mother of two, who lives on Hartz IV, would finally like to have the authority to define her life and her situation – and that those affected by poverty should finally have a say for themselves.
Last Thursday, Anni not only gave herself a voice on social networks, but also thousands of other people in precarious financial situations in Germany. Under the hashtag
Anni started it herself: told me about the many jobs she already had. About the fact that she is currently unable to work with severe arthrosis, depression and two children. “But I’m not anti-social, lazy, stupid,” she tweeted.
In an interview with WELT, she describes the “thought carousel” that keeps her busy. “What if the refrigerator breaks down, what if I can’t pay the electricity bill?” Money was always on my mind. The biggest problem at the moment: Due to rising food prices, it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford fresh fruit and vegetables.
Descriptions that seem to hit a nerve. For a week after Anni’s call, people have been tweeting their life stories. Talking about experiences of exclusion, depression, rising cost of living and other problems that life brings with it when money is always tight. CrazyDreamer78 hopes for retraining, but cannot afford a haircut for application photos.
LuffyLumen tells how she cried in the supermarket because she couldn’t buy her children the watermelon they wanted because of the high prices. Apocalpysica79 tells of her deceased child, her severely disabled second child and her life “invisibly on the fringes of society”. Anyone who works through the depressing descriptions gets the impression that many of those affected did not get into their life situations through “laziness”, but through strokes of fate.
People affected by poverty are defamed as lazy, as if they were lying in the “social hammock”, says Anni. Therefore, one is ashamed to report on one’s own situation. Anni herself does not want to read her full name in the newspaper for fear of being harassed privately. And in fact, the descriptions given by those affected by poverty often contain critical messages. But Anni feels: “People realize that they are not alone.”
An early supporter of the campaign is Konstantin Seefeldt. Together with two other co-founders and a network of helpers, the 41-year-old helps those in need with donations in kind and money through his OneWorryLess Foundation. The hashtag is an important development. “The milieu of those affected by poverty is very isolated – and that is now breaking up a bit,” he observes. You support each other against defamatory comments on the net, give each other courage. There is a new cohesion.
And one could also draw the attention of those who are not affected to the situation of the poor. Seefeldt himself proves that this can succeed. He founded the OneWorryLess Foundation after the journalist Christian Baron, who himself comes from a poor background, used the hashtag in 2018
He too criticizes the negative reporting on people in poverty, which began with Agenda 2010. The cliché of the lazy unemployed, for example, reinforced by statements from politicians. Seefeldt remembers, for example, the statement by the then SPD Labor Minister Franz Müntefering: “Those who don’t work shouldn’t eat either.” Many poor people are not even unemployed, but unemployed. They would – and the hashtag shows that – often care for relatives, are less able to work, or simply sick. “Poverty is the result of decades of failed social policy and not the supposed laziness of the poor,” he is convinced.
Seefeldt has observed that the situation of poor people in Germany has become even more precarious since the outbreak of the Ukraine war – mainly because of food prices. “We normally give out meal vouchers worth around 1,000 euros a month, now it’s almost 4,000 euros,” he says. In the current month of May, the amount will increase again. A topic that deserves more attention.
The one-off payments to Hartz IV recipients as part of the relief package are too low. However, he does not anticipate a political rethinking of the fight against poverty. “But maybe you can at least get into conversation with people.”
At least the hashtag has a positive effect on those affected, they feel safer and more self-confident, says Anni: “Twitter has helped me to feel less ashamed of my situation.”