Independent Voices today carries a piece discussing the 200 year tradition of writers and the well to do ’visiting’ the poor to see for themselves how we live; I suppose if my 19 Century great great…grandmother were able to access the articles and books scribed of these visits she may well have felt as I do – incensed. The difference is she most likely didn’t, indeed she would have been fortunate to be able to read, never mind have access to what was written.
Today these journeys into poverty have become a sport; each time I read articles of yet another new TV ‘reality’ show, with a few very wealthy people spending a week living with a poor family, I feel sick. Truthfully I’m not quite sure who I’m most angry with – the so called celebrity who I doubt participates with pure philanthropic reasons, the TV production team who pretend their programmes are documentaries, ( OED definition- to provide a factual report on a particular subject) or the families hosting the show? Perhaps this is in part, down to my working class upbringing – you don’t wash your dirty linen in public, but whatever my personal reasons for my fury, I certainly do not appreciate my peers being treated as a different breed of human, one fit only to be examined under the microscope of a camera.
This latest round of the dubiously named Famous, Rich And …(this time)Hungry is the fourth is the series from the BBC, and having previously ‘investigated’ Slums, Homeless and Jobless, what has been the outcome – have the participating celebrities learnt so much they now dedicate their time and money to resolving these very real problems, or has the lives of those who shared their misery altered? I can find positive evidence of neither option; this is the same with ITVs 2011 offering ‘Home is where the heart is’.
So what is the real purpose of these snapshots into life on Poverty Street, – to allow those fortunate individuals not surviving there, sit back and after 55 minutes and using the remote control, switch off their conscience as the credits role; I put to them, since when did I and my peers become nothing more than creatures to be observed from the safety of the sofa? However it must be noted, the ever growing number of programmes like this play no small part in the ongoing Systematic desensitization of the public; repeated exposure to the vile and increasingly deadly results of Welfare Reform and other Government Policies actually neutralises their effect; it is possibly for this reason, the public generally, are not reacting.
The only way to address these results is through the use of critical thinking, we’re all told to read the small print at the bottom of official papers and this is the same idea, you wouldn’t automatically trust someone you don’t know with your money or your children, so why trust the the Government or their agents with the same? We’ve had years of rhetoric from the press and media repeatedly reporting how we on poverty street, are here out of choice; we’re lazy, scrounging, skivers who create our poor health through our inability to find a job, budget, eat well and become disabled as a result. This combined with such TV spoon feeds the national with their ‘truth’ ”Apart from the telly and the cigarettes, they’re living like animals“; well yes I am an animal, and I’m from the same species as the celebrities, reporters and producers that create this fodder, and those above them that endorse it.
Both the Director General of the BBC – Tony Hall and the Director of ITV – Andy Haste certainly belong to the Elite in terms of finance, earning £450,00 and a whopping £2,56627.20 in 2013/2014 respectively; and it is these, predominately men, and others like them that determine the content and the messages of the media. And the the fact these media designers choose to label me and my Poverty Street neighbours as lesser, raises the question of why, what is there to gain by his persistent outpouring of uninformed negative press?
It is proven that “use of Fear-provoking words like poverty and illness stimulate the brain in negative ways” it can impair logic, reason and communication; used repeatedly it can “damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions” and “ make you more prejudiced toward others“ ; given this, the relentless declaration of blame upon us residents, isn’t as harmless as it first appears.
This is the reason why I implore everyone who watches/reads this media onslaught doesn’t merely ‘switch off ‘ afterwards, and muse on there for the grace of…personal deity; but instead asks the question who made the rich zoo-keepers of the poor?
And if you’re not convinced, the next time you read or watch this hype, – think of IDS & Co saying this George Orwell, Animal Farm
Comrades!’ he cried. ‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples.”