Friday 18th November was “Children in Need”, the five and a half hours the BBC devotes to its annual fund- raising event, what used to be called a telethon. Celebrity celebrating its own self-importance and collective moral conscience.
It would not be popular to take issue with such an event. As was written in the “Radio Times for that day, “…there’s really no excuse for forgetting what this is all about – raising money for a worthy cause.”
After all it’s for children who are sick, deprived, who are carers for invalid parents, whom life has treated badly. There can be no doubt whatsoever that many, many children, here and abroad, exist in such desperate circumstances.
The question, however, is should disadvantaged children have to depend on charity. However glitzy it now is this remains essentially a hangover from the harsh days of Victorian capitalism, when the great and the good salved their consciences through dispensing alms to the deserving poor.
By focusing on children there can be no question as to their being deserving and as an institution its origins are not that far removed from Victorian times. “Children in Need” is the present incarnation of an appeal begun in the early days of the BBC.
There is an irony in the mascot, Pudsey bear, being one-eyed. There is not a clear vision as to why the event is still needed. Having been repeated over decades it obviously is not dealing with the central issue, that there are children having to cope with dreadful circumstances that society generally ignores apart from one day a year.
No one, celebrity or otherwise, publicly asks the question, “Why does society not meet the needs of all its children?” The answer is that those children are not profitable. In a system which is driven by the profit motive, channelling significant wealth to those children would mean subtracting it from the sum total of profits.
As a charity appeal solicits money from the general population, it is collected from the purses and wallets of workers whose salaries and wages have already been paid out and therefore accounted for by the economics of capitalism. It is not a further drain on potential profit.
What “Children in Need” does positively demonstrate is that the working class has a social conscience, that human beings are not just driven by personal greed and self-interest. It also shows an intrinsic understanding that people, children or adults, have different needs that should be catered for, which can be met according to the ability to contribute.
Put simply, it is a demonstration of humanity as social, co-operative beings. If this was to be translated into establishing socialism, whereby the principle of from each according to ability, to each according to need was the norm, there would be no requirement for charity.
“Children in Need” has taken place exactly a week before “Black Friday” when the worst of capitalism is manifested through frenzied consumption. The amounts of money involved will make the funds raised by Pudsey seem miniscule in comparison. Why turn a blind eye to this?