Thursday, 17 March 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

Tomorrow's the big day – the day countless organisers and fund raisers have been working towards. Comic Relief's Big Red Nose making a passionate appeal to the nation. Sponsored activities, comedy sketches, and trailers of poverty all doing their bit to raise money for the developing world. Families and children living in slums, survival against the odds in harsh conditions. You'd think like everyone else, (so it seems), I'd be a supporter, but in fact it's very much the opposite. I go against the tide. It's Big Red Nose, a Big Turn Off.

Why this refusal to get involved? “Charity begins at home”, others state to explain their case. I can't say the same. The whole of Earth home, a global community. Scared of clowns? The thought has crossed my mind. Freaking out at any form of costume as a child, or so I'm told. Human-disguised Father Christmases, clowns and animals had me running from the room. Fear gone, the running remains, but this time from these charity requests. Same sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I prepare to flee or switch off the televised images beamed at me. Are these comic fund raisers for them or for us?

It's for charity, so pick up the phone”, the overriding theme. Meddling in other people's affairs. Yes, the developing world deserves better, but not at this expense. Few pounds here, few notes there – throwing money around the answer to their prayers. This will pull them out of poverty, giving them a better life. Well I disagree. Number dialled, donation given, we sit back and relax. Giving to others to make ourselves feel good, uncaring about the result. Where does that money go? Is it what the people want?

Poverty, like everything else, is subjective. What we perceive as poverty isn't necessarily the case. The poverty trap here is not the same poverty witnessed there. Is our definition wrong? The pursuit of more to blame. Impoverished nations happier, living with far less complaint, Western nations seething with discontent. Who has the better life? Charity, often our way of looking down - our lives are better than yours approach. The Western lifestyle imposed on those leading simpler lives. This, our brand to sell – television, technology and other material goods. McDonald's and Heinz, among the portfolio of imported features to maintain.

Should we try to change the only way of life they've ever known? Change essential if nations are to improve, but aid given freely in their best interests, and not ours. Nations will develop if allowed to keep their customs strong. Health, Education, Nutrition at the core. The H.E.N strategy for a healthy life. But why is this taking us so long? Could it be that aid given as money is not the right form? The film, Patch Adams, makes a very valuable point: If you focus on the problem, you can't see the solution. Never focus on the problem.

Pain not the focus, but understanding what they need. The Big Red Nose a ruse to distract them from their suffering. This is what Comic Relief should be about – clowning around. Giving joy the focus. Laughter the best medicine in town.