It seems that at the minute I am too busy to blog. In fact I’m too busy to think some days. It’s one of the joys of being a freelancer, that when a work offer comes in you have to say Yes. With no way of knowing when the next job might appear, you have this terror that this offer might be the last for a while. Even if the work is rolling in, you can’t be sure that it will stay that way. So that’s why my blog has been sitting dormant recently.
Annoyingly there have been a load of things I wanted to blog about. Almost every day something came up that got the blood boiling and the fingers hovering over the keyboard. But work got in the way, so the time past. The thing that I really wanted to blog about this week was Children in Need. As someone who appeared on something very similar at the start of my career, with a two day non-stop live appearance as presenter on the Thames Telethon back in 1992, and who had that career severely damaged by the bad reaction of people who felt that charity was wrong, you would have thought I would be in favour of this yearly charity fest. But you would be wrong. You see, on many levels the whole thing is equally wrong.
Let’s think about the portrayal of disability first. Anyone who reads my blogs and articles will know that portrayal is very important to me. I feel that the media should try so much harder to ensure that it changes the way it covers disability, yet with this kind of charity event negative portrayal is essential to keep the money coming in.
Poor little crippled kids… they need your help. Their lives are so awful that without your money they will only be sad and their future is bleak. Give generously. Your money will make their tragic lives a little better. Poor little things, it so sad that they are the way they are. Aren’t you lucky?
Of course charity always has to pull on your heart strings, but the reason why I did the Telethon way back when is that I thought it would subconsciously say that disabled people can give charity as well as receive it. But after I did it, I was accosted in a lft by the wonderful Vicky Waddington who explained why the charity model of disability – which paints us as victims in need of help – has no positive effects for us disabled types. After talking to her I understood that charity is just plain wrong, especially this kind of jumbo media event. Sure it could be vehicle for real change, with money being raised to pay for the changes we really need in society. Better access, better understanding and more equality. But those are not the kind of things that pull of those heart strings and purse strings. The point of a telethon event is raising money, so that is the sole point of the program. The aim is to raise more money than the last event. That’s how you measure the success of it.
Now I could write on this subject for pages, but as I said I’m too damn busy. So I hope that all of you that did watch Children in Need/Stand Up To Cancer/Red Nose Day felt a little uncomfortable during the hours of “fun”. Just imagine if it was people like you who were targeted as being deserving of charity and pity. Not a great feeling.
Let’s take the item on the One Show that Ade Adepitan presented on dancing for disabled kids. It claimed that giving money to a special dance class for disabled children is a good thing. But if you think about it, wouldn’t it be better if the kids that went to this special class could just go to a mainstream dance class with other non-disabled kids and learn to dance? A totally mixed class where everyone was equal. I have just interviewed the fantastic disabled dancer Laura Jones for a Disability Now article, who was the first disabled person to study dance at college. She helped choreograph the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and is a superb dancer. Surely that is the way to go? Not only is it inclusive but it will mean that more disabled people will become professional dancers. But even if they don’t, and they just do dance for the love of dance, they will have an experience of being equal to the other members of the class. Not special, different… and in some way less.
To me it’s the same for all of the various good causes. To raise money they need to focus on the difference, yet the only way to make the world better is to make everyone see that we are all the same. Whether we’re disabled, poor, old, young, or whatever, we are all human. So we all deserve the same chances and until charity aims to do that, it will divide us all. I mean even the title of Children In Need spells out difference.
Anyway, that’s enough for now. All I ask is that you think about it.