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(en) Britain, Direct Action # 35 - Brown Nose Day

Date Sat, 27 Aug 2005 20:38:42 +0300

Anyone working for a saner world will, from time to time, be faced
with the choice of caring for present suffering or working to remove
the cause of the suffering. The choice is always painful. More so
because we know that a preoccupation with the present inexhaustible
supply of suffering is a means of social control. We all
know people who have become so involved in caring for present
suffering that they have no time - and eventually no optimism - for
the radical changes which would remove the source of the problem.
Charity has the double social role of relieving poverty while easing
the guilty conscience of the giver. It keeps the poor in a permanent
state of dependence and, for the sake of a coin in a box, gives the
rich the feeling that they have done something to relieve suffering.
What charity doesn’t do is attack the cause of poverty,
starvation, famine and disease.

In recent years charity has moved away from the world of religion
and bourgeois philanthropy into the world of the cult of the celeb,
single-issue politics and ‘caring capitalism’, it does some
actual, if short term, good while presenting absolutely no threat
whatsoever to the capitalist status quo. In fact it actively supports
that status quo and thereby perpetuates the very cause of the
suffering which it claims to want to alleviate.

It’s not that there isn’t enough food and medicines in the
world – quite the reverse. Over-production is one of
capitalism’s major problems, due to insane notions like ‘just
in time’ production. The problem is that the poor don’t have
the money to buy these essential commodities – and capitalism
isn’t going to give them away. History has countless examples
demonstrating that capitalists would rather destroy surplus food than
give it away to hungry people.

What charities do is encourage the rich to buy these essentials on
behalf of the poor. Thus capitalism gets to sell its previously
unsaleable surplus production and charity donations are recycled
back into the hands of capitalism – which caused the problem in
the first place.

Charity re-appears not as individual acts of generosity existing
outside capitalist values, but as an integral part of a balanced
capitalist ideology. So we get the spectacle of ‘Lord Geldof
Day’ as the assembled celebs brown nose each other in an orgy
of ‘look at me’. Not that Geldof isn’t important in
understanding how the meaning of Live Aid has been constructed
– far from it. In a period where the very ethos of a planned,
socialised and welfareist society is running down – or being run
down – and the ‘individual-in-the-market’ is the
intended focus of all social organisation, a happy story where an
individual can be seen to put the world to rights is of tremendous
ideological value. Value, that is, to an interest group which depends
on fostering Victorian charity values and free market fantasies.

Journal of the anarchist Solidarity Federation

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