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Sending out an SOS

Comments Off on Sending out an SOS 29 June 2017

Sending out an SOS

Until recently, I didn’t know much about the BBC show DIY SOS. As soon as I saw the letters DIY, my eyes glazed over. A trip to B&Q is, to my mind, about as enjoyable as root canal surgery. But the other week I saw the story of a woman who was on kidney dialysis and a load of builders came in and rebuilt her house so she could be treated at home. It was a lovely story and I almost shed a tear at the end. I felt more like shedding a tear when I remembered that for every one person whose life is transformed by a well-meaning telly show there are thousands, maybe even millions, of people who aren’t so lucky and that got me to thinking. Is random selection by the BBC the way to deal with society’s problems?

DIY SOS is not quite the same as a charity, although the principles are much the same. People give up their time – I don’t know who pays for the raw materials – to make and build stuff. It warms your heart, doesn’t it, to see ordinary folk doing nice things for other ordinary folk just because they can and because they want to. It cools my heart to think that society doesn’t believe everyone who is in trouble deserves help, too.

Take your average terminally ill or seriously disabled person. They do not usually have the prospect of Nick Knowles and various other good people knocking on their door. On the contrary, they are normally vilified as scroungers, living off the back of taxpayers. Recent governments, backed by the usual media suspects, have portrayed those on benefits as being parasites when, in truth, most of them are no little from the poor people struggling with next to nothing on DIY SOS.

I mentioned charity earlier because, as we have said before it exists to pay for the things we as a society deem are not important enough to be funded through taxation. We as a society are represented – I use that word in the most general sense – by politicians of the left and right who tell us that tax is a bad thing. Theresa May’s Tories are no different from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, here. Both parties pretend that they can make Britain a better place and there is no need to increase taxes in order to do so. In which case, how come Nick Knowles and his pals are needed to fill in the gaps?

This is not to disparage anyone who gives up time and, for all I know, money to appear on the show. I am very fond of saying that most people you will meet are good people and think nothing of helping someone who has fallen on hard times. This is why DIY SOS works so well. But the show helps one person a week for a series of shows. What is happening the rest of the time?

I’d say not very much. My professional experience tells me that there are many people who have just been abandoned by society. They often live a miserable, squalid existence, getting by on a pittance, unable to get out and go out, essentially waiting for God, if they have one. With vast cuts to local authority funding, nothing as extravagant as DIY SOS goes on away from the cameras. Away from the “lights, camera, action” life goes on and for many life is merely the act of living.

We are most of us getting older and with that comes a cost. Add to that the numbers in society who need our help and we have a substantial problem. We are cutting public funding to types of projects like those carried out on DIY SOS and beneath the surface things are getting much worse.

It is great to see people coming together to improve the lives of people they may not already know. That’s a smaller version of the country in which we live whereby we all contribute to a civilised society through taxation. But for so many people, the existence they endure is anything but civilised.

Above all, DIY SOS is an entertainment show, just like Strictly Come Dancing is an entertainment show. Neither of them change the world but both make us feel better for a short while.

Come tomorrow and thousands upon millions of people will be living miserable existences with no prospect of their lives getting better but with the prospect that they will almost certainly get worse. Many of us will talk about DIY SOS and quite right too, but it’s unlikely to change a thing in our society.

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