Red Nose Day arrived stateside for the first time this year. The day dedicated to raising money for children and young people living in poverty began in the U.K. and Canada in 1988; makes sense given the mood of charitable concerts and records sold for the sake of starving children in Africa in the 1980s. The Live Aid concert held in the UK and simultaneously in the US, Australia, and Germany in 1985 to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief offers one example. That same year, actually months before Live Aid, US musicians recorded the charitable single “We are the World,” which was in fact inspired by the 1984 Band Aid charity group comprised of British and Irish musicians whose song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” sought to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine. For years, the famine and drought in Ethiopia were attributed to poor farming practices in the Sahel region. This attribution of blame, in fact, was misplaced as scientists later learned that coal-burning factories in the US and Europe were most likely at fault.
Celebrities continue to offer their time and talents for the benefit of those suffering as a result of natural disasters, human cruelty, and general global recklessness. While I think these efforts are quite nice, I often wonder when we’re going to stop these momentary efforts and begin to think seriously about structural change. There is enough money and food in this world to feed, house, and clothe everyone in it. Instead of doing “something funny for money,” I’d rather spend time being honest about why ANY child should be living in poverty. WE HAVE ENOUGH (of everything) to provide for ALL CHILDREN. It is disgraceful that for many children the ability to eat stems from acts of charity; that adequate clothing results from “coats for kids” drives; that being equipped with school supplies depends on the good graces of grocery store shoppers willing to donate a dollar towards “back-to-school” items.
I consider such charity disgraceful because it shouldn’t be necessary in a wealthy world. I also find it disgraceful because we know for a fact that childhood poverty has absolutely nothing to do with the effort, work, or goodness of children. Children are born into families whose financial status, home life stability, work habits, mental and physical health was not of that child’s choosing; it was just the luck of the draw. If we know that a child’s status and standing in life has nothing to do with choice, why don’t we commit to taking care of children? Rather than doing “something funny for money,” why not do something thoughtful with how we distribute it? Children living in poverty underscore so much of what’s wrong with capitalism; it’s selfish, short-sighted and mean-spirited…and not one bit funny.