I guess as a viewer it’s more comfortable to be guided through a moral process that’s simple and clearly signposted. The Secret Millionaire is a programme where a rich person goes on a ‘journey’, pretending to be poor and ordinary in order to visit some worthy charitable projects incognito. They learn a great deal about themselves and others, meet some decent, down to earth folk and end up giving away tens of thousands of pounds of their own money to decent causes. That’s all good surely. Or is it?
I do confess to enjoying watching The Secret Millionaire, and I get as emotional as anyone. This week it was the turn of Bolton-born parcel-delivery magnate, Fil Adams-Mercer to don some cheap clothes, grow some facial hair and learn about how it feels to struggle in Doncaster. Fil is a man with a powerful work ethic. I guess he wouldn’t have become so vastly successful in business otherwise. It informs his view of what he sees, and he begins with very little understanding of the impact of unemployment, ill-health, despair, depression on other people. He can’t see why those who are able to volunteer can’t just get a job instead. He almost seems to despise people for not being as strong-minded as he is.
Early on, Fil is clearly reluctant to consider spend his money on a project run by an 81 year chap – it doesn’t seem a sensible business decision. But then something shifts in him. It’s as if somebody gives him a pair of compassion specs, and he begins to see the value of the people he meets; the Firefly Club, run by cancer survivors, which supports others who are ill, the Tricon foundation, which helps all sorts of folks in trouble who have no-one else to turn to, and Refurbish, which reskills people, bringing them back to a feeling of worth and value. There’s a particular woman Fil is drawn to in Refurbish. She’s very warm and kind and we discover that she came to Refurbish after her life and health were torn apart after a stroke. The project vastly helped her recovery. Fil eventually discovers she also supports a son with autism and a learning disability. When Fil shaves off his stubble and ‘reveals’ his true wealthy self, he gives all three projects substantial sums of money but gives her personally £5,000 too. It will undoubtedly help.
I’m very pleased these people have been given money. They are amazing, and deserve recognition and support, financial or otherwise. And it would move anyone to tears, seeing how happy being valued makes them.
What troubles me is that sending in random millionaires to various poor regions, and helping two or three projects at a time does not really seem a sustainable way to support needy people. It’s tempting to cheer at the end of the programme because everyone seems happy at the outcome. But dig a bit deeper, and ultimately it shows even more starkly the gaping divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Posted by Inkface