The words 'social experiment' fill me with dread and a sense of impending disappointment; normally because when they appear they appear on my Facebook news feed. They seem to be the sole reserve of the attention-starved: 'Tell me how we met in one word - just a social experiment!!' I rarely see follow up status updates revealing results, analysis and conclusions - probably because nine times out of 10 the conclusion was 'no one cared'.
This week however, a non-needy so-called social experiment went viral, namely the Fuck The Poor? video posted on YouTube by the The Pilion Trust Charity. How could I not click on this link? I am both a) 'poor' - in that I survive on paltry benefit payments, and b) 'fucked' - in that on the same day this video went viral I received a letter telling me my benefits were to be stopped. I am proper poor and I am proper fucked, so who better to cast a critical eye?
The unsettling letter disrupted my routine and I arrived to the internet late in the morning and after the debating comments about the campaign's message of 'We know you care. Please care enough to give', were in full, divisive swing. How do we motivate the nation from caring to donating in light of the evidence provided by this social experiment?
But something didn't feel right about this, it didn't feel very experiment-y to me. In his Fuck The Poor mode, he doesn't ask for money so he and whoever the dished out leaflets say he represents can buy some secondhand partially-depleted uranium and wipe out the wretched at the local food bank. He just stands around using the expletive and bellowing out the offensive sentiment while fending off a barrage of abuse during the morning rush hour. It might've been a different experiment if he did the same at pub closing time, my prediction would be that he'd face less gentle haranguing and more punching on the nose.
And then the sarnie board is flipped over, the collection tin is whipped out and he morphs into his 'Help The Poor' mode. And is ignored. And this 'social experiment' leads us to the conclusion we're all total bastards. And I must be a bastard too, because when I see a man with a sandwich board rattling his unsanctioned charity tin without any clue as to which charity (if any) he is working for, I too would ignore him. Even fraudsters posing as gas meter readers have the decency to forge identity passes before their heartless, heinous crimes. If everyone passing 'Help The Poor' man popped a quid in his tin then my conclusion would be that we're not a nation of carers, but rather we're a nation of gullible idiots.
We don't know if just around the corner there was the world's most charming charity chugger who had already wooed the direct debit details of everyone on that road. We don't know how many of those people donate £5 every month from their bank account to Médecins Sans Frontières.
Or maybe we're being led by example; this government sure seems keen to fuck the poor, why else would it have sent me that letter? We're all in it together, right? So let's all fuck the poor together. I don't know. Still, at least he didn't conduct the experiment at pub closing time, my prediction would be that he'd face less ignoring and more mugging.
What I do know is this, as a social experiment it was poor, but as an awareness and marketing campaign it was awesome. I know this because the next click of my mouse led me to the homepage of the charity that I had previously never heard of. And I dare say that many of the other 500,000 and counting viewers followed suit. Have I since donated any money? No, I am still poor and I am still fucked. And I am not the only one - perhaps that is another reason why eyes are averted.
So while I loathe half-baked social experiments, I do love awareness campaigns which aim to help the impoverished. Perhaps that is selfish of me as I'll probably be scouting out my nearest food bank in the coming months as my disability living allowance is rerouted from my bank account into a hedge fund.
Accordingly, you can help me by helping them and doing your philanthropic bit for the anti-poverty group at The PilionTrust Chartity's donation page HERE.