Thursday, September 25, 2008

Secret Millionaire

There's so much TV involving cameras wandering around after people in 'real life' situations, and I'm not a great fan. However, I've found this series fascinating, despite its potential vulnerability to criticism for being voyeuristic, exploitative or patronising.

The basic plot, if you're not a watcher, is that millionaires live 'undercover' on a basic allowance in a deprived part of the UK. There is an explanation for the camera - making a documentary about new starts, or life in the city, etc. They then get to know some people and organisations, with the expectation that they will make some donations at the end of the programme.

Over the course of the series, it has been very striking that the biggest change is often not in the causes or individuals that they end up supporting, but in the millionaire themselves. Nick Leslau who is estimated as worth £200 million, spoke about the experience of making friends with people who were completely unaware of his money. Most relationships he forms carry with them the suspicion that his money is a factor; in inner-city Glasgow, he was free. Others spoke similarly about being valued for who they were, not what they had.

It made me rethink the story of the rich young man who Jesus met (Luke 18:18-30) A few have taken it this passage be taken literally, like St Francis. Curiously, fundamentalists have been less keen to do so; of course that may have something to do with the fact they are often quite wealthy! Usually the incident is seen as moral condemnation of the rich man, either for being rich per se, or for having the wrong priorities. I just wonder whether it's also about freeing the man to know love, community and relationships that are not tainted by his wealth. Mark says Jesus looked at him and loved him (Mk 10:21); maybe his seemingly harsh command is to free him to know love properly.

As a footnote, they also did a programme on what happened next for some of the millionaires. They continued their relationships and some spent a lot more money trying to give something back to the area they originally visited, and some go back on a regular basis. Catch an episode if you get a chance.

1 comment:

Matthew McMurray said...

Thank you for those thoughts. I have been enjoying the series, although I missed the last one.

I quite agree with your thoughts. When I was in Kenya, it was amazing to see the sense of community that they had: real community in which they come together to share the little that they have and I did wonder whether they were, in fact, richer than we are.

I remember one evening in particular when there was a power cut. Everything in my apartment was run by elecricity so I was unable to cook anything to eat and I had no light to do so either. A lad who was staying with me and I went to one of the women in the village who made us something to eat. It was very humbling for me to see such generosity.

It has been quite interesting on commnunity nights (Thursday evening) to share a meal where we all bring something. There isn't always that much there or that much variety but there is a certain joy in the coming together to share.