FEEDBACK; true gripes; charity shops

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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up..."

Oh yes it is. A quick tour round the local charity shops and St Paul wouldn't have been quite so fulsome in his praises. What are charity shops but old- age-pensioners' clubs? What do they sell except the cast- off refuse of the affluent? What do they say about our society?

Something pretty nasty. We are now a society in which the poor are expected to depend on charity rather than to claim their rights as human beings. A society in which well-dressed ladies can dispense their unctuous patronage, the modern equivalent of Victorian gruel for the poor, by giving their tat to a charity shop. They accrue still more moral Access by "helping out" (note: charity shop staff are never "workers", never humble shop assistants, they are "helpers", a genteel term for bumbling old incompetents who can't spot a shoplifter at 10 paces).

Charity shop workers are definitely not kind (try them on single mothers) and they envy till they're as green as an ecology raffle ticket ("they've got much more room in Oxfam"). As for not being puffed up, the airs and graces some shops give themselves would disgrace Harrods.

Ah, you say, but charity shops do good work. Totally misguided. If all that time and energy lavished on sorting through old rayon jumpers and cracked lemon-squeezers were directed into political pressure just think how effective it would be. If all those thousands of voluntary workers would pack their charity work in and put pressure on the Government to do something about the problem of poverty, we would no longer have a country where medical research has to depend on your cast-offs, where pensioners have to beg for charity to pay their heating bills. We might actually do something about Third World poverty, instead of making pious noises and dragging on with minute amounts of sticking-plaster aid.

It won't happen, of course. What do the charity shops really sell? It looks like a load of shoddy old rubbish, but they are high-class purveyors of a rare commodity - the feel-good factor? And who's going to give that up in favour of the poor old Rights of Man?