IF an alien attempted to gauge life in Britain by watching television, he would come to the conclusion that we live in a society of Poles Apart, inhabited by two distinct races: the Haves and the Have-Nots.
As Christmas approaches, the Haves are exhorted to buy presents that glitter and glow and cost an arm and a leg. In fact, the only way the Have-Nots would be able to buy such gifts would be by selling an arm or a leg or, at the very least, a kidney.
Laptops, iPhones, Kindles and video games. Perfumes that make the wearer for ever young and beautiful (you never see anyone old and ugly dabbing a bit behind their ear). Electrical devices and glamorous clothes. Luxury cars and holidays abroad.
The Have-Nots, meanwhile, balance budgets between food and heat and wonder how on earth they will manage to fulfil the expectations of their children on Christmas morn.
Which is why they are exhorted to take out a loan which will be in their bank within an hour at only 278 % interest.
Or they could play the Health Lottery, with the possibility of winning £100,000, although the Have-Nots are already playing a health lottery, with poor diet and lack of heating.
It is even suggested that a Lottery ticket or scratch card would make a good Christmas present on the basis that hope springs eternal when you are struggling to survive.
Television marketing underlines more than ever the disparity in our recession-hit society. The adverts reflect the Prime Minister’s Big Society in all its failures and the emptiness of the Chancellor’s assertion that we are all in it together.
Poverty is relative. One man’s belt tightening means only two holidays abroad rather than three whilst another’s is a loan so he can stagger on to pay day or pay for Christmas at an exorbitant rate.
This year’s festive season can be summed up for many by that Dickensian scene of the street urchin pressing his face against the cake shop window.
“All animals are equal but some are more equal than others,” said George Orwell in Animal Farm. And the difference is never so marked as at this time of year.