Walking Through The Concrete Jungle In A Suit: The Tao of Effective Charity
So, begging. Yet another one about begging.
– I came to wander, stalk and witness the heat stricken streets if London, and was on arrival met and welcomed by a shower of its famous rain – after a period of what was said to be a near, if not a full on drought. I came to see, observe, and capture what I saw through the lens. What was, if any, the difference between the famous metropolis that is the financial hub of Europe, and Oslo, referred to as “The World’s Largest Village”?
Well, the amount of beggars per capita in London was nowhere near that of Oslo, but the amount of homeless people in plain sight, sleeping in the streets, was one to which Oslo cannot even hold a candle.
Waiting for the bus, on my way to Newcastle, I was witness to my first ever event of feeling despisement towards the less fortunate; a situation where I witnessed a grown woman aggressively begging from children. Teenagers are fair game, in regards of asking for help, but when someone shoves a paper cup in the face of a child who could not possibly have been older than the age of ten, my immediate inner outrage was: “you would do that do a child? Fuck you, you get nothing” – as she caught my judging gaze and seemed to take offence.
Later that evening, waiting for the bus, I sat on a bench at Victoria Coach Station, and got chatting with a man of African descent, about begging and beggars, as both of us seemed to had been approached more times, for considerably more than either of us could afford to hand out that day, as, hours later, the woman in mention came passing by once again, wandering through the hall with said cup.
At this point, I in fact didn’t have anything to give, so I politely shrugged and she went off, as I took up a bag of bread and a pack of cheese to give to her, which she either missed or ignored. Either way: the obvious was obvious: the difference between begging out of necessity and considering begging a “hustle”, having begging as a, in lack of better words, “profession”.
Organised begging has been a controversy in Oslo for a fair amount of time, and I have witnessed the phenomena in much greater scale in places like India, where children as young as two years old are bought and sold from their families and forced into begging for the gains and profits of cynical people capitalising on the misery and desperation of others.
So who am I to judge someone for being part of a scheme milking a market where the sympathy and compassion for the weak, at times is used to put guilt trips on people as leverage for pocket change?
I have no clue, much less any valid information, in regards of anyone’s motives, backstory or reasons for being in that situation. Some are in debt to organised crime and forced into it. Others are doing it it voluntarily, because it is profitable, as in the case of organised begging rings, much more so than an honest days work. Not that begging cannot be honest, quite the contrary, but when it is considered a hustle and a legitimate way of making a living, rather than a I-simply-do-not-have-the-ability-to-support-myself-and-survive-in-any-other-way kind fo thing, the cynic in me brushes it off as cynical exploitation of other’s care for the less fortunate.
But, still, I cannot in any legitimate way tell who is a beggar from the causes of dire needs: most worthy of anything and any amount I can afford to give, and who is a charlatan: making me feel bad for having the privilege of having a meal that day.
So if I have, I give. And if I get the suspicion that am being taken for a fool, I get upset at the fact that I react the way I do, not knowing if that indeed is the case. Which ..well… what? Is not constructive in regards of dealing with the issue in a pragmatic manner. It just makes you kick yourself for being a judgemental POS.
So what can be done, to help those who are victims of criminals profiting on both the misery and desperation of their victims, as well as on the conscience and good intentions of the upper, middle, and even, bottom class citizens, who to them, are the affluent elite?
A simple solution, would be to employ and implement the approach many have when traveling to places like poverty stricken areas in developing countries, where organised begging is known to happen: if you want to give, which, when you see the conditions the beggars live under, you will: give more. But not to the beggars. Give rather to a charity that you see is doing something good.
To establish in the west, charities that help and empower the victims of organised begging rings, and offer a hand up, not a handout.
Criminals would always find a way to exploit this as well, so instead of these new charities offering direct, personal financial contributions, they could offer to provide food, shelter and education, and over time , one individual at a time, render the need to beg non-existent. A slightly utopian idea, but not a more radical one, than it is realistic. I have met and seen the products of such charities being business owners, offering myself shelter, kindness and hospitality at their own establishments when traveling in Asia.
The British paper The Evening Standard had a full page ad on the back of what was the current issue at the time, from Facebook saying “Fake accounts are not our friends” – while the context of the ad was a completely different one, the sentiment rings through: being a friend in need, is being a friend of the one in need, not the ones perpetuating it.
Don’t support organised begging. Organise to support the beggars who don’t want to beg, but are forced to do so. It can, with organisation, easily be done.
How? Petition your government to establish and fund new charities dedicated to the provision of food, shelter and, primarily, education, of the children of beggars, and the beggars themselves – rather than short term, and often, effectively disempowering, as well as expensive and in the long term, non-effective financial support.
If they dont want their children to be educated, and have the ability to support themselves – or even if they choose to continue begging themselves, the choice is of course their own to make. But if knowingly robbing your child of an education and the possibility of escaping the fate that was handed to yourself, is a choice, it is a choice no loving parent would knowingly choose.
Here’s to empowering the powerless: To reduce, and even perhaps eliminate the need for beggars to beg: Make Charity Great Again: offer more than coin. Put your coin to good use, and offer food, shelter and knowledge – I beg you.