Because I have been thinking about giving, about generosity, what it really means, and how far we'll go to avoid being generous. How far we'll go to avoid equalizing the situation for everyone on this earth.
As Christmas dawns in the horizon, two things become extremely noticeable in South Africa, or at least in my part of Joburg: increased security and beggars. To me, these two speak of the same thing - desperation. Being the highly westernized (by which I mean Coca-Colaized, McDonaldized, and Oprahized) and religious nation this proud nation is, Christmas is a big thing. It also happens to take place smack in the middle of the big summer vacation, which easily makes it the biggest holiday in South Africa.
People want to celebrate, they want to provide, they want to give and receive presents, and they want to eat good food with their families. Or at least many of them do.
To achieve this, most of them work hard the whole year. Some of them decide to rob a grocery store, hijack a car, steal a delivery of cellphones, or break into a house and empty it of cash, electronics, and jewelry, as every year before Christmas the number of all of these crimes goes up. And some others decide to stand at intersections and ask for money. Sometimes with their children or a blind person in tow for sympathy.
Many of them don't have any other choice.
In my time in South Africa the subject of begging has come up quite a few times, and I've heard many an explanation on why one should NOT give any money to beggars, and none too many on why one should, or even why it would be okay to do so. I've also heard plenty of, what I consider to be nothing but stupid urban legends with absolutely no truth to them, stories about someone living large off of the few coins they beg for at a stoplight. I've also seen real beggars getting nothing while windows roll down for white matric students (those finishing high school) who 'beg' for money at a crossroads to fund their matric trips to some beachside town.
From the media in Finland I know that my own nation (oh the shame) is trying to outlaw begging, or possibly already has, and seems to consider such a phenomenon, which is quite a recent addition, a huge disruption of the Finnish society perpetrated by a bunch of Romanians (the tabloid version, but the proper media is not using terms much more complicated) who come for the summer and establish tent-villages, which Finland also feels should be eradicated. Like right now. There are also urban legend-ish stories (circulated by the mainstream media also) of how these people who make it to Finland from Romania for the summer aren't poor at all, but just out to leach on us and use us to make more money in addition to their already good incomes.
A pure load of bull, I'm sure you would agree.
Here's what I feel is closer to one kind of truth. To a truth about an everyday life here for many South African citizens.
- Begging is hard work. It is not an 'easy way out', or something one does out of being lazy. It's hot and dusty, cold, dangerous, monotonous, uncertain, and you probably get if not physically, then at least verbally abused quite a bit.
- No one has ever gotten rich from begging, or even moderately wealthy.
- Not everyone, or even many, of the people who beg are drunks or drug-addicts. Especially in South Africa or Finland. And even if some of them are, that does not mean that all of them are.
- Regardless of hearing numerous stories on begging-rings with big bosses behind the whole operation there is no hard evidence anywhere of such activity.
- There simply aren't jobs for everyone. Or at least jobs that will keep a family afloat.
If one has more than enough to cover their own basic needs, shouldn't some of that go to covering the basic needs of one's fellow humans? And if the government cannot get a system based on paying taxes to do just that to work properly, isn't physically giving that money to those who need it the next best thing?
Really, I just can't fathom how it could be any more complicated than that. I just can't.
And if you're not cool with just blindly believing every word I write here (as you shouldn't since I am certainly not an authority on anything else besides what I think is right, tequila, coffee and wine), here are some of these awesome mansions these beggars who make hundreds of dollars every week live in. Obviously.
Thoughts? Nice ones.
Thoughts? Nice ones.