65. Beggars

“Scuze me mate, got any spare change? Ah fanks pal.”

The world and controversy go together like strawberries and cream.  No matter what you do or when you do it you are bound to upset somebody.  Thankfully because I’m half English and half British I can call upon scores of examples to back up my assertion.  Those living in the 80’s may recall the Conservative’s Section 28.  Basically the Tory old guard made legislation that local authorities may not willingly promote homosexuality.  Ok, whether you agree or not is irrelevant, it was hugely controversial.  Staying with dear old Margaret for a moment, you may remember something called the Poll Tax.  This involved an ill-calculated effort to raise funds to help pay for the shooting of people.  In 1997 Tony Blair was elected to power, that in itself was controversial and you may recall a small debate about a country called Iraq, a man called Saddam and a few thousand invisible weapons of mass destruction.  And an idiot called Alastair Campbell.

On a lesser scale there are bank charges to be paid.  There is fuel duty on the rise.  There are unfair systems that are sadly designed on logic.  There is little winning for the authorities and they have us all believe that we are in it together.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

It was announced this week that the authorities are to be clamping down on beggars.  In case you are not familiar with the concept, a beggar is a person who begs for things, whether it is for money, food, clothing or an invasion of an oil rich state.  There are many ways of begging, you can knock on somebody’s front door or you can approach them on the street.  The goal of the task to acquire something you did not have previously.

Sadly, beggars come in two different forms, there are genuine paupers who have one day found that they have no home, no money, no food and no hope, and there are those who are villains.  Sometimes it is jolly difficult to tell between the two.  So, to be safe we have all been told that if we report a beggar, we are to be rewarded with some cash.  How much cash you get depends on the size of the beggar, I presume.

Now, how would I deal with this?  I would feel tremendously guilty about sending a real beggar to jail, but would quite happily condemn a charlatan.  So what do I do to fathom between the two?  Johnny Beggar turns up at the front door, should I invite him in?  Should I ask him some questions in a language I very likely won’t be able to speak?  Should I just give him – or indeed her – AED 5 or a KitKat and take the hit?  I don’t know.  There isn’t enough time to sufficiently screen the candidate.  And then on top of that are they going to be willing to hang around for the police?

What perplexes me about the whole thing is that it is being automatically assumed that all beggars are frauds and that the truth is they are all driving around in BMW’s wearing Ted Baker suits with bikini clad super models in the back.  I doubt this is so.  Sure there will be a few fraudsters, but I am fairly certain a lot of the poor folk are completely desperate.  This is going to cause some people a great deal of confusion.  So a beggar comes to your door, you call the old bill and let them know.  Then what, you invite the poor soon-to-be-jailbird in for tea?  Apprehend them with rope?  This is the kind of thing that has ramifications.  What if someone doesn’t like someone else and wrongfully accuses them of being a beggar just to get the cash?  No, no, no there are just too many flaws with this plan.

Why are we being offered cash in exchange for beggars?  If that money is sitting there in the desk drawer and you’re going to give it away anyway then why not give it to the beggar?  Provided you have asked them a couple of questions to make sure they are not pulling your leg, the cash influx will allow them to perhaps go and buy a Big Mac, or get a bed for the night.  I don’t consider myself very libertarian or even humanitarian, but I am a sucker for hard-luck cases.  I can only begin to imagine how terrifying it must be to wake up one morning and realise that I have nothing but the clothes on my back.

The new policy may indeed be good for the gander, but it certainly looks like the goose is going to jail…

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