- Person looks round and sees Weeping Widow Woman, helps her.
- Person thinks, if we all get together and put money in a hat, we can collectively help ALL Weeping Widow Women, possibly through a dedicated service providing organisation, then I can get back to hunting mammoth.
- Society Invents the Welfare State (and Charities)
My nephew, Mr Sweet-Muscles, doesn’t give to charities. He says he’d rather look into someone’s eyes, listen to their story and then make up his own mind if he wants to hand over his cash or not.
Mr F thinks similarly. Why can’t those of us who want to help Weeping Widow Women contribute to a fund for them, while those of us who don’t, can spend it on a swimming pool instead?
It’s true that the modern method of giving (through The Government or A Charity) separates the giver from the receiver in a way that’s convenient (you don’t have to smell that needy hobo, or talk to him, or evaluate the credibility of his claims) and even-handed.
But have you ever passed a homeless person on the street with a cardboard sign and thought ‘Doesn’t The Government cover this sort of thing? So why is he asking ME? He’s probably not homeless at all – he just wants money for drugs!’ And you kept on walking. What if we were wrong though? Maybe The Government isn’t as all-encompassing as we’d like it to be.
Another drawback of this system is that you don’t know who you’re helping, and so you have no real sense of giving, and they have no real sense of receiving. Which means that you can characterise their problems ‘Bloody abos spend it all on drink’, ‘hopeless bogan moron!’ and THEY can dismiss any obligation ‘I have a RIGHT to this handout, whaddya mean you want me to work for it!’.
A senior manager I used to know – an indigenous guy with a long, impressive cloud-grey beard, who worked in a mega-Department of the Australian public service – used to go out back to the alley behind our 6 storey office. He’d sit down and chat with the bums and street kids, then go back into his office and use whatever he’d learned (I hope he did, anyway). Similarly, we used to have a prime minister – way before my time – who lived in a hostel and shaved in a shared bathroom. That kind of speaks to me.
No wonder people in our society walk past beggars. We’re not callous, it’s just that we’ve outsourced Caring to organisations who are supposed to know how to do it – but don’t, always. Mr Muscles and Mr F have a point – the personal angle matters.
Last time I saw a homeless person, I stopped and had a chat, and bought him a pie. Maybe he didn’t ‘deserve’ it, and I can’t say I came away ‘understanding’ his situation – but neither of us lost anything by it.