Monks, Chuggers and the Commercialisation Of Begging
The other day I was accosted in the street. “Did you know it’s international sideburns day?” “Oh really? Well it seems I’m doing better than you then!” At which the sharp-eyed passer-by-snatcher stroked his non-existent facial hair and I cottoned on to the fact that I’d just been hooked into whatever money-grubbing activity he was engaged in. “So what are you collecting for then?”
It transpired that the fellow was a monk, collecting money to feed the homeless as part of a small monastery-associated outfit. He wasn’t asking for a monthly donation (which I never give), so I gave him a bit of money. We also had quite an interesting chat about spirituality, and he offloaded a couple of those Hare Krishna books onto me.
The conversation was interesting: it became apparent that for most of the conversation we were just having a nice conversation between two human beings. So rare between a chugger and a passer by! So rare in fact that it wasn’t until we were a few minutes in to the conversation that I realised I could safely lower my anti-theft defences and just enjoy the conversation fully.
Mere minutes later, I was mugged again (charity mugger, chugger), this time by a proper pro, representing a big national charity. This lady was after one thing and one thing only, my salary. Text your donation, take my leaflets and please join our club. It was all spiel, no human interaction. She even told me that the company that was running the campaign was spending £400k in order to raise £1.2M. Not sure whether that’s an overhead of 25% or 33%, but I’d still much rather cut out that middle-man, although the absolute economics of those schemes is sadly undeniable…
And what of the original beggar, the individual beggar, begging probably mostly for him or herself? Normally their street-game is less polished than that of the pros, and I guess they do less well. The beggars have been pushed out of their own market by professionals, however well meaning they may be.
And as with the professionalisation of anything, it tends to reduce the scope for a human connection. Whenever anything is manufactured at scale, the humanity is diluted, usually in proportion to the scale.
New rule. Never, ever ignore non-corporate beggars. They represent meaningful humanity, even if booze and drug fuelled, in a world ever increasingly filled with carbon copies of designed and refined crap.