On my way home from the shop, pushing my daughter in her stroller with my mind on several issues, I was approached by a man in a warm winter jacket, jogger pants and a decent pair of trainers and the following dialogue ensued:
Him: sorry Miss can I get 50p please?
Me: ah, no. Don’t have any on me now.
Him: ta’ love
He proceeded to walk off in the opposite direction towards ASDA. The scene wasn’t new for me but I guess writing a blog makes me take a second look at things these days. The incidence got me thinking about the society and its impact on beggars.
The culture of begging exists globally but every society determines the form it takes. Begging can occur as result of any of these reasons: economic reasons ( unemployment, redundancy, national recessions etc), social reasons (caste systems, religious reasons) and health reasons (impairments/deformities from birth, accidents).
Beggars in Nigeria often have physical impairments, they dressed ratty, looked unkempt, slept rough (on the road, uncompleted buildings) and some were malnourished. A large percentage of said beggars were children and amongst them was a subset of children who had their own kids to carter for as well. I often wondered what sort of man got a destitute child pregnant? Most of them exuded a certain vibe that accepted yet rejected their present reality, an internal turmoil that said “I am happy to be alive and will fight to stay alive, but I don’t see a different tomorrow awaiting me.”
And I can understand were this disillusionment stems from, it comes from observing the government consistently throw in obstacles in the paths of it’s citizens. There are no infrastructures, system or agenda in place to tackle the issues that the working masses face, much less theirs. They manage their medical needs by homoeopathic means and in dire situations most pass away due to lack of funds to access appropriate treatment. Medical service in Nigeria is very (government-run or private) expensive and not in any way free.
Beggars in the UK, however, are very lucky if it were possible to be lucky and begging at the same time. There’s a poem to that effect: if wishes were horses beggars would ride, but I doubt that really reflects the situation so back to the topic. When placed beside their third world counterparts UK beggars could be said to live on the posher side of life. Food banks, charities, religious organizations, homeless shelters and the NHS endeavour to make the life of beggars bearable. Granted not everyone’s need are met at every given time but a majority are managed under the existing system. This is especially true with regards to government-run health facilities (NHS) which is free, every citizen has access to its services regardless of social status. The government-run benefit system also helps alleviate the harshness of living as a beggar. Beggars living in the UK stand a better chance of improving their lives.
In both countries beggars have been known to use their proceeds for non healthy or economically choices. Though both have the same label beggars their standards of living and expectations are worlds apart. This is simply because basic human rights are upheld in the UK, the government is people centred and the nation reinvests in itself for the future. Plans are drawn and executed with considerations of the bigger picture and longevity in mind. This not the case in Nigeria, in fact it is quiet the exact opposite. Present day UK was created by individuals who recognized that the growth and advancement of the society is better judged by looking at the beggar on the street. If every chain is as strong as its weakest link then every nation is only as strong as it manages its most frail citizens. Incorporate everyone.