libraries | play | information | media | policy | culture


Is an Hour Enough to Save Everyone's World?

Just got back from a lunchtime walk during which I was approached by three college-age people, each asking for two minutes of my time to solicit my support and funding for, respectively, Save the Children, gay and lesbian marriage rights, and Greenpeace. Along the way I was also asked by two homeless people for money.

All five encounters physically reinforce the relentless images of crisis and desperation confronting us in our mediated society. In the face of such need and the natural fear it engenders of being in need, it's a wonder more of us aren't either hardened or crippled into inaction.


Steve said...

But most people are indeed hardened to these kind of approaches. The approach on the street is classically a matter of yield. The positive response is a very small percentage, so you approach a large number of people overall. But most people just walk on by and act as if you are invisible. (I have done this enough times for various political causes to be familiar with the dynamic).
People who are homeless or just begging for money become even more invisible than those who work for various causes. The usual justification is something along the lines of: they will only use the money to buy alcohol. I remember being struck by something I once heard from former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (a HIGHLY conservative individual). He was asked about the distasteful situation of a homeless person coming up and asking for money, and he said that he always gave money to them. The interviewer, shocked, asked if he didn't think that the money would just go to alcohol or drugs. Koop responded that if a person could bring himself to asking total strangers for money on the street, then whatever the reason, he was in desperate straights, and Koop felt that it wasn't up to him to look into the man's life and soul to judge or assume motivation and character. He was just responding to the desperation.

porpentine11 said...

Koop's response is great. I tend to give money to as many people as I can. At one point, I had become well known among the homeless in my neighborhood and my response to those who complained the money went to drugs or alcohol was always: if I were homeless, I'd want to be as wasted as possible." As a graduate student, I had this discussion with a person who presented herself as a Marxist and said that it was the fault of the homeless that they were homeless. I responded, "I thought you were a Marxist," and a person with whom I could converse was gone. Apparently, telling a Marxist that she is speaking like a Reagonite is bad etiquette.

librarian@play said...

Doesn't Terry Eagleton drive a Jaguar? If not, at least he dresses better than any Marxist should.