Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Should You Give A Bum A Buck?

Sticking plaster on a suppurating wound?
Here’s an every day scene from my every day life. I drive up to a T junction where the traffic light is on red. A man holding up a tatty cardboard sign saying ‘Hungry and Homeless’ shuffles towards my car. I feel troubled by his hunger and his homelessness. A dialogue starts in my head. Should I wind down the window and give him a dollar? Aside from the immediate alleviation of his hunger, why would I do that?

The charitable side of my brain says: “What's wrong with immediately alleviating hunger, you tight-fisted, mean-hearted bastard, all warm and secure behind your locked car door listening to your alt country indie-pop hard bop yadda yadda wank. How can you ignore this man’s plight? He is hungry. He needs money for food. Now. You have more than enough money. Give him a buck. Now.”

“Oh yeah?” says the resistant (read: ‘cheap’) side of my brain. “You think that if I give him a buck now that I’m in any way helping the plight of the hungry and homeless? Or am I just giving him a buck to make myself feel better? Maybe I’ll even feel a frisson of superiority over the woman in the car in front of me who shook her head and refused his plea.”

“It’s not all about you,” says Charity. “It’s not about you at all. It’s about his need for food, right here and now.”