Volume 93, Issue 47

Tuesday, November 23, 1999


The wealthy should share their bounty

The wealthy should share their bounty

Re: "Bill could target panhandling" Nov. 5

To the Editor:

Someone please tell me I'm not the only one who was thoroughly repulsed by The Safe Streets Act reported on the front page of the Nov. 5 Gazette. Yet again, economic value and upper-class comfort subordinate human compassion.

Though we have the means to rectify the problem of homelessness and hunger, it seems we'd prefer to invest our money into our trusted government, who will in turn efface the existence of poverty by sweeping it out of our path of vision.

This, of course, is not only a problem on the government level, it also comes down to our one-on-one experiences with those in need. How often does the passer-by, decked out in a several hundred dollar wardrobe, either ignore the request for aid or act powerless to provide a mere quarter for someone who is starving? Dare I ask where their frustration might stem from?

I am well aware of the fact that one person can't help everyone, but at least consider where the loose change, which is in one's pocket, will usually go – that extra impressive tip to a server at a restaurant or bar, someone who is employed and eating well. Apparently someone privileged enough to be employed, fed and sheltered, like the generous tipper, deserves more respect than one who can only dream of such luxuries.

Consider the situation. If indeed anyone is being aggressive in the panhandling or squeegeeing department, there's a pretty obvious reason why – THESE PEOPLE ARE FUCKING HUNGRY. After constantly being denied aid and general respect, one is bound to be irritable and perhaps search for a new means of being recognized. I am not supporting the in-your-face, threatening approach, but its use is understandable when the most basic necessity of life, aside from breathing, is denied them.

Bonnie Bayham couldn't have put it more accurately when she stated that the people who live on the street are being re-victimized. Essentially, we blame the unfortunate for the wealthier society's indifference.

"Why don't you get off your ass and do something with yourself!?" I believe these people would love to be productive members of society, however, without food or shelter it might be a little difficult to print up resumes on the ol' lap top. Let's not play the old, "I don't work my ass off to give my money away" game either. I think any of these street people would trade positions in a second given the opportunity.

Please don't assume they're living in the lap of luxury by not working. Try to imagine how it feels to not know where your next meal is coming from or where you're going to sleep when winter sets in. They're in the last place they want to be.

So what exactly does the Safe Streets Act propose as a means of protecting the public (that is to say, everyone who is fortunate enough to not live on the street)? Apparently fines for the most part.

Is anyone aware that you cannot draw blood from a stone? What else should we demand of them that they do not possess? Perhaps they should give us food. In fact, that would definitely make them productive members of society.

I'm seeing a very disconcerting parallel between the Safe Streets Act and Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. However, even this latter suggestion would probably only be denied on the principle of inefficiency – the fact that the malnourished meat their bodies would provide would likely only produce the poorest quality consumable goods and we can't keep the units moving with second rate products, now can we?

It's time to start questioning the way such problems are treated by the so-called experts and ourselves. It's time to stop taking things for granted and start sharing the wealth when possible. Don't we all have the right to life?

Nick Serruys
French/Film IV

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Copyright The Gazette 1999