One of the most common experiences while driving up to a traffic light is seeing a beggar standing there making a (sometimes) heartfelt plea for your small change. The majority of us have developed a fine skill in ignoring them. Stare straight ahead as if you’re contemplating life deeply, right? Or we give them a cursory wave of the hand indicating that we have no money for them, which they know is untrue, just like our conscience does.
The variety of the beggar’s plea is testament to the inventiveness (and desperation) of those in poverty. I came across this “YouTube” beggar today in Pretoria. His innovation made me smile and immediately reach for my wallet.
He also reminded me of the “Kung Fu”.
I’ve noticed how, over the last few years, the beggar’s plea has morphed from just plain (how sad is it that I phrase it like this?) pity-inducing sad facedness, to the rare but powerful ‘fall onto my knees and beg’ tactic, into the circus performance (thickly caked painted faces accompanied by poor juggling) and now poster boards that appeal to our wit.
Either way, the strategy is to entertain for money. From a business perspective, their strategies are admirable. In an attention-driven economy, our beggars know that they need to do all they can to attract our attention while we mission from place to place in our comfortable cars.
So, here’s to our intrepid street ‘vendors’. It’s a meagre living for sure, but we’d be so much the poorer in spirit without you (and if we just for damn well sorted out our employment and poverty issue in South Africa).