Beggars – modern entertainers

A South African beggar using YouTube as a gimmickSometimes our country is so sad that all we can do is smile.

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. 

Beggar using Kung Fu

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).


2 responses to “Beggars – modern entertainers”

  1. Hi Aiden,

    I was so surprized to see this boy’s face when I googled images of beggars. I know this boy. Very well.
    I decided to build a relationship with one street kid in 2012, and Peter (not his real name) also struck my attention.
    What you did not mention about this boy, is the fact that he is addicted to dagga, and possibly other drugs. (it’s not me pointing fingers; it’s just the way it is). If I lived on the street, I would probably also be addicted.
    What we tend to forget, is that the money we give these people, often (in most cases)keep them addicted and on the streets.

    After a few months, myself and a social worker invited Peter to rehab. After finishing rehab, a shelter in the inner city would take him in and help him to finish school. After many stories, it became clear to us that he wasn’t willing to take the help that we offered, yet.
    I believe that if we want to help, we should treat these people with dignity, and if it is possible, to have a relationship with them so we can get to the story behind their story. They need help. But they don’t need our money. That is what keeps them addicted and on the streets.
    I hope that I will never get so accustomed to beggars, that it doesn’t bother me; and (as you said) I believe that we have a serious employment and poverty issue in SA. Until that gets sorted out, may we never turn our backs on the poor.

  2. aiden says:

    Wow Anru, thanks for your comment.

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