Friday, 3 April 2009

Julia's dark side.

So I yelled at a hobo yesterday.

Now I feel a mixture of guilt, shame, and indignation. Let me explain:

In Manchester (as with the rest of the UK and possibly some other countries) there are people selling the Big Issue magazine. As I understand it, these are disadvantaged types – homeless/halfway house people etc – who sell the magazines for donations and get to keep the money (perhaps they only get some of the money, or it gets taken off them by the Big Issue and put into some sort of care fund. I’m not sure – if you know the particulars can you please enlighten me?). Anyway… I’m a fan of Big Issue people because they are actually doing something with their day. And, at least in my experience, they are always unfailingly polite and are pleasant even if you don’t donate. Possibly they lose their “beat” if they are rude. I’m not sure, but I like them. I plan to give my favourite hobo £20 when we leave Manchester because he always says hello to me.

However – I was on my way to Chinatown yesterday (a whole other post involving Phad Thai), and had to get some cash out. There were two hobos sitting right beside the cash machines. I saw one guy get cash out and get yelled at by the hobo for not giving him any change. So I was on my guard and approached my hobo/cash machine with trepidation. When he asked for change I looked in my wallet, thinking I would give him some – I honestly didn’t have any, and told him so. When I walked away, he yelled at me across the street and called me a “sad b!tch”. I lost my cool and yelled at him. Nothing lengthy, just a few choice words.

On one hand, I feel completely in the right about this – how dare he yell at me! There was no way I was going to get out a tenner for him, because he had the alcohol shakes and I didn’t want to fund his addiction. And surely, if he was serious about changing his life, he’d have hooked up with Big Issue? And anyway, he started it (na na na na naa naaa).

But…. On the other hand. What the hell is wrong with me? In these times I am so lucky to have a job and a home and a future – did I really need to respond to the tramp? Did I really need to yell at him? I donate my £2 to the Cancer Society each year and think I’m Mother Theresa, but who am I kidding? So I don’t give a homeless guy money, then walk down to the supermarket, spend a few pounds on luxury food items, then wander back to my cushy desk job and spend the afternoon drinking free coffee. I know I whinge about money at times, but I honestly do know how lucky and privileged I am. So why don’t I do more to help those less fortunate than me? Why do I begrudge them a couple of quid that I am probably just going to spend at Starbucks anyway? I try to justify myself by adopting a smug tone and saying “oh, I would give money but we’re saving for our future/house/jetplane” but seriously folks, what am I really saying; “I like having money and don’t like giving it away” Any one else have this problem?

Having a bit of a middle-class crisis here. Also, just realised that I wore a bright pink bra today and classily matched it with a white shirt. Nice.

Sorry for the lengthy post. I may post an XKCD comic later to lighten the mood… (see?! I can’t handle such introspection!)


Being Brazen said...

heehee....I LOVE Gossip Girl!!

I adore Blair and Chuck.

Being Brazen said...

Have a great weekend

Helena said...

Oh hon, I have much the same middle-class guilt whenever I am accosted by people on the street. (BTW, I have a great technique for dealing with those people who try and get you to sign up to charities) but Im not sure what the answer is for homeless people. Personally, I understand why you yelled, but I can also see why you feel bad/guilty about it. Sorry, I am absolutely no help, but please feel better knowing there are others who face these ethical decisions! xox

Kaz said...

I agree! I've never yelled at one before but I have said a few choice words inside my head. In my mind, I don't donate because I can't save all of them and it's not fair to give some money and not the rest of them. Cork was a haven for the homeless and it was hard work walking past heaps of them everyday.