Beggars. Who likes them? No one. Who empathizes with them? Most of us. The truth is, we’d all like a society where, no human being would want to survive on the sweat of others. In a world where the sole purpose of humanity is to achieve financial freedom and scale the wall of prosperity, few people would give a penny to anyone for free. Surprisingly, begging is a ‘profession’ that we can claim is as old as prostitution. All communities and all generations are not complete without beggars.
When I talk of beggars, allow me to exclude the disabled, those who are looking for funds to clear a massive medical bill or those who have absolutely no other way of getting out of trouble. Yeah, sometimes life pushes us to the corner where we are left to the mercy of any member of our species. This tirade on beggars is inspired by an encounter I had with one of them. I was a bit bored with staying all day indoors, so I wrapped a James Patterson novel in a black paper bag and headed to a certain kiosk I frequented. I love the place because it has a shade where you can comfortably have your drink while enjoying the breeze. The shade is covered by thin wooden frames, all a little bit over a metre tall and colored red such that it was easy to spot the Coca-Cola inscription on them from afar.
I ordered a Fanta pineapple and began reading the book while I drank it. A lady, the kiosk owner, was also seated on one of the plastic chairs and so was a teenage boy who was reading a copy of The Nairobian. The lady and the boy would talk a bit, and I would contribute where it seemed necessary. I was deeply engrossed in the 5th chapter when I heard, rather than felt, a tap on my shoulder. Turning back, I was surprised to see that it was a shabbily dressed middle-aged fellow. It wasn’t rocket science to figure out that the man was a drunkard. His reddened eyes and lips which seemed to be losing color, coupled with the fact that he staggered a bit, betrayed whatever lies he would pump in me. What could he possibly want with me?
“Wewe ndo nakuita, nimekuchagua kwasababu wewe ni mwanafunzi” (I have singled you out because you are a student), he said to me. That made perfect sense, there was a polytechnic around, and I was holding a book. He proceeded to sit on an empty plastic chair beside me and extended a dirty hand for greeting. I took the hand and stared at him blankly to hear what he had to say. I had figured out he was going to beg from the start. He explained that people help each other and that he needed a little cash from me. I switched off right away knowing that he was looking for money to go back to his favorite drinking den. I ignored him till he left. The lady and the guy claimed that these new type of beggars would go to every potential ‘good Samaritan’ and plead in the same way. I am one person who believes that it is an insult to humanity to help non-disabled individuals with a sane mind. They have something between their ears and the muscles to do the rest, what else would someone want?
As I said earlier, the sole purpose of man in on the face of the earth is survival. Same as that of animals in the wild. People will do anything to put food on their table. Some ethical while others are unethical. Anyway, who am I to judge? Freethinkers claim morality is subjective, but that’s a story for another day. If you regularly use public transport in towns like I do, you are familiar with touts who shout the routes they will be going through endlessly with the hope of gaining more passengers and consequently more cash. We have these chaps who station themselves at stopping points and engage the tout in a shouting battle as they help them look for passengers. After they have contributed to filling the matatu, most of them earn a ten or twenty shilling as appreciation. I thought that kind of ‘job’ was a joke till I saw one of those guys with a good amount of the day’s earnings one evening.
Our system hasn’t helped in any way. Most of my fellow students are studying in order to get good jobs and secure their future. What were supposed to be institutions for instilling knowledge in our people have been turned into factories for producing human robots. Sad. It’s no wonder we will still have people who will not have the required resources, so miss out on their share of the money-making cake. They will plead that we help them. Beggars.