Saturday, November 15, 2008

We All Have The Right To Choose

So, the situation is this, I am walking along the street, it could probably be any major shopping street in any major city in the world. I'm quite well off, I have a good job, my own car, a mortgage that I'm ahead on, I have just been out for a lunch and I'm full up with nice food and goodwill to my fellow man.

Ahead of me on the street is a homeless man, he is poor, filthy, unshaven, all the things that I sometimes take for granted, he has none of them. Safety, security, loving family, a roof, shelter, the guarantee of food, nothing.

He is holding out a battered paper cup and he has a cardboard sign with the words 'homeless - please help' written on it, I'll help, I drop a couple of quid into his cup, enough for a burger perhaps, or a downpayment on a rip off chain shop coffee.

When I do this a bloke behind me says 'You shouldn't do that, he'll only spend it on drink or drugs'.

Hang on you tosser, what the hell do you mean by that ? I have been known to spend quite large sums of money on alcohol and food, I own a pair of New Rock boots that cost well over a hundred quid, I spent a similar amount on some hiking boots, I have frittered money away over the years on rock bands and fine wines and watching cricket and flying to other countries and then staying in nice hotels. Is this man with the Blackberry and nice shoes and tie telling me that only the well off should be allowed to decide how to spend their money ?

Does he think that poverty means you should have no choice ? If I was faced with night after night of rough sleeping or trying to get a hostel place I should I would quite like to scrape enough money together to get smashed off my face, to make the world into a nicer alcoholic blur for a few hours. After all, if the well off kids of Ilkley can get hammered every weekend night, surely this man whose life has taken a different turn should be allowed to choose where to spend his meagre income.

If suit man had said to me 'I would rather that you didn't give money to the homeless guy because I'm too fucking cheap to give anything, and your actions make me feel faintly guilty even though I step over these people every bloody day and totally ignore them' then he would still be a tosser, but at least he'd be a more honest tosser.

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