On my way home from the shop, my daughter asleep in her stroller, my mind occupied by several issues, I was approached by a man in a warm winter jacket, jogger pants and a decent pair of trainers, and the following dialogue ensued:

Him: sorry Miss can I get 50p, please?

Me: ah, no. Don’t have any on me now.

Him: ta’ love

He proceeded to walk off in the opposite direction towards the local shopping mall. The scene wasn’t new but it got me thinking about society and its impact on beggars.

The culture of begging exists globally, however, its form and impact on human life vary for each community and society as a whole. There are several routes through which beggars emerge in a society: economic routes (unemployment, redundancy, national recessions etc), social routes (caste systems, religious reasons) and health routes (impairments/deformities from birth, accidents) and war or political routes.

Beggars in third world countries to a certain degree often have physical impairments, they generally look unkempt, sleep rough (on the road, uncompleted buildings) and are often times malnourished. A large percentage of said beggars are children, including children who have their own kids to carter for. I have often wondered what sort of man gets a destitute child pregnant? Most of these children exude a certain vibe that acknowledges but also rejects their present reality, an internal turmoil that says “I am happy to be alive and will fight to stay alive, but I don’t see a different tomorrow ahead of me.”

And I understand the root of this disillusionment; it comes  from observing the government consistently throw in obstacles in the paths of its citizens. The lack of infrastructure, systems or agenda to tackle the issues mitigating against the working masses is stark obvious, the situation lends them no hope as they are considered the bottom dwells of the existing hierarchy. Medical needs are managed homoeopathically and in dire situations most pass away due to lack of funds to access appropriate treatment. Medical service in such countries are very  (government-run or private)  expensive and not in any way free.

Beggars in the UK, however, are very lucky if it were possible to be lucky and begging at the same time. There’s a poem to that effect: if wishes were horses beggars would ride, but I doubt that really reflects the situation so back to the topic. When placed beside their third world counterparts UK beggars could be said to live on the posher side  of life. Food banks, charities, religious organizations, homeless shelters and the NHS endeavor to make the life of beggars bearable. Granted not everyone’s need are met at every given time but a majority are managed under the existing system. This is especially true with regards to government-run health facilities (NHS) which is free, every citizen has access to its services regardless of social status. The government-run benefit system also helps alleviate the harshness of living as a beggar. Beggars living in the UK stand a better chance of improving their lives.

In both scenarios,  beggars have been known to use their proceeds for non-healthy or economically choices. Though both have the same label beggars their standards of living and expectations are worlds apart. This is simply because basic human rights are upheld in the UK, the government is people centered and the nation reinvests in itself for the future. Plans are drawn and executed with considerations of the bigger picture and longevity in mind. This not the case in third world countries, in fact, it is quite the opposite. The present society in the UK was created by individuals who recognized that the growth and advancement of the society are better judged by looking at the beggar on the street. If every chain is as strong as its weakest link then every nation is only as strong as it manages its most frail citizens.