Friday, April 12, 2019

Beggars of the World, Unite!

Brexit has exposed Once-Great Britain’s political dysfunction. And yet, we can still recall, perhaps wistfully, why the British people voted to exit the European Union. One reason was open borders immigration policies. When Angela Merkel opened her nation to Muslim migrants she was open the doors of the rest of Europe too.

But, less noticed is the problem posed by the Roma people, groups of what are otherwise called gypsies migrating from Eastern to Western Europe… for the sole purpose of begging and thieving. People who live in Paris will tell you how bad the problem is. Now, a Swedish academic, Johan Wennstrom reports from the most fashionable streets in Paris. Via Maggie's Farm.

He and his wife were distracted from their window shopping by pitiful beggars:

Recently my wife and I walked along the fashionable shopping street Avenue Montaigne, situated between Place de l’Alma and Champs Elysées in one of the most affluent Parisian districts. Passing the elegant window fronts of Chanel, Givenchy, Jimmy Choo, Luis Vuitton, Prada, Valentino, and YSL, we noticed a woman and child half-lying on the pavement in tattered clothes, appealing to passersby for money. While it was a particularly appalling sight in this prosperous setting, it was not an anomaly in the urban fabric of Paris. Such expressions of extreme poverty and deprivation have, in fact, become sadly familiar features of most Western European cities of late.

Indeed, as a result of the European Union’s eastward expansion during the previous decade, and the principle of free movement of persons within the E.U., thousands of rough sleepers, mostly ethnic Roma from the ex-socialist countries Bulgaria and Romania, have arrived in the streets, parks, and playgrounds of the E.U.-15 countries.

Of course, they are not there to work. One does not even know whether they would be capable of holding down a job or contributing to the economy. They beg because that is what they know how to do. The barrier to entry is lower than in all other occupations. You do not even need a government supplied license. All you need is a limitless capacity for self-degradation:

Contrary to the purpose of free movement, most have not come to work or study, but to beg in the most abject manners. France is perhaps the most notorious country for child begging in Western Europe, but even in more child-friendly societies in Scandinavia, we see children of 13 and younger being used for begging by adult family members.

Is it child labor when children beg? One thing we can be sure of, if the children are out begging for crumbs they are not in school.

As for what is wrong with begging on the streets. For one, Wennstrom notes, the presence of beggars shows society disintegrating. It shows a decline in social capital and promotes a rise in criminal behavior. Begging is antithetical to the work ethic:

First, the social disintegration that the continued presence of beggars creates. As observed by political scientist James Q. Wilson, who together with criminologist George Kelling conceived the “broken windows” theory that visible disorder in public spaces causes a decline in social capital and a rise in criminal behavior, in Thinking about Crime (1985), the “unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window.” Moreover, the constant exposure to the deception involved in begging, such as pretending disabilities or other personal difficulties, is detrimental to social trust and reciprocity.

Beggars marginalize themselves. They segregate themselves from the productive members of society and contribute to social divisions. Beggars have checked out of the productive economy and are not even on the bottom rung of the status hierarchy:

Secondly, but not least important, there is the debasement to the beggars themselves and the risk that the daily sight of people kneeling and sleeping in the streets will cause a mental separation of certain populations from the rest of society in the minds of ordinary citizens and teach our children that the dignity of the poor simply matters less. It has been estimated that approximately 70 percent of beggars in Oslo sleep outdoors.4 Victims of trafficking to Western Europe have also reported living in disused buses, abandoned houses, and other makeshift shelters lacking electric heat and running water.

And yet, Wennstrom continues, Western European states, overflowing with empathy refuse to ban begging. I recollect, though the recollection is slightly fuzzy, that China does not permit begging, because, according to Confucian thought, begging is degrading. Besides, beggars constitute a living reproach to society, and thus is designed to elicit guilt. The more you inject guilt into your productive live, the less productive you will be:

Yet despite the fact that begging is associated with these social hazards and degrading conditions, almost all Western European states, excluding, most prominently, Denmark, have hesitated to impose or strengthen the enforcement of national blanket bans on begging as a response to the influx of foreign vagrants. In 2018, the Swedish Supreme Court allowed local municipal bans, but even that measure was intensely controversial, and thus far only a handful of rural municipalities have declared that they will take advantage of the change in legislation. The political majorities of the country’s largest municipalities have continued to defer to the public debate, in which a potential ban on begging is falsely described as “banning poverty” and withholding legitimate income from a group of people with few other means of making a living.

Of course, Western European elites want to promote guilt. They want capitalists to feel guilty for everyone who is not rich. The blame capitalism and free enterprise for all of society’s ills and use beggars as theatrical props to foment anti-capitalist sentiment:

Here, too, an elite discourse condones destructive behavior and reinterprets a denigrating hand-to-mouth existence as an alternative lifestyle, ultimately discouraging governments from taking the necessary measures to maintain human dignity and alleviate the social costs of begging, such as imposing a blanket ban. The intent is to be tolerant and to do good, but the result is that the poor and marginalized are kept in their place at the bottom of society. Inadvertently, such discourse is frequently also dehumanizing. Consider, for example, the following quotations, which suggest that the function of beggars is to provide moral instruction for a complacent, affluent society.

Wennstrom quotes a Guardian columnist:

Writing in the Guardian, columnist Dawn Foster argued:

Passing a beggar who asks for money causes discomfort—and so it should. The act of facing and acknowledging human suffering and hardship on this scale ought to imprint itself on a society that has such glaring divides in income and comfort.

As for the beggars themselves, our enlightened elites are using them, and degrading them, to bear living witness to their own criminality and to foment revolution:

However, as only a morally confused society would need to come to terms with, begging is not edifying for anyone, not least the beggar whose plight we “open-mindedly” ignore. 

For your edification I reprint the image that accompanies Wennstrom's Quillette article. Strangely, the beggar in question does not appear to be a Roma:


UbuMaccabee said...

I refuse to call them homeless. I prefer to call them bums or hobos. It’s fun having a conversation about bums when my interlocutor keeps calling them homeless and I keep calling them bums. I see them wince with discomfort. Good, I want the word to sting a little. Begging and roaming the streets drunk and sleeping in the bushes should carry some social opprobrium, especially in a wealthy country. Lunatics are a somewhat different category, but I still refuse to call them homeless. Crazy bums.

False guilt is the primary weapon of leftist con artists. It’s how they mix shit into the souls of healthy people.

Sam L. said...

Two of our local sheriffs nearby told me there are an estimated 700 living in the wooded areas of our town of (estimated) 13000.

Gospace said...

Child begging. A sure societal sign that something is wrong with the society. Around 1979 or so I was on a WESPAC and visited the Philippines and South Korea. All day, all night, in PI there were children begging on the streets. In SK early in the morning you'd see children in uniform walking to school. Late in the afternoon -LATE - you'd see them walking home. After that- you didn't see them out until the next morning, walking to school. Infrastructure in both wasn't well developed. Cars on the streets were all built somewhere else.

10 years later same visits. PI was still backwards, nothing had changed. Well, actually, it seemed worse. Seemed more kids were begging. SK now had sewers, not a guy walking house to house collecting night soil with huge plastic containers. PI all the cars on the streets were made elsewhere. SK they were mostly Hyundais and Daewoos. Buses and heavy machinery were still dominated by Toyota and other foreign companies, but Korean nameplates were mixed in. And the kids? Walking to school in uniform early in the morning, walking home in uniform late in the evening.

I imagine if I were to go back now, differences would be even more noticeable.