Big Society, Little Help

The British Prime Minister has been promoting the ‘Big Society‘ for a while now. What exactly he means, and what exactly it is supposed to be isn’t entirely clear. Empty sound bites and guff sum it up pretty well in my opinion. It was one reason I felt unwilling to vote Tory in the last election. Really, it’s just a new way of saying ‘streamlining’ or ‘efficiency drive’, phrases which fell out of favour when it became clear these were just new ways of saying ‘cutbacks’ and ‘job losses’.

I do like their new idea of having cash machines (ATMs) automatically giving users the option to donate money to charity. Where did they get that wonderful idea? Well, that is something that’s been done in Mexico for years. So ironic. Things are improving in many ways in Mexico from a social perspective, but the populace generally despair that their government’s awkward shuffling steps forward will ever allow they to catch up with the developed nations. Fear not amigos, for as you shuffle awkwardly towards a state of ‘development’, we Brits and others shuffle awkwardly in reverse. In so many ways. We’ll meet sooner than you think, perhaps.

I’m not, I should hastily add, against charity. Not at all. It’s simply the direction of society I’m commenting on. You’re on your own Jack. But I have been thinking about charity today after reading the article. I’ve hardened since I came to Mexico. I sometimes get annoyed by beggars. More so lately than usual. I think it’s just because there seems to be so many at the moment. And they can be both intrusive and demanding, pushing cans in your face or leaving notes on your lap on the metro. It’s not the British way. Suffer in silence, damn you. Or at least whine about the weather instead of hunger, like everyone else. It’s built in, you know – genetically. Culturally too. I can’t help it.

I’m not entirely without empathy though, especially if the recipient is a turtle. It’s just I sometimes need a conscience-pricking prod to remember my own good fortune, and to make a conscious decision to throw a few pesos in someone’s direction. It doesn’t come 100% naturally every time. And it’s Christmas after all. Today I was generous, and gave a few pesos to three ‘lucky’ recipients. The first was the gentleman below. He was wandering around side streets off Alvaro Obregon playing his sax while a young girl held out a cup. A sax really resonates through that neighbourhood. It’s fits, and he played it well. Too well to be begging, I thought. I gave him ten pesos and got a photo to boot.

Purse Your Lips

4 Comments

  • Charity is a wonderful thing. But, alas, it often seems that those who most need a helping hand won’t benefit long-term from it either. Instead, they remain dependent.

    I spent the summer helping a friend get back on his feet and overcoming some rather severe problems. Yet I fear he will soon be back at square one, and I really don’t have it in me to do it again.

    Sigh…

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    DF, Mexico
    Where many on the street remind us of how fortunate we really are.

    • Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and…sadly, quite a few will wander off to look for someone else who’ll just give him a fish. Poverty can be a form of institutionalisation, amongst many other things.

      I couldn’t agree more with your post script….

  • Gary,
    Perhaps “busking” is a little rougher in D.F., but offering entertainment or a tune for a tip is still Busking. Could be the gent with the sax will go on to better things in life.. One kid my parents liked in Colville gardens, where mom had a boarding house, eventually did well for himself.. His name? Aker Bilk..
    So you never know… 10 peso’s? might end up a great investment!
    Cheers!
    Dan in NC

    • I don’t really have any issue with buskers. Or anyone who is offering something for something, no matter how small or trivial. Some of the buskers are really rather good.

      I watched a series called the Tube with Paola a few years ago. One episode was dedicated to busking. In London you have to audition though!

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