Brian Edwards Media

Empty pockets in Ponsonby and Herne Bay. Yeah right!

When the weather is fine, Judy and I go for a morning walk around our local suburbs – Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Herne Bay. Our walk takes between  an hour and  an hour-and-a-half, depending on the route, and invariably ends with a cup of coffee and, if we’re feeling wildly irresponsible, a biscotti. (Did you know that the word ‘biscuit’ comes from the French and means ‘twice cooked’. No charge for that derivational gem!)

We’re quite well known for our walking and expect to be bailed up several times for a chat with friends and acquaintances. It’s fun.

Less amusing is being harassed by the legions of collectors, fundraisers, proselytisers and raffle-ticket sellers who lie in wait in Three Lamps where, less than coincidentally, there are several banks and the local Post Office. I’m perfectly happy to hand over a few bob for most charities, but I really don’t want to be lectured for 10 minutes on the threat to the rainforests, the plight of the blue-nosed dolphin, the work of Amnesty International in Tibet, the evils of Wall Street, or why I really ought to buy a raffle ticket to support our Paraplegic Olympians .

I’m not a cold-hearted, mean-spirited, penny-pinching scrooge; I’m just sick of being stopped in the bloody street and harangued by total strangers.  

On the other hand, I don’t mind being bailed up by the local alcoholics, drug addicts, deadbeats, beggars and pavement-dwellers, or tossing a dollar or two to the small army of one-note mouth-organ players, two-string ukulele pluckers and the occasional 12-year-old fiddle virtuoso.

Before leaving home, I now collect up half a pocketful of loose change for this very purpose. I do this because I’m selfish. You see, a year or two back I read this article by some guy in some magazine who said that he ALWAYS gave money to people who asked him for it in the street. And he’d discovered how much better it made him feel. Selfish reason perhaps,  but it did no harm and possibly a little good.

Which brings me to this morning. We’ve finished our walk. I’m sitting at a table in front of Dida’s restaurant in Jervois Road. Judy is inside ordering the coffee. There’s a young, affluent looking couple at the next table.  Then this guy, who I’m reasonably sure comes from one of the local halfway houses or rehab centres, stops and asks the young couple, ‘Have you got any money?’ He’s not a pretty sight and he leans rather unnervingly down over their table, rather close. ‘Have you got any money?’ Without making eye contact, the young man says ‘No’ and shakes his head. His partner looks away.

I’m next. ‘Have you got any money?’ I’ve got two single dollars left in my pocket and hand them to him. ‘Aw Jesus, thanks mate. Thanks.’

Two bucks is nothing to me. But it’s a lot to him. And I’m selfish. I feel good.

If I’ve a point to make here, it’s probably got less to do with the fact that the young couple didn’t give this guy any money – they’re under no obligation to do so –  but that the answer they gave to his question ‘Have you got any money?’ was, ‘No.’

That scene is probably repeated in our towns and cities thousands of times every day. Beggars ask, ‘Have you got any money? Got any spare change?’ We answer, ‘No.’

What offends me about this is not that it’s almost certainly untrue that we haven’t got any money, but that it’s such a patent, shameless and cowardly lie. Somehow the very obviousness of the lie is more insulting, more demeaning to the asker than it would be to be told to ‘Go away!’ or ‘Piss off!’ – ‘Here we are drinking our $4 flat whites in our beautiful clothes in the most expensive suburb in New Zealand and asking you to believe that we really, really, really haven’t got any money or spare change. Sorry!’

It’s an esoteric point perhaps and maybe I’m making too much of it. But I’m going to carry on collecting the spare change around the house before Judy and I go out for our walk each morning.  As I said, I’m selfish and it makes me feel good. And who knows what the future holds for any of us . Let’s just call it ‘bread upon the waters’.

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43 Comments:

  1. I have a policy of NEVER giving to street collectors (except ANZAC day) or beggars:

    1. The Charity collectors (or their company) often take a huge percentage of what you give. When I donate to charities I do via Credit Card.

    2. I live in a country with a social welfare system that supports people without a job. Every person you see on the street is able (and in most cases is) getting the dole, sickness benefit or whatever.

    3. Giving money to beggars is me paying people to indulge in unsocial activities and encouraging them to keep doing it. If nobody gave them any money then they wouldn’t do it.

    4. There are 50,000+ people on the unemployment benefit. 99% of them are no hanging around the streets, getting in people’s faces. Those 99% should be the ones getting extra money, not the anti-social few.

    5. People begging on the streets tend to have mental health problems. The chance of them getting nasty if you tell them to “Piss off” is not zero. A minimal quick refusal is probably a lot safer.

    BE: Well, I’m afraid I don’t share your smug, self-satisfied and utterly devoid of human sympathy view of the particular people I meet around Ponsonby. No-one would choose to live the wretched lives they lead, walking around the streets all day, nothing to do, nowhere to go. I recognise many of them. They come from halfway houses and rehab centres in the area. Others may be homeless. So, unlike you, I don’t begrudge them the extra cigarette or cup of coffee that my meagre charity might buy them. Frankly reading your comment made me sick to my stomach. With views like those, I very much doubt that this country gains much from your presence.

  2. A few times when I’ve seen someone begging at Ponsonby/3 Lamps shops I’ve gone into the fruit shop & bought them some bananas… Giving cash is virtuous unless its just funding their daily alcohol addiction…

    BE: Sounds like a good idea. I’d be interested to hear from you how they respond.

  3. I’m not sure I agree with your approach Simon. Many of your points are blunt assertions that everyone is out to take your hard earned dollars from you. Call me naïve but I do not believe this is true. As a society we seem to be becoming increasingly ill disposed to helping out other people, generally because of assumptions about their worthiness for our charity.

    I do not earn very much at all but always give a little if I have the money. Why? Because as Brian pointed out, it makes me feel good, and maybe it makes someone else feel good as well. That’s quite a nice feeling. It is also nice to think that my little bit contributes to something greater (for collectors).

    I do think however that people often do not have cash. With eftpos and credit cards it is quite easy to function almost entirely without cash. Perhaps the better response is: “Sorry mate, I don’t have any cash on me’. I don’t think these people have wads of cash squirreled away on their person, they have money, just not on them.

    BE: Your last point may well be right. That’s why I recommend taking some loose coins with you when you’re out walking.

  4. Most of the people who stand on corners with collection buckets for charities are doing it for free. They are quiet and let the signage do the talking because most of the time they’re on the other side of the donation bucket. I tend to give them money just because they’ve given up their time to get up early and do it – it’s a sign of appreciation.

    However, there is another breed who fire questions at you in order to get a rapport going. Being friendly I tend to talk back but then they start to get nasty when I walk off because I realise it’s just a marketing pitch rather than genuine friendliness. Now that I know what to look for I tend to cross the road to avoid them. From what I’ve heard these sharks get 80% of the donation in earnings and 20% goes to the charity.

    I hate it and it puts me off the charities that do it.

  5. I suspect a lot of people live a cashless life by doing everything by eft-pos/credit card so in that sense the young couple were probably telling the truth.

    BE: Possibly. But you see this happening all the time. I find it difficult to believe that almost no-one carries some cash these days. Least of all people who’ve gone out for coffee. The dismissive attitude also suggests irritation rather than regret at not having any smalll change.

  6. I’m a young person who is fortunate enough to be doing okay. I make an effort to give to charities through direct debit or credit card.

    When it comes to street collectors, the reality is, I don’t carry any cash any more. With my bus being covered by a Hop Card, and my coffee being covered by plastic there isn’t any need or opportunity to have coins dangling in my pockets.

    BE: OK, but do you really use a credit card to pay for coffee? I’m always amazed by that.

  7. I used to walk past the tiny office of Albanian Airways in Great Titchfield Street in London on the way to work every morning. They never had any customers anyway so I assumed they didn’t mind that a wrecked pile of rags with a human being inside sat beside their door.

    He did pavement art in coloured chalk. “Got a quid mate?” he asked almost every morning. Ignored him.

    After a couple of weeks I gave him a fiver. It was the pavment art. I’d looked at it every morning, after all.

    From then on I got free management advice in a loud voice as I walked past. “Love the suit…you want to watch out for those queers at the BBC…I’d keep on eye on your broker if I were you…oil prices up a bit…you need a scarf in this weather, mate.”

    Gave him another fiver, and he insisted I take one of his fags. Albanian brand–vile. After that I bought one fag a week for a fiver.

    Came back after six weeks away. No pavement art. I went in and asked the duty Albanian. Dead.

    They’d fed him coffee and buns and fags every weekday morning from 7 to 11 for two years. The cashier from the bookshop across the street gave him chalk. “I hope we made him feel a lttle good for Albania,” said Albania.

    I realised I’d been part of a small conspiracy to support the human race. Probably temporary.

    BE: Great story, Bill. Almost restores the faith in humanity which I nearly lost reading Simon’s contribution.

  8. And these vagrants don’t know this? They know all about morning coffee runs from suckers in areas like herne Bay.
    The only time I’ve ever handed anything to them was while my friend was inside ordering a coffee.
    I didn’t give him any money, I thought he would prefer the almost full packet of cigarettes my friend was about to smoke.
    I was correct, the smile on the vagrant was much wider than if I’d handed him money.
    And a win win, my friend shouldn’t smoke.

    BE: “And these vagrants don’t know this? They know all about morning coffee runs from suckers in areas like herne Bay.” You’re such a sweetheart, Cactus! Humanity should be greatful for you.

  9. I always give to kids playing some kind of musical instrument and to charities on street corners, I have been there and done that, I always found it incredible how many people never make eye contact with you, when there is a collection tin in front of you.

    You never know when you may need the help of that organisation.

  10. Good on you Brian. No-one knows the stories behind the people that need to ask for money, therefore there should be no judgements. Its chump change for us that have some spare money.

  11. I’m not mean spirited, but I rarely ever carry cash with me. I use the eftpos card for everything, even buying coffee or a newspaper (although I might take some milk or crumpets to make it worth the dairy owner’s time).

    So if I say I don’t have any money when someone asks, it’s the truth.

    I was actually wondering about this the other day when someone did approach me in the street… do you think NZ’s love affair with eftpos makes life harder for those people on the bottom rung?

    BE: “do you think NZ’s love affair with eftpos makes life harder for those people on the bottom rung?” Possibly. But this paying for coffee or a newspaper with your eftpos card strikes me as nuts. Your bank statements must be enormously long. And you’re probably holding up the queue of other people wanting to buy a flat white with their $4 ready in their hands. This is almost as bad as people at the front of the supermarket checkout paying with a cheque.

  12. @ Bill Bennett – “do you think NZ’s love affair with eftpos makes life harder for those people on the bottom rung?”

    Yes, and it has also made it harder for genuine charitable organisations to collect on the street or outside supermarkets etc, which in turn has forced some of them to engage contractors to do their collecting for a commission, which in turn has made it even harder to extract a few bob from Joe or Josie Bloggs in the street. That’s why more of us should take a page from Brian & Judy’s book and carry some change to help out the few poor desperate individuals (the ones Cactus Kate disdainfully refers to as “these vagrants”) – no commission involved there.

  13. 13

    “Have you got any money?” obviously means “Have you got any money for me?”.

    So “No” is not a lie.

    “No-one knows the stories behind the people that (need to?) ask for money”

    Exactly. So responding is just a lottery. I don’t give to lotteries.

  14. It shows the mean spirited characters of some people. I have always given a coin or a spare pair of socks to those in bare feet in the middle of winter. It is common humanity and respect for others. And it really costs nothing personally or philosophically to give to others. Even if it is spent on fags and booze, isn’t that what the punters are spending their bucks on on P Road and Jervois?

  15. Allison, it is comments like yours that give charity a bad name. By all means do what you like with your money but do not judge others, and do not trumpet your good works for all to see. Remember the injunction not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, which as you wil know is the motto of the Ministry of Social Development, although other government departements are trying to steal it.

    Continuing the theme some may recall the Sherlock Holmes story, the Man with the Twisted Lip, in which a man gives up his profession, applies make up to look hideous and becomes a professional beggar since it is far more lucrative than his job.

    I do sometimes wonder with these pan handlers whether I am funding an annual bussines class trip to Las Vegas.

    You may also recall that the beggar had a room in the house of a Lascar, “a man of the foulest antecedents” one of the most memorable lines in English literature. It should be applied to some of our politicians and directors of finance companies.

    BE: Wow, thanks Ben! You’ve opened my eyes. These ‘panhandlers’ I’m giving my small change to are actually disguised rich peoople who are using my $2 to fund trips to Las Vegas. It’s all so obvious now.

  16. Its actually a disgrace in this country that we have beggars at all. And instead of complaining about them, the posters on here should be complaining about how the government’s erosion of our social safety nets (to pay for tax cuts) has caused people to live on the streets.

    The running down of mental health services and the closure of insitutions such as Kingseat to pay for Bill Birch’s tax cuts in 1996 spring to mind.

  17. I never know whether to give or not. In Turkey a couple of 10 year old boys seemed to be circling us as we sat eating a sandwich on the sea front. They both were slopping along in broken jandals. They may have been asking for money. We said No. A passing adult told them to buzz off and they did.

    Should we have given them some money. Don’t think so but much later I thought we could have taken them across the road and bought them each a pair of jandals.
    I just never know! Con job or Needy?

    BE: “I just never know! Con job or Needy?” What does it matter? Either you’d have been conned out of very little or you’d have done a good deed.

  18. I have collected for several charities over the years – charities that myself and my family have benefited from in the past. Standing in the cold with a bucket for a couple of hours asking for money (however worthy the cause) is actually very hard work, and some people do it for hours on end. I hate doing it. Yet those coins can go a long way in providing services or support – as most NGOs survive on the goodwill of many people, so costs are minimal. It is amazing to see who gives eg those loading expensive groceries into late model SUVs tend to be less likely than the ‘blue collar’ workers. So I have a policy of always giving something when I see people out there with their buckets on the street corners.

    I also try to give, even a little, to those who are begging on the streets, as after all that could be any one of us were circumstances different.

  19. 19

    Allison, no, it shows common sense. Why give your money to someone who is probably a lying conman and almost certainly an addict of some kind when you can give it to a well-run charity you know will spend it carefully and effectively?

  20. It’s all in the genes, Brian.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9197596/Nice-people-are-born-not-bred.html

    BE: I’ve long suspected it. Must have got my caring personality from my mother. My dad was a drunk, wife-beater, embezzler and did a stretch in Wormwood Scrubbs for bigamy.

  21. Its a benchmark of the sort of society we live in ,how we treat the less fortunate.Reading the comments above is both encouraging and disparaging.Brian I find your comments leave me with hope for our society.Its called putting your money where your mouth is.If we could only get Eric Watson to do the same!

  22. Echoing your comment about how good it feels to give. Last week I walked past a woman on the street singing for money. I had no lose change so gave her a $10 note. The beaming smile on her face lifted my day.

    BE: Wonderful. A win/win for both of you.

  23. In regard to the cashless society, I heard Jim Mora’s RNZ panellists just the other day reacting with incredulity to exactly the same notion.
    I am post 60 but never have cash on me. I do all my banking online and pay for everything with my credit card and pay the balance off very month. It’s an efficient and easy way of dealing with money, gains me airpoints, and I believe that the practice of not having cash in your pocketmight be far more widespread than you realise Brian. I am sure that raffle sellers/ collectors have been impacted by this change in peoples habits. I choose what charities to support and do that online as well, but do sometimes feel a pang of guilt because I no longer have cash in my pocket.

    BE: Fair enough, Ross.

  24. Brian,

    You comment about me:

    “I’m afraid I don’t share your smug, self-satisfied and utterly devoid of human sympathy … So, unlike you, I don’t begrudge them the extra cigarette or cup of coffee that my meagre charity might buy them. Frankly reading your comment made me sick to my stomach. With views like those, I very much doubt that this country gains much from your presence. ”

    My reply to that is that there are many people in New Zealand who are in bad situations. I give money every month to charity. I work on the theory that giving money to the charities will help people more than me giving it directly whoever asks me.

    Giving money to the 1 percent of the needy who are begging in the street near where I am means that the other 99% are disadvantaged.

    One of the main points of our welfare system was to give people dignity by NOT forcing them to beg in the streets to get charity.

    People who give to beggars are telling those poor who don’t beg that they are suckers for not going after the free money.

    I might not get an immediate buzz by chucking a few coppers at people on my walk and I obviously get some people calling me heartless but I’m happy that I’m (a) getting more bang for buck and (b) doing it in a fairer way.

    BE: More bang for buck certainly is important, Simon. And a reasonable response to my evisceration. Cheers

  25. I agree with Simon. I do not give to charity collectors for exactly the same reasons.

    Furthermore, we should be free to move about the streets without being bothered by people for money.

  26. Your response to Simon was grossly offensive. Do not judge other people because they do not share your opinion.

    There are many ways of helping others and I hope we all find our own way. It does not matter how we do it as long as we do help those less fortunate than ourselves. This help can take many forms; not necessarily spare change.

    I would add that true charity is something that demands a sacrifice on the part of the donor. A few coins which you would never miss, just to give you a warm glow does more for the donor than the recipient. I think you are in the same caregory as Allison.

    BE: I found what he had to say offensive. It seems a bit rough to accuse me of something I had accused myself of in the post (a warm glow etc). As to whether this does more for me than the recipient, you might have to ask the recipient about that. Would it be better if I and other donors gave nothing? As to help ‘taking many forms’, Judy and I both have charities we commit funds to, but I really don’t feel the need to justify myself to you, Ben. As for ‘true charity’ demanding a sacrifice on the part of the donor, this would exclude the contributions of multi-millionaires like Gareth Morgan and a host of other benefactors who feel the need to ‘give back’ to the less fortunate some of the wealth they have made. No great sacrifice is required of them to do so. They have lots of money left. Your ‘high standards’ would make their contributions meaningless and self-serving and deprive the recipients of the benefit of their generosity. Sheer hypocrisy.

  27. Here is CHch before the big shake, there was a gentleman near to Cathedral playing bone pipe he had made himself. The tunes were very pleasant to listen to and I would take a seat nearby and just listen.
    One day I decided that I should give him something so I went over and in his hat was a few 10 and 20c coins and perhaps a couple of $1 Goldies.
    I put the last fiver I had in that hat and it was a treat to see his eyes light up!

  28. 28

    Yes, I often give to musicians. That’s a different issue.

  29. 29

    Stephen Ballantyne

    Is there a more nauseating, self-serving and cruel Conan Doyle story than The Man With the Twisted Lip? I can’t think of one, and I’m pretty familiar with his Holmes and Professor Challenger stories, and others.

    I like Conan Doyle, who mainly wrote like an amiable old codger, and I’m generally tolerant of his casual racism, classism and sexism as being products of the times, but that story is really too much. Especially considering that when it was written in 1891 London was more squalid than today’s Calcutta, with filth-covered streets and appalling rates of poverty, illness, prostitution and infant mortality.

    And yet this ghastly fantasy continues into the 21st century to provide an excuse for the selfish to ignore the deprived. It’s fiction, Ben, not journalism.

  30. Most charity is self serving; the donors make sure the entire world know about their generosity.

    BE: Ben, why don’t you occasionally have a look at what you’ve written and, before you offer it for publication, ask yourself: If I were asked to justify this with specific examples, how far would I get? “Most charity is… The donors make surethe entire world knows about it.

    And even if what you propose were true, would the benefit of feeding hungry children (for example) be outweighed by the self-serving approach of the donor?

    And is your position then, I don’t believe in charity, because the people who give it are merely self-serving? A fairly personally undemanding position, one would have to say.

    For the record, I do have one strong objection to charity when it is used as an argument to avoid government support for those in need. Charity is capricious and unreliable.

  31. I hate the Chuggers (charity muggers) who only want to sign you up for direct debit charity. Surf Life Saving New Zealand (or some very similar group) recently turned down 5 bucks from me – because they could only take 10 dollar downpayments. I’d actually gone to the supermarket checkout and got 5 dollars in change for them. I ended up leaving the note with them and told the speechless kid he could give the next punter a 5 dollar discount. He looked at me like i was some sort of alien.

    My policy now is to avoid people asking for money with clipboards.

    Brian – it sounds like you might need to change your bank. TSB offers us free eftpos etc for all our card transactions.

  32. Stephen, Doyle wrote fiction; so what. Dickens, Hgo wrote fiction about the times in which they lived. Much of Shakespeare is fiction. This does not prevent it painting a picture of the times and does not mean the works should not be quoted. As it happens my remark about funding someone’s trip to Las Vegas was meant as a joke but I should have realised that the world is full of literalists, including BE it seems.

    Incidentally there are well documented examples of professional beggars overseas who make a comfortable living.

    BE: ” I should have realised that the world is full of literalists, including BE it seems.” Sigh.

  33. “I don’t mind being bailed up by the local alcoholics, drug addicts, deadbeats, beggars and pavement-dwellers”

    Really?

    Presumably you’ve never my experience of being threatened by one who was dissatisfied with the size of the donation.

    Do you really think that it should be permissible for alcoholics and drug addicts to bail people up and ask for money?

    When in India I had to literally run from a pack of beggars when I gave coins to a few of them and a group suddenly gathered who all wanted their share. Waiting for a train at a railway station also involved dozens of requests for money from all manner of suffering humanity – you can make a meagre contribution to a few, but how do you choose? The leper with no fingers but can walk well enough to reach you first, or the cripple who drags himself along by his hands and is the last in the queue/scrum?

    I don’t see beggars as a colorful addition to streetlife (genuine street performers are a different category). They have very real problems and should be assisted in some way to solve them. Does anyone remember Blanket Man?

    I reluctantly came to the conclusion that in NZ at least I rarely give to beggars – they deserve real help, not extra cash that may well be used to buy something to worsen their condition rather than improve it.

    BE: “I reluctantly came to the conclusion that in NZ at least I rarely give to beggars – they deserve real help, not extra cash that may well be used to buy something to worsen their condition rather than improve it.” See. it’s this last sentence I really object to – what you might call ‘qualified giving’. “You’re a beggar but my giving you a few bucks is conditional on your spending the money in a way I approve of.” And actually you don’t know what the beggar will use the money for. You’ve just tarred all beggars with the same brush, a reflection of your prejudice against people begging for money. “They probably all spend it on booze or drugs.” If you can’t give unconditionally, don’t give at all.

  34. “If I were asked to justify this with specific examples…”

    You want some examples? Well this blog to start with where we have contributors falling over themselves to tell of the $5 and $10 notes they have offered up (any advance; anyone given $20/50/100 notes?). We have Dick Smith in Oz who frequently parades his good works for the media to see and at the same time criticise his fellow millionaires who are not so publicity greedy. We have Bill Gates and countless others in the States who let the world know of their good works. For a New Zealander, we have Owen Glenn (what happened to that money for young people promised before the election?). Perhaps all these people should read the parable of the widow’s mite.

    I have not said I do not believe in charity; I believe that charity is something that should be private. Let’s also get away from this notion that charity involves giving money. Of course money helps, but giving money is an easy way of salving one’s conscience. If you have a few thousand in the bank it is easy to distribute $10 notes hither and thither and believe you are doing something worthwhile.

    Parents if they are sensible do not give their children money whenever they ask for it. The good parent gives time, support and love. They know there are better ways of helping their children than doling out cash. Perhaps there are better ways of helping those in society who are reduced to the desperation of having to beg for money. We do not give charity to our children; we give them love. This is what we should give to our fellow human beings and then perhaps the need to beg might be alleviated.

    I wonder if I or another contributor to this blog were to write to and told you a true and verifiable tale of desperation and how $500 would help save a child’s life, I would be curious to know how you would respond. That would be the test of true charity.

    “If you can’t give unconditionally, don’t give at all.” On that at least we are in complete agreement.

  35. Ps: read a book by Patrick West called Conspicuous Compassion. Here is aprt of the ‘blurb’.

    We live in an age of conspicuous compassion. We sport empathy ribbons, send flowers to recently deceased celebrities, weep in public over murdered children, apologize for historical misdemeanors, wear red noses for the starving, go on demonstrations to proclaim ‘Drop the Debt’ or ‘Not in My Name.’

    We feel each other’s pain. We desperately seek a common identity and new social bonds to replace those that have withered in the post-war era – the family, the church, the nation and neighborhood. Mourning sickness is a religion for the lonely crowd that no longer subscribes to orthodox churches. Its flowers and teddies are its rites, its collective minutes’ silences its liturgy and mass.

    This book’s thesis is that such displays of empathy do not change the world for the better: they do not help the poor, diseased, dispossessed or bereaved. Our culture of ostentatious caring is about projecting your ego, and informing others what a deeply caring individual you are. It is about feeling good, not doing good, and illustrates not how altruistic we have become, but how selfish. And, as Patrick West shows in this witty but incisive monograph, sometimes it can be cruel.

    BE: I was stopped during my walk yesterday by a middle aged couple out on their walk. The woman put her hand in her pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. ‘She said, ‘I read your blog, and thought, “What a wonderful idea.” And it is.’

    What I find confusing is that I set out to share a personal discovery which was essentially that I’d found taking some coins with me on my walks to give to various people asking for money – rather than ignoring them or saying I didn’t have any cash, when in fact I did – had proved to be personally rewarding. I thought, apparently rightly, that one or two other people might like to do something similar. It turns out now that giving a few dollars to these wretches was a really bad thing to do and that not only was I harming them and society, but the prime reason for mentioning it at all was to boast of my own generosity. That is apparently the prime reason why people make charitable donations. In short, I shouldn’t have written the post at all.

    This has now become extremely unpleasant and, while conceding that I was pretty rough on poor old Simon, I’ve taken about as much personal abuse now as I’m able to tolerate.

    Judy and I are off today for a short break overseas. When we started this site, our intention was that its function would be purely to promote our media training and consultancy business. My present thinking is that when we get back from overseas we will return to that original concept.

    In the meantime, I don’t intend to reply to any of the more disagreeable recent comments or to others that come in while we’re away.

  36. There is nothing wrong with showing empathy.Public donations are fine by me also.Some of these reactions may not change the world but they definitely bring issues to our attention.Denial or ignorance really dont cut it for me.As much as I dislike Bill Gates wealth I prefer him to share it rather than not share it .Some of us were always selfish.As Patrick West’s book is only a Thesis I wouldnt hang my hat on it.It may be true in some cases and untrue for others.

  37. “I reluctantly came to the conclusion that in NZ at least I rarely give to beggars – they deserve real help, not extra cash that may well be used to buy something to worsen their condition rather than improve it.”

    Hear, hear, Steve.

    BE is wrong when he protests to Ben, “It seems a bit rough to accuse me of something I had accused myself of in the post (a warm glow etc)”. Selfishness is one thing, but actually exacerbating an evil by your chosen and willfully-held foolish opinions is another.

    “No-one would choose to live the wretched lives they lead, walking around the streets all day”?! And I doubt very much that comment comes from years of accumulated experience and wise compassion dealing at the front-line with Auckland’s street population. Speak to those folks (and yes, believe it or not there are are compassionate conservatives who do care about the plight of these people, and who take the time to inform themselves with advice from people who work at the coal face), and in my experience the advice is the same: Don’t give disposable cash to suspected addicts.

    That Simon, having taken the time to accept the invitation to offer his calm, sensible, practical, and good thoughts in response to the initial post was then subject to scurrilous and contemptible comments such as, “smug”, “self-satisfied”, “utterly devoid of human sympathy”, “your comment made me sick to my stomach”, and, “I very much doubt that this country gains much from your presence” is a pretty good indication this thread is built on a premise of arrogant self-satisfaction, and damn the real-life consequences.

    “”You’ve just tarred all beggars with the same brush, a reflection of your prejudice against people begging for money. “They probably all spend it on booze or drugs.”” (@ Ben). Ok, so how many alcoholics or glue-sniffers have to die, or go blind drinking meths or inhaling solvents for Dr Edwards to decide there may be some merit in denying his personal need “to give”, without exercising a modicum of judgement, let alone giving a spray to those who take the time to disagree, and outline why with logical and sensible arguments?

    “And a reasonable response to my evisceration. Cheers”?! More like Simon deserves a Nobel Peace Prize or canonisation.

    Simon, I applaud your patience and forbearance, because with my Celtic blood I can assure you I wouldn’t have responded as calmly as you have in the face of such sanctimonious bonhomie.

    BE: See my reply to Ben. And you might like to note my more conciliatory reply to Simon’s, as you say, patient response.

  38. sir, if those poor unfortunates are fron a rehab, i would not give a cent.you are not helping them at all. i will offer to buy a coffee or a milkshake etc. yours sincerely.

  39. Well said Kimbo.Brian why do you expect everyone to feel and act exactly as you do and if they don’t you rubbish them?

    BE: See my reply to Ben.

  40. BE: “If you can’t give unconditionally, don’t give at all.”

    What is the objection to what you call “qualified giving”. “Targetted” might be a better description. If its my money I’m perfectly entitled to spend it how I want.

    You are perfectly entitled to give cash to alcoholics and drug addicts if that makes you feel saintly – but I don’t see why I should be considered prejudiced and morally judgemental for thinking its a bad idea.

    I assume you’re not seriously suggesting that saying “Piss off” Is less demeaning than “no”.

    BE: See my reply to Ben.

  41. @ Steve

    “What is the objection to what you call “qualified giving”. “Targetted” might be a better description. If its my money I’m perfectly entitled to spend it how I want”.

    As Brian has long-since lost the plot on this one, and seems to think it is right and proper to presume and harangue the motives of others, I’ll break the habit of a blogging-lifetime, and indulge in my own presumption, and answer (uninvited) your question on his behalf. I do so in part because I have serious doubts you will get a sensible or honest answer from the one whom you asked. Never thought I’d ever accuse anyone of that in blog-land, but I am still spitting-tacks mad that someone as thoughtful and considered as Simon got dumped on like he did.

    The “problem” Brian has with “qualified giving” is that it smacks of the nasty Victorian morality of a deserving and undeserving poor. Some folks view it as “common sense”, and a distinction that needs to be made if those who are genuinely unable to avoid the difficulties and vagaries of life are to be helped back to functional independence, while others aren’t killed with kindness in a potential poverty-trap. That, and maybe, just maybe, the public purse can’t sustain every supposed “social need”. True, sometimes it is not a simple black and white matter to know who is, and isn’t “deserving”. However, in Brian-world, if you even stop to consider that thought, then he considers it “offensive”, and you are a nothing but a nasty bastard.

    As he said, unless you simply give, give, and give, with no thought of restraint, or more precisely, actually take the time to ask the question, “will this person benefit from my giving, or is there the possibility it could actually exacerbate their plight – and is there maybe a better way to assist them?”, then you are “smug”, “self-satisfied”, and “utterly devoid of human sympathy”. All because Brian is, of his own admission, emotionally uncomfortable uttering the word, “no”.

    As he’s posted before, and as you can discern if you read the personal anecdotes he drops, his values are deeply rooted in his upbringing. Which is fair enough, and reflects his genuine concern and actions for the less-fortunate (read the post he did about helping at the city-mission last Xmas day – was the thoughts of a genuinely compassionate man).

    Only problem is Brian’s concern has long-since passed into self-righteous obsession, and a lack of charity for those who think differently. Which is what Ben, although imprecisely expressed, has rightly discerned…

    BE: See my reply to Ben.

  42. 42

    Stephen Ballantyne

    Ben,
    if you like the hole you’ve dug for yourself by all means keep on digging. Although I believe I’ve formed a fair estimate of your nature from your reading preferences (although I can’t recall Dickens, Hugo or Shakespeare writing anything as foul as The Man With the Twisted Lip, which I would only consider quoting as an example of propaganda by the privileged against the deprived) I’m sure you won’t let my opinion or anyone else’s affect your resolute indifference to the hardship of others.

    By the way, where are these well documented examples of professional beggars (conveniently) overseas who make a comfortable living? No quotes from Snopes, please.

  43. “Well said Kimbo.Brian why do you expect everyone to feel and act exactly as you do and if they don’t you rubbish them?”

    Perhaps dishing out a few dollars to a street beggar and dishing out a jolly evisceration produces the same endophins?

    JC: I’ve had enough of this gratuitous rudeness. Normally I would have stepped in long ago with my sub’s blue pencil, but since BE rather asked for it, I’ve sat back. However, any further offensive comments will be either sent to the trash bin or edited.