Are we more callous the more affluent we become?

I would like to respond to Derek E. Mann, British Humanist. He seems more religious than most people I know. As he is willing to air his views in public, especially in his recent letter where he underlines the plight of homelessness, I wonder if he has any view on trying to solve this problem?

I will air my views on a situation I found myself confronted with in Preston. I was on my way to a carers’ meeting at East Cliff buildings in Preston where we were due to sing with a choir. It was Friday, December 5th, and it was destined to be one of the worst weather conditions in the North of England and Scotland for many years. The wind and rain were so bad, shopkeepers were having to retrieve shop signs. Plastic bags were blowing all over the road.

On my way down Church Street, absolutely drenched, I became aware of a beggar sitting on the wet flags, not in a shop doorway, but outside the shop in the full force of the wind and rain. I felt in my pocket and gave him a coin and he said have a good day.

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As I started to walk away I realised this beggar was working harder and in more atrocious conditions than most people rushing to work with their heads down, not giving him a second thought, probably going to work in warm shops and offices.

You could have expected this in the old days when money was scarce. Yet, during the war years people were more congruent to each other and rallied round to assist if anyone needed help. Are we more callous as we become more affluent? It certainly looks that way.

Are the public really to blame though, when councils are advising not to give money to beggars as it’s only fuelling their addiction to drugs? They are certainly addicted to bad weather. Do they classify all beggars as drug addicts? And, if they are addicted, they are not going to stop taking drugs. What they need is treatment. Stopping them begging, which to them is an honest way to earn a living, would result in them shoplifting or breaking into houses.

Where money is concerned it doesn’t take much for us to be persuaded not to part with it, particularly if that source of advice comes from authority. It seems to give us extra incentive to just walk past with our heads held high, irrespective as to the circumstances that caused the beggar to fall to such a low level in the first place.

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Terrence Barker

Mosley Street