Begging… and how not to.

Today a man approached me on the street outside the National Library in Bugis. Fifty-ish, tastefully dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, he held a handphone in his left as he hailed me with the right in Chinese.

“Hey, you know the way to Hougang?”
“Far ah?”
“I want to know the directions to walk there.”
“Got no money lah. You got money to give me?”
“I don’t have money.”

As I turned and walked away, the man scolded me in Hokkien: “Don’t want to give, don’t give. Don’t come and tell me no money. mai gong jiao wei!”

Beggars who take home £280 a day (Link goes to Daily Mail article)

He told me he had no money and asked for money from me. I told him I had no money and he called me a liar. I wonder if he fully appreciated the irony of his statement.

The thing about begging is that it’s a lot like a commercial enterprise. You’re here to sell a good to another person. In this case, you are selling a feel good emotion to the other person in exchange for money. Call it a very cold way of looking at things, but in a world of limited resources and exists on equivalent trading, I argue it is a very logical perspective. Nothing for nothing, after all.

I don’t have money to give to beggars. I care little for that ephmeral feel-good emotion because it is a lie. You have not changed his life a whit with your 50 cents, dollar coin or for the especially giving, 5, 10 dollar notes. At best, you just gave token assistance to a product of a system that is not working. At worst, you have helped make the situation worse by funding an individual’s drinking/drug habit, a habit which takes even more money to wean off. So don’t kid yourself. It’s hypocritical, only you don’t care to think about it.

Even if you are missing 2 legs, a hand and maybe an extra kidney or 2, you are still alive. You have your other hand, you have your mouth; most importantly, you have a brain. Use it. Create value, not leech it.

On an unrelated but interesting departure from this episode (which still left a bitter taste in my mouth), I found this interesting article about Buddhism from The Zen Blog. And watch for the daily ironies in life. It’s worth a chuckle or two.

Link goes to a blog article at "The Zen Glen"

One Comment to “Begging… and how not to.”

  1. Hi, I’m pleased you like my picture Beggar, but would you mind crediting it to John Goto and linking to rather than Zenglen. You might be interested in the updated version ‘Banker Beggar at



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