Posts Tagged equality

Society at the end of the rainbow

Gay marriage is in the news again, this time because it is being debated in American courts once again. I for one cannot understand how bans on gay marriage have continued so long. In a court of law you can swear on the Bible, but you can’t use it to prove your case.

Support for Gay marriage has been rising, especially among the young.  At the same time religion has been waning.  There are, of course, many Christians who approve of gay marriage. There are very few, probably, who think that the issue of legality of gay marriage is entirely distinct from the issue of whether it is sinful.

I wonder what will happen. I think support for gay marriage will only grow. We are speedily heading to the end of a gay rainbow. Opponents of gay marriage are on the defensive, and that includes conservative Christians. To the “enlightened” they must seem like some cartoon villain, refusing to give up when the battle is already over. This The Oatmeal comic shows exactly what is happening.

Either the church will change to embrace gay marriage or the next generations will leave the church. Perhaps they’ll establish their own gay-friendly churches. Or perhaps Christianity will be discarded altogether.

I love the Church. I do not wish for it to be displaced. But I fear church intransigence, particularly that of the Catholic church, will drive the decline of faith in coming years. That would be alright, if it were in the name of a truly noble cause. If it were like driving money-changers from the temple. But who is the villain in this story? The myriad of gays asking for their love to be recognized?

Drawing from another Biblical reference: the writing is on the wall.  The writing this week took the form of the following picture, used as a profile picture by supporters of gay marriage. It’s message is simple, appealing: Equality. It’s not going away.

equality

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The right to beg: a third world perspective

(Disclaimer: this was written based entirely on my own personal experience. If I have any facts wrong, please let me know. )

I recently read in a Dutch newspaper that there are 253 registered beggars in Amsterdam. Several things about this statement shocked me.

253 is ridiculously little. I don’t think any city in South Africa has so few beggars, even as a percentage of population (though I have not checked the figures –there may not even be any figures).

The fact that beggars are registered and that begging is in fact outlawed (except, I suppose for these registered beggars) seems almost monstrous when you come from a country where almost every traffic light in every major city has children below the age of ten asking you for some coins. To deny so many people this form of income because it is a nuisance is something I cannot even countenance.

There are too many beggars to register in South Africa and there are certainly too many people who live off begging in order to make it illegal (that said, I have not checked our laws, but I have never heard of anyone being arrested for begging). There are the children that I have mentioned, but many grown men and women too, mostly black. Increasingly, you also find white people with cardboard placards asking for help because they have no job. I make this distinction between South Africa is still a very polarised country. The white are rich, and except for a handful of elites, the black are poor.

Of course, there are naturally people who take chances, who essentially con others via begging. (I have been conned into giving money to someone who supposedly needed it to catch a bus or a train, only to spot them in an another location not long afterward asking for the same thing.) One can argue that those children on SA street corners are being misused.   They often are, I think. The Netherlands has the luxury to control its beggar population. South Africa does not.  It is an administrative and man-power intensive task that our government and police force cannot handle. Nor is it one they should handle. There are far more important things to do.

Ideally, I think, all “charitable” money would be channelled via organisations that could oversee the use of that money. I don’t know the state of the NGO space in South Africa, but I suspect it can’t solve all the problems. And a request for a donation from an NGO will never be quite as persuasive as a cupped hand in your face.

In a country as divided as South Africa perhaps the rich need permanent reminders of their good fortune. Perhaps all it leads to is a habit of apathy. But one can be held accountable for apathy, not ignorance.  I would like to see a day where South Africa is no longer has beggars, where it can have the luxury of outlawing such distasteful things.  I do not think I will live long enough (and I plan to live a very very long time).

I have often been one of those apathetic rich people (rich compared to most South Africans, that is). This little article in a Dutch newspaper has made me question my actions, and, importantly, my inaction.

I am reminded of a quote by Henry Ford:

Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty.

I don’t believe that giving to beggars solves the problem of poverty. (It’s an easy way to salve your conscience, perhaps). But when you walk past that beggar, when you turn that blind eye, it is an opportunity to evaluate your life, to ask yourself,  have you contributed to a world in which begging would no  longer be necessary? For me, the answer, too often is an accusatory “no.”

 

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