The Evolution of Begging

It seems, every new infographic or report on the state of the economy reverberate the maxim “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” The affluent minority rake in the majority of wealth. To be fair, this is more the case in the developing economies despite the echoing popularity of this sentiment in the capitalist nexuses. In the words of the monetary bard, 50 Cent, “money begets money.” The maxims certainly held true for him, but what about the other side of that coin? What about the poorest minority of populations whose subsistence depends on scrounging at the ever-receding pits of our wallets? We like to delude ourselves that our tax dollars are funding their decadent enterprises by the means of fraudulent welfare collection, but this is the exception to rule. You won’t find scammers sprawled over a subway vent, or clutching onto their urine-soaked sleeping bags, or nestled with their canine companions all for warmth. A strategically positioned bum at one of the city’s ritziest bars is suspicious, no doubt, but here is the thing: begging is not long for this world.

In the rapport between wealth and penury, the middle class romanticizes about being disenfranchised. The fat cats are sipping from their bowls; their butter is being spread over too many breads. They are conceding ground that took millennia to conquer. Reality tells a different story. In this reality, the middle class is doing just fine. They are not starving, drive multiple cars, and are about to replace paper permanently for plastic. For them, it has become too cumbersome to cram their wallets with coin and them having to wedge it all into skinny jeans. The entire aesthetic is ruined. On the flipside, capitalists want traceable funds. They want to know who is spending what and why. Shady business practices go without saying, but the reality is money is evolving at a rapid pace. When the modern bourgeois felt the wrath of a globalizing economy in the most recent economic crisis, governments scrambled to come to their aid. Manufacturing-based business practices became threatened by incessant outsourcing, and whatever industries remain are increasingly automating their production line, with their commodities being digital ether, as many would label. In this respect, the middle class are indeed under siege, but their survivability depends on the ephemeral inconvenience of retraining — on updating their entitled jobs to match their modernized habits. They have these options, and the majority will eventually take them.

The derelict, however, have their legs spread over a chasm looking down into the abyss of extinction. The time that sustains their misery sustains them, but soon the free ride will end. Transaction after transaction, grand or paltry, is increasingly digital. It’s as tedious as entering a pin or as user-friendly as a tap. And this is fine. The money gets cleaner and leaner, but minimalism doesn't mean quite as appealing to the beggars. Increasingly, I find myself turning them down because I have no change to spare. I can’t spare a coin. I have no change at all, actually. Walking up from the downtown subways, a wallowing soul confronts me consistently, but my only consolation to him is a sympathetic countenance. When I see a man sleeping on the frozen pavements, I am baffled at how they can sustain their body heat with such malnutrition and survive with such abhorrent hygiene. The ones with the dogs really gnaw away at my core, and on a rare occasion, one will have the audacity to dangle his coffee cup in front of me, but to no avail. I am powerless. A residual habit guides my hand to my right pocket only to realize that I can’t. I genuinely don’t have change because I use it for transit, and I need the $10 for lunch. I’m as middle class as they come, but spread between loans, bills, and a near minimal income, budgeting is a hard reality.

What do I do? They surely need the money, but I can’t ask for change back even though it’s the pragmatic alternative. Aren’t they better off with $1.20 than with nothing? If they had some sort of digital payment machines, I wouldn’t hesitate to whip out my card as I do with most impulse purchases. It would be like buying a slice of moral gratification. Unless the government starts issuing such terminals under “posterity for the financially challenged citizens,” bums will have to look to private sector/banks to broker such a deal. Chances will be slim, irrespectively, and probably a waste of collective bargaining labour. So what’s left? Group buy system where a charity distributes collected funds on a monthly basis to its beneficiaries provided they reek of piss and have fewer than 27 teeth? The tooth part would be a good deterrent, though. A more likely outcome is that the poorest will get even poorer not just monetarily. They will give up whatever shred of dignity they cling to. They will wait outside of fast food joints not asking for money, but asking for a meal. It will be their best bet at having a filling meal that day. Those desperate moments of purchasing power will be conceded for survival, which isn’t all bad. People will stop looking at them like he’s just scrounging for his next mickey, because many of them do do that, but the digital revolution can also breed more honest low lives. Ones that will be posted at liquor stores, and the welfare scammers will pack up their acts from financial district lounges unless sitting in the cold looking like shit will be worth that expensive cocktail.

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