All the talk about beggars in Auckland, and the new by-law outlawing them if they "are deemed intimidating or causing a nuisance" had me thinking. Who gets to decide if any particular beggar is "intimidating or causing a nuisance" - is it the Council, a council worker, a policeman, or just any one at all who chooses to say "I feel intimidated?" or "That person is a nuisance to me?" But then I started to think more about begging in general.
Then two weeks in a row I saw a man (I say a man, because assuredly he is more than a beggar, just as I cannot be defined by a single aspect of my life) begging near where I was meeting my son for lunch.
My first gut reaction was one of revulsion for a society in which some people feel the need to beg.
My second thought was that at least he was being honest and direct - asking for money. Let's face it, there's a hell of a lot more people out there mugging people, breaking and entering, or stealing via investment scams.
Talking to people about this, it seems like most people feel that begging is somehow worse than shop lifting, handbag snatching or home invasion. What is it that gives people this gut feeling that begging is scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel?
And yes, before you ask, I did give him some money.