cult and paste

be careful where you clique

thinking of a cantonese beggar


Let’s really get to the bottom of what a beggar is.

One has no alternative but to ask others for food and money to get by. Some beggars are choosers in their how’s and what’s. There are plenty of moonlighting homeless people who claim to be beggars, but upon closer inspection they turn out to be vegetarians or bandits. There are crooks dressed up like monks and children behaving like slaves, but the test of a true beggar is that he or she evokes overwhelming sympathy and disgust in unison.

You’re forced to make an emotional evaluation of charity and pity on the spot. Then, with split second judgment, comes response. You walk by, or you make loose coins clink; maybe you sit down and try to empathize to what’s really happening. You wish that you, the beggar and the whole damn society had never gone down this street. It’s not fair for you or the beggar.

Such individuals, being completely at the mercy of others, have only one moral standard: survival.

This has made them very attractive prey to ethically challenged industrialists. No surprises. The “help-less” have been making small fortunes for the “help-themselves” ever since people figured out how to have children. If all the untouchable beggars of the world got together for a party, and they exchanged stories about their lives in the urban trenches, there would be enough material for a 6 dvd pack, and within 3 or 4 episodes, the story of Mr. Tambourine man would have to come up. He’s the one in the dictionary next to the word beggar.

As you cross over the expressway on the footbridge and begin descending the staircase, you find Mr. Tambourine man- a soul trapped in what appears to be a melted candle… with a shirt on. Economically, he’s an ideal beggar; so aesthetically imperfect.

It’s impossible to think he got that way on his own. Obviously this mangled sack of life used to be a man with a very different story. He probably had a real name, possibly a family. He probably got behind on a loan payment or maybe he just got off the wrong bus at the wrong stop…. Stop. At some point in time he lost his legs and his left hand to a buzz saw and then he got hosed down with acid until his eyes and cartilage dissolved. With his transformation nearly complete, his new employers traded in his tongue for a harmonica, which he now blows incessantly. His songs aren’t melodic or rhythmic. They scream. And thus he beckons you to look, “You will not ignore me.”

Mr. Tambourine man has maintained his position with his begging bowl, rain and shine, for many years. His skin is permanently a peeling orange, glazed by the afternoon sun. In that time, he’s probably made enough in coins to buy an operation… or a lawyer. But that money lines other people’s pockets. He only knows he’s getting by when he gets his dinner after a day’s work.

Once, on a rainy morning, I saw a van pull up to the curb. The driver jumped out, slid the door open and out plopped Mr. Tambourine man. The only other person who noticed this transfer was a policeman on the opposite corner. The policeman was as surprised as I was… until we made eye contact.


2 comments on “thinking of a cantonese beggar

  1. taymoss
    March 22, 2009

    Cf. Slum Dog Millionaire: the kids make more money if they are grotesquely blind…

  2. cultandpaste
    March 22, 2009

    it’s a reality

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This entry was posted on March 20, 2009 by in Stories and tagged , , , , , , .
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