Friday, January 19, 2007

pesky panhandlers

the 'downtown seattle association'--essentially a private business and development group--is promoting a just-say-no to panhandlers campaign, somewhat absurdly titled "have a [heart] give smart". you can read the pamphlet they are handing out here; suggestions include "instead of giving spare change, ask a downtown MID ambassador dressed in yellow and blue to refer the panhandler to food and other resources." you can read a seattle times opinion columnist's take on the campaign here.

the issue of whether or not to give money to someone who approaches you on the street can get surprisingly complicated. it seems to me that much of what gets said on the topic has more to do with the self-conceptions of the people giving money than with the actual effects of such gifts for people who ask for money. it is another demonstration of the way that money, that ideally purely rational quantity, gets bound up in intimate emotions and constructions of self.

and since this week in class we are reading benjamin and baudelaire: baudelaire's little vignette "counterfeit" discusses the merits of handing out counterfeit coins to beggars. it's worth a read (only a page and a half; you can find it online here) both on its own merits and because it has figured prominently in subsequent writings.


Blogger Midnightsky Fibers said...

(Jenn W)
I find that my issue with the homeless is more in how people treat them, especially in Seattle. There was a very different attitude towards the homeless when I was in Austin several years ago that I just don't see when I am downtown, and I think that part of it has to do with the tactics the homeless have to use to try and get attention.

There was a discussion awhile back on a sustainable living group about how resourceful was too resourceful, and homelessness was brought up along with some more "metro" ideas (dumpster diving, YMOYL, BNN) as being absolutely one of the lowest impacts you can have on the environment- and yet even the most environmentalist of people would have a hard time choosing it because of the stigma attached.

1/30/2007 2:16 AM  

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