Photo: Gizmodo

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beggars can be choosers

I came across this video on the Guardian website the other day, a shocking piece of television from Spain.
If you don't speak Spanish, here's a short resumé. The "journalist" is talking with Atlético de Madrid fans in Hamburg the day of a European football final. He spots a homeless man and encourages fans to show their generosity to "make the man happy". The bemused man is incredulous when, egged on by the "journalist", fans begin putting coins, mobile phones and visa cards in front of him, much to the amusement of the presenters back in the studio.

It says a lot about our society when a homeless person becomes nothing more than a source of derision, with the resulting effect construed as legitimate entertainment by broadcasters.

When does a person living on the streets stop having a name and become "el mendigo" - the beggar? Welfare mum? Street kid? Asylum seeker?

Recently, ATD Fourth World in London launched a photography exhibition called "The Roles We Play" as part of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion . It aims to recognise the contribution of people in poverty and challenge negative attitudes towards vulnerable and excluded families.

Amanda, left, has a name other than poor:  neighbour, wife, mum, citizen. It is possible to go beyond a mere tag to meet and understand people living in poverty. I'd be very interested to hear about other projects giving people in poverty something more than a label.

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