BAGUIO

Domoguen: Of beggars and begging

Mountain Light

A “RESPECTABLE” politician disdainfully looks down on a group of people as beggars while admonishing one of his listeners during a consultation to promote a pet policy he co-authored for the city.

His tactics and style may match that of Trump in bluster and theatrics. It suits him well, I guess.

Noisy threats about using the power of eminent domain to confiscate lands may perhaps work with some people. In the highlands, the roar of thunder with a cold blustering wind has little effect. If you ask people to leave so you can build vacation houses on top of the mountain along with your friends, you are actually promoting anarchy, not human wellbeing for all, including yourself.

But really, politicians should know better, than this lowliest of beggars. One way or another - in the past, the present, and the future - we are beggars.

For politicians, like the beggars that roam the streets every day begging for money, don’t they beg for votes too during the election campaign?

A veteran politician understands that begging for cash or votes are alike and difficult than it looks. It is a high art form that takes years of dedicated practice to master.

For a politician to win the votes of fellow beggars, he should not pretend he is above begging. First and foremost, he represents the interest of fellow beggars.

As an intern for the United Nations Secretariat in Bonn, Germany, an International Development Research Center of Canada scholar, current editor of the International Scientific Journal of Issues, Research and Essay (JSRE), and chairman of the Indie Authors Promotion Center, among others, journalist and writer M.F. Moonzajer, observed that, “We were born beggars, we will live like beggars and we will die like beggars.”

I am not trying to glorify begging as if it is an acceptable pursuit or norm and standard of existence in the society. It is not.

Begging and its causes dehumanize people but I still agree to Moonzajer’s observation, if only to bring across the point that disdain is not the appropriate behavior by leaders towards the poor and beggars in our midst. In many ways, I am a beggar myself these days.

To his followers, Jesus Christ said that the poor will always be with you. Now, in the Bible, one notices that the term does not only refer to those who lack money and properties. It may refer to deeper meanings like poverty of the soul, of intellect, capabilities, intimacy and love, proper education, respect towards fellow human beings, and vibrancy of life. His advice is to be kind and merciful to the needy, which we all are in small or great measure.

Indeed, there is hardly a reference or advice on begging as a livelihood and being beggars in the Bible. For Christians, it is concerned with how the faithful show compassion to the poor and the needy.

Among the Jews, compassion to the needy is expressed and highlighted in practices and policies that empowers the poor and eliminates begging in their community.

During the talmudic period, for instance, the first Mishnah deals with the rights of the beggar who "goes from place to place" and who had sometimes to be provided with lodging for the night (Pe'ah 8:7). It was regarded as immodest for women to beg. On this matter, the Mishnah stipulates that if a man left insufficient means for his children, the daughters should remain at home and the sons go from door to door (Ket. 13:3).

In the New Testament, there are several references on begging and soliciting alms by the blind (Mark 10:46) and the lame at the entrance to the Temple (Acts 3:2).

Soon organized systems of providing for the poor were established like the “tamhui” (“soup kitchen”) and through the kuppah (“charity fund”).

With the establishment of the State of Israel, Kibbutzims were formed as “a closely knit social grouping, sharing all property and means of production and labor, while providing for all the needs of the members.” Initially dependent on agriculture, the kibbutzim later branched into manufacturing and services.

As Israel became more developed, Moshavs, a unique type of cooperative farmers’ village were invented and embraced by the people. As opposed to the more communal kibbutz, the members of the moshav preserve a relatively large degree of economic autonomy, but they do share various elements of mutual assistance.

There are many forms and causes of mendicancy. When a house burns down, a father dies, and or a calamity occurs, these can cause people to become destitute and beg. Nobody is immune from these things.

When mercy is not forthcoming for beggars and begging because it is looked upon with disdain, can you guarantee that your health, life, and fortunes remain with you forever? But if these are taken away, because you really do not have the power to hold unto them for as long as you want, may God forbid your wives and daughters going around begging. To survive, will they have to sell their bodies and souls then?

Picking from Dan Groat’s, “Monarchs and Mendicants,” here is a final thought about this topic. You see, when beggars suffer, they suffer to the depths, like there is nothing in them to buoy their hope. All is dark and the dead weight of despair pulls them deeper into the bottom of the sea. They cannot look ahead in the short or far distance and that probably explains why they grab at anything, even the sharp blades of an aggressor’s knife just to survive.

Even in their dreadful appearance, may God give us merciful hearts and wisdom to honor and respect our destiny helpers in disguise, the destitute and needy people among us!


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