“Emotionally blackmailed” by Roma babies

Dear Agony Subcomandauntie, I live just outside London and commute for 90 minutes every day by train and tube. At least once a journey I"m asked if I can spare some change. I can't afford to give money to everyone who asks, but as a rule will regularly slip the odd pound or buy The Big Issue. However, Roma women have recently been coming through the carriages, pushing their babies in people's faces and annoying other commuters. While I"m sympathetic, I"m not sure whether to reward such emotional blackmail, and I feel intimidated by the general hostility from fellow passengers. What should I do? Yours, So broke it beggars belief
July 2004

Dear So broke,

Auntie doesn't know "beggar etiquette" either, but it's pleasing to find a fellow giver out there. But that's enough of the liberal hand-wringing. AUNTIE demands ACTION. First things first: screw those selfish Daily Mail-reading bastard commuters on your train. That Roma woman (complete with child in face) is a bloody human being for God's sake; only she's homeless and destitute in a strange, unwelcoming country and needs our help.

Whether you give her money or not, at least try and talk to her and find out her situation. You might think of carrying a handy contact list of refugee groups for her to get in touch with. By treating beggars with respect, you"ll make those around you feel guilty and maybe, just maybe, shame them into being a bit nicer.

But Auntie doesn't buy the "can't afford to give money to everyone" line. That sounds like "beggar fatigue", a well-known mean-spirited condition suffered by backpackers in poor countries. Think how many one-, two- and five-pence coins are down the back of your sofa. Auntie sub-commands you to fill your pockets and give generously.


 

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