Photo of the Day: Seeing People, Seeing Policy

At the risk of meeting the coal industry’s standard of child porn, here is a family that was begging on the street by my office. There are an estimated 26 million homeless in India, of which 3 million are literally on the street. The rest have some sort of roof over their heads, barely.

Gangs that kidnap, buy, and maim children are not the stuff of Slumdog Millionaire storytelling, so the politics of giving to beggars is agonizing. Anyone who has anything dismissive to say about liberal guilt can bite me. I’m guilty and proud. That is to say, I’m not guilty about feeling a duty to use the resources that our unequal world has bestowed upon me in a responsible way.

So: beggars. On the one hand, the thought that I would indirectly reward someone for successfully stealing a child makes me sick. On the other, there is a hungry human being standing in front of me. To not give for the greater good is to make their hunger a tool of my social policy.

The “right” answer is a) the most responsible thing to do is to give to organizations, and b) there are no right answers.


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