Every time I travel upcountry to our parents country home, I purposely observe the many manifestations of enduring poverty and desperation. It’s too abundant – and one has to be careful not to start seeing it via the lens of always has and will be with us, with temporary relief as the normal.
Have you taken a tally of how many ‘economic-mayday-calls’ you get from kindred and friends if you are middle class? Not to forget calls from the latter class to the higher middle class. When begging happens amongst the middle class, it’s sanitised as one-off and reciprocal, but it’s still begging only this time, amongst the educated and supposed-to-be able.
Do you also realise that men beg more than women? Is it because men are traditionally the providers in a household? Is it because begging by women is unfairly associated with promiscuity?
Well, it’s very Ugandan (or most of us) to support, especially family, that are vulnerable. It’s in our DNA, and we preach to our children and our associates the ‘requirement’ to give to others. Those that don’t help others in need are considered inhumane.
Yesterday, I spoke at the wedding of one of our clan sons, Daniel Isakwa, and I advised the couple, especially Dan, to extend a hand to those in need – esp. our relatives. The young man is the eldest in his family. And sadly, our culture is such that we encumber these souls with social responsibility beyond their immediate household. That is the nature of business here, and apparently, it’s okay. Should it be?
Okay – if social-encumbrances being part of our culture is okay, should we at least not ask whether it’s sustainable. Can the generation coming of age be asked and trusted to continue practising ‘society social responsibility’ – SSR? Even if they heed the call to do SSR, is it within their economic means to do so?
Yes, our fore-parents – and our own parents practised SSR. They gave to those that asked, visited, expressed need (polite for begging). And if begging is increasingly frowned upon by the occupants of this contemporary world, it wasn’t in our times. It was instead encouraged. While not asking help in current times may be considered politick and decent, back then it was pure idiocy and a license to being certified antisocial.
I suppose we need to interrogate why people beg before we discuss the acceptability and sustainability of begging
So, before we start disparaging those that beg, we need to understand why they have to chronically depend on ‘livelihood-stimulus’ from relatives and friends – most of the time. Why can’t they wean themselves off social support?
Are these people asking help because, like our mum rebuked our kindred for not asking for help, they are encouraged to do so? Are they asking because they have genuine unmet needs but lack the means to plug the gaps?
Or is it both culture and genuine need? If it’s both unmet need and a matter of culture [and normal], we have to interrogate further what of the culture vs unmet-need driver is driving kindred to beg the more.
If it’s culture that is the more significant driver of begging – we can start to work at changing culture and stop the burden on others. If it’s an unmet need, then we need to find fixes that enable people to address their needs. It gets a little more complex when you talk needs through the lens of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but let’s keep this simple.
And if it’s both culture and unmet needs driving begging – then we have to stand proud that we have a framework, albeit social and informal, that addresses the needs of our kindred. And this social-fix has done a pretty good job thus far.
Now – is begging acceptable?
Well, we are sorry to write here that the above question is moot. There is no need to interrogate this matter. Pretty straight forward, it is. Or we think.
We opine that for as long as there is an unmet need, moreover of a physiological and security nature, desperation abounds. Desperation will force people to beg, other than die or suffer irrevocably.
It’s our submission that almost all our kindred (there may be a few lazy ones) that beg do so for a simple reason – to meet basic needs. People aren’t begging to buy cars or even simple mobility machines like a bicycle. They are begging to survive.
They beg because they don’t have the means to provide for themselves and loved ones. They beg because there is no sustainable national safety-net to take care of their basic needs. They beg because the economy, formal or informal, hasn’t allowed them space and opportunity to partake of sustainable production. There are many reasons for economic exclusion: gender, lack of education, a habit where one slumbers expecting others to help them, the lack of potent economics (failing economy), etc.
Should we assume that it’s easy for all to decode that begging, will continue until we have robust and sustainable national solutions to our needs especially deficiency needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, good rest, health and financial security?
Yes, a clan like mine can try mitigation, and indeed has for hundreds of years. But ultimately, needs-security is the mandate of the nation-state, to begin with. National level frameworks to address our needs have to be set up — the common man and woman leverage these frameworks for sustainable production and all the accompanying life enablers.
It’s therefore not far fetched to write on this blog that the answer to stopping our kindred begging and the ensuing institutionalisation of SSR as the stop-gap (now permanent), is via the nation-state doing its work.