Monthly Archives: December 2010

Bali Various Trips Throughout 2010

Amazing what you can do with skill

Begging

I have been privileged to do a fair amount of travelling in these last 12 months and experienced first hand several cultures, however one thing that has struck me in the places that I have visited and even in my own country is our failure as a species to be able to provide basic necessities to our fellow human being.

I guess I am relatively lucky to be living where I am, homelessness and poverty is not as big of an issue here in Perth (not saying that it isn’t present or an issue) compared to other parts of Australia, much less the rest of the world. However regardless of where you live in the world the homeless / beggars often have a bad reputation due to misconceptions and misunderstandings, in my view someone who is down on their luck and unable to afford even a meal does not deserve to be given any less respect than a tycoon with multiple millions of dollars, we are all still people who have to make our way on this giant rock, sometimes it is an easier ride and sometimes we have to hold on to our laurels with both hands for fear of sliding off the bus.

One common mindset in regards to giving homeless people money is that there is no point as they would just use if for booze / smokes / drugs. In regards to many people I believe you would actually find that they would use this cash to go and get themselves something to eat as it can often be many days in between meals, and more often than not these would not be the standard of what the common person would consider a decent meal. But that aside on the topic even should they be used for booze / smokes (not so much here in Australia as that stuff is getting damn expensive however in other countries it is considerably more affordable) who are we to judge? These people have had a hard run in their lives and commonly see no hope or happiness in their future if the occasional access to a vice is able to provide them a little relief or happiness in their situation can we rightly judge them?

I like to think of myself as a generous person and as a rule I will give money to beggars / charities / whoever needs it however I recently found myself in a situation where I was not willing to give and fuck I still feel guilty about it at the moment which has partly lead to this line of thought. I had been partly sheltered I guess living here in Perth encountering someone begging in my younger years was something of a rarity, I never used to have much back then but I would still buy someone something to eat if they asked for money, even if it was just a pie and a coke or Hungry Jacks. Sydney was an eye opener when travelling there, when I travel I like to walk around and get my bearings in all directions and simply walking around the area I was staying seemed to be filled with people after spare change, needless to say I ran out of that relatively quickly.

In Singapore thigns are done relatively different with people that are unable to work, many will sell tissues at the tranist stations, food halls and toilets which I thought was a very good idea and will always buy off them when I see them in Singapore. However on the other side of the coin, in one visit there I saw the only beggar I have seen to date I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pain there as I think (not 100% on that one) that begging is illegal in Singapore and if the guy ever gets caught he is likely in for some consequences.

Flash forward to Jakarta, now that was a real eye opener in terms of living conditions. Rusted pieces of corrugated iron or the like turned into dilapidated shacks beside the highway, and further out even though the people did not seem to have much they were still a proud people, really friendly and amazing to meet, however even the elderly seem to have to resort to begging as there was an old woman walking the street begging for change.

Recently I was in the USA where I had great fun seeing many places around the San Diego area, I will have to admit that one of the highlights of my trip was a conversation that I had for about an hour to and hour and a half in Balboa Park on various topics with a guy. I think he would be one of the most friendliest people I have ever met with a wealth of knowledge in life and happy to sit back and watch the world go by, people who look down on the homeless would never have got to experience that genuine warmth and friendliness that I was lucky enough to. At the end of our conversation we parted ways as he had a 2 hour walk to bible study and no not everyone wants something out of you as he didn’t even want bus fare for the bus.

After lunch one day we were heading out to the car when I was asked if I had any spare change, I handed over what I had in my pocket which was promptly followed by damn and several god bless you’s and all I had given him was about $4 that I had in my pocket to which he promptly went around the corner and brought something to eat. The thing that surprised me the most was his reaction to it from what I was told by my friend he would be lucky to get 25c, and knowing people many wouldn’t give anything. Some small change in my pocket meant that a guy could go get a meal, how can people be so callous in this day and age of overindulgence and higher levels of wealth?

Earlier this week I was visiting Bali in Indonesia, this was my fourth visit there this year. From my readings online poverty is quite high there and those that do work often do not make much (~$120 Australian a month) and begging is common with tourists. In my previous visits I had never encountered a beggar on the streets however on this visit I encountered several. From reading online it seems that the majority of these are begging for a “boss” who they give the money to so they do not even get the benefits of a generous tourist, and worse yet may not even get to sleep in what may be considered “shelter” if they do not bring in enough money to the boss. This to me is wrong and I refuse to support that kind of system so I did not give anything on this trip. If I could know that what I would have given would be used for survival by them I would have handed over money in a heartbeat, however without knowing that I was not willing to give. But it really tore apart my heart to have a tiny child not even up to my knee following me with his hand out, I guess I gave the impression of a callous uncaring bastard and that hurt.

I guess the point I am trying to get across is if you see someone that is down on their luck, they may just want someone to talk to and give them a chance / have a chat, perhaps even put aside your misconceptions regarding them. At the very least treat them with the dignity that they deserve as a human being, if they ask you for some spare change, buy them a meal or give them some money for one, what may be a small amount means that someone gets to eat that day.

Just think, how would you like to be treated if you suddenly lost everything?

Sheesh it really is the week for it….

NASA to Unveil Discovery That Affects Search for Extraterrestrial Life
By Mike Wall
SPACE.com Senior Writer
posted: 30 November 2010
01:19 pm ET

NASA is expected to make an announcement Thursday (Dec. 2) about a new scientific finding that “will impact the search for extraterrestrial life,” the space agency said in a statement.

NASA has scheduled a press conference for Thursday at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Agency officials said the discovery is in the field of astrobiology, which is the study of the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe.

The press conference will be broadcast and webcast live on NASA TV. SPACE.com’s NASA TV feed is available here.

Participating in the press conference will be:

     

  • Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
  • Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
  • Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
  • James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe
  •  

The results will also be published in a paper in the journal Science at 2 p.m. Thursday, according to NASA officials.

The announcement comes closely on the heels of several other major milestones in the search for life and possible habitable environments beyond Earth.

In late September, for example, researchers announced the discovery of the first potentially habitable alien planet. And less than two weeks ago, astronomers discovered the 500th planet beyond our own solar system.