Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And the Mean shall inherit the Earth!

I always told myself that if I have nothing to contribute to the solution of a problem, I will not discuss it, but it appears as if though 2011 is the year in which I will break all self imposed bans. Following on the heels of my recent blog on religion (which I also told myself I'll avoid) is a blog (more a rant) on the state of society today. Such a topic is surely worthy of more than a few paragraphs and l have no intention of doing justice to it in this piece. I would like to merely comment on recent observations and my subsequent mullings.
To understand where I am coming from I need to set the scene. On Monday afternoon I was driving to the bank and saw a lady standing on the side of the road carrying a sleeping child. She was obviously looking for a lift so I pulled over and asked if I could help. She said she was going to Chatsworth but agreed to accept a lift to The Pavillion shopping centre instead, explaining that it would be easier to get a lift form there. She got into the back seat with her child and we were on our way. The rest is as quoted below:

“So, where about Chatsworth are you from?”, I enquired.
“Oh, I don't live in Chatsworth. I am going there to commit suicide”, she replied
“WTF” is what I said in my brain except I said the words out in full. She proceeded to explain to me all her woes (dead husband, hungry children, no rent this month, imminent death of her children etc etc), remembering to remind me at regular intervals that today she was going to kill herself and her children. I gave her some money when we got to Pavilion (a lot more than she may have deserved, and too much to admit here). I did not fall for her scam. I knew I was being conned, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt anyways. Maybe out of pity for her child who was now awake. Maybe because it was the easier thing to do.

This was the second time in the last month that I have been the victim of such a scam. The other guy admittedly had much better props with crutches, a plastered leg and a wife in labour at the hospital. I am not writing this because I wish to be contacted by a Nigerian banker telling me how he needs my assistance to get access to a large stash of cash. I am writing rather because this decline in our human-ness sickens me. People who are kind, good meaning (although slightly naïve) would always fall victims to people wishing to exploit these characteristics. When people get conned as a result of greed, then that makes sense. But to con a person because they had the compassion to listen to your sob story and although they may suspect that you and your broken leg may not be legit, they help anyways. In short, when did kindness become a character flaw!

When I joined child welfare, I stopped giving money to street children because I believed that it would prevent them from seeking out the assistance that is there (a topic for another discussion). Should we stop encouraging these con artists to get them to seek out the help they need? Perhaps? But if you are going to take that approach regarding your social responsibility, it would only make sense if you contribute to an organisation that can assist. Don't not give loose change to a streetchild assuming the moral highground if you do not contribute to a programme that helps these kids.

If you see a lady lying on the side of the road in pain and stop to see if you could be of assistance, and then get hijacked, everybody you relate the story to will ask you, “why did you stop?”. “You deserved it for being so stupid”. I am surprised insurance policies don't have a naïve clause in their policies.

If you were hijacked because you naively thought there was a fellow human being in need, then your excess will be double or R50 000, whichever is the greater”

When I discuss this with people, 7 times out of 10, they would likely reply that you should phone the authorities and ask them to send help. The other 3 often swear at you and tell you to 'wake up'. If you had just been hijacked and were then flung from a moving car only to land in a pretzel-like formation at the side of the road, I am sure you would be consoled in the hope that perhaps one of the cars that drives by would call for help and that an ambulance was going to get there as soon as possible.

A good friend once told me that people who recite poetry in everyday conversation appear to others as pretentious twits. She never said anything about the people who include poetry in their blogs! The passage below is an excerpt from Kahlil Giban's 'The Prophet' from the section on 'Giving'. The entire section is my favourite part of the book but these particular verses are always close in thought.

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

As stated at the beginning, this is just a rant because I think this situation sucks. I don't have a solution and am just lamenting our social evolution. For me, personally, I think I am going to stop feeling compelled to help anyone who asks but will find a charity that helps with the social upliftment of families. If I see somebody in need of assistance I will assist. All I ask is that any hijackers reading this please take what you need and leave me at the corner of a road somewhere. To all the others reading, if you ever come across a guy who looks like he just had his iPhone and car (note the priority) taken by some hijackers, please give him some money to get home.


  1. i am one of these people reading this says this is a con....but Fayaz you know very well from the period of life that i knew you ...you always had a soft spot... the fact that u went ahead and helped anyway..i, my friend would not have help so graceously. i am sad to say i wud have been a lesser man and took her to the police station and got them to put her on a sucide watch. but that i am sure makes us question who we are and the process of giving...

  2. @ Devorah Thanks (Trying to thnk of something smart to follow up with here but drawing a blank :))

    @Don Thanks for the excellent feedback. Taking her to the police station in my view is much greater an intervention than me just giving her money. That's kind of my point though. There is no black and white anymore. Even the guy who would give her nothing is not wrong if he is doing with the intention that this kind of lifestyle should not be encouraged.

  3. Ironically another writer who I follow on thoughtleader (Sarah Britten) posted an almost identical story on the same day. The comments after her article make for interesting reading. Check it out here


  4. I loved this post. I am one of the naive people that get conned sometimes but I choose to stay that way. I'd rather give to someone who is scamming me then not give to someone who truely needed it because I mistakenly thought it was a con. We are all on this Earth together and this life is a journey we are all taking together. We should all be making it better for each other. Essentially we are all one so when we give to others we are giving to ourselves. When people scam us they are scamming themselves. I choose to be the giver:)

  5. What an awesome way of expressing your perspective. You have made an excellent point and your words are truly inspiring. Thanks for commenting.

    You reminded me of something I used to believe in ( and perhaps should believe in again). That our wealth is not our own but a gift form god hence the greater the wealth, the more the social responsibility.

  6. you know this topic served as a rather heated topic to one of the sit down dinners...i had this dinner the day after my intial post.
    so this serves just as feedback
    i was told i wud be completely wrong taking her to the cops as the current situation they wud just have let her go and something that made me feel even worse. the child wud have ended up in OUR foster system.
    there was however something that surprised me. in a vote of opinions...with a old hat... your option was given the most positive votes. but we did come to this conclusion...giving in all forms.... is giving...we are never told you just give to a specific cause... it remains somewhat vague in all religious texts...so my friend i have just this to impart on you ... this may have somewhat haunted your thoughts..but the blessing is in the act..even if sometimes we know we are been conned...the act of giving here will bring about the blessing and maybe there is something you should have thought of...maybe this act is what... if she was a con artist... will make her see the world in a different light...maybe your act and face will forever impact this women..she may tell sotries of you to the child..so you impact the future in a simple gesture... i know the negetive side will creep in to this idea...but hope that there is some positive outcome

  7. Wow Don. Thanks for the feedback dude. I love the fact that you guys have made me feel better about my 'weakness', and not in a silly superficial way but with well thought out arguments that were fiercely debated over diner :)