Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Poverty Trap

At home, I see poverty. In Klezmer, I saw poverty. It seemed different. The beggars held paper cups in positions of supplication. Those with disabilities had them firmly on display. Amputation stumps were stuck out for all to see. None of the beggars were in-yer-face (as we say in Ethics); they were polite and easy to refuse, but made their positions clear.

In England, if I feel the impulse to give a few coins away, I look for someone shaking a tin, wearing a badge, bona fide. I didn’t see anyone like that in Klezmer. I felt the impulse to give a time or two, particularly as I know that 0.5% of the population are homeless – that’s one in 200, many more than we have in any UK city. But I didn’t know who to give to, or how. So in the end I didn’t give anything.

I rented an apartment from a Klezmer individual, rather than staying in an international chain hotel. I ate in Klezmeran restaurants, rather than McDonalds or Burger King or Pizza Express (ok I did have one late night take-away slice of pizza when I was really tired and couldn’t face interacting with any more Klezmerans, friendly and welcoming though they were). I shopped in Klezmer’s markets and small shops, not in the big international chain stores. I drank Klezmeran beer, wine and spirits rather than imported brands. So were my tourist dollars enough? Or should I have dropped some coins into one of those paper cups? And if so, how should I have chosen which? I felt as if I was expected to respond to the disability that shocked me most; would this have been a good way to choose?
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