Begging on the streets and the common irony between rich and poor

What if one day, people in long sleeves and slacks put themselves in the streets begging not for mere coins but for a sheaf of bills among the passersby? Last Monday, that What If just happened.

The package was quite simple: A bunch of kids will dress up as “rich people,” or at least, people who do not resemble beggars. They would beg for a minimum of P5000 from ordinary people on the streets to cover the expenses for the condominium they purport to construct. There would be poetry, too, for I forgot to mention, this venture is launched by people who believe in the power of poetry to reconstruct our everyday experiences – from the more minute like taking a bath or looking at 6pm rush hours to the more immense like the crappiness of bureaucracy and the calling for social change.

Every day, the rich are making money out of the poor. With their massive control of the big businesses, the media, the vast areas of land and most government positions, they make the best out of the poor’s economic contributions in a social make-up that benefits only them in major ways. A simple drop-by and buying at a gargantuan mall which splays itself almost in the entire archipelago (Would we be surprised at the rise of an SM Palawan?) means even the littlest contribution to the profits raised by such business. Over at the National Government, most people execute tasks that protect their interests at the expense of the poor. This is manifested in the laws written and approved, the Presidential orders made and so on. Of course, there are the big landlords exploiting the labor of small farmers who till the land but get scarce share in the production.

The people need to reconstitute these facts and their everyday realities as existing, actually dominant coordinates that largely shape their living. The streets are a suitable venue to forge such push for reconstitution since it is the heart of public life. Here, people of all kinds stroll every day, to and from work, or school, or just in their enforced loitering. Here are located the groceries, the churches, the medical centers, the clothing shops – most of what people need, from the literal food to food of the soul, and most of what is told for them to want.

Most certainly, such reconstitution cannot be spurred by mere verbiage. One can actually argue that verbal communications are always reliable to some extent. But the case for this one, entails otherwise. One can appear sermonizing about the ills of capitalism and how they seep down through our behaviors and cultural choices. Yet this is likely to be ineffective. People are already fatigued of these types of communicating to them. If worse, they no longer pay attention. “Political” verbals teem with words that mostly sound appear ragged and alien to their target audience. They usually lack the novelty, the color and the vivacity that precisely abound in popular culture fads. The point here is to render the same content of political messages in more diverse, more jolting manners that are likely to engage the target audience more. This is what Pedantic Pedestrians tried to achieve with its first venture in Street Poetry last Monday.

We believe that the crispness of the message of political engagement and critical thinking should still ring in the people’s ears especially now that more stomachs are unfed and more rights are violated. But the people need new forms of engagement. The mainstream culture is already infested with a pacifying, delusive happiness that new, if not shocking forms must be explored in order to reach them again.

Other links to our “street poetry:”

Pedantic Pedestrians at the onset of “begging”: Donning clothes not resembling those of beggars, we went to the streets for a symbolic message.
Always, there is a potential to be misinterpreted. But some shades of attention proved a good headstart.
A woman passed by and expressed her support. She even advised us to rephrase our “written poster” in order to make its message clearer to our target audience.

2 thoughts on “Begging on the streets and the common irony between rich and poor

  1. Very cool that you did this! This increasing inequality between rich and poor is evident in the “rising East” (Asia). Not only in the PI, but also in China and India. American and European companies are bring jobs to such countries, yes … but whose pockets are truly getting filled when the media hypes up the improving economies of these Asian countries? Globalization has its negative effects and whenever I visit Manila I always see a new fancy skyscraper condo building or new mega-mall…interspersed among and overshadowing the impoverished shacks of the vast city. It is sad. Congrats to you and your efforts for trying to find ways to educate others among the tainted mainstream culture.

  2. Thank you! I agree with your observations on Manila and your little comments about the design of contemporary culture. We envisioned our street poetry to present itself as a novel way of protesting that engages not just the powers-that-be but more importantly, the ordinary people who are the ones more on the downside of the social setup manipulated by the few according to their interests. We are continuing to work out this incipient group and think of better ideas that can more effectively engage the larger audience and make them pay attention to what we are saying. 🙂

    In these times when everyone wants to say things and wants to preach truths about life and all that, not everyone is given the opportunity to participate in the field of discourse and I think it is therefore the challenge to penetrate the mainstream discourses and infuse them with our own perspectives. This we must do lest we want to get buried down the pit of formulaic pop songs, celebrity gossips and traditional political feuds they make to appear more vital to us than they actually are.

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