“Equality, I don’t know who the lunatic was who invented that idea!” I heard that statement while on my way to a friend’s house. It managed to shake me completely out of my thoughts. It came from the back of a mechanic’s workshop, whose front I was happening by. The words were from a strong, masculine voice, and by his pronunciation I could tell that it belonged to someone uneducated.
A while earlier I had crossed paths with a beggar. “Could you give a peso, please?” At least he was polite. I didn’t give him the peso; I had just reviewed my personal budget and had calculated forty eight pesos and sixty centavos (about $2 USD). The worst thing was that this was only one day after having gotten paid, meaning I’d have to spend another month depending on “whatever falls.”
“Whatever falls” it is a metaphor; nothing falls from the sky. In my case, I’m referring to any work I might be able to get with some magazine or newspaper.
In any case, returning to the beggar, he caught my attention because he was the first one I’d ever seen in the Alamar housing projects. I’d seem all types of flamboyant characters here: drunks, sleeping their stupor off on any corner, and “nuts” speaking incoherently or mumbling curious truths. But beggars? – this was the first one.
Beggars are plentiful in the urban centers of Havana, in the districts like Plaza, Old Havana, or Centro Havana… That’s why I found it more than curious —indeed worrisome— to have stumbled upon one here in Alamar. I figured that if this omen has arrived in this outlying neighborhood, it means that within a short time they’ll be so many you won’t be able to walk through them.
Sure, beggars exist for all types of reasons. There are those people who have lost control of their life, those who are disconnected from social structures (ex-cons, people who’ve been kicked out of their homes, the elderly, etc.) but there are also those who have taken this road as a means of subsistence, as well as other options they rely on. Some have even ended up doing pretty well.
This is why most of people distrust beggars. I’ve occasionally run into ones that have more money in their little boxes than I do in my pockets. And as a general rule, beggars usually solicit money from people who are just about as bad off as they are, with the exception being those who beg from tourists.
Therefore, from the monetary point of view and thinking about the mechanic’s statement, beggars and people who work are the same. However, it shouldn’t be like this. Those people who work are offering the fruits of their labor to society and pay for everything they consume from it. Those who beg on the streets, though, don’t contribute anything, though they constitute a reflection or evidence of the defects of that society.
The lunatic who invented equality didn’t design it for himself, his relatives or his friends. The lunatic who invented equality resembles the beggars by the fact that he lives off the sweat of the common people, however he makes them believe that they are the beggars.