The Not So Subtle Art of Begging

by Enitan Doherty-Mason

I have always thought that begging was what people in dire need resorted to when there was absolutely no other recourse. I thought it was something done quietly and humbly out of necessity. I thought that the not-so-invisible invisible people who come up to your car in traffic on Lagos streets are the ones we typically labeled beggars; the folk who sit on the median in traffic and the individuals society neglects because they are mentally or physically disabled and are left to fend for themselves by soliciting money on the streets; paupers; truly impoverished people. Typically one expects even tricksters who resort to pan-handling to don some sort of disguise or to go to neighborhood where they will not be so easily recognized. I am finding that this is not always the case.

Lately it appears that begging seems to have become an art form in rather surprising circles. I am not speaking of occasional sharing of gifts, clothing and shoes between friends and relatives. I am not speaking of hand-me-downs between siblings. I am speaking of individuals who are clearly not in need, who are simply unable to STOP BEGGING! They simply do not ask for the property of others and stop at that; they harass others and aggressively press people, hoping that the other person will throw what is theirs at these beggars in annoyance or embarrassment. These beggars are never angered by how you give them what they beg for. They descend on other people’s property as a vulture does dead meat.

Recently I watched in great horror as some seemingly financially comfortable people pawed through their treasure of items begotten by intensive begging efforts. I almost took to the hills as I was besieged by these beggars. They were not beggars of the type who annoyingly slide their bodies along your car with hands cupped in Lagos traffic; rather these were beggars of the high faluting type whose purpose for begging has nothing to do with poverty but rather with a deep-rooted desire to get some of everything that everyone has. High style begging is about greed and not need. This form of begging is comparable to being attacked by an armed robber. People should not have to feel compelled to give up their belongings because someone else is greedy. Begging is absolutely in bad taste.

Does anyone still remember their mom’s seething wait-until-we-get-home cum you-are –really-going-to-get-it look when you made the mistake of accepting even those things that were offered to you by her friends or relatives too quickly without waiting for her special okay nod? Do you remember your sibling eating some savory fried meat one shred at a time while you salivated and finally broke down pleading for just the smallest piece? Do you remember getting nothing but that loud and whiney –Why do you always have to beg for my food? — Do you remember that back-hand from your mom to forever deter you from begging? If you can remotely identify with any of these circumstances, I can rest assured that there is hope for the future. I implore those who know anyone with this rude habit of begging to strongly encourage them to STOP. Refuse to give in to fancy beggars or as one of my sisters puts it- the fine bara. If you have a begging habit that won’t quit, seek professional help for your problem or be ready to be embarrassed the next time.

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