One thing nobody walking around in Malmö could possibly have missed is the noticeable increase of the number of migrants coming from Eastern Europe. Indeed, there is hardly any shopping mall or any public place where you cannot find one of them sitting by the entrance and begging for money. Men and women of all ages are found by those places, holding a mug, and sometimes bearing a sign, waiting for alms from good-hearted people.
They are mostly met with indifference. People laying a few coins in their mugs, or simply looking and smiling at them, are true exceptions. And how could it be otherwise when bypassers don’t even dare look at their own fellow citizens, at people who obviously share the same skin color, the same language, the same living standards? Eye contact seems to have become as dangerous as plague nowadays. If you can’t stand contact with those who look just like you, how could you bear addressing someone who most likely won’t understand you because of the language barrier? But my aim with that post is not to digress about people ignoring their fellow humans while looking for an acknowledgement for one’s own existence from them – to treat people the way one does not want to be treated is way too common these days.
No, what is a lot more worrisome are some reactions from the public. Some were published in newspapers and social media. Posts stating – without a single shred of evidence – that those beggars are part of gangs whose leaders became outrageously rich by exploiting them – someone even demanding prosecution for the good souls giving them money. Personally, I find it hard to believe. Sometimes, I see some of them at a café where distressed and needy people usually meet. They sit by the tables, discussing with each other, loading the battery of their cell phones, sometimes playing. I can hardly believe that slave owners would let them be so “unproductive” without forcing them to go back to the street and beg. Other scary scenes observable are people shouting at them, scaring them – then again without having a single clue of who they are. The summum of abjection – so far – has been reached by the manager of a shopping mall throwing a bucket of water to a female beggar sitting by the entrance door . He claimed later that he was cleaning the window and that he did not notice the woman. How contemptuous can one be? He then received encouragement on social networks to “clean more windows”.
What is happening to mankind? Are hate and xenophobia becoming standards for Western societies? What about our Christian roots we are so proud of and let the rest of the world know it? There was a time when hostility to foreigners could be understood because of the scarcity of resources. Living standards were so low that sharing would mean deprivation. Those days are gone. Wealth is the major sign of our societies. Besides, those beggars are not asking for much. Price differences between Sweden and Romania are so large that what would be hardly enough for one person during a day in Stockholm would suffice for a romanian family to manage through a week. So why not give them a few coins and a smile – a language everybody understands – when meeting one? The return on investment would be infinitely better than the one from showing them contempt and hatred.