Hey, welcome back to my ramblings in China. If you haven’t seen last weeks article, click here.
In case you’ve forgotten since the last time you’ve read my articles, my name is Dan, and I’m currently on the TFI-ALP scholarship to an exchange in Zhejiang University.
This weekend we sneaked off to Shanghai because we’re exchange students and that’s what we do. I’m not going to bore you with all the standard details because you probably can find 50 other blogs on the internet detailing what you have to do when you go from city to city in China.
The Chinese situation
Most of us have been a foreigner in an outside land, if you haven’t, the causeway is just 2 hours away, and you can be a foreigner in an outside land with a recently reformed parliament(I’m trying to be cool and informed by referencing recent events, go me!). Shanghai definitely doesn’t need an introduction, if you require one, stop reading this now, and go watch some movie based in China, like Shanghai Knights or something, I don’t know.
The thing that I noticed the most about Shanghai was the lush buildings and the colorful city. And the juxtaposition of those beautiful, wealthy icons next to streets littered with rubbish and panhandlers is a sight to consider.
Panhandlers are not uncommon in Shanghai, I saw at least 3 noticeable ones in my first 24 hours there. The first, was a guy who had lost most of his limbs but his arms, dragging himself about on a skateboard. Then came a mother who was sitting on the side of the road, while her infant daughter was lying on her lap, crying out loud. The last was a man who approached us directly with a plastic cup as we were about to board our taxi back to our hostel for the night.
Panhandlers intrigue me because while they’re not rare in Singapore, they definitely seem in more need than the ones that I see in Singapore. Whether it’s a case of them exaggerating their plight or be it genuine, the panhandlers here struck closer to heart than normal. And of course, being my hypocritical self, with all that I have said here, I still did not do anything/donate anything to them at all.
The defending of my heartless personality
The benefits of tourists in a countries industry are countless, many countries invest heavily in their hospitality service as an incentive to have tourists come in and give the country some moolah($.$). And although the panhandlers really struck me as people who needed some help, the apathy that they face when dealing with people is almost heart-breaking. While I would love to improve their situation, helping one does not cure the problem, merely the symptom.
How did this happen?
And why don’t we see this in Singapore? Firstly, the Singapore population is smaller so we definitely have a smaller number of people in those situations. Secondly, having worked in a social service call center before, I would say that our country handling our extreme poverty level pretty well. Lastly, any post through an internet platform like Facebook or Twitter would instantly motivate the Government to do some quick PR revisions and look at people who are slipping through the cracks. Just look at how efficiently the Ministry of Social and Family Development(MSF for short, phew that’s a long name) responds to articles on the news whenever cases of poverty come up.
Ok, you’ve tried to be intellectual, now what dumbass?
As mentioned by many of my other friends, and me as well, the E-payment system in China is very strong. And I wonder how the panhandlers on the streets would be affected by that, it would be very unlikely that they have QR-codes that people scan when they want to donate to them, as for that to happen, they need to have a bank account, and subsequently a phone number.
Although such systems are effective and convenient, one can wonder if there are any pieces left behind by the movement of a society towards a cashless one. This is not an argument against the cashless movement, rather an afterthought of how we can patch holes up in our effort to be one as well.
As with most of my blogs, it goes back to a central theme, the wave of increasing technology and what it leaves behind. It’s not a theme that I intentionally picked, but I find it interesting nonetheless.
I’ll try to move away from this theme because I think I might be milking it dry as well