Letter: Condemned by the beggars in our midst

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The Independent Online
Sir: The many legitimate beggars on our streets lead you to advise your readers to 'be a giver, and be thankful' (leading article, 11 May). That does nothing to right our sick society. Do you really want to preserve the destitute in order to make the 'wise and humane' feel good about their capacity for pity? The slogan should be: 'Be a giver, and be angry and ashamed'.

Communism, Soviet-style, has deservedly failed. The ideology of the free market deserves the same fate. Both exorbitant wealth and widespread poverty are demeaning, indecent and unnecessary. The soup kitchen society is an indictment of most of us.

The lesson of the beggars in our cities is that our task is not, in principle, different from that facing the people of South Africa: to work together to build a decent and humane social democracy. The party political game, as at present played, does nothing but pander to the greed of those who have enough and want more. Greater distributive justice is anathema to unbridled capitalism.

Victor Hugo once wrote that the moral condition of a nation can best be measured by the state of its prisons, by what we share with the least powerful of our neighbours. That puts most of us in the dock and makes me wonder who most deserves to over-populate these degrading universities of crime.

Yours sincerely,

PAUL OESTREICHER

Coventry Cathedral

Coventry

12 May

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