What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Development at a crossroads (instrumentalised dogs and related matters)

Connected to the Paris donor conference tomorrow, I'll post some thoughts in the upcoming days related to development in general (if I find the time; the usual caveat).
This here will be a short one.
The title is totally deceiving. It refers to this experience I had the other day back in the spring which reminded of all the basic dilemmas of "development," and so may be worth re-telling. And it occurred at a "crossroads" a.k.a. street corner.
There was a beggar sitting there with a dog. Neither of them were in a very good shape, and it was a relatively cold day. I was waiting for someone, and I was just idly standing by, observing how some people every now and then did drop a coin or two in the beggar's hat. I was wondering if the dog, sorry-looking animal and yet cute somehow, had anything to do with how much people were ready to give. I though it had to have a role, and I just didn't know what to make of that. Is that bad? Shouldn't it be that way? Should there be some compensation fund for beggars without dogs? You know, I was just waiting there, idly standing by.
And then came a young girl, about 18 or 19, and she, sounding surprisingly decisive for her age, told the beggar, offering a hundred coin (Hungarian forints):
"Half of it goes to the dog, right? You understood?"
If earlier I didn't know what to make of people's habit of supporting beggars with dogs more than others, this time I felt even more puzzled.
What to make of that? Somebody who owes her situation partly to good luck tells someone in an extremely unfortunate situation how to spend the small amount of money he got from her. Also, no matter how decisive she sounded, there was obviously no way for her to verify if the beggar did spend the money as demanded. But wasn't it arrogant to assume that the beggar wouldn't have cared for the dog without being told to do so? That he would have just let the dog starve to death? Isn't it stupid, even, to think that way, once the beggar might be interested in keeping the dog at least sufficiently fed? Was the girl trying to influence the right equilibrium point for how much the dog is fed in case the dog really was just an instrumental tool of begging? To have the guy give somewhat more to the dog than the least that's acceptable? What was on her mind? What were her operating premises and expectations?
I'm still trying to digest this. If I have some clever conclusion or one I fancy as such, I'll offer it here. For now I'm just wondering on about this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Isn't that why those commercials begging for money for famine relief always use cute children? There is something to the idea of the innocent victim: most have a difficult time thinking of an adult male on the streets as incapable of working; a dog, however? Its fate has little to do with the man's.

At least, in perception. Does that make sense? I hope so.