Why do people look down on begging
Where did all the beggars go?
Frau Hitt came from a noble Tyrolean family and was just as notorious for her arrogance as she was for her hard-heartedness. She only showed herself to be soft to her little son, whom she bathed in milk and rubbed with breadcrumbs. When, on horseback, she was pleaded by a beggar on the side of the road for a piece of bread for her starving child, she hurled at her with the fateful words "There you have your bread!" down a stone. With this, the giantess revealed not only avarice, but also contempt. We know the end of the story: The beggar woman's curse that Frau Hitt should turn to stone, as her heart already is, overtook her promptly. Since then, she and her horse have been enthroned as rugged rock spikes on the ridge of the Nordkette and have shaped Innsbruck's cityscape.
Urban myths and legends
Do fairy tales and legends arise from a collective memory? The Austrian world of legends is populated by giants and dwarfs, with people in between. Long before urbanization and industrialization, the "giants" embodied the mighty aristocracy in an agrarian feudal society, the "dwarves" the miners (short stature corresponded to their requirements) and the "people" the farmers. While the giants in Central and Eastern Austria appear coarse but rather good-natured, Tyrolean giants such as Frau Hitt, Serles, Haymon and Thyrsus wield sheer terror: They humiliate, murder and pillage. The poor are helplessly exposed to their whims. Only the dwarves, from Kasermandl to Laurin, lead a worldly, alpine niche existence.
When a beggar crouches on the cobblestones in Innsbruck's city center, under the memorial of Frau Hitt, in front of her with a yoghurt cup and a cardboard box with the inscription "My children are starving", then passers-by put a coin in the cup or not. Perhaps, admittedly, a question of greed, but mostly a question of urgency or also a question of socio-political considerations. Ms. Hitt sends her bailiffs down from the mountain to throw stones in the form of parking tickets at the beggar. There is no other way than to flee, because if she goes to prison because she cannot pay hundreds of euros out of the cup, she will be interpreted even more badly if she is ransomed from custody. To calm conscience, urban legends are eagerly knitted: Through punishment and expulsion, the aim is to protect the poor beggar woman from exploitative beggar kings who build palaces for themselves with the money they begged.
Begging has been around since time immemorial. It occurs more frequently after wars, natural disasters, and social and political upheavals, especially where the push factor of poverty meets the pull factor of prosperity. Since the late Middle Ages, with the rise of the European bourgeoisie, especially at traffic hubs such as Innsbruck, beggars have been part of the cityscape, whereas in the countryside "travelers" made their living with modest services such as rag picking, knife sharpening, basket weaving or kettle patches. As in any dispute between settled people and nomads, the latter was certain to be defamatory. The travelers, at the same time "strangers", were charged with what remained unregulated within the existing community: arson, theft, witchcraft, epidemic or the alleged disappearance of children. As a scapegoat, the homeless involuntarily fulfilled a cathartic function for the residents.
Since the 14th century, a link between begging and vagabonding can be established as a grievance, later as a criminal offense. The first official begging ordinance is documented in Nuremberg in 1370, and countless have followed it since then. While in early Christianity and Islam, where the social hierarchy is considered God-given, the donation of alms is desired and theologically anchored, the appreciation of paid employment increases under the influence of Protestantism, which equates earthly prosperity with divine benevolence. Begging became increasingly discredited with the Reformation, but welfare for the poor was systematized. One can benevolently see the development of the modern welfare state in it or, polemically, that of capitalism. Two sides of the same coin.
Labor camps and extermination
The totalitarianism of the 20th century germinated as early as the social utopias of the 19th century, which, especially in its fascist form, had a devastating effect on beggars and travelers. From 1937, the European Roma and Sinti were deported nationwide under the National Socialist rule, first to assembly camps, then to labor and extermination camps. Porajmos ("entanglement") is what the survivors and their descendants call the extermination of Gypsy ethnic groups. Rudolf Höß writes about his time as camp commandant of Auschwitz: "There were still about 4,000 gypsies left until August 1944, who had to go to the gas chambers. Up to that point they did not know what was in store for them When they wandered around Crematorium 1, they noticed. It was not easy to get them into the chambers. "
In Austria, the number of Roma and Sinti murdered is around 9,000; for the whole of Europe, the estimates vary between 200,000 and 500,000. The death knell for the Tyrolean "Gypsies" occurred on April 3, 1943 at 6:00 am when a train departed from Innsbruck main station in the direction of Auschwitz. In the run-up to this, a zealous police force in Gau Tirol-Vorarlberg had pushed ahead with harassment, discrimination, persecution, forced sterilization, and later deportation and murder, even before a relevant order was received from Berlin. The federal states and municipalities had already regulated the "fight against the gypsy monsters" in their own decrees since the "push law" that came into force in 1871. Nothing has changed to this day.
Reparation from the perpetrator states, be it Austria and Germany or even the successor states of former Nazi puppet regimes like that of the Romanian dictator Antonescu, was denied to the victims. According to the reparation rules, Roma and Sinti were not regarded as "racially" or "religiously" persecuted, but as "anti-social". Thus, neither the victims nor their relatives were entitled to compensation for injustice suffered. The same applies to Tyrolean "Karrner" or "Jenische" who were not subjected to genocide, but were tortured (often to death) in National Socialist forced labor camps. Despite this unpaid debt, little has changed in Austria in the ostracism of impoverished marginalized groups. This is particularly true of antiziganism, which in 1995 showed its ugliest grimace with Franz Fuchs ’terrorist attack against Roma in Burgenland. It is frightening how socially acceptable the crudest antiziganism is today, especially in post-communist countries. Still or again?
The majority of those begging in Innsbruck come from such countries, many from Romania, others from Slovakia or Bulgaria. You are an emergency traveler in the truest sense of the word. By begging in richer countries they alleviate the misery, because their domestic living conditions are miserable. For centuries, integration and local ties have been made more difficult for them by settlement bans. Some are still traveling as travelers, but many vegetate in urban slums, in cardboard or corrugated iron crates on the edge of garbage dumps, others in villages without any communal infrastructure such as roads, running water, sewerage, waste disposal or electricity, because their settlements are not shown in any development plan , no mention of land register entries or registration addresses. They do not officially exist.
There is hardly any medical care for the residents, neither for diseases nor for birth planning. Most of the children have never seen a school either from inside or outside due to the spatial isolation. In this way, poverty and a lack of prospects perpetuate each other over generations. Earmarked funds from the European Social Fund are not called up, national support money seeps into the pockets of local politicians.
Ghetto and borders
The corona pandemic exacerbates the ghettoization: As in the times of the plague, travelers are considered to spread the disease, and they are now even more categorically denied access to public facilities or areas. Emergency travel was stopped by the border closings in spring 2020. There have already been many attempts to prevent freedom of movement within Europe for travelers of all places. The deportation and repatriation of thousands of Roma from France to their Southeastern European countries of origin under President Sarkozy in 2010 caused the greatest sensation and most protests for violating EU law, but was copied many times. Also in Austria. Only that in this country political orders are secretly given and the authorities hide behind paragraphs. In free exegesis.
Begging is generally not only allowed in Austria. This right was last confirmed in 2012 by the Austrian Constitutional Court, in accordance with the fundamental right to freedom of expression: everyone is free to draw the attention of others to their need. This means that extensive and long-term begging bans are not permitted. Sectoral or temporary begging bans are under constitutional observation and are repeatedly collected.
Likewise, one could argue with Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the right to work. Because begging is without a doubt work. Whether one defines work biblically as "hardship", economically as "purposeful, social, planned and conscious activity" or as an "income-earning activity", begging falls under every category. One can argue about the social benefits and decency of work. Is it decent to sell drug-free sugar globules as remedies or pseudo-technical water revitalization systems for health promotion? No it is not. Is it used to generate income? Yes, it does. Measured against this, begging is decent and honest backbreaking work. In the cold you will find beggars in the shade, in the heat in the sun, for hours in a humble posture in order to increase the hardship and its yield. All passers-by are free to pay for it or not. In contrast to tax evasion through global corporate activity, the reach of which in our pockets cannot be fended off. I involuntarily donate more in my Starbucks coffee mug than voluntarily in the beggar's yogurt mug.
Stool and chicanes
In accordance with fundamental rights, the Tyrolean State Police Act permits silent and passive begging, but prohibits aggressive, intrusive and commercial begging, begging with the participation of minors (carol singers?) And compulsory begging. In response to populist pressure, this begging paragraph in Innsbruck was interpreted more and more creatively from spring 2018. If beggars are found in the same place for the second time: commercial activity. The stool on which the beggaress sits: commercial investment. Hearable complaints: noise pollution, intrusiveness, grievances! Even if the level of organization of emergency travelers is limited to car pools and the collectivization of income to families, there is a roar like thunder: begging mafia !! So there was a hail of advertisements for beggars. Execution: ad hoc. Amount of fine: ad libitum. At least three digits. Where fundamental rights are considered too benevolent and laws are toothless, regulations snap shut.
The annual reports of the Tyrolean State Police in 2018 and 2019 boast a high percentage decline in "begging attacks". Although the sectoral begging bans for occasional markets were overturned in a tight municipal council resolution at the request of the green Innsbruck city government in December 2019, there have been hardly any begging in Innsbruck city center for two years. According to statements made by the volunteers who supervise them, they have left, evaded to more permissive surrounding communities or are begging in hiding. Innsbruck bullied them out. Mrs. Hitt nods down from the mountain, satisfied.
Begging mafia? Wood mafia
Residents and employees of the Innsbruck emergency accommodation Waldhüttl tell me that the situation of their families in the countries of origin has deteriorated drastically since the forest areas adjacent to their settlements were bought up by foreign investors. Now they are no longer allowed to heat their dwellings by collecting wood as before. German sources confirm that affected family fathers are in prison for stealing wood, which makes their wives even more begging. Market-leading Austrian companies, the notorious "wood mafia", are also operating extensive overexploitation of Romanian forests, even in nature reserves. This is followed by the second version of the Innsbruck Frau-Hitt legend: The giantess' son wanted to bend a fir tree to carve a hobby horse out of it. A farmer wanted to prevent him from doing so, because firewood was necessary and the forest of the ban was sacred. During the scramble for the little tree, the giant son slipped into the mud, the mother wanted to clean him with breadcrumbs, whereupon the formerly blooming and fertile land turned into a stone desert, including Mrs. Hitt, son and court. Our cities have turned into a commercial wasteland. Anyone who does not consume is out of place. Poverty may sell itself as Advent folklore, but it is not suitable for a reality show. Drum: Innsbruck is bed-free. (Sabine Wallinger, ALBUM 12/12/2020)
Sabine Wallinger, Born 1957, studied German and Romance languages, worked as a language teacher in Innsbruck and is committed to the platform remembers.at. She thanks the informants from the Waldhüttl, the begging lobby, from street work / association for the homeless, from Renate Krammer-Stark and especially from Almud, who provided her with clever books. Wallinger's text was also published in the Tyrolean street newspaper "20er".
Erika Dekitsch"'begging for commercial purposes". How poverty and origin become a crime ": www.gaismair-gesellschaft.at
Oliver Seifert, "Roma and Sinti in the Gau Tirol-Vorarlberg". Studienverlag 2005
Elisabeth M. Grosinger-Spiss, "Jenische in Tirol": www.uibk.ac.at
Bavarian radio, "The beggars from Wallachia. Needy or organized gang?"
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