Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Bags of Time

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Bags of Time ~

Bags of Time, originally uploaded by Paris Set Me Free.
BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!


Ahh, Christmas. People struggling home laden down with bags of goodies for all the family. What a fortune we spend at this time of year. And on so much crap.

My son is spoilt to death. For his second birthday he received so many presents that in the end he had a fit because he just wanted to carry on playing with some old toy from nine months ago.

We all desperately want to give others pleasure. All at the same time and all just a little bit more than the others. We seem to need that reaffirmation of our goodness, and our worth is counted in delighted looks and hurried hugs.

And of course the market desperately wants us to buy their latest must-have stuff. Most of it eminently mustn't-shouldn't-needn't have at all.

We're all brainwashed and spoilt, spoilt also in the sense of rotten apples. We've lost our perspective in this queasy sea of subliminal images and unsubtle ramming of buy buy buy (NOW, before it's TOO LATE!) exhortations. Don't be satisfied with what you've got; that's so last year; look what we've got for you this year - it looks the same, does the same thing but it's so, so much better!

You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to take a hundred euros out with me on Christmas day this year and wander the streets of the city and talk to some of the homeless people, and slip them handfuls of coins. I'm not going to give them unwanted, eco-friendly, bio-regeneratable bunk. Just a handful of coins to see what happens. But I'll have a chat with them too. Just yesterday, I think it was, a woman saw me getting on the train and standing by the door.

Another stoopid victim (yours truly), I thought, as she wavered up to me. I listened to her story passively but with my usual internal scepticism, until I'd heard enough to believe she was genuine. You can see the genuine ones. See and smell (not good) and feel (empathetically, much stronger) the ones who aren't acting.

Stories of aids and operations (with visuals) and watery looks and lost families and pleading, rotten-tooth smiles. You can't fake that.

And you can't fake the two-handed clutch of your hand after you've succumbed and offered. And in the end it's not really the money they want. Well, it is, but also. Also the human touch. Did I recoil from that double-handed, black-nailed clasp? Whether I did or not my reaction was overwhelmed by the gratitude of this lady. And as usual by my shame for, well, what? Having a better life than her? I shouldn't be ashamed of that, should I? What then? At not giving or 'clasping' more often? That's probably it.

I saw a programme the other day on the Bains Publics de Paris, and the people who work there. They've seen a lot. But most of all they've seen human beings, made friends and helped those who are less fortunate than themselves, even if it involves slopping out their slimy weekly showers.

There's a humility and purity to that, I reckon.

I know people close to me who scoff at giving to such and such a charity because it all goes to line the pockets of the very wrong people. No, they claim, they'd much rather go out into the streets and serve soup to the cold and hungry, as they used to do, they insist, with a certain smug pride. Only, the last time they actually did that was... well, they can't quite remember. Convenient excuses. And we need these excuses to protect ourselves from what we know isn't right: fellow human beings sitting in metro stations wrapped in rags surrounded by a million plastic bags.

If she hadn't been there I might well have sat in that very seat. Are we really that distant? Are the invisible barriers we build really so sacredly unbreakable? Much as religion saddens me, at least it occasionally compels some of its followers to get off their backsides and actually help others for no other reason than that we theoretically should.

I don't know. Maybe I won't do my Christmas Day Good Samaritan act. Maybe sloth and avarice will get the better of me once again, and just think how many more pieces of useless, unwanted junk I could add to my two-year-old's mountain of madness this year with €100!

I'm being honest with you. It's only a blog post. And the last thing I'd want is for people to think I was putting this story here with the aim of people thinking, wow, what a worthy guy! That's the absolutely worst kind of giving: 'Look At Me' Giving. So I'll say it again: I probably won't. In fact, I'm more frightened of the smiles and the clasps than anything else. The exaggerated gratitude for something as throwaway as a euro kind of sticks in the craw. And craws are sensitive.

So anyway, where was I? Oh yes: iPad 2 or iPhone 4S, hmm, let me see... oh hang it, I'll get both...

Further down, a photo booth, a million plastic bags
And an old woman filling out a million baggage tags
But when she gets thrown out, three bags at a time
She spies the old chap in the road to share her bags with
She has bags of time

~ from 'One Better Day' by Madness

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...