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6 July 2015 | Draft

Confusion in Exchanging "Something" for "Nothing"

Cognitive implication in the asymmetrical processes of begging and its surrogates

- / -

Begging conventionally framed
Conventional begging more analytically framed
Varieties of conventional begging
Begging surrogates conventionally framed by euphemism
Features of the begging process
Responding to begging: compassion, emotional blackmail and risk of being duped?
Something for Nothing: internal dialogue in the confusion of the begging moment
Systemic representation of "begging" processes
Mapping the cognitive dynamics of the begging moment
Implications for engaging in the begging moment


There is no lack of references to begging as a problem, supported by academic studies of the phenomenon -- and with consideration of the policy implications, notably at the European level (Report for the Study on Typology and Policy Responses to Child Begging in the EU, European Commission, 2012; Bob Cox, Even in socialist Sweden, begging is a problem, Winnipeg Free Press, 1 August 2015) . Such concerns increasingly extend to the dimensions of the problem long-recognized in developing countries.

Typically missing from such references is any discussion of the nature of the encounter with beggars in terms of the internal dialogue -- in the case of both parties. Also missing is any indication of how begging is a rather particular instance of a larger set of phenomena which may be caricatured as begging but are not seen as similarly problematic. Any such implication may even be highly controversial. Thus instances of collective "begging" can be currently recognized in the dramatic engagement of European politics with the refugee influx and with the indebtedness of Greece. The term figures in reported claims by Mohammad Reza Naghdi regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran (Adam Kredo, Iran: The 'Americans Are Begging Us for a Deal'. Washington Free Beacon, 5 February 2015). The concern here is with the confusion in the individual case and its implications for understanding the dynamics in the more general collective case.

It is extraordinary to note the proportion of references to begging as being a phenomenon characteristic of the very young in begging attention from their parents (especially food and other satisfiers) -- whether human young or those of other animals (most notably nestling birds). This could well be considered as indicative of insights to be obtained from begging by the impoverished or disadvantaged. The association with birds is all the more extraordinary given the explosive global preoccupation with "tweeting" through Twitter. Understood as begging for attention, this is consistent with the recognized emergence of a "begging culture" in many developing countries. This suggests that the future emergence of a global "begging civilization" merits exploration (especially if "begging" is understood more generically).

Also remarkable is the extensive philosophical literature on "begging the question", namely on assuming the conclusion of an argument -- as a form of circular reasoning. This too might be of relevance to the exploration of beggary -- as with "begging to differ" and its implications for styles of discourse on the matter..

The concern here is to move beyond the pejorative framing of begging, perceived as an objectionable dynamic to be avoided. The focus is on how many find it necessary to engage in variants of this process under other labels, most notably through "soliciting", as with the "begging letters" on which charitable fund raising is dependent. The tendency to avoid such matters can be usefully tempered by a conclusion of the UN Habitat Global Report on Human Settlements: the challenge of slums (2003), as noted by John Vidal (Every third person will be a slum dweller within 30 years, UN agency warns. The Guardian, 3 October 2003). Many may then be dependent on the capacity of civil society to complement the safety-net responsibilities of overwhelmed authorities -- through soliciting funds.

Any such notion of "slums", and the association of begging with poverty and homelessness, highlights the more generic sense of impoverished lives in terms of the quality of life to which people aspire as a possibility. Begging in its more generic sense is then an indicator of "homelessness" -- with respect to a place where one could "feel at home". This sense of "home" is the "quality without a name" identified by Christopher Alexander as the quality of "a place to be" (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979).

Of interest in the more generic approach to "begging", and the existential confusion it engenders, is the nature of the seemingly asymmetric process of negotiation between parties, recalling the strategic challenges of asymmetric warfare. For the "beggar" it can be notably considered as a form of marketing, involving the exchange of valued tangibles (monetary units, resources) against valued intangibles whose nature eludes conventional definition. For the party solicited, it is a question of how the challenge to give is managed in relation to principles upheld and the cultivation of self-image. The art of the "beggar" could then be to "wrong-foot" the potential donor, placing the latter at a tactical disadvantage to enable fruitful conclusion of the agreement.

In an increasingly materialist society, there is a strange irony to the exchange of "something" (namely funds), themselves a token of "nothing" (namely confidence), for "nothing", variously associated with values (including self-confidence). This occurs under socio-economic conditions in which many are faced with "nothing", possibly including both parties to the exchange. The irony has much to do with the paradoxical nature of the experiental confusion in the begging moment. Rather than assumptions of linearity in description of an exchange process, this now merits exploration in terms of nonlinearity and entanglement, as suggested here with respect to the relation between chaotic strange attractors, the Mobius strip, and the challenge to conventional conceptualization as understood in the recent work of Diederik Aerts: on the quantum characteristics of conceptual entities.

At the time of writing these ambiguities have been brought into particular focus with respect to the final negotiations between the Eurogroup and Greece regarding the latter's indebtedness and the loan required for its existential survival. With respect to the dignity of the Greek people, a posture of "begging" is fundamentally questionable -- as it may well be for any group in quest of resources in highly straightened circumstances, and faced with immediate challenges of survival. As explored in this argument, the Eurogroup is fundamentally challenged by its assessment of confidence in the Greek commitment to use the funds appropriately -- rather than squander them, as is a factor in any tangible response to need. For the Greeks, as with any soliciting aid, the precautious attitude of any donor elicits a pattern of negative responses engendered by the inequality. The tangibles, as "something" required for survival, are significantly reframed by the intangibles (confidence, commitment, self-respect, blame, resentment), readily deprecated as "nothing". However, faced with a future of "nothing" -- as is the condition of increasing proportions of the population -- "nothing" is acquiring ever-increasing significance (Emerging Significance of Nothing, 2012; Configuring the Varieties of Experiential Nothingness, 2012)

Begging conventionally framed

As noted by Philip Lynch (Understanding and responding to begging (Australia). Melbourne University Law Review, 2005):

Begging, or gathering alms, can be defined as the solicitation of a voluntary unilateral gift -- most often money -- in a public place. begging encompasses various begging categories or 'techniques', including 'passive begging' (that is, sitting or standing in one place with a sign and/or a receptacle entreating donations), 'active begging' (that is, approaching people in a public place and asking them for money or other gifts) and 'aggressive begging' (that is, following or asking a person threateningly or repeatedly for money or other gifts)

Ian Stead (Begging,, August 2010

Begging is the solicitation of money or food, especially in the street. There is a close relationship between begging and homelessness and homeless charity Crisis estimates that over 80 per cent of beggars are homeless. People who beg are among the most vulnerable in society, often trapped in poverty and deprivation, and it is regarded as a risky and demeaning activity.

Begging is visible on the streets of many British towns and most of the public report seeing someone begging in a public place at least once a week. Research carried out by the University of Glasgow found that begging was overwhelmingly driven by need rather than greed, although the apparently increasing prevalence of begging is coupled with an increasing perception that beggars, rather than being homeless and hungry, use the money they receive to support their addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Extensive resources on begging, termed panhandling in the USA, are indicated in a fact sheet from the US Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (Michael S. Scott, Panhandling, 2002). "Panhandlers" are variously referred to as "beggars," "vagrants," "vagabonds," "mendicants," or "cadgers." The guide also covers nearly equivalent conduct in which, in exchange for donations, people perform nominal labor such as squeegeeing (cleaning) the windshields of cars stopped in traffic, holding car doors open, saving parking spaces, guarding parked cars, buying subway tokens, and carrying luggage or groceries.

After reviewing factors that contribute to it, the guide identifies a series of questions that help in analyzing the problem, before reviewing responses to it, and what is known about the effectiveness of those responses from evaluative research and police practice. It distinguishes two types of panhandling: passive and aggressive. Passive panhandling is soliciting without threat or menace, often without any words exchanged at all -- just a cup or a hand held out. Aggressive panhandling is soliciting coercively, with actual or implied threats, or menacing actions. If a panhandler uses physical force or extremely aggressive actions, the panhandling may constitute robbery.

Jabir Hasan Khan and Menka and Nisar Ahmed (Regional analysis of various places of begging, International Journal of Development Research, 2013) ***:

The problem of begging is a universal phenomenon but it is more pronounced in developing nations. The only difference between the begging system of the western countries and in the case of India is the way of begging. Beggars get money in developed countries by performing their arts and skills but in India they are getting money only on the basis of sympathy or on the mercy of society. They are found everywhere in public places, such as filling stations, restaurants, banks, super markets, mosques, churches, etc. Moreover, deviant behaviors such as theft, thuggery, violent and criminal behavior, and vandalism are listed as some of the vices associated with street begging.... [It is argued that] since begging is a behavior in conflict with the ethical principles of the society, it should be considered as preventive/deterrent crimes.... considering it as a crime, is not logically justifiable and its range should be limited by no criminal and preventive actions. However, begging has been a traditional profession in India as charity is considered one of the noblest of human virtues according to Hindu tradition ...

Beggars request food, money, clothing and other items from passersby. They have many reasons for asking for assistance and can be found in many locations worldwide. Beggars tend to present a negative image of a particular location. The presence of beggars is perceived to be indicative of larger social ills or issues and can cause others to avoid beggar-inhabited areas....

Given the relation to homelessness, there is recognition that the feeling of humiliation and being regarded as a 'low-life'' were recurring themes in the self-perception of those begging (Lynch, 2005). The situation is complicated by a degree of recognition of associated abuses. There is an associated frustration with begging and the encounter with beggars, as indicated by the following:

This results in arguments opposing any donation (Kerry Kubilius, Before You Give: Beggars in Eastern Europe,; Ole Martin Moen, Don't Give Money to Beggars, Practical Ethics, 22 September 2012).

Conventional begging more analytically framed

As noted by Philip Lynch (Understanding and responding to begging (Australia). Melbourne University Law Review, 2005):

Although begging has recently become a 'hot topic' for public debate and media commentary, it has received relatively little attention as a subject of legal, public or social policy research, analysis or design. This is perhaps surprising, given that the occurrence, persistence and incidence of begging itself represents a failure of public and social policy.... Begging is a complex and multifaceted problem that is most often caused by multiple and interrelated individual and structural deprivations. There are clear causal and consequential correlations between begging, homelessness, poverty, mental illness, drug dependency, and inadequate access to housing, income and health support services. As a complex and multifaceted problem, begging requires a holistic, coordinated, inter-agency response that addresses both individual and structural issues. If the public interest in addressing the 'problem of begging' is to be realised, street level public policy responses and interventions that are flexible, responsive, individualised, and holistic need to be joined up and implemented with structural socio-economic reforms in the areas of housing, health, income support, and social inclusion. [emphasis added]

Despite the comprehensive nature of the analysis that Lynch undertakes within this framework, the psychology of the begging process is only summarized by reference to conventional categories from which the psychological dimensions are to be inferred. As noted below, another remarkable study goes further within a legal context in discussing internal dialogue in the begging moment (Michael M. Burns, Fearing the Mirror: responding to beggars in a "kinder and gentler" America, Hastings Constitutional Law Quaterly, 1992).

Johannes Lenhard (Austere Kindness or Mindless Austerity: the effects of gift-giving to beggars in East London, Antipoda. Revista de Antropologia y Arqueologia, 2014)

Although homelessness and poverty have long been topics in sociology and anthropology (Taithe 1996; Burrows et al. 1997; Kennett and Marsh 1999; Ravenhill 2008; Fitzpatrick et al. 2009), begging has only been analysed marginally. Furthermore, existing accounts focus on the reasons for begging (Fitzpatrick and Kennedy 2000), policy failures (Dean 1999), or ethnographic observations of homelessness (Murdoch 1994; Merz et al. 2006). Most of these contextualise social exclusion and depict the street person as an outsider (Jordan 1996; Dean and Melrose 1999).

Begging as competition for resources: As noted, there is extensive reference to begging in relation to poverty and how this may be misleadingly framed by the media (Lauren M. Krizay (Begging for Change: A Comparative Analysis of How the Media Frames Domestic and International Poverty, Student Pulse, 3, 2011, 9, pg. 1/4).

A begging process, more generally understood, is however also of concern (Kaye Wiggins, Analysis: 'Begging letters' from charities provoke indignation, Third Sector, 30 August 2011). The challenge is to move beyond this widespread focus on "in-your-face" begging as an increasing irritant to those not faced with homelessness and impoverishment. Several studies are valuable with respect to a broader understanding of its scope and organization.

Especially noteworthy is the compilation of studies by Jonathan Wright and Marty L. Leonard (The Evolution of Begging Competition, Cooperation and Communication. 2002) organized as follows:

Theoretical Approaches
  • Models of Begging as a Signal of Need
  • State-Dependent Begging with Asymmetries and Costs: A Genetic Algorithm Approach
  • Begging and Cooperation: An Exploratory Flight
  • Parental Investment in Relation to Offspring Sex
Begging as a Signal and the Issue of Costs
  • The Evolution of Complex Begging Displays
  • The Sibling Negotiation Hypothesis
  • Efficacy and the Design of Begging Signals
  • Energetic Costs of Begging Behaviour
  • Begging Behaviour and Nest Predation

Nestling Physiology

  • Appetite and the Subjectivity of Nestling Hunger
  • Nestling Digestive Physiology and Begging
  • Hormonal Regulation of Begging Behaviour
  • Immunity and Begging

Sibling Competition

  • Begging and Asymmetric Nestling Competition
  • Sibling Competition and the Evolution of Brood Size and Development Rate in Birds
  • Feeding Chases in Penguins: Begging Competition on the Run?
  • Sibling Competition and Parental Control: Patterns of Begging in Parrots
  • Begging Versus Aggression in Avian Broodmate Competition

Begging and Brood Parasitism

  • Begging Behaviour and Host Exploitation in Parasitic Cowbirds
  • Dishonest Begging and Host Manipulation by Clamator Cuckoos
  • Breeding Strategy and Begging Intensity: Influences on Food Delivery by Parents and Host Selection by Parasitic Cuckoos
  • Begging for Parental Care from Another Species: Specialization and Generalization in Brood-Parasitic Finches


Statistical Approaches
  • Logistic Regression and the Analysis of Begging and Parental Provisioning
  • Statistical Challenges in the Study of Nestling Begging

In the light of the importance currently attached to Twitter as a means of begging for attention, the implications for further understanding of the function of social media are discussed in a subsequent section.

Begging as a traditional livelihood: IRather than being simply a "problem", begging can be usefully recognized as characteristic of a traditional livelihood in some cultures, as highlighted by Woubishet Demewozu Begging as a Means of Livlihood: conferring with the poor at the orthodox religious ceremoniial days in Addis Ababa, African Study Monographs, 2005):

In the wider international context, literature on the problem of beggary is scanty. The limited scholarly works largely focused on micro analysis. Thus, there seems to be a wide gap in the social science literature regarding concepts, theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches to the study of the socio- economic aspects of the problem of beggary. In addition, the limited researches undertaken so far were basically survey-oriented attempts, which heavily lean toward understanding the beggary problem following quantitative approaches. One of the most serious problems with such a profile is that it draws a flat, static picture. It does not provide insight into the dynamics of the problem (Bevan and Achilles, 1995). Above all, most of the studies lack ideological and political neutrality to expose the beggary problem from the point of view of the victims

The questionable case for a neutral reframing is made with respect to other cultures (Li Bin. An Ethical Analysis of Beggary: begging as a living means or as a voluntary choice 2005; Kate Swanson Begging as a Path to Progress: indigenous women and children and the struggle for Ecuador's urban spaces, 2010).

Framed in terms of a belief system, the long tradition of mendicant monks also challenges simplistic assumptions, as noted by Daniel Folger Caner (Wandering, Begging Monks Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity, 2002). This offers a comprehensive study of a type of Christian poverty involving an apostolic lifestyle characterized by total material renunciation, homelessness, and begging was practiced by monks throughout the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. Whether associated with Christian beliefs or otherwise, this suggests that begging could be "re-cognized" in this light.

More problematic, however, are the challenges of a "begging culture" now specifically recognized in a number of major developing countries:

Alms-giving and charity enabled by begging: The relation to religion can also be considered in terms of the traditions of alms giving and charity, as explored by Jelili M.O. Mnitp (Street-Begging in Cities: cultural, political and socio-economic questions. Global Journal of Human Social Science, Sociology and Culture, 2013):

In virtually every religion of the world issues surrounding alms giving (and by implication begging) are entrenched though with different approaches... In Islam, zakat (alms giving) is so weighty that it is one of the five pillars of the religion. Thus says Allah: And in their properties there was the right of the beggar, and the Mahruum (the poor). It is believed that every "penny" spent for the poor is spent for the cause of Almighty Allah. It is evident in the Koran, and of course, Islam, not to repulse beggars: And repulse not the beggar (Koran 93, verse 10) [Giving money to beggars]. The list of those entitled to alms in Islam is not, however, restricted to beggars, but including all the poor, the captives, those in debt, stranded travelers, among many others. (Koran 9 verse 60). In summary while giving alms is seriously encouraged, begging is not frowned at, if the need arises.

In Christianity, alms giving is also encouraged but begging is silent upon. Thus says the Bible: Oh the joys of those who are kind to the poor (are that) the Lord rescues them in times of trouble (Psalm 41:1). Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing. But a course will come upon those who close their eyes to poverty (Proverbs 28:27). In a way, it could be inferred that, if religions encourage alms giving, they indirectly encourage begging. The difference between the reviewed religions is in degree and categorical statement, which are more pronounced in Islam than in Christianity. What the two religions stand for, however, as far as begging or beggars, and the poor generally, are concerned is love, to the extent that it is preached that the wealth of the rich is not considered theirs alone but to take care of the wretched too.

The equivalent principle in Judaism is sadaqah. In Buddhism, the begging bowl, or alms bowl, is one of the simplest but most important objects in the daily lives of Buddhist monks. It is primarily a practical object, used as a bowl in which to collect alms (either money or food) from lay supporters. As noted by Terry C. Muck and Frances S. Adeney (Christianity Encountering World Religions: the practice of mission in the Twenty-first Century, 2009):

Monks are taught very specific ways of receiving this gift of food. As they offer their begging bowls as receptacles for the food, they are taught neither to look at the food (and this display interest in its quantity, kind, and quality) nor to catch the eye of the donor (and thus display gratitude for the gift). In turn the householders are taught to give without pride but with esteem for the worthiness of the monks, and yet not to catch the eye of the monk -- the gift would lose value if it were given if it was given as a personal favor for particular monks. (p. 346)

Although Christian churches may position a box for offerings, their services frequently provide for a process of passing a "collection plate" (possibly as part of the offertory) , raising issues as to the relation to begging as explored by P. J. King (On the Wall Offerings, an Off-the-Wall Opinion, Pillar on the Rock, 18 February 2010). Some local authorities make use of "begging boxes" to provide an alternative means of providing funds to beggars (Aberdeen Alternative Giving Scheme: Begging Boxes; Anti-begging boxes used little). Of relevance is an experiment by a homeless man who positioned himself behind 9 begging bowls distinctly labelled (Muslim, atheist, Jewish, Buddhist, spiritual, agnostic, pagan, and Christian) and concluded that "atheists" were the most generous (Matthew Champion, Are atheists more generous than Christians? Metro, 30 April 2013).

Given the principle of alms-giving in many religions, it is of particular interest when a choice is made not to engage in the process -- as is currently strikingly relevant in the case of the relation between Israel and the besieged territories of Palestine, despite the "begging" for aid in which the latter can be held to engage. In that context just war theory always trumps the religious principles of sadaqah.

Begging legally framed: Extensive resources on the legal framing of begging (understood as panhandling) are indicated in a fact sheet of the US Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (Michael S. Scott. Panhandling, 2002).

Reference is made in subsequrnt sections to the remarkably considered approach is offered by Michael M. Burns (Fearing the Mirror: responding to beggars in a "kinder and gentler" America, Hastings Constitutional Law Quaterly, 19, 1992, pp. 783-844)

No other activity better exemplifies the tension in American society between the values of independence and the values of community -- the American schizophrenia of the individual work ethic and the self-made man competing with our oft-buried compassion for a fellow traveller -- than our responses to beggars in the streets. To give or not to give: few of us have a simple answer. Rather, the internal dislogue is confused and complicated. Will a hand-out really help? Will he spend it on booze? Is it my responsibility? Is it the "right" thing to do? There are so many of them -- how can I possibly make a dent? For many of us, compassion fatigue is setting in, and empathy is turning into frustration.

Responding to beggars
  • A. Our personal responses
    • Internal dialogue
    • Who gives (a damn)?
  • B. Governmental responses
    • Common law
      • a. Duty to render assiatance
      • b. Necessity defense
    • Legislative bans and regulations
    • Judicial responses to bans and regulations
    • Reliance on affirmative duties provided in state constitutions and local statutes

Rights analysis as camouflage

  • A. The limitations of rights analysis and legalistic distinctions
  • B. Does begging constitute protected speech?
    • Promoting First Amendment values
    • Symbolic speech
    • Charitable solicitation or Commercial speech?
  • C. What exactly are we protecting passersby (ourselves) from?


Fearing the mirror: the importance of connection and compassion in an increasingly polarized society
  • A. Our spiritual malaise
  • B. Conecction and compassion

Burns notably reviews the legal status of symbolic speech, citing Anthony J. Rose (Note, The Beggar's Free Speech Claim, 1989) to the effect that:

While the beggar's speech amounts, on the surface, to a mere request for funds, her appeal necessarily includes a communication of far greater import. Her entire person speaks of poverty and suffering; she is tangible evidence of failure, be it her own or society's. She is living testament to a shortage of emergency shelter space, under-funded alcohol and drug abuse programs, and the lack of sufficient low-income housing. She can be said to represent the underclass and all it must endure: prejudice, discrimination, violence, and exploitation. She evidences society's unwillingness to care adequately for its marginal members

Burns responds to the specific question What Exactly Are We Protecting Passersby (Ourselves) From?

Depending on the context in which a begging case arises-complete bans or partial restrictions, sidewalks or subways-differing levels of scrutiny may be invoked, and the public interest may need to be compelling or, alternatively, merely substantial or important. Proponents of begging bans may offer a variety of public interests to justify their "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" approach to this social condition. Interests include the prevention of (1) harassment, intimidation and threats to the physical safety of passersby; (2) annoyance, discomfort, and inconvenience; and (3) invasions of privacy. Arguably, a fourth interest, the prevention of fraud, could be proffered. The "sob stories" offered by some beggars may be generously embellished or wholly untrue. Nevertheless, the vast majority of beggars to whom passersby render aid demonstrates an undeniable and desperate need; thus, an absolute ban, which would sweep within its coverage the truthful pleas of "legitimate" beggars, would be unconstitutionally overinclusive.

Echoing the arguments of Burns, a human rights approach is provided in a similarly remarkable presentation by Philip Lynch (Understanding and responding to begging (Australia). Melbourne University Law Review, 2005) organized as follows:

The Problem of Begging

  • The Public Interest and Value in Responding to Begging within a
    Human Rights Framework

Understanding the Nature, Extent and Causes of Begging

  • Literature Survey
  • Primary Research
  • Demographic Profile of People who Beg
  • Why and How do People Beg?
  • Law Enforcement Interventions and Court Outcomes

What Do People who Beg Say about Begging?

Alternative Legal, Public and Social Policy Responses to Begging

  • Zero Tolerance' Policing and Dispersal Legislation
  • Police Training, Intervention and Referral
  • Assertive Outreach and Social Service Intervention
  • Diverted Giving Schemes
  • Access to Adequate Housing
  • Access to Adequate Income
  • Employment Schemes
  • Access to Adequate Health Care
  • 'Do Nothing' or the Laissez-Faire Approach

Both Burns and Lynch explore the constraints on the right to beg as a human right. The point is explored otherwise by Tamara Walsh (Defending Begging Offenders, QUT Law Review, 4, 2004, 1) and Sharif, Shafiq (A begger free city? - 'We have a right to beg'. Pakistan Today, 1 February 2011). This contrasts with a view from London:

Begging on the streets is a scar on the face of central London... That's why, working with the police, we aim to prevent begging. Councillor Simon Milton, Leader of Westminster City Council (Annual State of the City Speech, March 2004) Begging within Westminster is one of the City's longest standing problems. Westminster's location at the centre of London and the rapid expansion of the vibrant 24 hour economy means the number of beggars within the City is unparalleled within the UK (City of Westminster, Begging in Westminster Enforcement, assistance and communication 2004)

Organization of begging as organized criminality: Begging is increasingly framed in relation to criminality, raising concerns about the criminalization of proverty and homelessness (J. Esmonde, Criminalizing Poverty: the criminal law power and the safe streets act. Journal of Law and Social Policy, 2000).

Beyond the challenges of isolated begging lie those of organized begging, especially when there is a criminal dimension to that process (Charles Kirchofer, Organized Begging in Vienna, Austria: right-wing propaganda, benevolent necessity, illicit business, human smuggling, or human trafficking? 2010; Organized Crime Found Behind Begging, The Vienna Review, October 2010; Beggars in Stockholm -- everywhere! Thiefhunters Paradise, 18 July 2014; An organized crime? Begging in Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya News, 19 August 2013; Beggers holding babies, CNN, 20 February 2013; Swedes back 'organized begging' ban, The Local, 1 May 2015; The Innocent Faces of Organized Crime, The Dish, 3 October 2013).

Begging economically framed: the gift economy: An insightful exchange of comments from this perspective has been triggered on a forum by Johannes Lenhard (An Anthropology of Begging, Open Anthropology Cooperative, 19 July 2012). He remarks:

I am looking at the act of begging at the moment (in an East London environment doing both, observation and interviews) and try do describe it as a gift. So far, I have come across many possible differentiations and distinctions that do not all not seem to work out properly in terms of making sense of what I observe and what the beggars themselves are actually telling me. The classic theory of the gift (Mauss, Malinowski, Boas) with its heavy emphasize on reciprocity is very hard to defend in the first instance. What are they giving back except for appreciation, a thank you?

Might this already be enough to form a 'counter-gift' and in this way create a relationship? Are we to look at what I call a temporal fix -- the counter-gift consists in the 'making-it-more-probable' to also get money being in the same situation anytime in the future? Might a 'good conscience' be valued as a counter gift? It additionally seems very problematic to not fall into the trap and perceive of reciprocity in a self-interest fashion... So is the gift that one gives to a beggar not really a gift in the classical sense but rather something one might describe as a commodity in Gregory's (1980) words: as an alienable object that is reciprocally independent not creating any relationship in the sense a gift is able to?...[emphasis added]

To which Keith Hart responded:

Mauss wrote The Gift to refute the bourgeois ideology which opposes self-interested contracts with the free gift. Much recent anthropological discussion of gift economies opposed to market or commodity economy repeats the ideology that Mauss intended to contradict. He also only mentions reciprocity twice in his essay. This focus was introduced later by Levi-Strauss and Sahlins for their own purposes. See articles by Lygia Sigaud (2002) and myself (2007) on this subject. He did discuss begging or what is called in the English translation alms as an example of a stratified society where, in the absence of a material return, the recipient gives back spiritual deference. His main aim in discussing the archaic or heroic gift was to highlight possibilities for an economic movement from below, a consumer democracy built on professional associations, mutual insurance and cooperatives...

Mauss took up this argument by showing that gifts were never free, but always interested in some sense. Archaic gift-giving concealed rivalry, conflict, domination and inequality. The gift is therefore a model, taken from archaic societies, of modes of economic relations that have been repressed, marginalised or obscured by the dominant ideology and institutions of capitalism.[emphasis added]

Lenhard then responded:

I might not have made it explicit, but what I am lacking is especially this: a multi-dimensional explanation (even a multi-dimensional theory). Somehow, most 'classical' scholars mentioned in the thread so far seem to have been urged to choose a side (self-interest vs altruism). What I am trying to do is looking at certain 'ideal types' of people (regular vs one-off) in order to depict them within an 'ideal type' typology. This typology as a whole, however, will be (almost) 'all-encompassing'. To put the argument very sharply: the gift (as a whole) as exemplified as a gift to beggars is neither... nor ... but rather both. In certain instances it is about self-interest (where also inalienability / giving-for-keeping enteres the argument), in others about help, altruism and the like. All of those instances together, have to be thought as the 'gift-nexus'. I would like to argue that most of the scholars so far have (wrongly) focused on particular aspects in favor of others - even the concept of 'continuum' (Gouldner, 1960; Sahlins, 1974) doesn't pay enough attention to this. It seems definitely not adequate to put the gift in an opposition towards the commodity - the two share certain features..[emphasis added]

Of relevance to current promotion of the necessity of austerity policies, Lenhard later presents his conclusions, as a consequence of his research and that exchange (Austere Kindness or Mindless Austerity: the effects of gift-giving to beggars in East London, Ant?poda. Revista de Antropolog?a y Arqueolog?a, 2014). He summarizes:

The current austerity policies in the United Kingdom are creating a precarious situation for many people on the margins of society.... Observations of how local policies demonize gift-giving to street people led me to revisit arguments about the positive and negative effects of gifts. Four months of fieldwork amongst people who beg in the City of London confirmed the Maussian ambiguity of gift exchange. The material benefit of monetary gifts is often accompanied by shared time and conversation; gifts to beggars can go beyond materiality and are hence able to create bonds of sociability. [emphasis added]

In amplification Lenhard argues:

Only very recently have scholars become interested in analysing begging within the framework of the gift (McIntosh and Erskine 1999; Hall 2005). In contrast to my own account, McIntosh and Erskine (1999) focus on the giver, whereas Hall (2005), even though interested in people who themselves beg, does not consider positive aspects. I argue that gifts to people who beg bear a potential for interactional and inclusive relationships. In anthropology, theories of the gift tend to follow opposite lines of reasoning (Gudeman 2001). One strand contends that gifts are acts of "pure generosity" and, as such, "perfect gifts" (Carrier 1994; Belk 1996; Donati 2003). The exchangists, on the other hand, put forward the argument that no gift can be purely altruistic; self-interest is always involved at some level, possibly unconsciously.

I frame giving to people who beg within the anthropological discourse on gifts, oscillating between scholars who depict gift-giving as self-interested, rational action that reproduces inequality (Becker 1973; Emerson 1976; Bourdieu 1977; Sahlins 2004), and those who see it as an altruistic gesture that forms the basis of sociality (Cheal 1987, 1988; Godbout and Caille 2000). With special emphasis on its ambiguous social effects, I argue - in accordance with Mauss' original thesis (Hart 2007; Mauss 2001) - that gifts to people on the street can be both... I argue that a rigid dualism does not take us far.... Mauss' gift is both interested and altruistic, and can in turn result in hierarchy or inclusion. This ambiguity should also be the point of departure with regards to the effects of almsgiving. [emphasis added]

With respect to the process of giving he argues:

During my fieldwork over the last two years, I have encountered meaning attached to gifts to people who beg on the street that goes far beyond the material benefits of money. Statements from people like Kevin... paint a more complex picture:

Many people think, that if they give, that keeps me on the street - but it really makes life bearable [...] What I appreciate is respect. Respect and understanding make me feel like a human being and connect me to people.

Without help from strangers, Kevin suggests his life is 'unbearable'. It is however not simply the material necessity of money that makes his life liveable. The underestimated social aspect of giving, the interaction, makes him 'feel human'. Gifts that can form relationships between him and his giver bridging inherent distances, both literally in space but also in mind. This connection has significance by reminding Kevin of his often forgotten dignity. [emphasis added]

Lenhard variously notes:

On what is returned by the beggar in the exchange, Lenhard notes that different possibilities for "counter-gifts" emerge, whether material returns or immaterial:

It is unfortunate that Lenhard makes no reference to the criminality which is variously associated with begging (as noted above) and may be a major factor in some urban areas.

Varieties of conventional begging

It is perhaps appropriate that an early categorization of beggars in India continues to be cited in distinguishing the varieties of begging (Katayun Cama, Types of Beggars, in Our Beggar Problem: how to tackle it, 1945). The scheme has been slightly adapted by Nadia Azam (Beggarization: beggary as an organized crime in Pakistan, University of Kansas, 2011). The purpose here is to adapt that framework further in order to clarify the argument regarding begging as a template for recognition of functionally equivalent processes, which may be caricatured as "begging" -- notably as employed by groups, . The process at the individual level thus serves as a metaphor for highlighting issues and insights at a collective level.

  Types Characteristics Public response Government policy   Collective analogue
Crippled, deformed, blind, deaf-mute, under nourished, weakness of vital organs Public sympathetic towards disabled/deformed beggars; lack of government-provided welfare services
Profitable to beg; Public and/or beggars disinterested in institutional services for disabled
Contributions should be given to organizations, rather than individual beggars   Organizationally dysfunctional and under-resourced groups -- fundamentally disorganized
"Failed states"
Defective / Ill
Microcephalic (rat children), hydrocephalic, paralytic, traumatic Socially inefficient, immoral, impoverished, delinquent, criminal
People are ignorant about mental disorders like melancholia, maniacdepressive, dementia,
No comprehensive strategy for such beggars   Groups variously recognized as deluded (possibly as cults) and unable to "get their act together"
"Failed states"
Diseased Leprosy, epilepsy, TB, skin diseases May pose public health hazards National program to prevent and treat diseases. Public education and awareness   Groups suffering from characteristic organizational and operational "diseases" (as recognized by management consultants)
Countries evoking critical assessment and remedial recommendations by the World Bank, UNDP, etc
Able Able-bodied Aggressive, harasses, bullies, abusive language Generational beggars, "the family business" Legislation to prohibit begging, arrest, rehabilitation   Groups acting aggressively in society in relation to others to obtain resources (harassment, intimidation, abusive language, etc). Terrorist groups
"Rogue states"
Lifestyle Religious
Live on charity, spiritually devoted to God; people go to them when they have lost all hope in other forms of salvation Isolated individuals and/or Mendicant orders Collaboration of mendicant and government   Intentional communities notably dependent on social support by conviction, deriving from an unconventional worldview
Countries adopting alternative policies reliant to some degree on external support
Invalidated spiritual leaders Mendicant orders
Distinguishable with difficulty from legitimate religious mendicants
    Intentional communities (notably challenged as cults) disguising abusive solicitation and use of funds
Countries deliberately exploiting availability of external support
Tribal beggar
a) Seasonal
b) Permanent
Nomads, live in colonies or temporary settlements. Artistic performers, skillful beggars a) Agricultural work and trade during season, beg in big cities when off season b) Non-workers Petty criminals, may also work other short term jobs
Live in temporary colonies or settlements. a) Live in public places such as parks b) Caravans, no fixed place to live, wanderers
Social reconstruction   Gypsy and "Traveller" communities
Indigenous communities and Tribal nations

Temporarily unemployed
Unemployable Socially disenchanted to the extent that they are unemployable. Low wages, unskilled, irregularity in industries Hazardous working conditions, breakdown of selfrespect/ esteem/pride. Overcrowded and demoralizing working conditions, long hours, hard work, tough bosses
Honest, hard working, resort to professional begging and become unemployable
    Organizations without viable contracts and deemed incapable of delivering contract requirements
Employable Inefficient for any work. Work for food and shelter. Physical or mental disabilities.       Organizations without viable contracts but potentially capable of minimal productivity, despite disabilities
Permanently unemployed Incorrigibly
to work
Unwilling to work, stubborn, potentially criminal Malicious, danger to society
Drastic measures to keep them under control, rehabilitation centers for psychological and physical needs   Organizations permanently without productivity activity and unwilling to engage in work valuable to society
Somewhat permanently unemployed Employable Willing and able to work Demoralized and degenerated Unemployment due to economic disruptions Provide job opportunities to keep motivated, hopeful, and encouraged   Organizations in a fragile condition (possibly due to socio-economic circumstances) but indicating preparedness to work
Employed Small trade beggar Earned enough money to open small truck shops. Continue to beg May have small shops where they sell items such as fruits and vegetables
Family members beg and tend shop by rotation. Begging is the main business, shop is the side business
Government should facilitate them as they have potential to forgo begging and earn profits from small business   Organizations engaged in marginal productive activity requiring supplementary sources of income from society in order to be viable
Employed beggar Work by night, beg by day Low wages necessitate begging
Earn more money by begging than by working
    Organizations engaged in marginal productive activity requiring supplementary sources of income from society in order to be viable
iBeggars E-Beggars

Beg via cell phone

Beg via email

  Requires international collaboration   Telemarketing
Rap beggars Perform rap songs and acrobats to attract attention       Promotional shows
High profile beggars Seemingly well-to-do        

Begging surrogates conventionally framed by euphemism

Conventional Surrogates
Street begging by individual Individual
Collective (mendicant orders, gypsies, etc) Collective

In the light of the previous articulation, the concern here is to note a selection of contrasting domains in which collective bodies engage in processes bearing a degree of resmblance to begging by individual. The processes may then be informally caricatured as "begging", or requiring the use of a "begging bowl". The argument here is that a fundamental process is indicated or implied through the use of these metaphors.

In an entry on Metaphors, The Economist Style Guide indicates their use in that context as follows:

Every issue of The Economist contains scores of metaphors... An issue of The Economist chosen at random had a package cutting the budget deficit, the administration loth to sign on to higher targets, the lure of eastern Germany as a springboard to the struggling markets of eastern Europe, west Europeanness helping to dilute an image, someone finding a pretext to stall the process before looking for a few integrationist crumbs, a spring clean that became in the next sentence a stalking-horse for greater spending, and Michelin axing jobs in painful surgery... Within four consecutive sentences in another issue lay a chance to lance the Israel-Palestine boil, Americans and Europeans sitting on their hands while waiting for Israel to freeze settlement building or for Palestinians to corral militants, the need to stop the two sides playing the "after you" game, a confidence-building and money-begging conference followed by a shot in the arm for the Americans.

As a metaphor, begging figured notably at the peak of the recent financial crisis (Begging for global financial rescue deal, The Australian, 27 September 2008). It was used in desc riptions of two of the top metaphors of 2008, without being indicated as one of them (Top Ten Metaphors of 2008, The Metaphor Observatory, 22 July 2009). As noted above, the term figures in reported claims by Mohammad Reza Naghdi regarding nuclear negotiations with Iran (Adam Kredo, Iran: The "Americans Are Begging Us for a Deal". Washington Free Beacon, 5 February 2015; Iran: The "Americans are begging us for a deal", Jihad Watch, 5 February 2015). It framed a process in the politics of Pakistan (Govt not negotiating but begging TTP to spare their lives: Sharjeel Memon, The Express Tribune, 25 March 2014) ISIS is begging for your attention -- by killing people with rocket launchers, War in Context, 2015).

With respect to the Greek crisis, the German press makes notable reference to "begging" by the Greeks (Tsipras bettelt bei der EU und blitzt ab, Bild, 6 March 2015; Schuldenkrise: Griechen betteln bei den Banken, Spiegel, 21 February 2012; Griechen betteln um 60 Milliarden, Money, 10 March 2011; Die Griechen betteln regelrecht darum aus dem Euro und der EU geworfen zu werden, Money Online, 11 March. 2015; Griechenland bettelt um Geld: Botschaften im Ausland sollen Bargeld abliefern, The Huffington Post, 15 May 2015; Drohung, Spaltungsversuch oder Pleitepanik? Griechenland geht in Moskau betteln,, 9 April 2015).

With respect to the refugee influx into Europe, whether or not refugees are obliged to resort to begging, they are readily framed as such through their behaviour and the needs which characterize their condition.

In the inttroduction to their compilation, Jonathan Wright and Marty L. Leonard (The Evolution of Begging Competition, Cooperation and Communication, 2002) note:

The literature on begging is rich in metaphor. There are battlegrounds with winners and losers, manipulative cheats and blackmailers fighting honest offspring. Though colourful, this language has sometimes obscured the issues and has led to confision and unhelpful dichotomies... Discussions about the honesty of begging ignore whether begging honestly signals need or honestrly signals ability... They also obscure the possibility that absolute begging levels may escalate due to competition, whereas relative begging levels within a brood may still contain information about nestling need or ability... Focusing on metaphor can distract attention from model mechanics. (p. 23)

The purpose here is to identify domains in which there is recognition of the exchange of tangible for intangible, of "something" for "nothing" -- typically through some kind of appeal to values thereby celebrated or enhanced.

Domains Modes
(caricatured as "begging")
"Something" (tangible value)
Tangibles sought by "begging"
("you give" objectively )
"Nothing" (intangible value)
Intangibles offered through "begging"
("you receive" subjectively)
politics (democracy)
fund raising / soliciting
token of confidence / vote ("give me your vote") /
electoral promises
status (ambassadorships)
religion proselytizing
appeals / sermons
fund raising / solicitation
contribution / token of belief
hope / indulgence / compassion / merit
heavenly reward
commerce marketing
products / services
loyalty / buy-in
quality ("sizzle, but not the steak")
(self) image enhancement
charities begging letters / solicitation
(all possibly enhanced by iconic images of beggars)
(self) image enhancement
potential need (cancer remedy)

fund raising
begging letters / solicitation

development / relief / aid

fund raising
requesting loans
requesting debt relief

funds / goods recognition (UNICEF ambassadorships)
debt annulment
critical research
environment, etc)
begging letters / solicitation
(possibly enhanced by iconic images of sufferers, pandas, etc)

feel good factor
precautionary investment

information feedback membership "followers"
security services
campaigning funds security
national supremacy / pride
sport fund raising contribution
national supremacy / pride

Especially significant as forms of collective begging is the process of soliciting for funds and support, or that of activists seeking signatures for a petition to be addressed to authorities -- notably through online petitions (or internet petitions), as with that on Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (2015).

Begging for attention in social media? With the indication (in the introduction) of the curious association between begging by nestling birds and the framing of a primary social mediun of communication, the degree to which social media can be characterized by "begging for attention" becomes significant. This is consisten with the competition for "air time" (as a resource) by politicians and advocacy groups on conventional media. In soliciting attention in this way the response sought can even be explored in financial terms (Investing Attention Essential to Viable Growth: radical self-reflexive reappropriation of financial skills and insights, 2014). More intriguing is the passibility that such communication may lead to the emergence of unsuspected integrative modalities, analogous to the striking dynamics of bird flocking (Re-Emergence of the Language of the Birds through Twitter? 2010).

Rejection of exchange and failure to give: As with the encounter with an individual beggar, mutually satisfactory conclusion may not be achieved. Possible excuses have to be framed. Elements to be recognized then include:

Application of named modalities to refinement of the "begging" process:

Features of the begging process

variously sought by the exchange process
variously received by the exchange process
  • funds: begging for funds; begging for sponsorship
  • food: begging for alms
  • "handouts" (generically understood): QE, Greece, debt relief
  • assistance: begging for help (faced with withholding aid)
  • support: begging for support
  • relief from pain: begging for drugs; begging to die
  • vulnerable and threatened: begging for life; begging for mercy
  • recognition: begging for an award; begging for exposure
  • information: begging for feedback; begging for contributions
  • begging for advancement
  • begging for solutions
  • begging for innovation
  • begging for punishment
  • pardon: begging to differ / begging your pardon / begging for forgiveness
  • power: (Make Him Beg To Be Your Boyfriend)
  • attention: begging for attention
  • appreciation: begging for praise / appreciation / respect / gratitude
  • begging for status; begging for respect
  • begging for discretion
  • begging for a better life
  • begging for indulgence / tolerance / freedom from guilt
  • begging for goodwill / feel-good factor / good deed done
  • begging for hope / promises
  • begging for merit (notably heavenly reward)
  • begging for security (notably in the afterlife)
  • begging for compassion / sympathy


Skills in "begging" as variously recognized Problematic processes enabling "begging" as variously understood:
  • evocation of sympathy / emotional intelligence
  • skills in human relations (public relations) /
  • marketing / campaigning / salesmanship (products, services, politics)
  • negotiating skills (getting to yes; closing a deal)
  • soliciting support / fund raising
  • pleading (psychology of successful begging)
  • confidence trickery
  • seduction ("flirting" / "courting")
  • organized crime
  • intimidation, bribery
  • exploitation of the vulnerable
  • maiming and exploiting the deformed
  • trafficking in persons
  • learning / apprecenticehip (inculcating street skills)
  • solicitation, with its various connotations

Some distinctions: In response to a forum question (What is the difference between negotiation, bargain and begging? Linked In, 2014), Peter Spence offers:

The difference may not be in the words... but the intent of the words -- if perhaps we look at 'begging' as desperately asking for something of value from another party without the reciprocal offer of value (i.e. asking for something while not offering anything of relative value in return) this demonstrates a position of dependency upon the other party. The other party has 'power over you' in these circumstances (legitimate/positional power, resource power, etc) -- and you are surrendering to the other party.

For Stephen Guth (The Contract Negotiation Handbook: an indispensable guide for contract professionals, 2007), in distinguishing "pre-negotiations or begging?" (pp. 86-88):

When you think of the negotiation process in the context of purchasing, you likely think of the vendor and customer working together to conclude an agreement. In that context, the vendor infers that it's the chosen vendor and the details of the deal just need to be be worked out. If that's the case -- the vendor believe that it's the chosen vendor -- a more accurate description of the process I just described is "begging".... After a while, the customer has a vested interest in bringing the deal to a close and, if the vendor is opportunistic, the customer will leave a large sum of money and concessions on the table. That's why it's called begging" instead of "negotiating".

Mary Racelis (Begging, Requesting, Demanding, Negotiating: moving toward urban poor partnerships in governance, World Bank Urban Research Symposium, 2003) paper examines four cases of how once powerless urban poor groups have metamorphosed from a begging or requesting mode in dealing with officials and elites, to a demand mode that highlights poor people negotiating confidently with powerful figures as equals.

Responding to begging: compassion, emotional blackmail and risk of being duped?

The response most notably advocated by religions is one of compassion (possibly as an obligation,as noted above). Evoking compassion is central to appeals in favour of the disadvantaged (typically distinguished from those who are simply "beggars").

Concerns are variously expressed in this regard:

As discussed with respect to China by Joann Pitman (Is Comapassion Conditional? ChinaSource, 17 April 2015):

One of the difficult realities of life in China (or any other developing country) is the daily encounter with beggars.... the chances are high that, unless we've traveled extensively in the developing world, we have rarely seen beggars, and thus have little experience dealing with all of the emotion and confusion and often distress that comes when encountered by a beggar.... An encounter with a beggar can be a difficult thing. The emotions swirl-embarrassment, frustration, anger, compassion, a desire not to be cheated. The questions surface. How much should I give? Should I give food or money? Should I give anything at all? If I give, won't I just attract more beggars? How do I know the person is truly in need and not a "professional beggar," working for a boss? There are few things that Westerners, particularly Americans, find more distasteful than being cheated, and this becomes apparent in our dealings with beggars. Often, the first thing that wells up inside of us when we are confronted with a beggar is the overwhelming desire not to be cheated.

The challenge for Christians has been articulated by Kelly Johnson (The Fear of Beggars: stewardship and poverty in Christian ethics, 2007) who asks why does Christian ethics so rarely tackle the real-life question of whether to give to beggars? Examining both classical economics and Christian stewardship ethics as reactions to medieval debates about the role of mendicants in the church and in wider society, Johnson reveals modern anxiety about dependence and humility as well as the importance of Christian attempts to rethink property relations in ways that integrate those qualities in the light of the rhetoric and thought of Christian thinkers, beggar saints, and economists from throughout history.

The issue is curiously highlighted by the recent visit of the Pope to the Philippines:

The Philippines government came under fire today after admitting that hundreds of homeless people were taken off Manila's streets and put into luxury accommodation during Pope Francis's recent visit, when he preached compassion for the poor. Members of parliament demanded an explanation after Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman revealed 490 beggars and homeless people were taken to air-conditioned log cabins at a resort near Manila for the January 15-19 visit. "The pope would have wanted to see the Philippines, warts and all. Let us not pretend that we are a first-world country," House of Representatives member Terry Ridon, who is initiating a congressional inquiry, told AFP. (As Pope preaches compassion, Manila under fire for taking beggars off the streets during papal visit, MalayMailOnline, 23 January 2015)

Questionable appeals for compassion? Any criticism of unquestioning compassion meritis consideration within a larger framework as argued separately (Is There Never Enough? Religious doublespeak on population and poverty, 2013). Such criticism can be reframed as unrealistic -- with the argument that a child is at risk now, for lack of compassionate response. Arguments from any larger perspective can then be framed (by religion) as "theoretical" and irrelevant to the tragic, existential reality of the moment -- to which "others" have an immediate obligation to respond.

One way to present the situation is to compare it to that of a group of people in a lifeboat with necessarily limited resources (Resource Insights from Plus or Minus 12 People on a Liferaft: thought experiment to highlight global dilemmas in a comprehensible context, 2014). The dilemma for those in the boat is how to respond to the insistence of some that they have a right to engender children -- thereby increasing the "number of mouths to feed":

Begging transactions: The situation can also be compared to that of the encounter of a resource-endowed person with a beggar requesting aid (possibly for a child). This is an increasingly common experience in urban environments, especially in developed countries. As a "transaction" it has the following elements:

Something for Nothing: internal dialogue in the confusion of the begging moment

Conventional research: The nature of any "nternal dialogue" is far less evident in the valuable study, cited above, by Philip Lynch (Understanding and Responding to Begging, Melbourne University Law Review, 2005 ). Here "understanding" the "problem" of begging is framed primarily from an external perspective in relation to the public interest and value in "responding" to that problem. Although it is informed by the nature, extent and causes of begging and by "the interests, values and views of people who beg", it is more conventionally focused on a range of legal and public policy initiatives, both domestic and international, designed to respond to begging. Whilst acknowledging that " begging is a complex and multifaceted problem" -- typically caused by multiple and interrelated individual and structural deprivations -- the psychosocial challenge of the "begging moment" is not central to its concerns. Although stressing the need for responses that are "flexible, responsive, individualised and be joined up and implemented with legal and structural socioeconomic reforms" this takes little account of the subjective dimension of the begging moment for participants in that process.

An effort towards such understanding is evident in the work of Christopher R Stones (A Psycho-social Exploration of Street Begging: a qualitative study, South African Journal of Psychology, 2013). Through engaging in the process, the research was designed to augment the personal experiences of a research assistant in order better to understand why people beg and what might maintain their begging. Interview reports, observation, and anecdotal material suggest that the beggar "participants" in this study preferred a lifestyle where the restrictions of formal employment such as having to report for duty and work long hours for a relatively menial wage did not apply. However, the uncertainties of begging were experienced as stressful but not necessarily demeaning. Arising from the interview material, it became clear that issues such as unemployment and difficulty in accessing social grants as well as poor education and homelessness were the overriding precipitating factors. Again, however, the nature of the dynamics of the begging moment reamined elusive.

Internal dialogue? As noted above, one remarkable study within a legal context goes further. Michael M. Burns (Fearing the Mirror: responding to beggars in a "kinder and gentler" America, Hastings Constitutional Law Quaterly, 1992) notes:

Mirroring? Surprising for the legal context of his argument, Burns has a concluding section on Fearing the Mirror: The Importance of Connection and Compassion in an Increasingly Polarized Society

Our responses to beggars can serve as a barometer for the condition of our individual lives. They line the crazed streets, a serpentine funhouse mirror, confounding us, giving us our images in extremis, distorting our best instincts, exaggerating our worst. I give when I feel secure in the world, secure enough to peer into the mirror; [w]hen I feel neglected, abused, invisible, unloved, and surly-a bit like a beggar myself, I resist. Beggars force me to look at my life -- its richness and its emptiness -- and to wonder whether, absent material comforts, it is anymore "significant" than theirs

For Burns...

Truly compassionate action first requires, in my view, a healthy level of self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is to be without anxiety about nonperfection-to accept ourselves "as is," acknowledging our "dark side"-our selfishness, our pettiness, our ugliness, our violence, our meanness. Unfortunately, most Americans experience their theological beliefs as largely guilt-based, and guilt tends to produce denial and repression, hardly the ingredients for heart-felt compassionate action. Repressing our dark side produces a judgmentalness that ensures disassociation and breeds a self-righteousness that serves no one. A second prerequisite to compassionate action is sincere respect for those to whom we lend a hand. Not pity, not paternalism, not condescension, but true respect and compassion for a fellow traveler who is suffering....

Pity is not to be confused with compassion. Pity may appear like compassion, but it sets one apart, manifesting distance, not connection. Respect also entails honoring the wishes and preferences of the persons we are helping-being willing to relinquish control and not impose our agenda for solving their suffering... there is a "soulful dimension" to life on the street worthy of our attention and respect:

No matter how stark and difficult street life is, it can offer a commensurate potential for awakening. . . . [T]here is something extremely "brave, radical and authentic" about succumbing to homelessness. When despair does not overtake the individual, life in extremis yields a spirituality of survival and transcendence, and beings of extreme wisdom and poetry .... [M]any people who visit our shelter are highly sensitive and artistic. Often, they are more aware of sights and sounds than many of us who are wrapped up in our lives. We forget to see and hear. They take the time because that's all they have. (Mark Matousek. The Crucible of Homelessness. Common Boundary, September/October 1991)

Forgo and Forgive: "begging" as a key to to the development-environment dilemma? Using conventional begging as a template, it is intriguing to explore how the process of forgoing might be recognized in other situations readily caricatured as involving begging. Thus indebted countries might "beg" for debt relief -- as has been the case with Greece. Those dedicated to conservation of the environment and wilderness areas might "beg" that these should not be exposed to the depredation of development and developers, and that the final extinction of a species should be sapred. Judicial regimes might be begged to forgo the death penalty -- as frequently highlighted in particular cases. Especially strange is the internal dialogue of an individual with respect to voluntarily forgoing life through martyrdom, as with forms of jihadist self-sacrifice of "something" in exchange for "nothing", namely an intangible outcome.

With respect to indebtedness, the argument has been transformed into an unusual exchange, as documented by Ross P. Buckley (Debt-for-Development Exchanges: history and new application, 2011). In this case the required exchange of money is forgone. Understood as "debt forgiveness", or "debt relief", loans to a financially troubled borrower may be "written-off" by the lender with the obkective of enabling debt restructuring so that it remains viable -- possibly in order to be able to pay off the remaining part of any loan. The exchange may involve other elements, such as the allowing the opportunity to develop.

A related opportunity is evident with respect to the environment, namely that development exploitation may be forgone to enable conservation of forests and other natural features, valued in their own right. One approach to this is through application of the Safe Minimum Standards (SMS) decision rule as a complement to use of a cost-benefit criterion based purely upon monetary valuation, as described by R. Kerry Turner and Stavros Georgiou (Valuing Ecosystem Services: the case of multi-functional wetlands, 2012). They note that:

A critical aspect of the application of the SMS decision rule is specification of the threshold for unaccptable costs of forgoing development. The degree of sacrifice is determined through full cost-benefit assessment of the development option, including estimable costs of damage to the environment. The decision as to whether conservation of natural resources (and rejection of the development activity) can be justified is political, constrained by society's various goals. In this sense, SMS provide a mechanism for incorporating the precautionary principle into decision making: society may choose to conserve even in the absence of proof that damage will occur in order to limit potential costs in the future. (p. 65)

As described, however, it is not the developer who is actively "forgoing" but rather society imposing pressure to forgo. This does not therefore encompass what might be expected in the internal dialogue of an "enlightened" developer -- and the nature of "distinterested forgoing". The issue is whether exploration of the internal dialogue in the individual begging moment can inform the process of "forgoing development", as for example described by David E. Naugle (Energy Development and Wildlife Conservation in Western North America, 2012):

A scientifically defensible strategy can be constructed, but the mostt reliable means of success will be long-term maintenance of robust sage-bruch populations in their natural habitats. Forgoing development in priority landscapes is the obvious approach necessary to conserve large populations. The challenge will be for governments, industries, and communities to implement solutions at a sufficiently large scale across multiple jurisdictions to meet the biological needs of sage-grouse. (p. 70)

Again, however, the experiential nexus of the begging process may provide insights into the psychology of that collective forgoing process. Of particular interest is how the "something" of this argument is forgone in exchange for "nothing", suggesting a degree of role reversal in the begging moment -- usefully understood in terms of enantiodromia. A similar argument can be made with respect to "forgoing growth" (or "foregoing growth", also used in references), thereby associating the process with the debate regarding zero growth, degrowth and the delusions associated with growth itself (Bob Lloyd, The Growth Delusion, Sustainability, 2009; Michael Jakob and Ottmar Edenhofer, Green growth, degrowth, and the commons, Oxford Review Economic Policy, 2014). The latter was funded by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change and publicised as Foregoing growth hardly helps the environment (2014) -- recalling a feature of the internal dialogue in relation to street begging. The process of "forgoing" can also be related to the psychological dynamics of "renunication", as notably cultivated by Gandhi.

Although the advantages of "foregoing reproduction" have been extensively researched in animal species, this does not appear to have been a focus in the case of humans. Clearly there is merit in identifying conditions under which this would be in the interest of the collective, if not in that of the individual(s) concerned. With respect to animals, the matter of how hundreds of species have evolved altruistic helpers that give up their own reproduction for the sake of others has long been debated (Daniele Fanelli. Altruism needs selfish genes to evolve after all, New Scientist, 30 May 2008). It is curious that such renunciation is a central requirement of the monastic life -- as chastity -- in contrast with the promotion by religions of reproduction within the population at large. This is all the more curious in that the commitment of the monastic life to poverty requires a process of begging for resources from that population -- to whatever levels of poverty some may be reduced (under conditions of scarcity of resources) as a consequence of religious doctrine.

Of related interest is the current role of negative interest rates, whereby the European Central Bank and countries such as Sweden and Denmark have paid negative interest on excess reserves (taxing banks for exceeding their reserve requirements) as an expansionary monetary policy measure. This amounts to a tax designed to prevent money-hoarding, corresponding to the controversial proposal of Silvio Gesell, as noted by Leonid Bershidsky (Neglected Prophet of Economics Got It Right, Bloombergview, 3 July 2015)

Systemic representation of "begging" processes

Given the current global strategic importance associated with analogues to "begging" -- as with the challenge of refugees, Greece, and the like -- it is appropriate to ask why analytical methods such as discourse analysis and argument mapping have not been applied to the ecosystem of perspectives presented in each such case. A similar argument could be prsented withrtespect to transactional analysis (Eric Berne, Games People Play, 1964). Related points could be made with respect to the extensive insghts elaborated into public relations and marketing processes.

Game-playing: It is similarly interesting that the insights into the dynamics of game-playing have not been explored in relation to the begging process. In this case a contrast can be noted with respect to so-called infinite games (James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility, 1986). The distinction is as follows:

Of relevance is an interesting post on how online social games are currently in a state of being "viral" by making players literally beg their friends for help (The New Social Grind: Begging as Gameplay, Online Alchemy, 2010). Begging is used as gameplay, making it impossible to move forward in the game without others helping -- in a way that involves no social interaction at all.

Negotiation: Each of the skills of the begging process effectively implies the other in some measure. The issue is which has been usefully articulated to enable a more systemic understanding of the aspects and stages of the process. The attention given to negotiation suggests that this could be the most fruitful in framing experience in the begging moment.

Mapping the begging moment through metaphor? Given the emphasis in the argument above on a more generic understanding of begging -- notably through metaphor -- there is the unusual possibility of benefitting from the recently announced capacities of the first online Metaphor Map (Libby Brooks, Metaphor Map Charts the Images that Structure our Thinking, The Guardian, 30 June 2015) Researchers at Glasgow University have plotted thirteen centuries of more than 14,000 cognitive connections in terms of metaphor from 4 million pieces of lexical data (Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus, University of Glasgow, 2015). A more complex pattern of insights might be derived from combining the map on the right below with one derived from "soliciting" (as in its use in fund raising).

Exploration of the begging moment through the online Metaphor Map
Overview of pattern of all metaphor connections
(see original, with further explanations)
Preliminary exploration of metaphorical connections of begging
(see original derived via "poverty")
Metaphor Map Metaphor Map Poverty

Mapping the cognitive dynamics of the begging moment

In the absence any more systematic study focused on the begging process, the following schematics endeavour to hold within the same framework many of the threads as identified, mentioned or discussed above.

Preliminary mapping in terms of the implications of a Venn diagram

The complexification of the aboce schematic, as presented below, endeavours to:

Tentative mapping of the cognitive nexus of the begging moment
(external / internal ****)

The associated dynamics recall the following presentation by Kenneth Boulding of patterns of threat and exchange, especially relevant to the begging process.

Threat and exchange patterns
(reproduced from Kenneth Boulding, Ecodynamics: a new theory of societal evolution, 1978, p. 186)

The conflation to a more limited number of dimensions could be fruitfully associated with the arguments regarding hgher orders of cyberetics of Maurice Yolles and Gerald Fink (A general theory of generic modelling and paradigm shifts: cybernetic orders, Kybernetes, 2015). With respect to the reference above to 3D negotiation, from a cybernetic perspective (as argued by Yolles), these three dimensions would appear to represent a recursion of the living system agency model at the cognitive level. In other words it would appear as though it is possible to postulate that during processes of negotiation, levels of consciousness are created in a temporary generic system hierarchy that operates as a living system in its own right. It suggests that perhaps the creation of a new level of consciousness might perhaps always involve the living system agency model, i.e. with 3 domains connected by figurative and operative intelligence.

Experimental 3D configurations of Möbius strips around the "begging moment": In the case of conflation of the above schematic to 6 dimensions, the following alternative visualization possibilities are interesting to explore. [3D Images prepared with the aid of Stella Polyhedron Navigator and X3D-Edit].

Views of three mutually orthogonal Möbius strips framing the begging moment in a sphere at the centre of a cube
Central animation can be interpreted as rotation of cube into 6 positions. Access interactive virtual reality version
Animation of cube with 3 Mobius strips 3 Mobius strips framing a sphere
Views of six Möbius strips (in pairs) framing the begging moment in a sphere at the centre of a cube
Access interactive virtual reality version of which the images below are screen shots
6 Mobius strips framing a sphere 6 Mobius strips framing a sphere 6 Mobius strips framing a sphere
Views of six Möbius strips (in pairs) tangential to the begging moment in a sphere at the centre of a cube
Access interactive virtual reality version of which the images below are screen shots
6 Mobius strips tangential to a sphere 6 Mobius strips tangential to a sphere 6 Mobius strips tangential to a sphere

Further insights could be suggested by combining the three configurations into a single virtual reality file. Solid spheres of contrasting colours could move from the "outermost" positions to fuse into the central sphere. The Möbius strips could be rotated on their longer axes. Also of potential interest is to revert to a configuration of 8 Möbius strips passing through the vertices of the cube along the diagonals through the centre. Switching any virtual reality rendering into wireframe mode is also insightful, as shown below.

Screen shots of wireframe renderings of above images in virtual reality
Wireframe rendering of 3 orthogonal Mobius strips Wireframe rendering of 6 orthogonal Mobius strips (in pairs) Wireframe rendering of 3 orthogonal Mobius strips (in pairs)

Framing the decision-making nexus: The "begging moment" recalls the decision-making focus of the I Ching as the Book of Changes, as can be variously interpreted and adapted (Transformation Metaphors derived experimentally from the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network, community and lifestyle, 1997). The 64 conditions it indicates, and the transformations between them, are traditional described by a 6-line hexagram, each line being either broken or unbroken. The images above can be understood as offering a 6-fold framework through the 6 sides of the cube. The Möbius strip associated with each side can be recognized as offering the illusory ambiguity between broken/unbroken (negative/positive) which enable it to be used in constructing a hexagram framing the decision-making moment of the sphere.

Animation of alternating views of 6 Möbius strips
cycling through 64 I Ching hexagrams
Position 6 Illusory perception of the 6 paradoxical Möbius strips in the 3D schematics above suggests their use as indication of the 6 yang or yin symbols of which each of the 64 I Ching hexagrams is composed. The illusion derives from the lack of any distinction in fact between the apparently contrasting colours in a single strip, as the above images make clear
Position 5
Position 4
Position 3
Position 2
Position 1

The 3 schematic animations relating Möbius strips with the cube suggest a further imaginative consideration in relation to the traditional encoding offered by the trigram pattern of the 8-fold BaGua "mirror" fundamental to the structure of the I Ching. Rather than treating the alternative schematics above as distinct, the axial 3-foldness they share in relation to the cube could be understood as indicative of the 3 symbolic lines in a trigram -- with their commonality denoted by the colours in the alternative representations. On any given axis the Möbius strip then alternates between a singular form (the first schematic) and its separation into two -- which move apart to different degrees along that axis (the second and third schematics), only to move together again, fusing into one. In its singular form, this would be indicative of the unbroken yang form -- with the separation then indicative of the broken yin form.

With respect to such reflection, the 12 edges of the cube offer a means of mapping patterns of 12-foldness considered so significant to many collective decision-making contexts, as separately summarized (Implication of the 12 Knights in any Strategic Round Table, 2014). More complex insights could be associated with the drilled truncated cube, a toroidal polyhedron with whose 64 edges the 64 "changes" of the I Ching could be associated (Proof of concept: use of drilled truncated cube as a mapping framework for 64 elements, 2015).

Dynamics of strange attractors implied by Möbius strip: Missing from the above schematic is the sense in which each seemingly static Möbius strip is in fact indicative of a cognitive dynamic in the confusion of the begging moment -- namely a further challenge to comprehension. Of particular interest is the manner in which the form of the Möbius strip is evident in various attractors associated with system dynamics. [The writer is indebted for this insight to the presentation by Vasileios Basios, on What Emerges from Complexity Science? to a gathering of the Scientific and Medical Network, 2015].

The point is simply made in the following image and animation of the Lorenz system attractor. It is notable for having chaotic solutions for certain parameter values and initial conditions. In particular, the Lorenz attractor is a set of chaotic solutions of the Lorenz system which, when plotted, resemble a butterfly or figure eight -- recalling that of the Möbius strip. Each of the eight such strips in the above schematic could then be suggestively understood in those terms. Curiously, as a feature of chaos theory, the attractor is also associated with the so-called butterfly effect, namely the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

Lorenz attractor
30 second animation screen shot
Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Other significant strange attractors are the multiscroll attractor (double-scroll attractor, or Chua's attractor) and the Rössler attractor. The Wikipedia entry on the Lorenz attractor offers other images and animations. [See also Visions Of Chaos 2D Strange Attractor Tutorial] Interaction, using "butterflies", has been enabled by Malin Christersson (Interactive Lorenz Attractor, 2015)

The half-twist that occurs in the Rössler attractor only affects a part of the attractor. Rössler showed that the attractor was in fact the combination of a "normal band" and a Möbius strip (Otto E. Rössler, Chaotic behavior in simple reaction system, Zeitschrift für Naturfoschung A, 1976). The banding evident in the Rössler attractor is similar to a Cantor set rotated about its midpoint.

Double scroll attractor Rössler attractor
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons (by Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

As noted in one description of the Rössler attractor:

The original Rössler paper states the Rössler attractor was intended to behave similarly to the Lorenz attractor, but also be easier to analyze qualitatively. An orbit within the attractor follows an outward spiral close to the x, y plane around an unstable fixed point. Once the graph spirals out enough, a second fixed point influences the graph, causing a rise and twist in the z-dimension. In the time domain, it becomes apparent that although each variable is oscillating within a fixed range of values, the oscillations are chaotic. This attractor has some similarities to the Lorenz attractor, but is simpler and has only one manifold.

As described by C. Henry Edwards and David E. Penney (Elementary Differential Equations, 1996) with respect to the Rössler attractor, thr associated system of differential equations originated in studies of oscillations in chemical reactions:

In its motion along its trajectory the point may appear to spiral repeatedly around a set -- the so-called Rossler band -- that somewhat resembles a (twisted) Mobius strip in space.... As the point travels around and around the band, it may be observed to drift radially back and forth across the band in an apparently unpredictable fashion. Two points that start from nearby initial positions may loop around and around the band somewhat in synchrony, while moving radially in quite different ways, so that their trajectories diverge appreciably with the passage of time. This illustrates the phenomenon of chaos, in which tiny differences in initial conditions can result in great differences in the resulting situations some time later.

In considering a visual representation, especially in three or more dimensions, there is a case for exploring how the above schematic might be configured "around" experience of the begging moment for one or both participants. Especially intriguing is how both the form of any visualization and the implied experiences of the begging moment -- notably questions relating to identity -- could be related to the 7 elementary catastrophes of catastrophe theory (Conformality of 7 WH-questions to 7 Elementary Catastrophes: an exploration of potential psychosocial implications, 2006).

Implications for engaging in the begging moment

Comprehension of nonlinear dynamics: It is the animation of the Lorenz strange attractor above which is most suggestive of the complexity and coherence of the cognitive dynamics of the begging moment. There is coherence, but it would be foolish to endeavour to describe its essential nonlinerity in linear terms. It does not lend itself to ready definition. The pattern of the event, and assumptions about it, is shifting moment by moment. The manner in which the pattern as a whole twists through a sequence suggests how thinking about the situation, and one's place in it, is reconfigured through that moment of engagement with the other -- and with their place in it.

Clearly the psychosocial implications of strange attractors, as the latter are studied by the complexity sciences, are far from being understood. The complexity (even the coherence) of such complex moments may be intuitively understood by some on some occasions, as with many moments of experiential significance which do not lend themselves to conventional linear descriptions. It may be smply a question of "going with the flow" as water suggests (Enabling Governance through the Dynamics of Nature: exemplified by cognitive implication of vortices and helicoidal flow, 2010).

Identifying with the "butterfly"? Other types of strange attractor are indicated above. All have a degree of relationship to the paradoxical nature of the Möbius strip. What that may imply in practice, or for particular forms of "begging", is necessarily far from clear at this time. Are some experiences of the begging moment better framed by the Rössler attractor? The moving point in the animation of the Lorenz attractor is however delightfully reminiscent of the quatrain by Omar Khayyám:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

With respect to the nature of the exchange in the begging moment, the butterfly-winged form of the Lorenz attractor is also reminiscent of the cognitive implications of the much-cited butterfly dream of Chuang Tzu (C. W. Chan, The Butterfly Dream, The Philosopher; Derek Lin, The Dream of the Butterfly; Kuang-ming Wu, The Butterfly as Companion: meditations on the first three chapters of the Chuang-Tzu, 1990):

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly,
fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly.
I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou.
Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again.
Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly,
or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction.
The transition is called the transformation of material things
. [as translated by Lin Yutang]

Nonlinearity in global strategic decision-making: At the time of writing, as noted above, there is considerable global strategic concern with the influx of refugees (most notably into Europe), the Greek financial crisis, the nuclear negotiation with Iran, and the problematic interaction with ISIS. Developing countries are articulating concern regarding the emergence of a "begging culture".

Is there a marked tendency to assume that these can be resolved through conventional linear thinking when insights from complexity science might be of far greater relevance? Is there the possibility of strategies of higher dimensionality? If the relevance of complexity science has been assiduaously explored with respect to the financial markets, where is the exploration of its implications for the current Greek financial crisis and the influx of refugees? Is analysis of strategic options in terms of opportunity cost inherently inappropriate when dealing with the nonlinear dynamics of exchanging "something" for "nothing" -- as framed above -- especially when "forgoing" is an option?

If the begging moment renders evident the subtlest human values, are these indeed to be associated with the complex dynamics of strange attractors, as may be argued (Human Values as Strange Attractors, 1993)? Rather than the butterfly as "companion", can the sense of human identity in the begging moment be more fruitfully associated with the paradoxical butterfly indicated by an attractor such as that of Lorenz?

Consistent with the preoccupations of the complexity sciences with self-reference, there may be a case for exploring a strange form of cognitive mirroring (Radical Cognitive Mirroring of Globalization: dynamically inning the unquestioningly outed, 2014). Such possibilities are necessarily "fearful", as indicated in the argument above by Michael Burns (Fearing the Mirror: the importance of connection and compassion in an increasingly polarized society, 1992).

Being gifted by intangibles -- a coincidental anecdote

In the final phase of completing the above exploration, the writer was passing through the concourse of a central railway station. Faced with a young adult seeking coins in exchange for playing a violin, a choice was made to donate some small change. As I moved on, the player stopped me and made an unexpected request. Would I mind guarding the pitch for a few minutes while she went to the toilet?

I looked at the objects to be guarded, including a large bag -- mumbling protesting words about security, bombs and terrorism in stations -- and naively agreed. Was I standing in for a beggar, a traveller, a gypsy, a refugee, an unemployed student, a "down-and-out", a con-artist -- or even a jihadist seeking funds to travel to Syria?

So for a few minustes, facing the oncoming flow of people in the concourse, I stood guard over an old violin, the cash already collected, the large bag, some trash -- behind a notice begging for further donations in several languages. She finally returned. I was thanked. I kissed her cheek and went my way.

What did I receive, having been placed in such an unusual situation? A sense of significance in the reframing of an habitual space? A dimension strangely neglected in the literature on begging? A bizarre affirmation of my apparent trustworthiness? Confirmatiom of the possibility of a strange coherence in an exchange process? A memorable tale to tell? An experience engendering questions?


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