San Francisco, the city with the largest homeless and activist populations in the world (probably) is a tough place to walk down the street in. Every sidewalk in my neighborhood is lined with people asking me for things.
I don’t give money to the homeless. Not on any kind of principle, but because I live on someone else’s dime, so it seems sort of counter-productive to be giving my not-very-hard-earned money away. Still, if you swing it right you can make your lack of donation feel like kind of a virtue. You can think to yourself “Hey, if I didn’t give money to the woman with the open sores on her feet last week, am I really going to give it to you, who has clearly showered at least once in the past five days? I don’t think so.” There’s a lovely smugness there that you can ride on when you pass the open-sores lady again three blocks down.
It’s the activists that really drive home my bad-person-ness, because they ask for so little and want to give so much in return.
“Hey, do you have five minutes to spare to help the environment?” Not just the trees or the oceans or the air quality; no, the whole environment would be helped if I donated my five minutes. Still, I have a busy day ahead of me, jobs to apply for and spider solitaire to play, so I can’t stop to chat.
And then they up the ante, ask for less and offer more. “Do you have a minute to support gay rights? Half a minute to increase literacy worldwide? Excuse me, do you have one second to prevent the certain death of thousands of very cute puppies?”
And I have to say “You know, I was really hoping to squeeze this into my schedule but as it turns out I just can not.”