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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 11-Sep-16


Sunday 11-September-16

Hopeless, zoos and the down-and-out

I was recently in Canada, and noticed in several cities that, while many seemed affluent and happy, there was also a very visible underclass of homeless people, with many begging on the streets. Mostly men, and many old. It must be such a sad existence.

We went to the zoo in Toronto and the aquarium in Vancouver, where it struck me that animals there also seemed trapped and hopeless. People in the cities that we saw begging or just loitering often did so on the same bit of pavement, hemmed in by an invisible cage. Sometimes they rocked or made repeated pointless movements, much like the zoo animals.

They knew their neighbours and perhaps regular passers-by, some of who might give regular donations. Generous as this is, I wondered if these contributions acted as an anchor, keeping the recipient hopefully in the same place. In the same way, zoo keepers formed odd bonds with their charges, even teaching them to do tricks for their dinner. As families laughed and clapped, I wondered what the animals made of it all.

Cities can be zoos, too, with mutual voyeurism a passive sport. Citizens can't help ogling one another's lives, and might vaguely wonder what it is like to be a stockbroker, taxi driver or beggar.

Me? I wondered, gave a bit, and guiltily got on with my holiday.

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