When the mob becomes violent


August 23, 2011
Manila, Philippines

Today I was accosted by someone begging for money. I know… big deal, right? It’s not an unusual occurrence anywhere in the world, especially here in the Philippines.

Begging is actually big business in Manila. Often small children are forced to work the streets by a ‘begging syndicate,’ and adults keep a watchful eye from a distance before confiscating the kids’ proceeds.  This is one of the lowest acts of humanity I can think of.

The person who approached me today, however, was not a child. He was a perfectly able-bodied, 17 or 18 year-old youth. He chased after me shouting, “My friend! My friend! You give me coins!” If you notice the language, he wasn’t exactly asking… more demanding.

This is a mentality that I will never understand.

Yes it’s unfortunate that there are people in the world who struggle to make a decent living for themselves and their families. But I firmly believe that tossing a few occasional coins is not going to solve their underlying problem.

Indeed, handouts encourage people to continue living on handouts instead of developing skills, working hard, and pulling themselves up from poverty. This makes the situation worse, not better.

It drives me crazy to see someone who clearly HAS the capability to make an honest living, yet refuses to do so… such as the young man who approached me today.

Instead of doing an honest day’s work, or offering some service, or trying to learn a valuable skill, there are FAR too many people who believe that they are simply entitled to other people’s hard work.

Unfortunately, this attitude seems to be a growing trend in the world today.  And it’s not just 17-year old youths living on the breadline (or rice-line) in Manila.  It’s people in “rich” Western countries too. The difference is that a government is inserted in the middle.

By expecting the government to provide for them, people who have been rioting across Europe (and even stealing and looting) are really no different from the unfortunate youth who accosted me here in Manila today.  All of them expect a free ride by demanding handouts from others.

This is no way to prosperity.  Indeed, it’s the way to bankruptcy.  When the pie-takers begin to significantly outnumber the pie-makers, there simply isn’t enough to go around anymore, and the mob becomes violent.

This is where we are right now, and it’s going to take many, many years to get out of the hole the world has dug for itself.

People need to be taught from an early age that no one owes them anything in life… and that character traits such as curiosity, hard-work, honesty, thrift, innovation, ingenuity and, above all, self-reliance are to be commended.

Unfortunately, with the leadership and role models we have in the world today, this is likely to prove an uphill struggle.

What do you think; how does the world get out of the rut it’s in?  How do we turn more people into well-balanced, productive individuals, who demonstrate some degree of decorum and show respect for the success and private property of others? Can it even be done?

I look forward to hearing your views.

About the author

Tim Staermose

About the author

Tim Staermose is Sovereign Man’s Chief Investment officer, based in the Asia-Pacific region. Born to a Danish father and British mother in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Tim has led an international life since the day he was born. He has lived and worked throughout Asia, primarily focusing on equity research and emerging market opportunities.

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