Here I am, with time to spare, sitting in Pret a Manger’s Waterloo Station branch sipping a passable cappuccino.
To my left, illuminated in glorious neon light are numerous, over-sized adverts for some of the trivialities of modern living: Dove men’s toiletries and Beats audio equipment.
To my right, below on the station concourse, three police officers encircle a faceless vagrant – well that is my first impression – who minutes earlier had been dozing in the same café as me. That was his ‘crime’: he was an undesirable, disturbing the meaningless chatter of Pret a Manger clientele along with the tinny music coming out of its speakers. I presume that the manager had contacted British Transport Police to remove the nuisance from his pleasant slumber.
I could not tell if he had purchased a drink and/or some food earlier, but he was certainly not being noisy or threatening; he was not particularly dirty or smelly; he was not sprawled across seats or being an obstruction. It would appear he just wanted to rest in the safety, warmth and comfort of a public place. Now, he is being questioned and his bag searched by the police as he struggles to maintain his balance. Are the questions related to his welfare and health or do the officers just want to ascertain if they can transfer the problem to someone else? For now, he is being led away to…. Where? A welcoming, comfortable home? A hot, nutritious meal? A fresh set of decent clothing? Or, better still, a caring, sympathetic, productive chat with a well-meaning individual? Unfortunately, I do not think so!
This sort of situation truly emphasises why capitalism and socialism are diametrically opposed and, apparently, cannot collaborate to achieve the same goal – Human Happiness! Cosmetic and technology companies can finance expensive advertising in rail stations; paying for the services of already wealthy international rugby players to promote their products. Governments (national or local) cannot – or will not make it a priority to – find the money, let alone the heart, to help a fellow human being who has lost his way in the world, for whatever reason.
What is more important: making sure that we buy ‘trivial’ but relatively expensive products to enrich the coffers of multinational, highly profitable companies; products that do not improve humanity? Or, should Governments be channelling resources – through increased taxation of those same companies – to turn around the life of a person who needs comfort, care and compassion? Fundamentally, is the purpose of life the pursuit of ever-increasing amounts of capital or, is it the pursuit of worthwhile happiness for everyone (true equality)?