A public uproar has erupted over a photo of metal studs installed on floors at the entrance of luxury apartment buildings in London to deter homeless people from sleeping in these areas. No less than the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has reportedly joined the social media indignation frenzy condemning these fixtures as “ugly, self defeating & stupid”. The spikes, the Lord Mayor says in a tweet, are “simply not the answer”.
The circus started after Twitter user @Fanxxxxtastic posted the following tweet along with the photo…
Sums up Britain today. Anti homeless spikes.
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The tweet makes it sound like the Britain of “today” represents some kind of degeneration of a Britain of yesteryears. Funny that. Yesterday, the 9th of June, happens to be the death anniversary of Charles Dickens. Dickens who died on that day in 1870 is the author of the seminal book Oliver Twist. Set in Victorian London, it is the story of an orphan, Oliver Twist, who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and then is placed with an undertaker then escapes and travels to London where he falls into the company of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Poverty is a prominent concern in Oliver Twist. Throughout the novel, Dickens enlarges on this theme, describing slums so decrepit that whole rows of houses are on the point of ruin. In an early chapter, Oliver attends a pauper’s funeral with Mr. Sowerberry and sees a whole family crowded together in one miserable room.
Dickensian London is pretty much 21st Century Metro Manila today. London has since become a modern humming thriving metropolis, one of the world’s greatest cities. Metro Manila is the opposite — an archetypical southeast Asian megalopolis that fits Dickens’s description of the 19th Century human cesspool that London was.
Metro Manila’s biggest scourge is its vast squatter infestation. The Philippines’ squatters (called “informal settlers” in polite company) are an immense community of illegal settlers imbued with a gargantuan sense of entitlement by Filipino politicians chronically starved for the popular vote. The squatter colonies that blanket Metro Manila and most major Philippine cities are essentially Vote Farms — carefully-cultivated with tender loving care by mayors, senators, House Representatives, governors, and presidents to ensure an abundant harvest of cheap votes come election time.
Squatters render vast tracts of public and private property virtually unusable. Evicting them involves slogging through mounds of bureaucratic red tape and paperwork making it beyond the means of smaller businesses and property owners to handle. They also account for much of the solid waste that clogs Manila’s waterways and sewerage systems contributing to the seasonal flooding that paralyses much of the metropolis and costs the economy billions of dollars every year. Squatters allowed to settle on low-lying oceanfront areas and flood plains account for a big chunk of casualties arising from “natural” calamities such as the numerous tropical storms that hit the Philippines every year.
Filipino squatters would simply look at those London anti-homeless spikes, and laugh. Applying a bit of that world-renowned “Filipino ingenuity”, one can easily imagine a number of simple Third World solutions. My preferred workaround to the little setback of “anti-homeless spipkes” is to simply bring a plywood board and place it above the studded floor.
Mi cama por la noche!
Before any of our Filipino social media “mavens” take up the cause of their Continental counterparts, perhaps they should first take stock of the more in-your-face solutions Filipino property owners implement in their own more desperate efforts to combat “informal settlement”. Most vacant lots in the Philippines are ringed by barbed-wire fences and heavily armed guards are posted on the entrances of most buildings, business establishments, and affluent residential enclaves. Enough said, as there is enough of these banal practices to throw a wet towel on the Philippines’ flaccid efforts of becoming a true socially-just society.
I do wonder where these social media “activists” get off making a big deal about stuff like this while turning blind eyes and zipped-up mouths to the many vagrants who routinely deface public property and redecorate nice places to suit their a-la pobre aesthetic senses. Maybe it’s time the First World look to the Third World with the aim of getting a bit of perspective for a change. There are lessons to be learned from the Third World, contrary to popular belief. You just need to look for those lessons with a real mind.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Oliver Twist” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.