‘Holier Than Thou’
Prevailing attitudes towards the homeless [in Malaysia], the vagabond, the beggar, the ostracized, are based on the view that government officials, officers of enforcement agencies and representatives of ‘we are holier than thou‘ organizations know best and will act in their best interests.
These attitudes have given birth to arrogance on the part of the institution and the wicked delusions that the establishment is the only entity that understands the poor and must force them into obedience for their own good.
Refusal to listen to the voices of the stigmatized community is common, and definitely a deviation from human rights-based intervention programs.
It is also a challenge to the core values of social workers and care givers.
The marginalized communities are the very people we serve and we work with the affected groups to enable effective delivery of service based on their issues, needs and concerns.
Festering in Kuala Lumpur
The problems festering in Kuala Lumpur, a city loaded with pride and suffocated by wealth, are an indicator of how the institution of public services are used to repress the urban poor.
A 2-kilometer radius anti-begging zone was determined by officials, covering prime spots for luxury-seeking tourists, a haven for the corporate rat race and the cornerstone of the refined image of the city.
The elites and bourgeois are concerned, but not for the local and foreign beggars; high-society is more worried, particularly during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, about the increasing presence of the poor. Such ghastly sights of unwashed, hungry rejects offend the sensibility of the heartless.
While the authorities believe that fines and punishment to those caught giving aid to the poor will protect the image of Kuala Lumpur, this in fact will increase the vulnerability of the marginalized. But then again, it’s not as if the authorities care about the urban poor, or the homeless.
Many times in the past, squatters face a small army of municipal council officers, and supported by bulldozers and other intimidating machinery, have been uprooted from their homes, for the sake of urban development.
Authorities do not always work for the best interest of the urban poor, particularly those living in the misery of stigmatization, in the slums, back lanes and under bridges. Homelessness is seen as counter-productive, an embarrassment to the institution, and works against the norms of cultured lifestyle, especially to the officials, the bureaucrats and the educated elites.