The idea of indecency is often narrowly interpreted, restricted to indecent exposure or flashing, sexual indecency, vulgarity and pornographic literature, films etc. Yet, thinking about it, indecency covers a whole range of actions, especially when the cowardly powerful think it necessary to treat the marginalized, weak and vulnerable like dirt. That the Devil is alive and well in the world today is true.
Controversy has raged over the Malaysian Federal government’s ‘banishment’ of the homeless in Kuala Lumpur city to 2 kilometers outside the city center. With this, soup kitchens by charities giving free meals to them are also ‘banished’ to that wilderness; these and ordinary kindhearted folk are threatened with large fines for giving alms to beggars. The government wants to sweep the city clean of the homeless by criminalizing decent acts of charity.
The government’s indecency is not just appalling, but indicative of growing inhumanity that seems the trend in many countries today. When economies are depressed, the first fronts of attack in the country’s budget will be social security benefits, old age pensions, education, healthcare, and subsidies for food and fuel. The lower-income are the first cutback on. Paradoxically, investment incentives, tax exemptions, and income tax scales are re-adjusted to favor the rich.
The process of inverted values goes on to run the already low-income earners and hardcore poor into the ground by imposing tax burdens like the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and increased fuel prices, to spark a domino reaction upwards in living costs.
In a similar action to hide away the undesirable aspects of life , whilst presenting an unrealistically middle-class postcard picture for tourist consumption, certain state governments are also requesting that immigration detention centers be relocated in areas off the tourist map.
Similarly, tenants of low and medium costs high rises, particularly on Penang Island are facing rent increases or eviction due to landlords demands for higher profits in rents or sale of real estate. Affordable housing is not as affordable as it should be, for those on the lower middle-income fringes, and so housing for these, and working class earners remains insecure as home-ownership is a remote option for them.
The government’s claim that feeding the homeless will make them lazy, is not new, but remains a fallacy, as one wonders if one full meal a day is enough to sustain a person or keep them in good health without a roof over their heads. The kind of jobs some have, obviously don’t pay enough even to keep body and soul together, let alone rent any kind of accommodation, however small to live in. That’s the other fallacy of the minimum wage.
In attempting to keep the marginalized out of sight, and thus out of mind, governments are deceiving themselves, as to the real state of the country’s economic health and quality of life for the ordinary populace. The irony of this is, that such reactionary action comes in a holy month for Muslims, when repentance, reflection and charity are practiced.
To hide the poor is not the means to attract tourist dollars. Everyone knows poverty exists, and if poverty becomes increasingly widespread , isn’t it time for governments to ask themselves the humbling questions of what they are doing wrong, and not to take such ‘indecent measures’, criminalizing and blaming the marginalized and helpless?