Something that we all have viewed during our stay in Morocco is beggars. We all are familiar with the social standing of beggers, “amongst the most vulnerable group in our society” as they are at the lowest point of the socioeconomic “scale” (Menka et al., 2014). We are also aware of how beggars are treated, usually with disdain and contempt.
An observation that I have made in Morocco that is different than America, is that beggars are treated as annoying rather than completely ignored or disrespected. This also could be because the beggars here are a lot more direct and active (offering a service or product) than those who sit on the side of the street holding a sign and asking for money. Many times I noticed our tour guides giving a beggar money so that they would go away, instead of ignoring them or telling them seriously to leave. After this, the beggar would usually just walk away.
I’ve found a very interesting and informative thesis paper that talks about beggers from Morocco, India, and the United States in the terms of society’s attitudes toward them, philosophy, and begging as acts of theatre (a link to this article is below). Hertzmark (2012) tells us that begging is a criminal offense in Morocco (six months in prison if caught by the police) illustrating their vulnerability. The article also discusses the degrading nature of begging, “conveying a message of relative inferiority”, which made me think of all the children that I see doing it (Hertzmark, 2012). I remember having a conversation with someone on this trip about the innocence that I see in young children that beg because that’s their only option (in obedience to their parents and/or because of their social status).
In addressing beggars, I don’t think that violence is the answer (from those with higher social status or from police officers), regardless of if the beggars are being honest or not. One aspect of adaptive leadership behaviors discussed in the Northouse textbook and Leading Across Differences is giving the work back to the people. I think it would be absolutely wonderful if businesses and organizations came together and provided jobs, a place to stay, etc. for those who don’t have access to it on their own. It is not always the case that some people want a free ride in society. I think giving those beggars an opportunity to work and start earning money can address and hopefully improve their social standing. As I mentioned, most of the beggars that I’ve seen in Morocco already actually offer a service, and maybe they’re okay with just doing this, but I think having the option is better than nothing.