…something’s been hurting me for thirty years… it’s time to share and try to get it off my chest… #TBSU…

…this is not my usual style of blog piece… but it just seems right to share it… whether or not anybody reads it, ignores it, or responds to it, is immaterial… for me, I need to get this out… thirty years ago, I was working in Hong Kong, a city I enjoy being in… it has a vibrance, and perpetual-motion aura unmatched anywhere else I’ve ever been… some say it has the smell of money about it… it certainly caters to every taste of commercial opulence… of top-line designer products of every hue and tag… of probably more millionaires per square meter than elsewhere globally, and reputedly more Rolls Royces per capita than the rest of the planet… it also has a ‘giving’ heart, inasmuch as the Community Chest Charity drives consistently raised billions of Hong Kong dollars for good and deserving causes… all that aside, one afternoon, I witnessed probably the most haunting and heart-breaking vision I’ll ever see… the theft of a beggar’s dignity… some of yeez may know the area in Hong Kong where the main thoroughfare, Connaught Road, along the Central Business District, is spanned by a series of covered bridges, linking the main financial buildings with the rest of the place… on one of these, near the Mandarin Hotel, a beggar used to sit on a skateboard-lookalike trolley… the man was a double amputee, with his leg stumps showing against the board’s wood… passersby habitually gave the man coins, as did I on a regular basis… he caused no harm nor offence to anyone… except, it seems, to the powers that be who ran the local council… it transpires that they deemed this beggar to be an eyesore, perhaps a distraction to the millions of tourist dollars and they sent FOUR people to take pictures of this man in the act of receiving the coin pittance he collected daily to keep himself alive… I happened by just as this drama unfolded… now, understand, at the best of times, many Asians do not like having their picture taken under any circumstance, believing that somehow their soul spirit is being stolen… this posse danced around the beggar like wolves snarling at a terrified prey… clicking, clicking, clicking… he obviously couldn’t get off the board to stop them… the only defensive weapon he had was the few coins he had in his hand… in desperation he threw the coins at one of the cameramen, who merely dodged them and kept on clicking… I cannot forget the vision of that man’s face… it’s etched in my own soul as a reminder to me that I stood frozen, and to my everlasting shame, I did nothing to try to stop this at the time… I went back to my office that day and closed the door… and sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed… every now and then, it comes back to me, and I cry again, as I freely admit I’m doing now… but I felt I  had to share this today… maybe it will help me assuage the memory of the theft of a man’s dignity… surely one of the most degrading crimes in the world… thanks for reading thus far… LUV YEEZ

33 Comments

Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

33 responses to “…something’s been hurting me for thirty years… it’s time to share and try to get it off my chest… #TBSU…

  1. That’s so sad Seamus. I had a similar thing happen, and also ended up ashamed because I did nothing. These things happen so fast & are so shocking it’s not surprising that we freeze up instead of doing something. You’re a lovely man for feeling bad.

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  2. This is really profound and thought-provoking. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Thank you for sharing something so personal and real.

    On a much softer, lighter note, you know you could simply read a dictionary and people would pay to listen. In other words, your accent is beautiful. 🙂

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  3. I’m sure most people have sometimes turned away from situations where they could have offered help. It doesn’t make us bad people; just indecisive, and maybe a little too timid. The fact you still feel guilt all these years later proves that you’re a good man with a kind heart. I have to wonder if the photographers responsible for humiliating the poor beggar man still feel guilty.

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  4. This is a shocking story and I am sure that many other people (almost certainly including me) would have reacted as you did – feeling upset but not interveening. Being blind I need assistance in unfamiliar surroundings. I recollect a man helping me to find my way around a public toilet in London’s Victoria station. On the way back up the stairs my guide roughly/rudely asked a homeless man who was sitting on the stairs to move out of the way. I felt terrible but said nothing but my opinion of the man who was helping me plummeted. He probably had a warm feeling that he was helping a blind man, however his nastier side manifested itself in the manner in which he spoke to that homeless man who was trying to find somewhere warm to sit. Not quite the same but your post reminded me of the incident.

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    • …thanks for your response on this, Morris…. you will appreciate more than most the difference between those who need assistance from time to time and those who need it ALL the time…may I ask are you totally unsighted ? .. what means do you use to operate on the web, etc?… have you always been unsighted ?… best regards, my friend .. 🙂

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      • I went blind at 18-months-old as a result of a blood clot on the brain. I have some residual vision (I can see light and dark and outlines of objects. So, for example I can see someone at close quarters but I wouldn’t know whether the individual was a friend or stranger unless they spoke to me and I recognised their voice. I can not read print but I have software on my computers (Jaws which converts text into speech and braille enabling me to use a standard Windows PC). I have a guide dog, Trigger who helps me get around but, as a child I was taught how to use a long white cane. I prefer using a guide dog (Trigger is my fourth) although it is very upsetting when they have to retire or die. The UK has laws which mean that service providers such as restaurants have to admit assistance dogs, such as guide dogs which makes life much easier, although, unfortunately some businesses break the law by not admitting guide dogs which has led to a number of prosecutions and penalties being imposed on the organisations concerned. I always enjoy your posts, best, Kevin

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      • I mean that I can see an outline of a person but I am not able to recognise facial features. On occasions I have thought that a person was in my vicinity when, it was a coat hanging up and I mistook the garment for a person! One has to laugh about these things! I mean that I can see an outline of a personn

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      • …good on you, Kevin ( third name in three posts I’ve used for you now ! )… I’m glad to know you, mate …

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  5. A sad incident Seumas but certainly not a reflection on you because you did nothing. After all, what could you do? It does show your inate humanity that the event still rankles with you. The petty functionaries of a Council are often the nastiest because they’re bottom of the heap and besides, they’d feel superior making someone else lose face.
    I’m sure there are countless similar incidents where you are now and your heart big as it is can’t right every wrong.You can only do what seems right at the time.

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  6. My dear friend, I agree with all the other comments. You are a kind hearted man and you need to cut yourself some slack.
    During my lifetime, I’ve done a fair bit of psychology training so this is what I learned. When something shocking happens either directly to us or when we witness something, our brains go into ’emergency self-preservation’ mode. It’s an evolutionary development. To stop us reacting in any manner that would cause US harm. It’s one of the reasons why when someone says something horrible to us, hours, days, weeks, years later, we think ‘I should have said… I should have done… I wish I’d been able to…’ but at the time we can’t. Ok some people respond to crises differnently than we mere mortals, but these people are the exception, not the rule.
    I therefore give you professional permission to forgive yourself. (that goes for you too Gordon) Stop feeling guilty. You’re human and the fact that you remember this incident with compassion shows just how human you are.
    Oh and for the record events such as this are burned into oour memory because we chastise ourselves therefore reinforcing the trauma.
    Love to you for caring so much

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    • …my dear Dianne, this is a remarkably insightful, thoughtful, and much appreciated reply… I don’t generally regard myself as a ‘softie’ by any means… an upbringing in docklands Govan in Glasgow doesn’t generate that, but this one incident has been a trigger to me over the years , and somehow today , i just felt it right to share it out there for what it’s worth… thanks again, m’Lady 🙂

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  7. I feel for that man. What was done to him was horrid. Nothing you could have done would have helped. They wanted to terrorize him and would have done it one way or another. The affect it had on you shows that you are a kind man. They sought to terrorize one man, but in the end they terrorized at least two. Horrible deeds never just harm their intended victim, they harm everyone around the victim too. Thank you for sharing this story. 🙂

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  8. Seumas, like you, I’ve travelled a lot and seen the best and worst that mankind does to his fellow beings. If you had intervened, it may well have made things much worse. The local authorities using it as an excuse to do much more against the man.

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  9. Watching someone’s dignity violated is a heart-wrenching experience. What compounds it, of course, is our inability or reluctance to get involved.It’s as if the very situation renders us powerless, stunned into playing the role of witness rather than advocate. But, my dear Seumas, take heart because most of us have felt the same anguish. Sort of like the Superman Syndrome–wishing we call summon the powers to right a terrible wrong. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post.

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  10. Thank you for having so much heart. To steal a person’s soul when they can’t fight back just for sitting on a bridge would be a haunting thing to see. No wonder it’s stuck with you all these years. Sending a hug to you and to the gentleman on the bridge wherever he may be today…and hoping karma takes care of the tormentors. Be safe and thank you again for being courageous in sharing this with us so that maybe…just maybe…it might not happen again.

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  11. That you remember and say out loud what happened says worlds about you — all good. I am familiar with that “brain freeze” — it has happened to me — do not berate yourself for it.

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  12. Thanks Seumas for sharing this! I so do understand that this experience stayed with you for so long. If you feel or not, this experience probably influenced many decisions and behaviors in your life and helped making you the great, courageous and good-hearted person we all see here 🙂

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  13. Molly Ann Wishlade

    Oh honey, you’re not to blame for this! Human beings can be so cruel but this wasn’t your doing! Sometimes we witness things that are SO shocking that we are frozen and sometimes we just can’t do anything. You might have caused a disturbance by trying to interfere but I very much doubt that you would have had the power to stop what was happening. The very fact that it hurts you so far along shows what a compassionate man you are. Just by caring. No more blaming yourself! Regret cannot change the past. Move forwards and have an impact on today and tomorrow. 🙂 xxx

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  14. Some people are pigs, most are indifferent, a few care, and a handful are heroes. Heroes tend to end up in prison or get beaten half to death in back alleys. I’m glad you’re one of the caring people.

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  15. Thank you, Seumas, for sharing your story. I’m sure most of us have wondered what we’d do if we witnessed an unjustice being done to another. Every situation is different, as is every person’s reaction. Bullying has been going on since time began, 30 years ago, and today. I wish it wasn’t so. You are not alone in having these feelings…we all tend to freeze in the moment, just not knowing what we could do, if anything. I hope by sharing, it has in some way eased your memory of it. May we all strive to be humane to each other!

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