Streets of Rio, London, New York, Tokyo – who cares?


Roger Whittaker

Streets of London – Roger Whittaker

Have you seen the old man in the closed down market,
Kicking up the papers with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride, hand held loosely by his side
Yesterday’s papers telling yesterday’s news

So how can you tell me you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun don’t shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something
To make you change your mind.

Have you seen the old girl who walks the streets of London,
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking, she just keeps right on walking,
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.

In the all night café at a quarter past eleven
Same old man is sitting there on his own.
Looking at the world over the rim of his teacup,
Each tea last an hour, and he wanders home alone.

Have you seen the old man outside the seaman’s mission,
Memory fading with the metal ribbons that he wears?
In our winter city the rain cries a little pity,
For one more forgotten hero and a world that doesn’t care.

The picture painted in this famous song of Roger Whittaker is one that could very easily be applied to any one of the major, metropolitan cities of the world today. It speaks of overpopulated cities where the ever-ticking clock indicates that even 24 hours in a day are never enough for the bustling, rushing, fatigued and overworked city-dweller. Did you know that iFrance, the French people refer to the life of a typical city-dweller as, “metro, boulot, dodo?” – it means taking the underground train (the metro) to reach the office punctually and being so dog-tired at the end of a very long working day, so as to fall  into a deep, dreamless sleep – only to awake the next morning to follow the same routine once again – a continuous schedule that must be respected day-in-and-day-out. It is a never-ending, vicious circle. It is a life that is so mechanical; it is akin to being a programmed, dumb robot.

The city is like a concrete jungle where the norm – “Survival of the fittest” is most applicable. If a person is too weak to keep pace with the intense, cut-throat competition of this day and age, he will soon find himself necessarily confined to the four walls of his home.  The moment that an urban dweller ventures out into the corporate world, he will find the ‘blinders’ from his eyes rudely being removed – sooner rather than later. Working in any office of any megalopolis implies – more often than not – the loss of one’s innocence, loyalty, trust and faith and the increase in an inordinate amount of stress, cares, worries and woes – financial and economic problems and the intense fear of losing one’s job imminently and hence the only mean’s of one’s livelihood. This is due to the fact that there are fewer jobs than there are people. That explains too the growing rise in unemployment and poverty in urban areas. Various illnesses are brought on by stress and worry. The corporate world is a cut-throat world where envy, flattery and fierce competition to reach the top of the corporate ladder – through fair means or unfair means – reigns supreme.

The city is a place where society is clearly demarcated into “the haves and the have nots.” The “haves” are the people who are the rich and extremely wealthy members of society. The rich people live in the lap of luxury and enjoy every conceivable comfort and luxury item known to civilization. They live in palatial homes and have any amount of domestic helpers to help them through the smallest, most mundane and easiest chores of daily living. They use the latest gadgets available to humanity and the most expensive and luxurious cars and limousines available on the market. Many rich people – though not all of them – tend to be indifferent, callous and selfish people who couldn’t care less about the woes of their fellow-beings who are in the lower strata of society – these are the “have nots.”  These poverty-stricken people are the downtrodden who live below the poverty line. They are the squatters, homeless people and beggars who live in filthy slums and shanty-towns consisting of dusty, dark and gloomy hutments or they may erect make-shift, temporary shacks on any available pavement of the city that could serve them as ‘home.’ These poor people literally lead a ‘hand-to-mouth’ existence from day-to-day and they are never sure from where their next square meal is coming from – it is such a pathetic and sorry state of affairs – yet who cares? These poor people live on the fringes of the city and survive on its dregs – it has made them lack in empathy – it has made them change into wily, sinewy, cold, indifferent and mistrustful mortals. This poverty and unemployment has, in its turn, led to an enormous amount of armed robberies and battery, theft, unprovoked assaults, unprecedented violence as a means of venting increasing frustration,  increased amounts of crime, rape and murder. Well, maybe you’ve never thought of it as such but this too is a very sorry state of affairs! 

In the streets of London, as Roger Whittaker rightly states, who bothers to notice the lone rag-picker or beggar who picks up yesterday’s discarded newspapers because he has no cash to buy his own? In fact, most people just rush on and try as far as possible to avoid eye contact – as a defense against the shame that they feel within themselves. Who cares to notice the dirty, unhappy people who aimlessly roam the streets of the city relentlessly in search of their next square-meal – their clothes in rags and clutching all their worldly belongings in one smelly bag slung over their shoulder? Who cares about the lonely, sad, old man at the bar of a pub who lingers over his drink for over an hour to avoid returning to a cold, empty and forlorn house? This old man probably doesn’t even know if he will have anything to feed his faithful dog or cat that day – these animals being the only ones on this Earth who stay loyal to him and show him unconditional love, in this heartless and indifferent world.

So then how can we say that the sun doesn’t shine for us? How can we logically say that we are lonely, unfortunate and sad when millions of others are living daily the very loneliness and horrors of purgatory on this Earth

Most of us have “the World” but even the world is never enough for us, is it? Well, the time has come for each of us to become a little more caring, considerate and charitable to the lesser fortunate members of our society. Believe me – if each and every one of us were to make a concerted, conscious and deliberate effort to perpetuate goodness, kindness, honesty and love, the world would certainly become a much, much better place to live in!

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