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The deserving and the undeserving

About the New York cop who gave that guy a pair of boots: Until I met a guy ..:

That was last Tuesday. As the story captured imaginations at the start of the Christmas season, however, reporters were looking for the recipient of the footwear. The New York Times found him wandering the upper west side – still barefooted. His new boots were nowhere to be seen. The homeless man's name is Jeffrey Hillman, he is a military veteran who worked in kitchens before living on the streets, and he told the Times he has hidden the boots because they are so expensive. He's scared someone might kill him for them. Plus, he wants a "piece of the pie" from the dissemination of his image online.

Well, and why not?

It is an object lesson in the complexity an apparently simple image can conceal. The viral success of this picture came of its stark and moving clarity – here is a random act of kindness caught on camera, that for once makes the police look good, and the city look tender. But did Hillman even want the boots? And what does the picture really show? Like any image of charity it glorifies the giver, and defines the recipient as a passive, helpless victim. It makes poverty look simple and kindness seem a substitute for larger social change. Worst of all, the instant online fame of the image has inspired a backlash that gets nastier by the day.

From being an anonymous drifter on the streets of New York, Hillman suddenly finds himself a celebrity.

And one reason we have celebrities is to inspire moral panics.

Did Hillman deserve the boots? Sure. Everybody deserves boots; they're right at the base of Maslow's pyramid.

What no poor schlub ever deserves is to get caught up in Mayor-for-Life Bloomberg's public relations machine, and to have their image and life story go viral, so people who never walked in Hillman's boots can clutch their pearls.

And a society that handed over $14 trillion in bailouts to the most vile class of beings who ever slithered over the unprotesting earth -- banksters -- has no cause to go into a moral panic about anything. If the cop had given Hillman a beach house in the Hamptons it would be a fleabite in comparison to the looting that the truly undeserving did to cause the great financial crash and are doing to this very day.

Hillman can do whatever he wants with the friggin boots. Hide them, sell them, gild them and auction them off at Sotheby's. Who cares, and good for him.

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