PETER G. HOFFMAN: The Internet Beggar
the internet, the high-tech virtual communication system, is to be interconnected with the oldest simplicity of the strongest material and ideal reality, begging.
begging's major achievement is its representation of poverty and misery, the means employed by the beggar to get his alms are aesthetic, the representation must be so perfect that it shocks you, so that the consumer of the aspect is willing to pay for it.
the beggar, like the provider in the internet, acts in an open system, everybody in his environment can see him. everybody can consume and copy his presentation, alms are the perfection and aim of his event.
everybody can turn away from this performance without taking the opportunity to give alms.
the beggar's accomplishment is the representation of poverty in the public as well as the evocation of pity! in performing one's own poverty one must employ body language deliberately and have a creative approach to filth, wounds, and human humiliation to generate the emotional criteria (charity, pity, etc.) in the observing co-actor, the possible giver.
the giver, addressed by the beggar in broad daylight only because he is present, suddenly mutates from an anonymous passer-by to a passive consumer of misery, a public co-actor of the event.
the aspect of misery going hand in hand with an urgent request for help (the dying “pleeeaaase“, the stretched out hand, the speechless text, etc.) asks for its existential, ideal, and material fundaments, laying bare discrepancies by contrast.
the amount of the alms given or their public refusal forces the co-actor to feel himself compelled to put something into a role (generous--thrifty) manifesting itself publicly.
internet is biedermeier.
The Internet Beggar unmasks the special features of the public in the internet, the new worldwide electronic public place. it is the maintenance of anonymity of the biedermeier living-room, the internet surfer can enter virtually the electronic space, he can act, but does not appear. he does not declare himself in his appearance, he remains voyeuristically hidden in his biedermeier-privacy. the data highway is only a semi-public space.
the internet-beggar does not find public pressure as a creative means for his activity, as it simply happens in the street.
but the virtual giver also acts without public resonance.
alms are a form of spending money where giving away the money, seemingly without return, generates value, makes sense, is an idealistic criterion whereby the self-chosen amount of “the little bakshish” determines the depth of its idealistic value, thus making possible the giver´s satisfaction.
performing his creative program and making alms possible the beggar helps the “noble donor” to construct and extend his personal social and ideal view of the world.
Begging: invisible work!
begging is no work! begging is a counter-world!
this paradox must be maintained by the active beggar to give meaning to the benevolent.
if the beggar is thrown out of his existential presentation into a job, if he is paid for letting himself be photographed, for example, he becomes a mime.
the complexity of his presence is lost, he loses his myth, the spell is broken. he leaves the counter-world, he becomes a paid showman, the paying one loses his charity.
to which extent does the beggar´s image keep the myth he has lost allowing others to pay him?
before you answer this question, you might still ponder whether a beggar has any chance at all to live on his strategies in a medium other than the public street, hence the internet.
the presentation of poverty as a direct material representation of one´s own poverty cannot be realized in the internet.
the beggar needs a bank account to be able to get alms, and this alone contradicts the everyday understanding of begging out of radical existential need.
with the ownership of a computer proved by the internet and the installation of a homepage he isn´t authentically poor anymore, his dated computer cannot be recognised by the receiver of his message, everybody sits in front of his own computer. so, perhaps, his dated software remains, which already must be believed in, for they need not be convincingly authentic, they could also be employed as creative means.
poverty cannot be continued in the internet via one´s own presence, like in the street.
moreover, filth can hardly be virtually represented in a way that it overcomes the screen´s radiance, or reaches the item-specific dirt of the keyboards.
when real poverty can no longer be experienced, you can only try to represent poverty, if you want to make money with poverty.
the representation of poverty can also be seen as a metaphor for poverty, as an image of poverty, but everybody can hold the image of poverty in front of his face, even the rich.
credibility, which is already a big issue in the case of the street beggar “does he beg or does he work?”, means that the beggar on the internet cannot beg for himself anymore, but only for others.
entire help- or charity-industries are living on the exploitation of newly emerging areas of misery.
every area of misery is a bonanza of various multinational business branches, from the information industry to the culture industry (benefit concerts) and to the relief goods industry.
The internet is the farewell to material misery, to filth and stench, heading towards a clean virtual information society, towards the anonymous biedermeier freedom in petty-bourgeois microsoft surfaces.
the beggar, the mythical god of the information society, concerned with immaterial services generating value in the area of emotional eventfulness and experience, cannot make his living on his own on the internet.
the artist on the internet holds the image of his mythical twin in front of his face and meditates on the value of copyright in data ecstasy.
Translation O. L.