The pushers of free newspapers lined up outside tube stations pose an exclusively physical threat. If they keep holding their arm out, with the folded paper drooping at the end, you will be prevented from getting past.
With Big Issue sellers, there enters a verbal element. They not only display their wares, but make a pitch. However, what they say is as a rule mournful and half-hearted. You get the impression they don’t really expect you to buy.
Charity muggers, on the other hand, are friendly, positive, engaging. They are direct. They are respectable. Their manner and their sense of humour are those of the mainstream media. They speak to you like a second self. They come from the social class which can, surely, if any, be counted on to pursue genuine ideals with energy and innocence: the students. If people like them believe in a cause and see fit to spend time persuading others of its worthiness, what can you do but defer to their zeal and uncorrupted moral sense?
Chuggers deface the currency of friendship and civility. They are paid and trained to. The problem is not that they operate cynically in order to get hold of people’s money. That is, after all, a fairly widespread phenomenon. The problem is rather that they do this by pretending that they like you, pretending to be civil, concerned strangers, pretending to be romantically interested.
Just as a minority of sexual perverts has made it prudent for children to run away screaming ‘Fire!’ when approached by any adult who is not their parent of the same sex, the chugging minority is making what genuine humanity was left in liberal Western culture into something suspect and instrumental, a sham.
Chugging victims become noticeably colder and more unpleasant in their general relations with the world. They look at you sceptically when you ask for directions, suspecting a pitch, if they still stop at all. They hallucinate sly hidden motives behind the kindnesses of friends. They suspect their own mother of poisoning their soup.
It is for a humanitarian cause! you say. Of course. But that is not the point. When the currency of humanity has been defaced by the chuggers, there will no longer be any humanitarian causes.