Sunday, April 12, 2015

I am fat, but others are dying of starvation

I sit in a heated home, before a computer, in a comfortable chair.  Should I like a beverage or snack, I walk 50 or 60 feet and get one or both.  I can get in my car and drive a short way to a near by larger town and buy more if I like.  I do not have a great deal of money, but I can usually afford a gallon of gas, and 5 dollars worth of food.  In so living I represent the banality of relative wealth.  Because I am poor compared to others who live and work in my society, but I'd have much more money that people in impoverished countries, where people likely work harder, and get paid far less.  Life is unfair, clearly.

As I said, the people in the world who are dealing with malnutrition, undernutrition and starvation do not have any of the luxuries I have.  The food sources they have are withheld, distant or too expensive.  They have no money to buy the food, they have money but no food to buy, or they are considered expendable and are caught between two powers who fight over their territory.  Food is both a weapon used politically and when used physically.  Anyone who has seen the result of wars can tell you that starvation is a very direct result of war, and it is ugly.

In the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin starved the farmers of Ukraine during the event called Holodomor, 1932-33.  During the Second World War the Nazi occupying forces starved both the Dutch people and various other native people who were not allowed to farm lands considered valuable to the war effort for other reasons, or they were farmed, but the produce went to forces far away.  That does not even begin to address the Holocaust, and the attempted annihilation of the Jews by the Nazis and their allies. In Africa the country Biafra declared its independence from the rest of Nigeria, only to see itself surrounded and cut off from the world, and starved into submission.  Sudan and Southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, and Eritrea all had similar conflicts.

One of the most evil of villains, however, is the economic inequality and despair, that causes farmers to eat seed crops meant for the next year's planting, that causes them to sell under cost, and that leads to drastic choices that both destabilize the native farmers and land, and the people who count on those farmers, and the land.  The first world, and former Communist and Socialist world might not be actively evil, may in fact have tried to be honorable, but the inertia of flow of money, often caused the poor to lose ground, quit farming and leave for the city to look for the illusive better pay, and the farm land would be bought and used for cash crops or left for the purposes of the wealthy economy, rather than the native poor country.  Eventually, colonialism happens, whether that route is chosen, or the route is simply followed by inertia of wealth.

"Undernutrition is a contributory factor in the death of 3.1 million children under five every year."
"According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the less severe condition of undernourishment currently affects about 842 million people, or about one in eight (12.5%) people in the world population."  (Preceding paragraphs quoted from the wikipedia pages about starvation).

They said they were an-hungry; sigh'd forth proverbs,
That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat,
That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not
Corn for the rich men only: with these shreds
They vented their complainings. 

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus (c. 1607-08), Act I, scene 1, line 209.

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