Posted by: The Amoeba | April 5, 2009

Let Us Eat And Drink …

Today, a bright young thing danced up to me (she hardly ever walks) and asked me for money.

“What for?”

“I’m going to starve for food.”

And time stood still.

Starve? Starve? Thirty hours is hardly enough time to get any serious hunger pangs going, never mind learn how to deal with them, to experience how they eventually go away as your body adjusts to the reality of feeding primarily on itself.

You wish to starve? Try living on less than US$1 a day, like a billion people on this planet now do. That’s about 20% of the total, by the way, the 20% that lives on 2% of global income.

What’s that? This is about solidarity with, and support for, those people? Please. The churches have been running this show for as long as I’ve been alive and conscious, and while I’m not quite old enough to go back to the time when elephants had fur, I do go back to the time when my head had some, and it had color in it. The starving are on your mind for a little while; you raise a little money, maybe enough to keep a charity bureaucrat in lattes for a few days. And within a week, you’re back to demanding the keys to the Lexus so you can go hang out at the mall and buy windspinners.

You wish to show real solidarity? Permit me to introduce you to unbleached cotton. To a daily ration of rice. Just rice. And not much of that. To walking. To a world without electricity (never mind cell phones or the Internet), without medicine (never mind insurance), without schools (never mind school plays). Hell, you do all this, you’ll not only show solidarity with the poor, you might even help save the planet.

Or not. For even all this might not reduce your carbon footprint enough to make any significant difference to the rate of anthropogenic global warming.

Yes? You don’t want to live in a cave? Young lady, if you don’t watch yourself and stop listening to people who tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to know, you may find yourself in a cave and count yourself lucky

Oh, great. Now I’m hearing voices in my head. What do you want?

Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart. Enjoy life all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9: 7-10, NRSV)

She got her money.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. When she grows up she’ll figure out (if she’s lucky) that she knows nothing of poverty or want. In the meantime, it isn’t a bad thing for her and the other youth of the church to spend a weekend contemplating their privileges.

  2. I’m not so sure, Quilly. I rather think that, by teaching us that a few indolent words and meaningless gestures will satisfy the demands of conscience, contemplation of this sort may be worse than none at all.

  3. Ahh don’t be mean, she’s trying, her heart is in the right place even if she doesn’t understand.

    When I was younger I read so many cynical articles in the guardien about how when spoiled young westerners try and help people they inevitably only make things worse and look even more spoiled that I never did anything and hated myself because it seemed to me any action in the world on my part would be me being a stupid spoiled white girl with no right to exist. Because only the suffering have a right to exist, because for all my privileges apparently I can do nothing to help.

    Well screw that attitude. Let people try and reach out, its better than sitting in their rooms listening to doom metal and wishing they’d never been born.

  4. Sophie, there are ways to help. Unfortunately, most of them involve controls on the individual (on commodity consumption, reproduction, etc.) that most individuals, especially from the more prosperous classes, will reject out of hand. But the current programs, to quote a famous metaphor, vastly increase the need for fish while teaching few of those who need it how to fish.

    As the young lady in question almost certainly does not read this blog, she knows nothing of this.

  5. I guess it just touched a nerve.
    Frankly in terms of controls on the individual I think we should go back to the three day week (in the UK during the 70’s there was a shortage of coal, and most of our power plants were coal powered in those days, so to conserve coal they made it so businesses could only use electricity 3 days a week) obviously that wouldn’t help the starving but it might help the environment no?

    But I actually just want it because I’m a luddite. I am addicted to the internet, but even that, I think it is disruptive to our social and thought processes. Haha, you must stop me fore I start ranting about how suspicious of technology I am. I mean, sanitation, I like sanitation, I am glad I have the benefits of sanitation – but at the same time, because of sanitation people die young less often, which means that we have become more alienated from death and that has had an adverse effect on culture etc… I am seriously torn, on the one hand, as an individual I am glad I am less likely to die young – but at the same time, I will die eventually, everyone dies eventually, and the removal of death from day to day life has serious implications on how we perceive life… I don’t know, even sanitation, which on the face of it seems so unambiguously good has all these negative unintended consequences under the surface.
    I think sometimes man should stop trying to control his environment, he thinks he can because he is a bit smart, but actually he is not smart enough to really know what he is doing.

    I do feel intensely powerless about all the problems in the world though, we get told day in day out how bad we should be feeling about them, but no-one says what I, who live with my parents, have one vote (which I have so far failed to find a single political party worth spending it on, usually “waste” it on the green party), don’t have a job (I’m not a total wastrel, I go to university) etc… I just don’t know what I can do.

  6. For those interested in questions of human “alienation from death”, I recommend the implications of the supermarket …

    I vividly remember watching an American TV program (MTV, I think) with nieces and nephews, and wanting badly to turn it off and throw the machine out the window. For the message of the show was, “We are beautiful and powerful in a way you can never hope to be; your only hope to be anything is to follow us, and oh yeah, buy our stuff.” The media (to some extent deliberately) does a poor job of telling us that there are grades of power, that empowerment is, first and foremost, a personal state of mind, and that the establishment of power over others (if desired) takes time to achieve. You may wish to consider local, seemingly trivial, actions to take to begin the process of emerging from powerlessness.

  7. with you
    and
    had you protested
    it would have been turned off


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