Putting a Price on Food

Source: shc.edu

Maybe we are missing something as humans. What we are really missing is realizing that we actually are animals and that we started out in the wild. Agriculture was not always there and neither were sophisticated cooking techniques. No doubt that resorting to the wild survival instincts would be frowned upon in the civilization. But why in the world would anyone do that when you have no other choice? After all, you need to survive.

Maybe it is a little audacious to declare that it is something humans are missing. Well, not all of them are. Maybe it is taken for granted in the civilized world, where food is abundant.  But it doesn’t matter as you could always get the food in the wild, unless you are living in a desert, or worse, a drought-stricken land. Hey, people have been surviving in the deserts for centuries. All you have to hope is that life exists there in one form or the other, because that is all you can eat. You eat life.

After all, animals eat and survive too and why expect that humans would be any different? No one is supplying them food, or even caring about how they get them. They survive, or they die.

Why do people get to the point of starving to death anyway? Why do they let themselves get to that point of no return? The point when someone from the civilized world has to come to them and feed them and photograph them and to publish the pictures around to collect funds for paying for their food? Why don’t they simply go hunting in the wild like their ancestors and eat anything that moves.

I think food is the most basic necessity that you could think of. It is the most basic of the basic human rights. Wait, not just human rights. Food is the right of any living entity, even bacteria. Nature, that is anything that is beyond the control of humans, provides for that right. It is just that humans have enough power to take that right away from their fellow creatures.

Yes, human beings are the only creatures who put a price on food.

Alright, I am not implying that those who grow and produce food must not get their share . Certainly, I don’t mean that the farmers who grow their food and the traders who sell it should be deprived of their rightful share of money, no doubt about it. But that does not take away the responsibility of those who have willing created a system that deprives millions of humans of enough food.

Just imagine that for a second. People starving to death. What good is a government if it cannot feed its people? To my mind any government that is not able to feed its people or offer them peace, freedom, medicine and security, has no reason for its existence. What other justification do we have for a government?

Humans are certainly not the only creatures to hoard food. We are just the only ones who hoard to deprive others of it and to store much more than the needs of a particular group of people responsible for it.

What we must remember are the most fundamental things and stop confusing ourselves with the completely unnecessary complex concepts that we are bombarded with everyday. Every human being is important, no matter where they live and every human being deserves food.

Food is more important than ideology.

Food is more important than politics.

If you are not feeding people, do not expect them to behave in a civilized manner. Because behind every civilized being is a wild creature who would do anything to survive.

But feeding people, like the ones starving in Somalia, is just not a priority of our species. Our priority is to pay for filthy, unnecessary and completely avoidable luxuries, but not feeding the starving. Imagine that, as a species, we do not have spare money to feed those who are dying of hunger and would surely fall prey to dangerous epidemic if no action is taken.

Source: bellirosa.com

We could fund to send man to Mars. Yes, we have money for that. We also have the funds for building a supersonic jet that travels from London to Sydney within an hour. Yes, we have money for that. We even have money to build the most useless and the most ostentatious, tallest building in the world. You know where it is. It is like an erect penis, but sterile. Yes, a lot of money for that. Alright, I would not even mention wars. it is more or less a justifiable expenditure, wouldn’t you think. At least it relieves a lot of people of their misery.

Without any difficulty, the entire population of the world can be comfortably fed for a sum making up a very tiny fragment of the entire wealth of the world and only just a little more can be dedicated to agricultural research to boost productivity. If a unified global effort is made in this direction, not a soul in the world will go hungry, ever. You don’t even need to go and check any statistics to verify this fact. However, what you should go and verify is whether the leaders of the world have any intention to put this matter on their priority list.

It just simply isn’t there.

This means that we actually want people around the world to be hungry. To starve to death. There are initiatives like the World Food Program from the United Nations which is doing an excellent job but yet not doing enough. But then again, who runs the WFP? We do and it is anything but one of our top priorities. That is just one way. There are several others and providing food is just one little dimension. But at the end of the day, it is food that matters.

Then there are naïve questions such as why people live in barren lands where there is no hope. Actually the question makes sense but not a single answer to it would. The questioner should be told that relocating costs money, that no one likes to leave their home even if it is barren, and if they do, who would accept those people? Which country in the world would accept a migrating population of starving people? If even a single country actually does that, I would be pleasantly surprised.

Also, they don’t figure out that conditions have deliberately been created to cause the hunger in the first place. They would rather choose to die in their homes with dignity and peace by avoiding insult to injury. Furthermore, it is a myth that hunger is the problem of countries going through drought in Africa only. The problem is actually worldwide and even seemingly prosperous countries have considerable starving populations.  The severity, however, varies.

But it seems that it is in our interest to create conditions that lead to the starvation of certain populations in the world. Politics remain the greatest hurdle and it will continue to be in the future. Not that anything can be done about it. We cannot even agree on simple objective facts, let alone solving any complicated and difficult problems. Maybe we should try eliminating the starving population once and for all by creating a great war instead. But wait. We are actually doing that, but it is a slow and painful death.

The face of war has changed, or maybe it has not. Maybe people never realized the kind of war that has been waged on them for centuries. It is the war of inequality, deprivation and injustice. Not that there is any justice, or ever will be, but at least people can be provided with their fundamental rights, which fellow beings, just like them, with no other superior evolutionary characteristics except for money and power, enjoy for no other apparent reason.

We all share responsibility for the fact that populations are undernourished.

                                                                                – Pope John XXIII (May 3, 1960)

We are responsible for it. We have created it. Not some God, unless humans are one.

So it seems.

It is just another ugly fact which we may choose to overlook, and we will.

It is genocide. It is ethnic cleansing. And of not just one race.

A Holocaust that has been going on for centuries.

It is mass murder. It is a crime against humanity.

We commit it every day.

We are putting a price on food.

We are putting a price on life.

Pakistan Flood Damage – How To Make the World Realize?

A lot has been written about the Pakistan flood damages and a lot has been said about the flood relief effort. Despite the pressing statements made by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declaring the 2010 Pakistan floods to be the worst natural disaster in a century, requiring no less than $460 million in aid for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the homeless and displaced, the world is yet to show an enthusiastic response.

Wait a minute. This figure was not demanded by Pakistan. It was independently suggested by the UN Secretary-General, who had actually been overwhelmed by the extent of devastation in the flood hit areas on his visit, which involved about 1,600 deaths and millions becoming homeless. These are the words of the Secretary-General as quoted by the New York Times.

“I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”

Those friends, who spend the entire lengths of their days spewing hatred against Pakistan, can demand an independent inquiry commission whether the UN Secretary-General was bribed by Pakistani officials to make the statement mentioning $460 million or not. They are most welcome to do so.

In my opinion, there are four kinds of people right now around the world outside Pakistan with respect to how they have responded to the tragedy.

1. Those who are really shocked by this tragedy and are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster and would like to donate, even if $1, if they knew where to donate.

2. Those who are not really aware of the extent of the tragedy, but would donate if they knew.

3. Those who don’t want to know and don’t really care about the news.

4. Those who know about the extent of the tragedy, and the almost apocalyptic magnitude of the disaster, and who are sorry that people are dying, but are glad that it is a Muslim country, and especially  Pakistan, which certainly deserved it.

For the Type 1 people, I am really grateful to them as a Pakistani, and they certainly are the hope which is making the world go round. As for the Type 2 people, the people who are already aware of the extent of the tragedy need to educate them about it and to convey to them how they can help, which is why I felt compelled to write these lines. As for the Type 3 people, they would hardly know what human suffering is unless it befalls them one day, but maybe they would care if they came to know about it somehow.

The Type 4 people are the spice of the world, which really make being a Moslem, and especially being a Pakistani a fun job. They are the ones who are fast trying to turn the concept of Secularism into an Anti-Islamic ideology. By the way, I am a great believer in Secularism and an advocate of its importance myself, so none of this should be taken as a criticism on it. However, somehow I feel that many who claim to uphold secular values are more Anti-Islam than Secular.

These are the kind of people who would hate Muslims and Paksitanis even if there really were not terrorists among them, and have been hating them ever since they learned that they existed, even before 9/11, but of course, after the 2001 tragedy, that became fashionable. These are the hopeless types, and there is no use even talking to them because they can support causes as hopeless as opposing the construction of the NYC Ground Zero Mosque. How absurd can you get? Many of them would be cheering. I would just wish them luck and would tell them to enjoy the party. Just mentioned this, for many uneducated prefer politics over humanity.

Many countries have announced the aid, but there is a huge difference between announcing and delivering it. But of course, the process is not as simple as many consider it to be. However, the people who have been affected by flood are racing against time for their lives and people are dying every day. Those who are not swept away by flood waters, are dying of hunger and, most importantly, of thirst due to the lack of clean drinking water.

Those who succumb to the temptation of drinking the unclean flood water, since the hour of survival can be desperate, end up suffering from diseases like cholera, hepatitis and diarrhea, and that can speed up their demise. A few of such cases have already been reported by the local media. There are also a lot of other potential health threats, since such areas have no sanitation at all, and it is only left to chance what sort of diseases originate from the mess.

What most people do not realize is the fact that this humanitarian crisis could have its ill effects on the region. There is a risk of epidemic break out in the flood affected areas, which could even prove to be serious and contagious ones, which could spread to the major cities of the country with the mobility of victims, and which could also possibly spread to different parts of the region, or even all around the world, depending how worse things get. And no, this is not a terrorist threat from a Pakistani, which many Type 4 people read as “terrorist”, but simply a sincere warning of a probable danger. (Although the disease will reach me first before any one outside Pakistan)

The countries situated around Pakistan can take as many measures, in collaboration with the Pakistani authorities, to control the harmful effects of a possible pandemic breakout, restricting immigrants and visitors from Pakistan, but due to the number of people affected from the disaster and due to various other natural reasons, the risks could be greater than what we can imagine at this point. Let us just hope at this point that the aftermath of the flood does not give rise to an even worse humanitarian crisis.

Referring back to the $460 million mark required, not even half of that can be arranged for any time soon enough. Here, it is important to mention that this is merely a figure put forward by the UN Secretary-General and it is not absolutely mandatory to reach the target. Those who want to help should completely forget figures and simply offer whatever is comfortable to them, and this applies to both individuals and countries.

Of course $460 million is a large sum and it is not easy to arrange for it even for the largest and most advanced economies of the world, but as I said, the sum is immaterial, but not the intention and passion behind the aid. This is the spirit with which many people around the world are working in countries like the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Norway, France, China and many others. It was especially good to see the aid offer from India.

Here I find necessary to mention that many people, particularly Type 4 people, are worried about the fact that Pakistan would request the international financial bodies, the United Nations and the United States to write off their external loans, so that they are able to fight this disaster. As a Pakistani, I personally hope that does not happen and that the loans stand the way they are. Pakistan should stop acting as if it is a liability to the world and must show character in such an hour.

But What You Should Not Forget

The thing that I want you to take away from reading these lines is the fact that whether you want to donate or not, or whether you are able to do so or not, just realize the extent of this tragedy, which is greater than the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake and the Haiti Earthquake all put together, if nothing more,  for that is the duty of every human being with a heart to those suffering this calamity, which could have affected anyone, anywhere around the world.

I don’t really blame anyone who finds it difficult to realize the extent of the tragedy, because I am right now comfortably sitting in my room typing these lines, living comfortably myself, while hundreds of miles from my home, this tragedy is taking place. Had I not learned about it consistently, and had not followed the damage, I would have been as unaware while living in Pakistan as anyone else would have been in another part of the world. But at least I can help more people to know about it, other than taking action in my personal capacity.

That is why I cannot appreciate enough the spirit of empathy and humanity already shown by people from around the world, but this post is meant for a Pakistani as much it is meant for a person who is not one. It is just a matter of seeing the matter with the right approach.  And yes, I would have spoken out in the same manner, had the disaster struck in any other part of the world. Because like many of you, I believe in humanity, not politics.

It is not just flood damage to Pakistan, it is a loss of the entire humanity. Just like the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina tragedy, the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake or the Haiti Earthquake.

In the end, I would just like to share with you a pictorial journey through the flood devastation, the most heart-breaking one that I could come across, and some images from which you may have already seen in the media. Please do follow the link below, if you feel compelled to take a look.

Boston.com – The Big Picture – Continuing Pakistan Floods

Thank you very much for your time.

Apology Note: If you were, in any way, offended by my commentary on the Type 4 people, I apologize to you with sincerity, but if you were offended and really want to help the cause, then there is no reason to take the offense because you are not a Type 4 person anyway. I don’t hate the Type 4 people either. I just think they can be a little unreasonable. I actually like them. They make the world an interesting place. And hey, all I did was to congratulate them on the disaster. What’s so wrong with that? I just don’t want to depress them. If you have taken offense for the whole post anyway, then that was certainly not what it was meant for. Just read the Donation Tip then.

Donation Tip: Those who don’t trust the Pakistani Government, and who would be rightful in thinking that way, can offer their aid to the WFP, UNICEF, International Red Cross and a number of other international institutions, which will ensure that the money is not just handed over to the Pakistani authorities, in order to prevent abuse, and which will ensure that the necessary supplies reach the flood victims.

As for the local efforts of provision of supplies to the flood victims, a lot of local groups and individuals in Pakistan are mobilizing to deliver as many people as they can reach given their resources, while the Pakistani Armed Forces, along with civil government officials, are controlling the main relief effort in all four provinces of the country.

For detailed information about the flood relief effort. Please refer to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) http://ochaonline.un.org/