Demanding an End to World Hunger

Mohammed Mesbahi

All the commentary from expert analysts about the crumbling financial system is almost useless to understand what is really happening in the world today. Countless articles are written about how to fix the economy and restore growth to the system, but they are only relevant to a system that was never sustainable and is now coming to an end. What we call the ‘system’ has become so complicated that it appears to have a life of its own, and not even the most sophisticated banker understands what is going on anymore. Few economists or politicians speak in terms that mean anything to the ordinary person who is struggling to find or keep a job, make ends meet and provide for their family. But at the same time, something profoundly new is happening throughout the world that requires a much simpler way of looking at things if we are to comprehend what it means.

The protests now taking place in almost every country are a magnificent sight, but we must look closely at what it means when we cry for justice. There are many stories now being reported about the accumulating wealth of the richest people in the midst of a worsening economic crisis, which of course leads to rightful anger against bankers and the unbridled greed that has been sanctified in modern-day society. But which is the greater sin: the banker’s bonus, or the fact that thousands of people are dying from hunger each day in a world of plenty? The global economy is sinking and so the people’s voice is rising, but why are there no demonstrations in our city squares when people are dying from hunger?

It is because we do not see the interconnection between our different lives. We have not been educated to see the very poorest people as our brothers and sisters, or to see the world as a whole. A child is not taught how to be in touch with himself, with his own nature, but is rather conditioned in how to become a ‘somebody’ in a sick society based on competition and stress. In universities we may study many books about the history of human civilisation, philosophy, politics, the arts and so forth, but we are not taught in the simplest human terms how to serve other people. The consequence, in a global and collective sense, is that we do not understand that we are one humanity, that we are all dependent upon each other, and that we have a responsibility to care for those less fortunate than ourselves.

As the economic system continues to collapse every nation has to begin to restructure itself, and we can all play a part in this process. But we have to understand that this begins with ending hunger. We cannot even look at the word injustice without first looking at the problem of hunger. It is as if we have bought a new home, but first we must clean up the mess left by the old tenants. That mess is the problem of hunger. We cannot go out into the world and campaign for justice for ourselves when our own children are waiting at home, abandoned by us and hungry. The world is in a state of disrepair and requires a dramatic process of rehabilitation, but first we have to look after our own children, who are the hungry people of the world.

Recently, NATO sent hundreds of millions of dollars effectively flying through the air to stop Gadaffi from massacring his own people. Whether or not we agree that this was a necessary action, there is another question we should ask: why doesn’t NATO send all their planes and armies into Africa to help feed the people? Many more people in Benghazi may have died without outside intervention, but at the same time thousands of people were dying from hunger and poverty in other parts of the world, and continue to die each day. Why doesn’t NATO prevent Al-Shabab from diverting aid away from the Somalian people? We all know the answer: because there is no strategic or economic interest for them there. But this is not a cause that gets people to protest en masse in the streets, demanding an answer from our governments: ‘why don’t we help the hungry millions?’

Emergency redistribution

Now that it is obvious that our economic, social and political systems are inherently unjust, the foremost responsibility of governments is to redesign these systems specifically so that no-one dies of hunger. In the first instance, this requires international cooperation for an emergency program of redistribution unlike anything we have seen before. The logistical details of such an operation will be a formidable challenge for governments to negotiate and plan, but there can be no gainsaying its broad mandate. Again and again we see humanitarian emergencies with the same old story, as in Turkey’s earthquake recently or the floods in Thailand: not enough resources, not enough support, not enough aid to go around. Even in the richest country with the largest military, people in New Orleans were left to fend for themselves in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, calling out to the world ‘Where’s President Bush?’

When we want to protect our own interests or go to war, everything happens so quickly – we have all the equipment, all the weapons, all the manpower, all the money. But when it comes to the suffering of poor people, all of a sudden money is non-existent. This is the trend that must be reversed. This is why the prevention of human deprivation, whatever its cause – poverty, conflict or natural disaster – must be guaranteed by an international authority. We should not even consider this to be a ‘humanitarian’ operation: such programs should be structured into our reformed political and economic institutions and enshrined in international law.

None of this will happen without an unparalleled uprising of public support. A solution to the world’s problems cannot be brought about by any political party or ideology, and can only happen through a free, united and single voice of the world’s people. Ideologies and belief systems have no further part to play in the changes that lie ahead. But it is futile to become ‘anti’ any belief or ideology, such as to go against capitalism; it is time to put capitalism in its right place and redistribute the world’s resources to where they are needed most. Capitalism came very naturally to us – it is natural to say ‘this is yours, and this is mine’, but the time is coming when we must say ‘let us share what we have’. The beauty of sharing is that it does not belong to any political party or ‘ism’, but to the people of the world. It is the freeing agent from a painful history of ideologies and beliefs that have caused such tremendous conflicts with each other.

No one is immune from the changes that lie ahead, so let us not work against the system, but together let’s change it. This requires an attitude of confidence that we can change the system, that a better world is possible. And this requires awareness, and togetherness, and more and more perseverance – especially perseverance. As we have seen, governments instinctively abhor any uprising of the people because soon their power is in jeopardy, so their tactic through the police is to discourage even the most peaceful form of protest. So we have to carry on and on, otherwise change is impossible.

But we cannot change the world without first looking after the most vulnerable people, which means that we have to demand from our governments an immediate end to hunger, everywhere. A true social revolution has to have morality at its heart, which is why an end to life-threatening deprivation in every country must become our first priority. The key is for everyone to raise their voice for greater economic sharing, and to continually push the boundaries of our demands until governments implement this unifying principle into world affairs. Now is the time, as it always has been.

Mohammed Mesbahi is STWR’s founder.

This article was edited from an interview by Adam Parsons, STWR’s editor, who can be contacted at adam[at]stwr[dot]org.

A longer version of this article titled ‘A Dialogue on Protest, Sharing and Justice’ is available here.

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