persistence of famine

Hunger and history have a long symbiosis. The first recorded famine occurred in Egypt in 3500 B.C.Since then, millions have died, and still die of starvation. Do people starve simply because there are too many of us as Parson Malthus theorized? Is famine the companion of civilization? Do the hungry die of politics? In sum, it appears there is more to famine than a lack of food…

The tendency not long ago was to regard all surviving hunter-gatherers with condescension at best, an attitude implicit in the widely accepted ideas about agricultural origins. According to the one popular Eureka! theory, for example, it all began with a lucky accident. Wild seeds fell on disturbed soil near an occupied cave, took root, sprouted, and happened to catch the roving eye of a prehistoric genius who suddenly saw the possibilities of deliberate planting and cultivation.

Kathy Rutenberg art---"A CIA report prepared shortly before the World Food Conference recalled that the Third World food shortages 'could give the United States a measure of power it had never had before; (... ) in bad years, when the United States could not meet the demand for food of most would-be importers, Washington would acquire virtual life-and-death power over the fate of the multitudes of the needy (... ). In the poor and powerless areas, population would have to drop to levels that could be supported (... ). The population "problem" would have solved itselfin the most unpleasant fashion.'" CIA, Aug, 1974. click image for source...

Kathy Rutenberg art—“A CIA report prepared shortly before the World Food Conference recalled that the Third World food shortages
‘could give the United States a measure
of power it had never had before; (… ) in
bad years, when the United States could
not meet the demand for food of most
would-be importers, Washington would
acquire virtual life-and-death power over
the fate of the multitudes of the needy
(… ). In the poor and powerless areas,
population would have to drop to levels
that could be supported (… ). The population “problem” would have solved
itselfin the most unpleasant fashion.'” CIA, Aug, 1974. click image for source…

The theory appealed to many investigators, among the most distinguished being Darwin himself, and it still has its proponents. It is however highly problematic, and highly uncomplimentary. It assumes that even after hundreds of generations, our ancestors were still too dimwitted to know what happens when a seed is planted and, until the flash of insight, had never experimented with cultivation. Even more belittling is the assumption that, once enlightened, they would of course leap at the chance to become farmers, the inference being that nothing but sheer brute ignorance could possibly cause them to continue their miserable, lowly way of life.

Such notions, derived from imperial attitudes towards subjected peoples everywhere, began crumbling with the crumbling of empires- and with the first serious efforts to learn how hunter-gathers actually live.

---Nearly 42 million Americans are on food stamps, a record high. Hunger levels in the United States are also at historical highs. 16,000 children die of hunger, malnutrition, and preventable disease each day across the globe. Hunger should not be a political issue and we need to be doing more, not less, to address the problem.---click image for source...

—Nearly 42 million Americans are on food stamps, a record high.
Hunger levels in the United States are also at historical highs.
16,000 children die of hunger, malnutrition, and preventable disease each day across the globe.
Hunger should not be a political issue and we need to be doing more, not less, to address the problem.—click image for source…

Humanity, seems unable to separate itself from the pressure on a society’s food supplies. The fertility of man, persistent amid disasters and deprivations, seems to obliterate the effects of agrarian advance, outdistancing the harvests, and returning us to the condition we have lived with for millenniums. Food shortages not only kill people, they also corrode social institutions, breeding rebellion and violence. Liberty and freedom are not born in hunger: it was famine that gave Lenin and the Bolsheviks their mass appeal. The constant peasant riots of seventeenth-century Europe served only to strengthen the power of the state, for they confirmed the need for professional standing armies, as much to keep a brutal peace at home as to make war abroad. ┬áSocial turmoil usually leads to a strengthening of power at the center- sometimes in monstrous form.

The only thing we can be sure of, despite greater social sensibility and improved crop yield is that the dream of plenty is over, which was scarcely ever more than an illusion. We can’t go back to hunter-gathering society. Our drive to breed, so necessary for survival in a world of pestilence, war, and famine, becomes in a world of increasing supplies and improving health the procreator of the evils it formerly surmounted. In the seeds of birth lie the harvest of death. ( to be continued)…

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