I typed "starving artist" into Google and got 632,000 hits; "starving poet" got me another 3,500. When I was a kid I was frequently 'starving' and would beg my parents for food only to be reminded that I had no idea what 'starving' meant. And they were right. I had no idea. And this was a long time before I became a poet and, to my shame, I have never had to go hungry for my art unlike many before me.
As a writer I value words and yet at the same time, without thinking very much about it, I also devalue them. I told my mum I was 'starving' but I meant I was hungry. And, if I'm being honest, I probably wasn't even that hungry. I wasn't a greedy child and I certainly was never a fat child, but I had gotten used to – been allowed to get used to – a certain lifestyle. My parents came from a generation where it was an important thing to be seen feeding your family and, kudos to Mum and Dad, they never had cause to hang their heads in shame. Even when I'd flown the coop when they turned up to visit they brought food.
Not every child has it so good. And it's easy to point the finger at the parents but then you look at where you're pointing and your finger curls up and hides in the palm of your hand.
All my life I've been presented with images of starving black children in countries I'd never heard of the week before. Biafra was the first one I remember around about 1967 and I remember the playground gags too that got recycled over the years depending on which African country was in need that year. And that's what it felt like. Whose turn is it now?
The thing is, now I'm older I realise that the famines mostly had little to do with a lack of resources but a complete and total mismanagement of those resources. The world has plenty of money. It's just spending it on the wrong things. Millions gets spent on aid to Africa but then they pay millions in interest payments on their bank loans, that is, when they're not off paying for freedom fighters.
Now, I don't know about you, but I've never had a head for economics but here is a little film entitled The Luckiest Nut in the World, which, in 8 minutes, explains the whole thing … with songs.
If that has caught your imagination then there is an interesting site – maybe sobering would be a better word – called Global Issues from which I extracted the following two tables:
|Global Priority||$U.S. Billions|
|Cosmetics in the United States||8|
|Ice cream in Europe||11|
|Perfumes in Europe and the United States||12|
|Pet foods in Europe and the United States||17|
|Business entertainment in Japan||35|
|Cigarettes in Europe||50|
|Alcoholic drinks in Europe||105|
|Narcotics drugs in the world||400|
|Military spending in the world||780|
And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:
|Global Priority||$U.S. Billions|
|Basic education for all||6|
|Water and sanitation for all||9|
|Reproductive health for all women||12|
|Basic health and nutrition||13|
Now, any one of those 8 year-olds who were with me in the schoolyard cracking jokes comparing matchstick with Biafrans could do the sums and we weren't the brightest bunch.
Are we all stupid or something? Er, yeah. I'm sure the IMF's answer would be, "Well, things are never as simple as that…" But they are. They so are.
The Blog Action Day website has this to say:
What Can One Person Do?
Poverty is not only a pressing issue, it is a complex one. It's easy to think that there isn’t much an individual can do. Fortunately this isn’t the case at all. With activities ranging from advocacy and professional contribution to charity and financing, there are in fact many ways that we can act.
You can find a range of resources about poverty, about what the average person can do as well as dozens of post suggestions and ideas in our Resources section.
Here's the link.
Don't be stupid. Have a look.