March became an “Observer” month for me on the Social Justice Challenge and I’m only now posting about the April topic – Hunger. At the beginning of the month we were asked to post a picture depicting hunger. For contemporary heart-rending photographs, read the post links here.
The picture I’ve chosen is an old one – an illustration by George Cruikshank from Oliver Twist, which we haven’t quite finished yet.
Cruikshank’s cartoon, where Oliver, having drawn the short straw, dares to ask for more gruel, is as much an exchange between the hungry Oliver and the pompous Mr Bumble, as it is a metaphor of the stand-off between the haves and have nots – or, today, poor countries in thrall to wealthy countries, in terms of debt. Hunger and poverty go hand in hand – but you often don’t have to look too far away from the have nots to find the haves.
Another book we read in April (and I’ve talked about both of them in my recent update of the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge) is John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The theme of hunger runs through the book. The contrast between the situation of the two boys, Bruno and Shmuel, is often thrown into sickening relief by Bruno’s unquestioning observation of his friend, who is fading away before his eyes. As he leaves the house to go and see Shmuel, Bruno often grabs a snack to take to his friend – but more often than not he ends up carelessly eating it himself because he happens to feel a bit peckish. It makes you want to weep. There is also an excruciating scene in the kitchen of Bruno’s house.
Both these books have historical settings, but we have related them to today’s world. We turned to that superb resource for both young and old, If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith (Kids Can Press, 2002, updated 2007). The section on Food, which I have mentioned before, says:
There is no shortage of food in the global village. If all the food were divided equally, everyone would have enough to eat. But the food isn’t divided equally. So although there is enough to feed the villagers, not everyone will be fed:
50 people do not have a reliable source of food and are hungry some or all of the time.
20 other people are severly undernourised.
Only 30 people always have enough to eat.
There are natural reasons for hunger – crops failing, drought, natural disaster – but human action and inaction, whether through conflict, economic policy etc. are as far-reaching and probably more insidious.
Have a read of this article, 12 Myths About Hunger – it dates back to 2008 but it is still thought-provoking and relevant. And one of the things I’m resolved to keep up for the rest of the Social Justice Challenge, and hopefully beyond, is regular clicking on the Hunger Site – if you don’t know it, you can click on the flashing button at the end of this post, which will take you to the site where one click will contribute towards a donation of food (and consider visiting its sister sites too).