By Farooque Chowdhury
Many news from the Empire interest many readers, as the Empire itself is interesting. It’s interesting due to its economy, politics and diplomacy, part of its geostrategic and geotactical games, and for its audacity and arrogance, and for its hated character, and for its perished core, which lies in its home, in its economy.
International news agency AFP’s news-report “Pandemic sends hunger rising in America, and children bear the brunt” is not only interesting; it’s also affrighting.
The December 6, 2020 datelined report said:
“Increasing numbers of children are going hungry in the United States as it weathers the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, which has killed around 280,000 people and caused a once-in-a-generation economic crisis.
“Nearly 12 percent of adults said they lived in a household where there was not enough to eat ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ last month, according to the Commerce Department.
“Ten percent of mothers reported their children under the age of five went hungry to some degree in October and November, a Brookings Institution survey found.
“Non-profit Feeding America estimates over 50 million people will be considered food insecure this year, including about one in four children, reversing gains made in recent years that had brought hunger among children to its lowest level in at least two decades.
“We feel pretty confident in saying food insecurity right now is the highest on record in the modern era,” Lauren Bauer, an economic studies fellow at Brookings, told AFP.”
Is this tale different from the Third and Fourth Worlds (TFW)? Rather, in some countries in the TFW, in the “blessing”-forsaken Global South, the situation is not that much worse.
The news agency tells the sulfurous truth:
“The numbers [mentioned above] are jarring for a country that has the world’s largest economy and is a major donor of food aid worldwide.”
The news-report hasn’t told a few other facts as, may be, those don’t sound pertinent. The country is a major producer of arms and ammunitions, of war, of destructions, of misery, of suffering in countries, and a producer of sermons on liberty, freedom, democracy and economic planning, and of economic and political manipulations. But, alas! The rich economy fails to feed its citizens, its children! It’s a dynamics of the economy, and a dialectics – yes and no. Yes for the few, and no for the many. The few are powerful, resource-rich while the many are weak, resource-poor, hungry or near-hungry.
The report adds another picture on a wide canvass:
“Schools […] shut down [following the on-going pandemic], making it complicated for poorer children to get free meals provided there, and […] runs on grocery stores created a shortage of basic goods that put low-income parents further behind.”
Is this story different from stories from the poverty-dominated TFW, from the TFW-shanties, from the poor children in the poor-world? However, this is a different story as this poverty-tale is from “the world’s largest economy” and “a major donor of food aid worldwide”, which is weathering “the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak,” where a survey finds “[t]en percent of mothers reported their children under the age of five went hungry to some degree in October and November […]”
There’s a “safety net” in schools, for the children attending the schools. Nevertheless, according to the report, “[t]here is […] a gap for parents with children too young to attend school – the age at which poor nutrition can have life-long consequences.” There’re “life-long consequences” for the children going hungry, going without enough food. A Baanglaa people’s song says: “Kaar baachhaar jotenee doodh, shookno mookh” – Whose child goes hungry [a crude translation in a hurry]?
There’s the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the food stamp, in actual sense langar khana, the gruel kitchen in this subcontinent of Bangladesh-India-Pakistan, in the Empire. But, according to the report, the SNAP “doesn’t pay enough to live off of […]”. So, non-profits provide “weekend groceries […] for families whose children rely on school meals.” According to the report, the Baltimore Hunger Project, a non-profit, “has seen demand triple to more than 2,000 families since the pandemic struck.” It’s a story from one city. There’re hundreds of cities and towns, and thousands of hungry children and their parents.
Then, there comes politics.
The report said:
“The surge in hungry Americans comes amid a controversy over who Biden will pick as agriculture secretary, a position that would oversee SNAP and other nutrition programs.
“Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota senator, is seen as a favorite for the position, but progressive groups and unions say she’s too close to major oil and agriculture companies.
“They have pushed for Biden to appoint House Representative Marcia Fudge, who has advocated for expanding SNAP.”
In capitalist economies, politics moves around food, around the poor, and around profit. The mainstream politics, academia and media always try to hide this fact of food-poor-profit-politics. Interestingly, a group of progressives seldom forgets to raise the issue as they forget the fact that it’s not the Empire that should teach economy, fight against poverty, and fight for democracy, as they forget that the democracy the Empire propagates is fundamentally different from the democracy the poor need, which is the Democracy of the Exploited.
However, the fact has been told by Ayo Akinremi, an immigrant from Nigeria, quoted in the AFP report: “It breaks my heart.” Ayo Akinremi was picking up groceries for his wife and children after losing his job. He said: “It was a culture shock for me, to come to the US to find so much food insecurity.”
The hunger-story is yet to be completed. A National Review piece (“Give to Charity over Political Campaigns”, December 6, 2020) by Naomi Schaefer Riley Naomi, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, James Piereson, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, questions:
“Which is the better way for Americans to help their fellow citizens in need this holiday season: effecting systemic political change or making direct donations to charity?”
The article said:
“It is hardly a surprise to find that liberals prefer direct political engagement to private charitable giving as a means of addressing social problems. Yet amid a deadly pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and upended the American economy, the government doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job of helping those affected. It is not for lack of spending. Trillions of dollars have been sent from Washington, but in such a haphazard way that many families still worry about where their next meal will come from.” [Emphasis added.]
Hunger and politics go hand-in-hand. There’s no way to escape from politics while looking at the eye of hunger. The piece tells the fact:
“Government is simply funneling its largesse toward private charities anyway, and politicizing the nonprofit world to an unprecedented degree in the process.”
Non-profits are not free from politics, and it’s in the Empire also, not only in the corruption-ridden TFW, and non-profits nowhere are never without politics – either with partisan politics in narrow sense, or with class politics in broader sense.
Letting the non-profit issue sit idle temporarily, the fact that comes to forefront is: The Empire hasn’t resolved the question of hunger although it sermons all around the world on hunger and poverty, on freedom and liberty, although freedom and liberty from pangs of hunger is a fundamental question humanity is struggling to resolve for generations. The stranger fact: Yet, groups of persons, politicians and non-profits keep their trust on and allegiance to the economy and mechanism the Empire uses to keep its soul alive and dominate others despite the Empire’s failure in fighting out hunger, in subduing poverty.
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.