4 Aug 2010
Starvation Through Time
Am reading a very grizzly but thought provoking book at the moment called "Bread Of Dreams" by Piero Camporesi. It looks at starvation through history in Europe. Heart warming chapter headings include, "The Disease of Wretchedness" and "Sacred and profane Cannibalism." Came across the word Autophagy, which was a new one for me (google it if you wish as a description here would all be too much)and notes of people eating the elderly to secure the lives of the young. It made me think again about our place in history. I've previously wrote about our lucky geographical and historical placing. Lucky to be born in place time in this era. A recent radio program on money was saying that my generation will not have the economic benefits of the baby boomers, those born 1945-50. There will not be the same opportunities to buy cheap houses and see the prices rocket until you sit on a nest egg, there will not be the opportunity to walk into a job for life or expect to retire at 60 on a good pension. What we have just witnessed in the last 50 years may be unique. The boom in food supplies, the mobility due to oil may soon come to a close. Fingers crossed we don't have to ask questions previously asked in the not so distant past like "can we ever eat human flesh without sinning?" or "when should we pile granny on the bonfire?". I know that I am straying into perverted territory here but maybe it is only by virtue of our extreme privileged times that we are able to find these questions so abhorrent and I am finding this book such sickening reading.
As one of the past commentators on this blog noted, extreme poverty can bring with a very different perspective, even maybe a different morality. However I like to remain less pessimistic about our future than the last few paragraphs might indicate. Maybe we in the West will suffer some of the extremes of the past or current other world but it will probably be how we react which will determine the true decline into wretchedness. I was pondering about how it may be the thoughts like "Let them fend for themselves, I'm keeping all this for myself." which are just one step away from drugging Granny up on Hemlock and feeding her to the kids. Both things come from the same pragmatic striving for individual survival. In fact maybe our current morality is more perverted than that because it is not survival we are aiming for it is luxury. We do, however know that we can work beyond that way of thinking, things like empathy exists in the human mind, compassion and love. If we allow these things to prompt us into action for the good of everyone maybe the future will be less bleak. It is with this in mind that I need to look to those less fortunate, either geographically or in terms of the future, galvanise myself and stop slipping off the wagon. To be repelled by the stories from history and in the same breath resign others to chocolate slavery or eat food brought about at the cost to future generations so that I can have more would surely make me a hypocrite.