Saturday, April 12, 2008

Is World Hunger New?

With the recent food riots in Haiti, everyone is acting as if hunger is a new thing.

"For the first time in decades", writes the Globe and Mail's Eric Reguly, "the spectre of widespread hunger for millions looms as food prices explode."

For the first time in decades? No. This is just the first time in decades that people have been paying attention. Remember "We are the World"? That was sometime in the middle of the 1980s.

In 1996 at the U.N. World Food Summit, the developed nations pledged to cut world hunger in half by 2015.

And this is "the first time in decades"? Maybe it's just the first time it might start to affect developed nations. 'cause trust me, people have been starving for a long, long time.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Story of Abraham

I wrote before about the detestable thing that Christians call "Original Sin". This is the idea that all humans are cursed with the "sin" of wanting wisdom over submissive ignorance. According to the Christian churches we should aim to avoid acquiring knowledge.

It's important to analyze these messages because, quite simply, adherence to religion is not based on technical facts. It's not based on looking at the holy book of the religion, critically examining it, comparing it to the actual universe and saying, "Yes, this lines up!" No. Adherence to a religion is based on an emotional tie. Everything else is rationalization.

Let's turn to chapter 22 of Genesis.

It starts off simply enough. God says to Abraham, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac" up a mountain and "Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering".

The proper reaction - at least in modern times - to hearing a voice in your head calling out for you to set your son on fire is to call 911. This sort of thing occasionally happens to women and it's called "severe postpartum depression" or "postpartum psychosis". It's rarer in men, but the 911 operators would know what to do with Abraham: they would tell him to put the kid in a room by himself and wait by the front door for the social worker to show up.

911 isn't for Abraham. Admittedly, there was no 911 in his day, but still ... the guy doesn't even ask for clarification. He doesn't react with surprise or shocked indignation. He is the very model of stupid obedience. He grabs his son and heads off to the mountain. "Gee, Dad", the boy asks, "there's wood for a fire, but what are we going to burn in sacrifice?" Abraham, noble servant of God, dodges the question.

At the last moment, as Abraham is about to kill his son, God calls it all off. Then, as a reward for his utterly reprehensible and mindless obedience, God tells Abraham, "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore."

Yeah, nice. That's a lovely, beautiful message, isn't it? Offer to kill your children and you will be rewarded.

I don't see how anyone can offer Christianity as a moral compass when it contains stories that value ignorance over wisdom and mindless obedience over ethical compassion. Even if there were some kind of powerful entity that demands the death of your children, your job is to fight it, not slaughter your children and beg for the scraps from its table.

Anything less just isn't human.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Pack of Lies about Haiti

AP can't stop lying about Haiti.

Haiti had a democratic government. The president of Haiti was a man named Jean-Bertrand Aristide who, besides being a priest who had worked with the poor for years, was legitimately elected. (The elections were legitimate according to everyone except the American government.)

By 2004, the Western powers had had enough of Aristide. He was raising corporate taxes, raising minimum wage and building hospitals and schools - especially medical schools - with the tiny amounts of extra taxes. This was unforgivable. It was causing a rise in the cost of Haitian labour and a rise in the cost of sugar. Corporate profits were at stake.

So the Canadian, French and American governments decided to have Aristide overthrown. They called it "Responsibility to Protect", which came with the clever acronym "R2P". R2P says, basically, that some people simply don't know how to run their own countries. R2P says that, when people democratically choose the wrong leaders, who propel them down the "wrong" path, we have the "responsibility" to "protect" them from their bad choices.

Bad choices include, especially, any intent to use tax money to improve the lot of citizens.

A generation or two ago, "R2P" was simply called "The White Man's Burden". All these silly, illiterate black and brown folk need us to take over their countries and show them how to be exploited ... er ... how to run their economies.

So the Americans exiled Aristide, closed the hospitals and took over the university as their barracks. We helped. So did the French. The people rioted when we tried to impose the rulership of the pro-business party, a party that had 5% of the vote in the last election. The rioting was put down by U.N. "peacekeepers" who declared that these were the vicious human-rights violating leftovers of the Aristide "regime". In actuality, they were the poor people who, after a century of Spanish and American occupation, had finally seen hope in Aristide.

Now look at the lies that the Associated Press continues to churn out. These people are eating dirt. Why? We subsidize our grain and tell them they can't subsidize their production. Then we sell our grain on their market and tell them they can't use tariffs. Free trade, y'know? So they can't make any money and what they do get leaves their country. And they eat dirt.

But AP would have you believe that "world food shortages" are the problem. What a ridiculous lie!

The protesters demand that the 9000 "peacekeepers" leave because they are blamed "in part" for the food shortage. They should be blamed in whole! Those peacekeepers, whom AP tells us "helped usher in a democratic transition", actually hold the status quo of starvation over the Haitian people. AP would have us believe that the protesters are a bunch of ignorant negro villagers lashing out in a stupid fashion when, in reality, they know exactly who is killing them: the international force that overrode - not "ushered in" - their democracy.

The article goes on to discuss Guy Phillipe, formerly Washington's hero in the "liberation" of Haiti, who is now wanted on drug charges. Oh, how fast Eurasia and Eastasia can be confused!

And, oh yes, the Western world "have focused too much on political stability without helping to alleviate poverty".

No. They've focused right where they wanted - on making Haiti in to a miserable, cheap labour market. Who cares how many people starve, as long as North Americans can buy three dollar t-shirts and gorge themselves on sugar until we're all obese diabetics.

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