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May 5, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Money – Must be funny in a rich man’s world

The economical state of the world at the moment is funny, actually – in a “laughing so hard that you’re really crying” sort of way.

Even if you’ve been living in a happy little bubble, where someone else pays for the gas and the fridge mysteriously restocks itself (the magical world before leaving school), I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s all going to the dogs. Not those nice helpful ones that save people when they get lost or snowed down in the Alps, by the way. No, we’re talking scrawny yelping things that are essentially rats, with their bones protruding so much through their hairless skin that you can even make out the skeleton through the tiny handbags that they’re carried around in. And, whatever their owner says, these dogs WILL bite.

Situation in a nutshell: In the last year, food prices have gone up 28% in New Zealand, and barely anyone can buy a house – because it’s that or eating (and that underpass isn’t looking half-bad, now that you really think about it).

But while the wealthier countries are bitching about milk and cheese, the Third World is getting the worst of it – even more than usual. Especially since we discovered that we can use their maize for biofuels till we can come up with something else. So, people in developing nations are spending as much as 60-80% of their money on the food they can get, and it’s only going to get worse when all the humanitarians discover that they have their own food problems too.

The UN World Food Programme and newspapers have been calling this a “silent tsunami”. I guess I understand what they mean, but it isn’t some sort of ‘natural disaster’, and it sure as hell ain’t silent. Personally, I find the situation more reminiscent of the Titanic. We let the workers on board, as long as they shovelled coal to keep the ship running and kept their grubby hands off our silver. We even gave ‘em cabins, which were only somewhat shoddy. But now that the water has started seeping up from the lower decks and into our own rooms, we’re shutting all the gates on them, and screeching for the lifeboats. We’re awful cold, too.

Oh, the veneer of mankind’s humanity. The saddest thing is, it’s justifiable. It may not be nice, and it may not be right, but it’s justifiable. “Well, it’s not like we can save everybody anyway,” say the guilty little voices in our heads. It’s selfpreservation, animal instincts, survival of the fittest; the drowning man who will push down his own mother to get just one more breath of air…

Who gets to decide which drowning man gets to stay afloat? I suppose this is where your beliefs kick in – whether everyone has a purpose in the big picture, or whether your life sucks because you did something bad in your last life. Well, you must have done something really vile if you’re living on less than a dollar a day. Can’t do a lot with that – even when things were cheaper. So, you can whinge all you like about how it’s damn hard to get food with student loans, but at the end of the day, students ‘starve’ to get an education, while others just starve. And I doubt any African country would ever implement a “Free Bread on Wednesday” programme.

I won’t get too politically analytical, because there are others who actually know their stuff, but just think about what historians and such have noted: Regardless of all the years of taking shit from the people who were ‘better’, it often seems to be hunger that sparks off actual revolutions. France and Russia, for instance. It was too late for King Louis XVI and Tsar Nicholas by the time they realized that the rumbling of hundreds of stomachs would push- nay, catapult the disgruntled masses over the edge. And, of course, that they’d be taking many others into the ditch with them, after getting caught on the jagged rocks of mob mentality on the way down.

Dare we imagine what would happen if an entire continent rose up? Asia is scattered all over- well, Asia, and anyway, some of them aren’t doing too bad, but AFRICA. I’m not sure how it would be done, if at all, but surely it’s a possibility. Despite all the violence and chaos in Africa, no one seems to really worry about it spilling over. I don’t even think it’s an issue of geography, honestly. As harsh as it may be, there seems to be a general assumption that starving people in Africa just die. Perhaps they’ll get AIDS instead, or perhaps they’ll get shot by the military, but either way, we should be fine over here, we think.

But hungry people can be dangerous if they’re hungry enough. Hungry people who were already quite hungry to begin with are even more dangerous. Thousands and thousands of hungry African people clumped together, watching their children starve while their food disappears into the tanks of polluting cars – well, gosh darn it, that would be hysterically, sidesplittingly, stick-a-fork-in-your-eye hilarious, wouldn’t it?

So, in conclusion… Hell, I don’t know. Like the rest of the world, I’m still waiting for the punch line, to see who the joke’s really on.


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