Tuesday, April 28, 2009
People in Manila are going hungry. There are those who starve themselves by choice -- the fashionably hungry. These people may have the money, yet their gustatory cravings are not focused on sound nutrition. Being skinny is trendy. How else can they show off that they have first-class gym memberships and wear outrageously expensive size 2 clothes if they have those extra pounds? Ironic that these people are the first to sample the fare of newly opened restaurants. But they go there not to eat, but be seen and written about. It's a different kind of indulgence that these people look for -- one based on vanity, excess, and insensitivity.
Then there are those who are skinny because they've nothing to eat, period. They're everywhere but people choose not to see them, as if turning a blind eye will make this harsh reality vanish. In a way, seeing these have-nots reminds the rich how obscene their lifestyles are. Or maybe people have become desensitized to the point of indifference.
It may be surprising to find out that these two groups of people form a relationship, especially during the elections. The rich bring in the money, the poor bring in the votes. Apparently, the rich need the poor too, but it's frustrating to see how resources just flow in one direction.
I think it is this indifference, this attitude, that's the culprit here. Being indifferent reflects on our values, how we view things and people around us. When we were young, our parents always told us to finish everything on our plate and think of all those hungry people out there. And we've always wondered what the connection was. "Couldn't we just send our leftovers to the hungry?" you would probably have remarked. As thinking adults, the connection shows itself: our sensitivity to the needs of others can trigger us to do something humane.
Is it all right to participate in seemingly innocuous food fights at home and in school? I think it's the equivalent of saying, "Look at all our food! We have so much that we can throw food at each other!" It's sickening. Should people in a small town in Spain stop having their tomato-fighting festivals every year? Perhaps. Is it feasible to raise sin taxes a bit and allocate a fraction of the revenues to local soup kitchens? Maybe. Do we need to be more open to otherwise controversial technologies if it means more food on the table? Yes, definitely. Must we exercise objectivity and not let our emotions stand in our way regarding food research? Of course.
Most people say that food scarcity is a problem of politics and economics, not of supply. That may be true, but I feel it's a problem rooted in our indifference. People can still choose not to be indifferent. We can choose to make ourselves more aware of our immediate environment, our own "little world." It's futile to come up with solutions to end world hunger when we don't even pay attention to our community.
This post was written in line with the event "Unite for Hunger and Hope", which will be held tomorrow, April 29.