'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, April 18, 2008

Feed Them or Shoot Them? 

Given the past record of US abroad and the insistence upon preserving global neoliberal economic policies, the latter is the more probable choice in response to growing hunger and unrest:

Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.

In Cairo, the military is being put to work baking bread as rising food prices threaten to become the spark that ignites wider anger at a repressive government. In Burkina Faso and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, food riots are breaking out as never before. In reasonably prosperous Malaysia, the ruling coalition was nearly ousted by voters who cited food and fuel price increases as their main concerns.

“It’s the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, the economist and special adviser to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. “It’s a big deal and it’s obviously threatening a lot of governments. There are a number of governments on the ropes, and I think there’s more political fallout to come.”

Indeed, as it roils developing nations, the spike in commodity prices — the biggest since the Nixon administration — has pitted the globe’s poorer south against the relatively wealthy north, adding to demands for reform of rich nations’ farm and environmental policies. But experts say there are few quick fixes to a crisis tied to so many factors, from strong demand for food from emerging economies like China’s to rising oil prices to the diversion of food resources to make biofuels.

Not surprisingly, the reporter, Marc Lacey, avoids interviewing indigenous voices, replacing them with more professional, internationally rspected voices, like Jeffrey Sachs.

If Lacey had done so, he might have discovered that the people in these countries perceive very different reasons for their predicament: the evisceration of public health, education and social services, including subsidies for food, in order to satisfy the demands of finance capital, the inability of their economies to generate employment much beyond the informal sector, or to put it more inelegantly, the street, despite these concessions, the willingness of finance capital and international institutions to permit pliable local elites to amass great fortunes by looting the country's resources, and the willingness of the US, as it has specifically done it Haiti, to promote violent unrest.

But no. As Lacey implies in relation to Haiti, the problem is that these countries haven't become investment friendly enough. Curiously, he doesn't explain what measurs that Haiti, and other countries like it, might undertake to do so. So, again, the question: Feed them or shoot them? The acceleration of events is pressing the question with greater and greater urgency.

Labels: , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?