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The Icy Normality of Hunger

by Jean Ziegler Wednesday, Jun. 16, 2004 at 1:31 PM
mbatko@lycos.com

"World agriciulture in its present state of development could feed 12 billion persons.. The daily silent genocide of hunger that occurs in icy normality is not a fate. People are responsible.. For Rousseau, there was no natural law of capital.."

The Icy Normality of Hunger:

Weak Reason against Global Greed

How Hunger Threatens All of Us

By Jean Ziegler

[This article originally published in: Stuttgarter Zeitung, May 27, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.stuttgarter-zeitung.de/stz/page/detail.php/734935.]

Of all the production processes that humanity has produced in the course of its history, the capitalist mode of production is undoubtedly the most creative, the most efficient and also the most brutal.

For a long time, capitalism was territorially restricted. With the implosion of the Soviet Union in August 1991, the bipolarity of the community of states collapsed. Until then every third person on our planet lived in a communist system. The corrupt despots in the Kremlin and their crowd in the regime were as communist as I am Buddhist. Nevertheless the bipolarity and the territorial limitation of the capitalist production mode was a fact.

Capitalism has conquered the world for more than a decade. Monopolization and multi-nationalization are its two vectors. A standardized world market has arisen. The leadership of giant transnational empires, the so-called multinational companies, was possible thanks to the computer revolution, uniform cyberspace and the new speed of telecommunications. A private Geneva banker writes to his branch in Tokyo at the speed of light.

One form of capital has automatized: finance capital. The world dictatorship of the financial market is expressed structurally in the stock markets. These markets determine all other decisional authorities in the world. In the morning the German chancellor, the French president and all their democratically elected colleagues first consult the stock market data from the previous day (Tokyo, Frankfurt and New York) to know what millimeter-range is left to them for their national investment-, job-creation and fiscal policies.

The ancient philosopher Marcus Aurelius once wrote: Imperium superat regnum – the empire is above the king. Today the world dictatorship of finance capital rules over all other power structures. The motor of freely raging finance capital is sheer greed.

The globalization of the capitalist production mode functions beyond all ideas and expectations. In the past decade the gross world product (all the goods, services, capital, patents etc produced in the world in a year) has doubled. World trade has tripled and has broken through the magical limit of trillion per year. Energy consumption doubles every four years. The rulers of globalized finance capital possess more than an emperor, pope or king ever had.

In 2003 the 226 greatest personal assets were equal to the assets of the poorest 2.7 billion people in the world. In 2002 the 200 most powerful transcontinental corporations of the world controlled 23.8 percent of the gross national product of the planet. The annual profit of Exxon Mobil is higher than the gross domestic product of Austria. The profit of General Motors is higher than the gross domestic product of Denmark.

At the same time the mountain of corpses in the world grows. Among all the phenomena of inequality, underdevelopment and the deliberate destruction of humanity, I focus on hunger. In 2003, 841 million people were gravely and permanently malnourished. In 2002, there were 826 million malnourished persons. 100,000 persons die daily of hunger or its direct consequences, for example in deficiency diseases. Every seven seconds a child under ten years of age dies of hunger.

The same World Food report of the UN World Food organization that published these statistics insists that world agriculture in its current state of development could feed 12 billion persons normally without problem. “Normal” means an individual daily ration per individual of 2700 calories. However there are presently only 6.2 billion in the world. What is the reason for hunger? The daily silent genocide of hunger that occurs in icy normality is not a fate. People are responsible. Every child, every woman and every man who perishes of hunger or its immediate consequences is murdered.

Many are scourged by poverty. The World Bank in 2004 counted 1.2 billion persons “living in absolute poverty”. They earn less than a day and don’t have a dignified life. Among them, the rural population amounts to 75%. Why is this? Unequal access to land as a means of production is one of the main reasons for this absurd humanly destructive misery.

Very different situations should be distinguished. The Sahara expands another ten kilometers south on the annual average. Farmers lose their land, their ponds and their meadows. They flee into the slums of the metropolises. The UN estimates 250 million as so-called “ecological refugees”. Unlike political refugees, they have no rights at all. Tenants enslaved to contracts characterize the second situation. In Bangladesh, some tenants pay up to two-thirds of their harvest as rent to the owners. They must survive somehow from the remainder. In the third situation are farmers who must eke out a living on largely unproductive soil. In Brazil four percent of the landowners control 52 percent of the arable land. 90 million hectares lie fallow.

The situation of women in the country is especially miserable. Women manage 28 percent of all rural households of the world. However women amount to merely 5.1 percent of landowners.

The dimensions of hunger, extreme poverty and exploitation can only be understood in the so-called “life cycle perspective”. Every year millions of gravely malnourished women give birth to totally malnourished children who aren’t breast-fed after birth. They are the “crucified from birth” as my friend, the philosopher Regis Debrey says.

To break this murderous circle of permanent malnutrition, exclusion from an adequate income, landlessness and daily despair, we urgently need a land reform wherever property monopolies exist, a social credit-policy for small producers and an access to the market at reasonable, standardized conditions.

The neoliberal delusions that have spread so rapidly should be identified. Neoliberalism that serves the rulers and bounty hunters (and globalization generally) as a legitimation theory seeks to represent economic courses as natural laws. The world despot of speculative finance capital pretends to be an executor of mere natural laws. The French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu declared: “Neoliberalism is like the Aids virus. First it destroys the immune system of the victims.”

James Wolfensohn, the World Bank president, answered the question about the horizon of history as “stateless global governance”. In other words, the self-regulation of the world market freed from all normative (state, territorial and union) fetters should create maximum wealth. The means to the end of self-regulation are the strategies of the so-called “Washington consensus”, the complete and rapid liberalization of all streams of goods, services, patents and capital, local privatization of all areas of human life and submission under the command of profit maximization of all existing public services. If this “consensus” is realized worldwide, capital will flow intuitively and automatically every second where it gains the maximum profit in the shortest time. The result is constantly increasing wealth. The neoliberal delusion claims that this maximum wealth will fall down on everyone in the form of prosperity like a golden rain.

Neoliberalism opposes the values of the Enlightenment. There was no natural law of capital for Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his supporters whose ideas have defined European forms of state, ideas of popular sovereignty and human rights. Only the person – individually or as the nation – is the subject of history. The sentence “Between the strong and the weak, it is freedom that oppresses and the law that frees” stands right at the beginning of the “Social Contract”.

Where is hope? New social movements coalesce and a powerful civil society arises even in Germany. Resistant fronts break out everywhere on the planet. Their methods of struggle are different but their motivation is the same: the moral imperative, the person’s consciousness of identity. I am the other and the other is I. What happens to the other happens to me.

Over 100,000 people from five continents, delegates from 8000 farmer syndicates, industrial unions, women’s movements and non-governmental organizations that fight for human rights and environmental protection and against torture and hunger met at the World Social Forum in Bombay in January 2004. They met without hierarchies, a central committee and a complicated program as a brotherhood of the night and living figure of solidarity. We know exactly what we do not want. But the world that arises from our resistance belongs to the mystery of liberated human freedom.

One thing is certain. Either people successfully create a planetarily just world order or the furiously globalized predatory capitalism will blot out from the planet the civilization inherited from the Enlightenment.




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