Overcoming Hopelessness--and Hunger
I think we've misdirected our efforts. We profess to want to stop world-wide hunger, yet we have been blinded to a viable solution by our own dispair. Our efforts have helped reduce particular aspects of the problem, but they have not faced the problem as a whole. In fact, hunger is as prevalent as ever. Last year, 15 million people starved to death. This year, another 15 million will die of hunger.
People adopt positions, such as "We should extend foreign aid," and "We should encourage the redistribution of land." These are the ways the dilemma of hunger has been approached: We give grain, and governments redistribute land. Obviously, the grain and the land measures are important, but the millions continue to starve. So where does the problem lie?
Effective techniques for combatting hunger already exist. They include technological support, financial contributions, efforts to improve education, and land redistribution. These methods can work--the problem does not lie in the procedures, but in each one of us.
The persistence of world-wide hunger has led us to despair and to therefore treat the problem as an insoluble one. We feel that it is hopeless.
In dealing with a problem from the context of hopelessness, one cannot help but feel frustrated. This has led us to support positions that mitigate our frustration, but not the hunger problem itself.
In an effort to alleviate our frustration we have made symbolic but relatively fruitless gestures, such as technological support that is not backed by the training necessary for the technology to work.
And the dilemma has grown distorted. The issue of starvation itself is not what is holding us back, but rather, our belief that it is an insoluble problem. The biggest step we can take, therefore, is to realize that with the creation of a positive climate of opinion we can, and will, overcome starvation in the world.
Once we become committed to the end, not the means, we can then choose whatever means are appropriate.
It is not news that we possess the resources, technology and the imagination to adequately feed all of the four billion human beings who walk the earth; what we lack is the will.
First, we must personally commit ourselves to the reality of the end of hunger. In turn, the correct climate will be created. From this climate will arise the proper positions that will work in accord with the end of hunger, simply because they will grow directly from its decline. Mass alignment will be inevitable.
Contrast this with the confusion and despair of adopting various positions in a climate of hopelessness.
And how do we create this context for the cessation of hunger? We must be personally committed. We must realize that hunger can end and we must live with this goal in mind.
This commitment does not mean that hunger has to be the single most important concern in your life nor its focal point. Some people will become directly involved, some indirectly, and many will appear not to be involved at all. Yet all will be able to make this vision a reality in their own lives, and personally contribute to the creation of a world-wide climate dedicated to the cessation of hunger.
An international organization called the Hunger Project has declared its aim to be the elimination of hunger in 20 years. Is 20 years enough? Is it too idealistic? In the words of the National Academy of Sciences, we can "end the worst aspects of hunger and starvation before the end of the century."
Possibly one of the most adamant supporters of this climate of opinion is Indian Prime Minister Moraj Desai. In a meeting last year with Hunger Project officials he said, "It is not only possible, it is going to happen, it is going to happen here and it is going to affect the whole world."
Victor Hugo once said that all the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come. We've seen it with the end of slavery, man on the moon, our pullout from Vietnam and now with the beginning of the end of apartheid.
When people realize the game is up, then it is. It is time to realize that hunger has solutions, that it is not hopeless, that it can, and will, end within 20 years. We can begin to eliminate starvation by simply realizing this. Within this climate, what we do will work. The game is up on hunger. It is an idea whose time has come.
Daniel L. Geiger '80 lives in Winthrop House.