Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Sunday :: Graphic Starvation

You may have noticed that I keep rolling the prior post forward each Sunday. The thought came to me that I should use Sunday, and my "On Sunday" thread, to post something spiritual or humanitarian. I was raised in the Episcopal church/ideology - which is also known as Anglican Catholic, versus Roman Catholic. I drifted away from going to church in my high school years - drifted away from organized religion in general. I was married in the church (the first time), but insisted the priest strike the language that "we were sinners, and not worthy to kneel at the altar of the Lord..." - something to that effect - from the ceremony.

So, this On Sunday theme is not intended to be "preachy". It is something I am doing more for myself - to bring my spiritual and humanitarian sides to a higher level in my life - and sharing it on my blog in the process.

Back to this post, the prior post that is, "On Sunday :: A Matter of Perspectives". I think I originally posted it three weeks ago. The concept came to me to show photos, with no words, photos of space and this delicate blue marble that we live on. Just to get us to think about our place in the universe. Then it came to me to also have a photo that represented poverty and starvation. The grandeur and beauty of the universe, the magnificence and opulence of human endeavor, countered with the terrible ugliness of some life experience on this earth. I naturally went straight to flickr to do a search.

The last photo is the one that I chose, because it represented for me, in the most graphic way, the visual image of starvation. Only one person, Kendalee, commented and verbally made the connection I was trying to achieve graphically - literally, and literally. A graphic depiction of a graphic situation for one innocent child on this earth. Kendalee said that we, as humans, as a global society, "are capable of such magnificence and yet such indifference" at the same time.

Before seeing this photo, I used to believe that starvation was a necessary evil. Mother nature in her worst incarnation - controlling the human population. High birth rate - drought - not enough food - then people will starve. Now I believe that with so much money flowing around the third world, so much of it being diverted to corrupt government officials, so much food being produced, that no single individual on the planet should ever go hungry. I often wonder if foreign aid (for food or other uses) from the world powers, from the world bank, from the IMF, ever ends up back in the U.S. - buying a swimming pool or a Beemer or putting a kid through college - for someone in America with the "right" connections. Now that would be a true travesty. There is always talk of "protecting American interests". If there were a way to profit from ending starvation, perhaps things would be different. Profit. Cash. Spoils. Does it always have to be about money?

I ask that you take a closer look at the photo - the last one. Apparently, the photographer who took it was so effected by the image, the image in real life, that he took his own life. The image shows an emaciated child dying in a field, with a bird of carrion looking on. The child appears to be between the ages of 2 and 6, but it's hard to tell with starvation and malnourishment. The photo is tagged on flickr with "Sudan".

Look at the photo and ponder how this child came to be in the field. Did she (could be a little boy, but who knows...) crawl off to die on her own? Did a parent or relative place her there to die? Perhaps an aid worker, with no other option, carried her and laid her there to die. She's just laying there, too weak to even support herself upright, or roll over on her back. Perhaps she is trying shield herself from the inevitable when the bird may begin to peck at her while she is still alive and breathing. Perhaps she has seen her friends die this way, and knows what is coming. At this point, is she hours away from death? Or days?

I know it's all pretty overwhelming and graphic and painful to ponder this scene. It is for me, as I sit here with tears streaming down my face. It's too much for me to bear. It's too much for all of us to bear. I think that's why we avoid thinking about it. That's why our media shows us the latest news on Britney Spears and not starvation in Africa or elsewhere in the world.

All I know is this - no human being should ever have to endure what this child did - and thousands like her. It's morally reprehensible for this to be occurring, right now, on our planet.

I have written to my sister, who lives in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia with her family to find out a good aid program/charity to donate to. I'm going to find one or two to start donating regularly to. Right now that's all I can do for my part. I'll let you know what I find out about a charity/cause.

This is my new mantra: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem..."


zigadenus said...

Perhaps it is human nature to be frightened of and to turn away from the suffering of others, as if it were contagious. It requires much courage and fearlessness to look at suffering and offer compassion.

For an encouraging look at how some farmers are restoring the barren wastelands in parts of Africa, see the latest issue of National Geographic. It's the cover story. Perhaps you could locate a charity that is helping to propagate these simple, affordable farming techniques. Food security is a major issue the world over, even here in North America.

Anonymous said...

Starvation and famine, as my sweetie likes to say, is not a financial or moral issue. It is a political one. There are already so many charitable organization in place, ready to move enormous quantities of food to those who need them. But it is governments and corrupt officials stand between those two goals.

I would add that the problem is also one about education. Corrupt and dictatorial governments stay in power only if their populaces is too ignorant (and hungry) to do anything about it. Education is not only about how to read, but also about how to make something grow out of the land.

Mtnhighmama said...

Sometimes, Alex, things are too much. That picture, what do I say to that? What do I say to you to let you know I heard it? That I saw that image and it brought me to my knees. To sit and see that child, that child that some woman carried in her womb, that she prayed over, worried over, knew it was probably a death sentence but believed and had enough faith to not give up. She's probably dead too. The only witness that child has was behind a lens. Why didn't that person go and pick that child up, hold her, sing her a song? If he or she couldn't feed her, then maybe he or she could have just let her know she wasn't alone. That she wouldn't be taken apart, pecked apart, damaged before her soul left her body, by that ugly powerful bird. I have no words for the state of horror that exists, and even less for a picture that tells the story of a child alone.

and maybe he or she put down that camera and sat with that child. Wept as it passed from this plane to another. There's beauty in that. But that isn't the story the picture told, and it's not the one you saw either, not by your description.

So, I cried. I went to bed after that image, and cried. Cried for how lucky my children are, cried for the mother of that child, cried for the loneliness as that child moved on.

*sigh* I don't know why I'm telling you this, except maybe to just bear witness. For that child. And for the others.

Alex said...

hola I feel bad for forcing the issue...but I'm with you...the image (and what it symbolizes) continues to haunt I want it to...we should all be haunted by the atrocities that abound in our world...and we should all bear witness, as you say, to each other...when one child dies of starvation, a little part of each of us dies, a little part of humanity dies when we let that happen...when we are powerless to prevent it...and as you say, it can be a reminder to not take anything for granted anymore...and be thankful that we are so very very lucky to have our health, and our children's health...

really, nothing else matters...

Mtnhighmama said...

I don't think you forced anything, Alex. I love the humanitarian spirit you share, your zeal for creating a more sustainable present and future, and your passion. Ah, your passion. It's a breath of fresh air in so much apathy.

But I can't give that same attention to it that you can, and I wanted you to know that even though some of us are creating change in ways different than you, we are still aware, still involved, still feeling. Even if we don't say it.

Big hugs to you, and your intensity and your passion.