The "World Hunger Problem" Ruthless Criticism

(MSZ June 1984)

The “World Hunger Problem”

Good Reasons for Hunger

When a few thousand people, or even just a few non-entities, starve to death somewhere in the world, this is one matter.

But it is another matter when this message is brought by satellite and in color wherever there is a television set or a newspaper stand. Photographed and statistically recorded hunger has entertainment value, is good for teaching a lesson and warms people's hearts. It is a problem, for which the politically prominent in big and famous capitals regularly proclaim “responsibility.” It is “of interest”: the areas where it is inspected are not irrelevant. In short, hunger is perceived, made known and attended to. And it is the most cunning reversal of cause and effect imaginable to claim that this “hunger exists."

It is clear evidence of the superiority of the free societies that this lie has established itself in the home countries of civilization as part of a cosmopolitan's knowledge. The poverty is counted over again because people know that it belongs to their field of duties. Where there is no “freedom and democracy” and it is even denied free access to the country's capital, the wretched deaths of millions arc not up to much. It is no coincidence that the inviolable dignity of man is way up front in our catalog of values, so that world hunger is our affair. Bright honor – because we are the only ones who want to and can deal with hunger due to our traditional ideals.

Without Hunger – No Faith and No Morality of Freedom

The free West is the only place where people really appreciate that these starvelings can certainly not help it. Of course, we can't help it, either – but we can make sure that they do not go short in vain. They are indispensable, in any case, as living monuments to faith more impressive than any artist could have created. The earth is a vale of tears and has not been a paradise for some time: man is a poor transitory creature, whose needs are all too demanding and who is inclined to materialistic arrogance; having haughtily forgotten that he is a sinner who can only do right if he is humble – wouldn't these certain articles of faith in the glory of God be only half as fine without visible misery in the flesh? Wouldn't we just push them aside if our brothers and sisters in Christ didn't keep on slowing down our egoism with their suffering?

Therefore, no one appreciates the meaning of hunger better than the Churches, which are given an opportunity in the free West to assure the poorest of their ceremonious sympathy. The lives and deaths of those whose mere existence is anywhere from superfluous to bothersome for the production of capitalist wealth and its violent guarantee, are understood to be a permanent task in the big congregations. Their destiny is not senseless for missionaries, but not for any usual believer, either. In the miserable figures of the “Third World” we Christians encounter the wretched human nature in us all, but also the dignity of being creatures of God – and in the face of this religious experience, the reasons and interests on which their misery is based are completely irrelevant, logically enough. They do not lose their dignity as children of God even in the worst filth; they are our brothers and provide material for our prayers even without having the faintest idea of all this.

Of course, not everyone is able to act with such hard-boiled piety as Mother Theresa. If only because they don't have the time, most people cannot spend all day collecting half-dead Indians and reading to them out of the Bible while they die. But this does not mean that usual well-bred citizens cannot draw any useful consequences from the hunger. The least thing they learn is to be proud of the native forms of human dignity, and certain that they live in a country whose wire-pullers are terribly busy making this dignity come about. Going beyond this, the politics of their own nation can be interpreted as being moral responsibility and sued for as such; it can be understood, when thinking of the hunger down there, as the task of solving this problem. In this field, as well, the hunger spares annoying questions as to the originators of the unhealthy eating habits in far-off countries.

But this by no means exhausts the services the hunger performs. There are donation boxes of every size for anyone who takes the misery in the backyards of the Free World seriously and wants to participate in being responsible for it. People who accuse themselves of living high off the hog because they regularly receive wages from their company, and are shocked by the fact that the business of these companies has “not yet eliminated underdevelopment” in other latitudes, as they can immediately see in the pictures of the distended bellies; people who thus think that they have “too much” compared with those down there, can add their own sacrifices to those of the others. Their compassion is not suppressed in the West, but promoted in a big way according to the motto, “No charity without hunger.” But they must not insist on actually wanting to help with their dollar for the fund. Otherwise they will quickly be angered by the sight of the next statistical survey, instead of having a good conscience. Because this is what the living skeleton is good for in the relevant pictures when it lures out alms.

Thus, the continuing existence of the misery is the elixir of life for charitable compassion – and the highest office-holders of the nation do not consider themselves above giving up their free time for this deeply humane attitude. They make speeches in order to put the population in the mood for this inevitable reaction to the well-publicized misery:

”With four dollars you can give a peasant in Asia agricultural equipment. Booklets and books for training someone in Ecuador cost twenty dollars. With forty dollars we can provide a village in Gambia with the necessary seeds for cultivating vegetables.”

This is how cheaply “we” can save the blacks vegetating even though we live well! Just a few pennies in comparison with the surplus butter in the Common Market and its wealth counted out in money, which not only shows the surplus “we” have. But who, when presenting the victims created by “our” foreign trade, wants to think of the business that has ruined them?!

Therefore: thank God for the Sahel Zone and other “disaster areas” by the score, since they increase world-wide understanding for the “hunger problem”! How could “the role of the Church in today's development policy” be “made clear” without all this? Would that moral maturity called “concern” ever come about without all this fine evidence for the “unspeakable suffering” which is offered in magazines ad nauseum? Could we be shaken by the fateful “North-South Difference” if it weren’t for the starving? Could we all admit that “our po1icy” was “unsuccessful” and firmly believe that the hunger has absolutely nothing to do with “our” foreign trade and the agreements made during state visits if we didn't have masses of evidence – that “it exists”?

No Self-Righteous Nationalism Without Hunger

Hardly any thanks has been given up to now to the master fasters in the poorhouses of the world economic order for their contribution to political culture in the freedom-loving democracies. Yet they stimulate the political sense of both governing and governed democrats in the most marvelously simple way to perform great achievements – they kindle the democrats' expert knowledge by offering themselves by way of comparison.

How else can a German Chancellor come to the conclusion that the Germans are “spoiled” and have been living “beyond their means” for some time? In what way do scientists and journalists consider themselves justified in agreeing with the nation's higher boss, announcing their discovery of “well-fed affluent citizens”? Daily life, work, money, family and health do not provide much evidence of this in one's own country. But the contrast between domestic poverty, which is simply put to use with regular pay and department stores, and the distended bellies in the middle of barren landscapes – it's impressive!

And it not only impresses those who benefit from and administer the cosmopolitan citizens who are contrasted so effectively. Quite a few proletarians, who feed their families on six hundred dollars a month and have quite a few problems with their budgets, let their heads be turned in a very political way by the have-nots in other latitudes: no, we don't have any famines of the kind they have down there – this is evidently taken care of by those in charge. And this is reason enough for the latter to act as if they were terribly efficient, far-sighted and generous – no one can accuse them of anything in such matters. They bring about a flourishing economy as well as its “order,” so that it is superfluous to wonder whether one would be useful for the national economy on a zero diet…

Thanks to all those who are starving around the world for demonstrating to us every day how lucky we are to live in our own free market economy! Without them, we would not know how grateful to be for our order. But now we do not only know this. We also know the reason why they are so badly off: they are lacking everything that “we” have. And this is why their senseless deaths cannot be completely excused. Have they brought about a proper state? Do they do decent work? Do they build up industry – and cultivate the necessary will to perform? Somehow, it must be their fault that they are the ones with the banana republics while we polish off the things with the blue Chiquita labels on them for a few cents. One need only think of their statesmen! Then it is perfectly clear why they are lacking money and work and savings. And then they come marching up over here, and the papers catch them borrowing money and trying to steal “our” jobs ...

Without the hunger, there is no decent racism! But since there is enough hunger, there is no lack of evidence for all kinds of educated cosmopolitan citizens who always know exactly who deserves what. They can tell by the result – and this speaks very much in favor of our free order, when interpreted correctly. The only thing to be sorry about is that the Germans are dying out while the others down there produce overpopulation, although they don't get anything to eat. They thus become a problem for “us,” and one must only hope that our politicians will take the necessary steps. Somehow the societies where hunger is rampant are a drain on our resources as long as they do not change. What's the point of filling the hungry mouths, distributing rice and powdered milk, all the charity, when they just eat it all up. They will only make it in the long run if they set up a proper economy of their own. They must develop ...

Without Hunger – No Development Aid

Businessmen and politicians are certainly no angels. Their decisions are not infrequently influenced by the desire for profits and national egoism. They therefore were rather reserved at first when their citizens demanded that they turn their attention to those foreign countries which are hard up.

But here too hunger has done its job. The politicians could not, and did not want to, turn a deaf ear to the argument that the problem could not be solved with alms alone. Especially since they recognized the inviting tasks which corresponded to their natural inclination: the development of new economies, the installation of a fair system of production and distribution – i.e. what they had already managed successfully at home – just had to spur them to act. Thus, they created the main weapon against hunger in the form of development aid.

On the one hand, development took place in great strides. The skillful use of money, credit and interest made the “natural wealth” – which the natives never know how to make use of properly by themselves – into many a successful export article. When investment is made, growth does not fail to take place if attention is paid to real market conditions. Effective demand was at first only to be expected in the countries which already had economies. It did in fact exist here, so that there was reason to hope that the exportation of mineral resources, peanuts, coffee and other fruits of nature would take care of the income to end the misery. On the other hand, it soon became apparent that the natives themselves also had to make a contribution to development. For their customary mode of living was opposed to a certain extent to a rational type of economy. Many of them, who even without the wiles of the money economy had plenty of trouble feeding themselves, simply could not get used to the new order. They were neither suitable for working in mines or on plantations, which they and their traditional primitive economies had to make room for. Nor did they know how to get hold of money, which was now the important thing in their developing country as well. In this way it turned out that development aid was not able, either, to break through the vicious circle of poverty and hunger from one day to the next.

At first, one therefore had to limit oneself to making sure that the investment in mines, plantations and transport roads paid off at least for the donating countries. Senseless losses would not be any good, either, for those whom the development aid was supposed to provide with a functioning economy.

So the development aid correctly concentrated on stimulating the cultivation of those agricultural products and the extraction of those mineral resources which were attractive due to their quality as well as their price. This could only be done if these branches were operated as rationally as possible and on a large scale: small farmers realized very quickly that they could not keep up – because of the prices, the ones they procured for their yield and the ones they had to pay for seed and other things. And mere self-sustenance contradicted quite evidently the purpose of the aid: development could never come about that way.

Quite apart from the fact that there was simply no room for continuing uneconomical ways of staying above water. Where there is industrial production, where only profitable one-crop agriculture guarantees a step towards development, no consideration can be taken of the leisurely mode of living of the natives. The invasion of civilized, progressive methods of living and working revealed in a terrible way an aspect of the hunger problem which people had never wanted to face in these underdeveloped societies: overpopulation. Without being able to manage their affairs, many of these communities had allowed themselves a real population explosion which they could not master.

Especially since the political organization of the communities was just as backward as the economy. In the course of providing development aid, reforms were necessary in this sphere as well since there were not only technical and infrastructural problems to solve, but social ones as well. The construction of cities, harbors and airports, made possible with the help of the industrial countries, was followed by the problems of maintaining order by a functioning state. The omissions which now burdened the state budget as a mortgage of the past became especially conspicuous in the growth of the slums around the cities and places of production. The social difficulties could not be mastered without a decent police and military setup, which occasionally still existed, at least fragmentarily, as a relic of colonialism.

So the developed industrial nations had no choice but to equip the young states with the means to allow them to place the economic partnership on a secure base. However, the resulting dilemma could not remain concealed for long: the yield obtained by being coupled with the world economy did not suffice for the financial obligations of the developing countries. Their exports of agricultural goods and raw materials, on which the industrial counties have now become dependent to a large extent, are not able to produce growth. Due to their debts, they are also lacking the necessary means for combating the hunger.

Without Hunger – No Economic Growth

The figures in the hunger statistics, which have increased from year to year, have frightened those responsible. They go to work critically and unsparingly when they discover the errors which lead to one “world hunger catastrophe” after the other. Today, they are very sure that

The dictates of the hour are obvious. The developing countries must comply with the laws of the world economic order and manage their domestic affairs without “boastfulness”; they must mobilize everything their nature and national labor force provide in order to make their contribution to the growth of the world economy, upon which the fate of their peoples depend. The first successes in convincing them of this have been reported by the German Minister for Developmental Cooperation, Warnke, for Africa. This is especially encouraging since the number of wretched deaths has been booming on this continent:

“Almost all African governments have recognized the symptoms of our times. They are prepared to carry out the adjustment programs recommended by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – even if these cures are drastic today, they must be drastic.”

The others in Latin America will also realize that they will have to cook on a smaller flame and save much more money on their populations than up to now. The solution to the hunger problem can only take place on a worldwide level. Without growth of the world economy, without its functioning with its sensitive mechanisms, the World Bank, IMF, etc., the countries of the “Third World” are doomed to failure in their development. Mindful of this, the foreign ministers of the industrial countries make speeches on the “world hunger problem” at economic summits – they, and the administrators of the international financial system bear responsibility for it, after all …

Without Hunger – No Stability and No Peace

Of course, the hunger problem can only be dealt with, in spite of all expert treatment of the world economy and its laws, if the necessary measures are consistently carried out. What is the point of all insights and advice as long as the people in the developing countries are not willing or able to put them into practice?

The governments on the brown and black continents need help especially in this area. Their efforts to lead their peoples out of their misery, incurred through no fault of their own, are supported too seldom. Uneducated and set on traditionally oriented ways of survival, the population often does not recognize any point or use in the development aid services. Suddenly, subjects are living in the wrong place, and have to be cleared away since they don't realize that they are in the way of the new drilling derricks. When they collect in another place, the problem arises of preventing the hunger from disintegrating into chaos and ungovernability. When private property, money and merchandise are declared to be the only legitimate ways of procuring food where the laws of the jungle have previously held, the state must give a boost. Otherwise people do not begin to respect the new goods. Integration into the new national development project, future affluence of the nation, requires good doses of force.

As soon as the first developmental aid projects are underway, social differences as well as envy, hate and crime arise. The only people who have an income are those who have allowed themselves to be put to work; the others feel somehow superfluous and demand work, its fruits or both. Even the employed are not always with it when performing their duties in the mines and on the plantations. They cannot be made to put in a twelve-hour working day without being punished. All these problems have had to be taken care of from the start by the development aid people from the democratic countries. This is why they immediately provided their partners with the means for establishing order.

But a much greater danger than hunger and the lack of discipline has been, since the beginning of development aid, the attempts made again and again by native politicians left out of consideration. They make use of the transparent maneuver of treating the sluggish pace of the beginning of development as an argument against the rulers in power: they accuse them of corruption and selling out the new nation, want a different independence and simply promise a better government to those who have gone to the dogs. This leads to conflicts which considerably interfere with the work of formation. Especially when other nations are interested in the “alternative” and send guns. Civil war is the form of power struggles that occurs again and again, so that the industrial nations, which provide their money and personnel for development aid, must do something. There is no point in regretting that there is a lack of maturity for democracy down there and that the techniques of empowerment which we cultivate are advantageous. Development aid can only combat hunger effectively when there is stability. Therefore, military aid is the condition for dealing properly with the hunger problem – and much more urgent than attempts to “clap” democracy “over all peoples heads” right away.

This is especially true as the governing partners in the developing countries often include some smart people who have learned their lessons well at the Sorbonne or in Munich. They know that they must have something to offer for successful cooperation with the rich nations – the availability of as much land and as many people as possible, which they can say they command. Thus, a war on the neighbor can be effective now and then when it comes to pointing out how useful one's own nation is. It is then up to the rich countries to slow down or provide support, with advisors and guns. Depending on the established or planned engagement in matters of development, the leaders of the big economic nations strive for a peaceful solution. For there is one thing they have been sure of for some time: if there is no peace, their efforts are in vain ...

Attentiveness is even more necessary in a different area. The states which we offer an alliance – as the first help for helping themselves – can make a big mistake by abusing the “hunger problem” they administer over. This abuse is not decided by corruption or the golden bathtubs of black emperors, and even less by the forms and habits of governing which differ so conspicuously from the customs in these parts. The abuse is settled by the origin of the weapons and the misled desire of governments to engage in intolerable relations to the avowed enemy of the free West. Such states then drop out of the community of states which are “on the way to democracy” and deserve our development aid. They are then made to feel the responsibility of the U.S. and the European countries for solving the world hunger, in the form of trade boycotts and cessation of Western aid. They are made familiar with Western weapons from outside. As long as the wrong government is in power and there is no free market economy, the hunger there cannot be combated. The first commandment for the success of the “world hunger aid” is quite simple: no state in the world can cheat its way around the supreme control and responsibility of the U.S. and NATO for this problem. Even states which have nothing to offer the world market still take a crucial step towards doing the best for their population by clearing some ground for the US Army and its air planes to use.


Whoever is for the morality of freedom, maybe even so much so that he sometimes demands that its top heads follow it,
whoever wants to see “our interests” represented in “today's world” in this or any other way,
whoever agrees with development aid and complains at the most that it fails here or there or is given too scarcely,
whoever considers economic growth to be indispensable for the purpose of distribution, and therefore requires “something to be there to start with,”
whoever is in favor of stability and peace, and counts them as the highest goals of politics,
should keep his mouth shut when it comes to hunger!

The history of hunger is the history of “our” good deeds.