Upside Down

If there was ever the myth that in a country like the UK it is unimaginable that people can go hungry and without a meal, then the present economic state of affairs has busted that. Conversations abound about the rising tidal wave of cost of living and with the real “terror” being the agitated and anxious worry about the present and the future, and especially the future for young people.

Indeed, with soaring food prices, cheap food is a thing of the past (as predicted). One theory is that because of the take off of incomes in Asia more people there can afford meat and other foods. In other words – more people are able to eat and have the means to do so. This in itself may not be the reason for the increase in food prices. The related bit is that the demand for more meat cannot be matched as the grains (that are in abundance) to feed animals are used, especially by the USA, to produce ethanol to provide an alternative and cleaner source of energy for the gas guzzlers in that country. Interestingly, one old school of economic theory is being challenged here: abundance in this case (of grains) does not mean the lowering of prices – in fact it shoots up!

In the meantime, while pundits theorises, who feels it most? It is the poor, wherever they are, who continue to feel the squeeze from our madhouse economics which will most likely take humankind over the final precipice. Poor people can gaze at supermarket shelves and bazaars filled with Columbus’ like trinkets and canned food – they can see these but will never ever be able to touch, feel and taste. My indignation is directed at the causes that make and keep people poor within and between nations – which will also include my own complicity in all this and whether I am willing to live a counter life. We have been desiring more than we need. Our economic system and its agents have ensured that we become hooked on such a habit!

So the poor are still with us – as Jesus is purported to have said according to one of the gospel writers. And their condition, instead of improving is getting worse. The Market and Free Trade, the new abode of the Western God (now being taken over by Asia) is daily praised as the source of plenty and prosperity and in whom lies salvation. As Eduardo Galeano puts it:”Free trade is sold as something new, as if born from a cabbage or the ear of a goat, despite its long history reaching back to the origins of the unjust system that reigns today.”

And, do not give me all that spiritualising nonsense about “Blessed are the poor”, as human flesh continue to be born in the indigestion of hunger, wallowing in it to ultimately die of hunger. Poor people too want to enjoy full life right here on earth. It is time for theologians to take off from their shelves and re-read all those dusty volumes of liberation and revolutionary theologies (no I do not mean the nonsense that passes for contextualised theologies emanating from the armchairs of theologians of all hues). God’s preferential option for the poor should now move from being an option to becoming God’s preference and hard talk.

For the poor are still with us. In fact, they have always been with us – but the lure and grip of inhabiting spaces in the “master’s house” may have intoxicated us and clouded our vision. It is time to get sober, to protest, certainly get angry to act, but wise and cunning to understand the reach of the beast. After all, in economic terms: it is cheaper to eliminate poverty than to maintain it!

© copyright June 6, 2011

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