Pandemic is just a fancy word for plague, and ‘food insecurity’ is just a fancy word for famine. Over 10 million people have died in a global plague and tens of millions more have already begun dying in famines. It’s already here.
Today I was getting off the bus and an old lady was begging. Not for money, though I gave her money. She said she was begging for food. Just a few months ago, when things were marginally better, I tried (and failed) to send some money to a friend-of-a-friend in Afghanistan. Because famine had hit them first, when America stole their money (and sanctioned people like me from helping).
Food insecurity, food inflation, supply chain crisis, whatever you want to call it, it’s as deadly as COVID and as contagious too. It’s already nipping at the heels of the UK as more people go to inadequate food banks and America as child poverty increases under Biden.
What is happening is famine, an extreme scarcity of food, but we don’t use the word because it seems archaic or scary. But we should be afraid, and we should look at history too.
The Colonial Famines
What is happening now echoes terribly with Mike Davis’s book on Late Victorian Holocausts, where he said:
“What seemed from a metropolitan perspective the nineteenth century’s final blaze of imperial glory was, from an Asian or African viewpoint, only the hideous light of a giant funeral pyre.”
His thesis is that these famines did not just happen (though the environmental circumstances did). He says that it was the brutal ‘marketization’ of food the colonialism brought, plus its destruction of village to national support networks, and colonial debt that killed tens of millions. As Davis said, ‘“Millions die” was ultimately a policy choice: to accomplish such decimations required (in Brecht’s sardonic phrase) “a brilliant way of organising famine.”’
What we have today, in the final blaze of American imperial glory, is another funeral pyre, piled again with the bodies of the ‘third world’.