Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hunger after the Collapse

For survival needs of any kind you can think of, food is a priority. You don’t last long without food and everyone understands that, but lets go a bit beyond the obvious and lets see how hunger affects people, even when you’re not the unfortunate person that can’t put food on the table.

The basics for Survival

Air is important. You’ll die without it in 3 minutes, but it’s as plentiful as it gets. Exposure kills you quick too, but in today’s overpopulated world, its an odd situation where you find yourself away from urban structures or some sort of shelter. Even during complicated times, a friend or relative may put a roof over your head. You can move back to your parent’s “guest room”, you can count on an uncle, a cousin. Here, families got together to split households expenses, young adults with their families have moved back to their parents. It’s not strange to hear about three, sometimes even four generations living in the same house. Water is important too and while not as plentiful as air, its still abundant and cheap enough. But food…

Why should you stock up Food

Food isn’t as plentiful, nor is it cheap. A friend staying home, he can drink all the water he wants, use a bed or couch, breathe all the air he wants, but food… another mouth to feed has an impact in your budget. Combine high unemployment with inflation, and after a while you have people that just can’t make it to the end of the month. There’s already a fair amount of unemployment in USA. You don’t want to know what its like when a) it doubles b) inflation triples the prices. That’s what happened here.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before a couple times already, but one of the toughest things I’ve witnesses here after the crisis was people eating out of the trash. Its an image most of us have seen before, someone looking like a bum dumpster diving and munching on an old sandwich, but this is different.

Up until then, I had never seen entire families sitting around an opened garbage bag as if it were a dinner table. Husband, wife and a couple little kids, all skinny, wearing well worn but clean clothes, minding their manners and talking softly among them while they eat from the black trash bag. When you see this being done by people that don’t look that different from your own family, man does that change the perspective. Its similar to watching starving children. Its one thing to watch a starving kid half way around the world, speaking a different language, wearing different clothes. You of course feel empathy but you still feel it far away from you, it’s distant. Even if just watching it on TV, if instead that skinny child looks just like the kid that lives across the street, wears a L.A. Lakers tshirt and cries out “I’m hungry!” in perfect English while being interviewed by a reporter, that feels just too damn close. That was what happened here and still happens, we sort of got used to it, and you can see people walk by hungry kids begging for food in the better off downtown district, ignoring them completely as if they were ghosts. You get used to seeing people beg, happens in every big city, but you just know when a skinny little kid is genuinely begging for food because he’s hungry. Can you blame those that hurry past them? Not really. I understand how hard it is to even look at them. “Soul-clenching” describes the feeling well. Even if hungry, you don’t give these kids money. You never know if there’s a grownup nearby working them. What I do if I can is buy them a sandwich and something to drink. In the Capital district there’s enough small stores to feed the office yuppies and cubicle slaves every 10 yards or so, so it just takes a minute. You don’t fix the world, but you do something good for a child that desperately needs it. 

Feeling systematically hungry is described as an awful sensation. The longest I’ve gone without eating was 3 days. Thankfully not because I was lacking anything, I just wanted to know how it felt. I stopped the little experiment because I was feeling dizzy and didn’t trust myself driving anymore. As hungry a it felt, I knowing I had a fridge full of food made all the difference in the world. People that go hungry for real can hardly think of anything else, its in your mind all the time. Diego Maradona is better known for his ability playing soccer but what I remember most about him is something he mentioned once about growing up in a poor family in the Bs. As. suburbs. He said that his mother and father would often lie at dinner time, saying they already ate somewhere else or that they weren’t feeling well. The truth was that they didn’t have enough food for all of them. 

Hunger has not only affected people that have lost it all like the people living in the streets, but also people that used to be poor/lower middle class before the crisis.
We were once having dinner over at a friend’s house, there was some other people invited that I didn’t know. One woman kept complimenting the food, how good it was. When involved in conversation, she seemed to talk mostly about food as well. I’ve read that people involved in disasters or war often talk about the food they’d like to eat, watch pictures of it in magazines and imagine themselves eating it. My grandmother lived though the Spanish civil war. She told me she would stare into the bakery store’s displays from the sidewalk and wish she could eat what she saw. They were farmers but farming alone doesn’t provide the plethora of food some people seem to believe, specially not during hard times such as recessions or like in my grandmother’s case, civil war.

After we ate, the woman timidly asked the house owners if they minded if she took the leftovers. They of course said yes, there’s not much doubt between feeding the leftovers to the dog or giving them to a friend that just asked for them.  When its because of a disaster, natural or man-made, you can at least tell yourself that its not your fault, your dignity is spared. When it’s because of poverty, you have to add to the hunger the humiliation of not being able to provide for your family and yourself, and this may well be the worst part. You can’t provide for them, yet others can. It’s a cruel example of “survival of the fittest” but this is what happens when the economic bar for poor/middle class/rich is set up higher and some people just don’t make it.
While starving to death is extreme and only happens in fewer numbers, going hungry affects millions. Its estimated that 9 million children are hungry in Argentina. For most of them, the school provides the only meal they will eat that day. For dinner they have tea or mate, go to bed feeling hungry urging for the next day’s meal.
Even among the middle class, lots of things have changed. In a nation well known for its beef, few people can routinely buy beef. Fish has always been terribly expensive and its not getting any better since the president owns the fishing business. Chicken used to be fairly cheap but not any more, and pork is slowly getting more and more expensive. Argentines in general eat 19% less meat than last year, mostly due to the 75% increase in price during the same period.
Because of the crisis and the political measures taken by the leftists running the country, a small handful starve to death each day, millions go hungry and even more have had to change their food habits, buying more affordable products, often of less quality. You can see this all day at the supermarkets. What impresses me the most is old people buying bags of bones which used to be sold for dogs, they buy these to make stews, scrap any meat or fat they may have left. 

These are some of the things I’ve noticed. Some are more dramatic than others but there’s no doubt that food is terribly important. My objective here was to put a face to the food issue, why its important and how it may change your life if you don’t take it seriously.
Take care people.



Nolan said...

I know Argentina produces a massive amount of food (or it did last time I checked). Did your grocery stores go through a period right after the collapse where food would rot on their shelves because there are not enough people that can afford it? I assume stores have adjusted how much food they but to resell at this point.

I know that one problem the "poor" area schools have is that very many of the students only eat at the school and that these students are almost impossible to teach because they can think of nothing but food all day. Has the ability of schools in Argentina fallen because of so many hungry children in certain areas or is the school infrastructure inadequate even should the students be attentive and willing?

Anonymous said...

An old friend of mine who emigrated from Hungary following the 1956 Soviet invasion told me they were in their basement while the Russians were using tanks against the people. When the shelling stopped, they went out and saw several dead horses that had been killed in the battle. People had grabbed their kitchen knives and were running out to cut pieces of horse meat they were so hungry.


FerFAL said...

Its been verified that kids in public schools are having problems becuase of this. Lack of attention, distraction, kids falling assleep and even loosing conciousness.


Anonymous said...

although it's fiction, the book
To Kill a Mockingbird, showed how
it was in the USA during Hard Times.
free lunch? how about NO lunch?
here's a summary:
Miss Caroline and Scout get along badly in the afternoon as well. Walter Cunningham, a boy in Scout’s class, has not brought a lunch. Miss Caroline offers him a quarter to buy lunch, telling him that he can pay her back tomorrow. Walter’s family is large and poor—so poor that they pay Atticus with hickory nuts, turnip greens, or other goods when they need legal help—and Walter will never be able to pay the teacher back or bring a lunch to school. When Scout attempts to explain these circumstances, however, Miss Caroline fails to understand and grows so frustrated that she slaps Scout’s hand with a ruler.

Anonymous said...

I once worked with a man who grew up in wartime Hungary in the 40's, and there was NO MILK. He had terrible teeth, (soft as chalk, he said) and was always grumpy from the pain of his latest dentist visit.

The long term consequences of food shortages impact children more than adults.

Anonymous said...

"People had grabbed their kitchen knives and were running out to cut pieces of horse meat they were so hungry."

Horse meat is very good, as good as Beef, so why waste it?

Dustin Tarditi said...

People refer to the Sacred Order and Rule of Threes:

1) Shelter
2) Water
3) Fire
4) Food

3 minutes without air
3 days without water
3 weeks without food

And think that food isn't as important or that you can go a fair amount of time without. This is incorrect - those rules of thumbs are that equates to death. End Game. Your ability to function is impaired very quickly - after 3 days without food, most people in a survival situation have severely hampered cognitive function, often to the point where they fall into dissociation. You can expect to spend 80% of your time in a survival situation procuring and preparing food.
Anyone who thinks they can G.O.O.D. and head for the hills to live off the land needs to reflect carefully on how many fisherman and hunters get skunked day after day.
Food is no joke - survival is a calorie game and, being large creatures with limited ability to process many types of food unprepared, the odds are stacked against us.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've heard that horse meat is tasty but these folks were not gourmets, just starving. If a horse got hit by a car in front of your house today, would you run out with a knife to carve it up?


Maldek said...

Good post FerFal!

"would you run out with a knife to carve it up"?

I wouldnt do it of course...but the people in the village here, my neighbors so to say...they would.

In fact they frequently do this. Not with horses but with cows, cows run here free alongside the roads and get often hit by trucks...they dont lie there for long i can assure you.

South america has quite a few people who can not afford meat despite the fact that the best beef in the world walks around here in great numbers.

Anonymous said...

In the Starving Seventies, I don't remember any parent going hungry so their kids could eat. I saw: My own parents and I presume others, with a few extra pounds while we were very skinny, I mean skin-and-bones skinny. I have an old picture of me in high school, even in a skinny-cut 70's t-shirt, I'm swimming in the thing.

Ted Rall was right: It was not cool to be a kid in the 70s.

Weaseldog said...

This incident occurred not long after I got the idea that the USA was following in Argentina's path...


As to the horse... There's a scene in 'Gone with the Wind' where a soldier shoots his lame horse, and people rush out to butcher it. A gentleman tries to a stop a woman, to spare her the sight, and she shows him a butcher knife and asks if he's going to get between her and the horse.

DaShui said...

I lived with the Chinese Muslim Turk minorities for a while. They probably have a > 50% unemployment rate. I can tell that the younger ones were smaller than the Chinese, due to the differences in living conditions, while the older ones are bigger than the (same age) Chinese. But I don't think any of them are starving. Maybe they have stronger extended family culture that supports each other. The one person that is working buys the food for everyone else.
They thought it was amazing when I told them in America soup kitchens give away free food.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"In the Starving Seventies, I don't remember any parent going hungry so their kids could eat."

Well, I do. It's not an obvious activity.

And, I personally know of people in the 1980's who did the same, or older children not eating so the younger ones could. They were working class people.

Economics is everything.

Anonymous said...

Hunger is one thing but a deficient diet is another. Not getting enough vitamins and minerals, not only weakens the body tremendously but also the mind. Increases chances of catching and dying from diseases such as the common cold. Recovery and healing of minor wounds. Iodine deficiency usually provided by salt, causes the IQ to drop by 20 points.

Anonymous said...

I recall reading of a man that survived the collapse of the Wiemar Republic, and how they traded a handful of nails for a 20-litre drum of cod liver oil, they each drank about 6 ounces of the stuff every day.
Eric in MI

Julia said...

"and the political measures taken by the leftists running the country, a small handful starve to death each day, "

And there you have it. Everywhere leftism (socialism, communism, fascism)) rules, you have hunger and bad times. Why we have leftists in the US is beyond me...