The Inherent Link Between War and Hunger

Aug 11, 2006 | Posted by Scott Hughes, author of Achieve Your Dreams | Post a Comment

by Scott Hughes

Sure, those who want to end world hunger also happen to often want to end war. Sure, sympathetic activists sympathize with both causes – the fight against hunger and the fight for peace. However, the reason war and hunger are linked is not just that these two movements happen to be motivated by similar sympathy. There is also an inherent link that conflates both war and hunger into an irreducibly complex problem. Although in the abstract these two problems – war and hunger – may seem like separate humanitarian issues, in practice they are just opposite sides of the same two-faced monster.

In our world, almost no social issue can be studied without understanding the context of social stratification. Both war and hunger are no exception.

The international community is an unofficial federation of oligarchies – meaning that most (if not all) of the wealth and power is in the hands of a few. Factually speaking, a few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the worlds poorest 2.5 billion people [1]. While the 200 richest people in the world have over $1 trillion [2], half the world – nearly three billion people – live on less than two dollars a day [3]. Financial statistics such as these just scratch the surface, as the value of paper money is just a social construct. The actual issue is the underlying social system that systemically keeps the power and wealth in the hands of the few. Of course, this oligarchy is enforced by the strong arm of the law – i.e. war.

The tiny minority of people who have the power make the choices regarding war. It’s not surprising that the leaders – the rich and powerful few – choose to go to war, because war makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. For example, the oil war in Iraq cost the average U.S. taxpayer over $2,300 dollars [4], but Big Oil keeps announcing record-breaking profits. (Dick Cheneys partner-in-crime, Halliburton, is rolling in dough.) Unfortunately, that creates a mutually causal relationship: The few are given the power to send the people to war through oligarchic social stratification; And, war further stratifies the social classes.

As if the devastation of war wasn’t enough, social stratification also causes poverty & hunger. The world has enough resources to feed, clothe, house, and employ the entire world. The problem isn’t caused by a lack of resources, but rather by social inequality – the powerful few using war to hoard the wealth, so they can plate their bathtubs gold while children die of starvation.

Of course, war makes the poor poorer in many ways. It’s the working-class – who struggle to feed, clothe, and house themselves and their families – that pay for the war, both financially and with their lives. For example, while thousands of United States working-class soldiers have died in Iraq and tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousand) Iraqi civilians died in the Iraqi war, the Bush twins happily swipe their credit-cards in an upscale retail mall.

The victims of war aren’t only abroad. Rather, war makes victims of the taxpayers. Despite the prevalence of hunger, poverty and debt, the leaders have no qualms about taxing (i.e. stealing) the working and lower classes to fund their wars. The U.S. spends $420 billion a year on “defense” [5]; And, that’s NOT including the cost of actual wars, such as the Iraq war which cost well over $300 billion (so far) [6]! (That $300 billion could have fully funded anti-hunger efforts for 12 years!) Thus, when adding in other countries, the world spends well over $1 trillion on “defense” every year. Instead of helping the masses, those taxes are spent to hurt the masses, increase poverty, and increase hunger.

See, the rich leaders don’t care about the working-classes. When these leaders get money (by stealing it from the working-class through taxation), they use it violently, carelessly, and selfishly, which causes harm to the working and lower class. In contrast, when the working-class gets to keep their own money, they spend it in ways that benefit their communities. For example, unlike when rich people steal money through taxation, a working-class person may have opened up a school in a poor neighborhood, or a bank that sells home-loans to local young couples. Working-class people benefit from peace, and thus the hungry benefit from peace. It’s the rich who benefit from war – at the expense of the working classes and lower classes.

As Immortal Technique said, “We act like we share in the spoils of war that they do. We die in wars; we don’t get the contracts to make money off ’em afterwards! We don’t get weapons contracts… We don’t get cheap labor for our companies…We are cheap labor! Turn off the news and read.” [7]

The expenses on the working-class and lower-class people are horrid; from both the bombs that violently blow people into pieces, to the starvation that tortures people to death.

It seems no one is cold-hearted enough to say that hunger isn’t a huge problem. However, it seems some people may think that war is a necessary evil. These people don’t make sense, because hunger and war come together, and both fuel each other. Justice and peace don’t come at the barrel of a gun. And, as long as the people keep letting their leaders waste their money on wars and “defense”, hunger will still plague the earth.

I always say justice and peace in that order, because justice precedes peace. There will never be peace without first justice. Similarly, I always say freedom before justice. There will never be peace so long as children starve.

In the same way that both hunger and war have the same causes, they both have the same solutions. For example, education is a method to lift entire communities out of poverty. Indeed, there is a direct correlation between education and quality of life. In the same respect, wouldn’t education reduce violence and war? If student loans and quality schools were available to all children – regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, nationality, geographical location, sexual preference, and etcetera – can anyone really suggest that war would ensue? Of course not.

Unfortunately as newint.org points out, less than one percent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen [8]. Perhaps, George Carlin was right when he said that the true owners of this world don’t want an educated populace.

There are many activist organizations working under the name Food Not Bombs. Despite the commendable work of these activists, all the leaders of the world give the people is bombs, not food, not education, not solutions. Our leaders do not care because the hunger and war that plague this world do not plague them.

For those of us that do care, we must remember to attack both hunger and war as one large overarching problem. We must take a radical (meaning literally at the root) observation. Henry David Thoreau once said: For every thousand hacking at the branches of evil, only one is hacking at the root.

Let us find the root of this irreducibly complex problem – both hunger and poverty. Radically speaking, let us rid the world of both poverty and violence, of both hunger and war.

About The Author: Scott Hughes owns and operates Millions Of Mouths – a website dedicated to ending hunger. Read more articles like this at the hunger and poverty blog on MillionsOfMouths.com:
http://millionsofmouths.com/blog/nfblog/

Sources:

[1] panos.org.uk

[2] Human Development Report 2000, p. 82 at hdr.undp.org

[3] povertymap.net

[4] nationalpriorities.org , answers.yahoo.com

[5] http://borgenproject.org/Defense_Spending.html

[6] http://costofwar.com/index-world-hunger.html

[7] From the afterword of the song The 4th Branch

[8] http://www.newint.org/issue287/keynote.html

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About Scott Hughes

I am the author of Achieve Your Dreams. I also published the book Holding Fire: Short Stories of Self-Destruction. I have two kids who I love so much. I just want to be a good role model for them. I hope what I do here makes them proud of me. Please let me know you think about the post by leaving a comment below!

2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Zach
    August 11th, 2006 at 2:06 pm #

    Great article.

  2. AMULAI TOURAY
    November 6th, 2006 at 7:52 am #

    I WISH TO CONGRADULATE YOU FOR THE INTERESTING ARTICLE YOU HAVE WRITTEN.
    THE WORLD NEEDS PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO WILL SENSITIZE THE EXTEND AT WHICH PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING BECAUSE OF WAR WHICH IN MOST CASES IS COURSE BY LACK OF FREEDOM AND POVERTY LEVELED ON THE VULNERABLE BY THE RICH AND FAKE LEADERS

    ITS REALLY INTERESTING
    THANKZ MAN FOR THE HARDWORK KNOW THAT ONLY GOD CAN REWARD YOU FOR THIS

Children suffering from Poverty