Thursday, August 14, 2008

If You're Hungry Eat A Rat

image The solution to the global food crises according to an Indian official is to eat rats. It is projected that the consumption of rats would lead to a  reduction in  grain loss, "50 percent of which are lost in the northeastern state of Bihar every year to the animals, said Vijay Prakash, secretary of the state's welfare department."

Call it western privilege, but I for one would never consume a rat.  I find it telling that this is a solution aimed at the poor.  India has a history of discarding people when it is convenient.  The presidency of Indira Ghandi spoke volumes about the degree of care certain castes received.  The latest suggestion that they eat rats, only serves to highlight that India is just as class divided as western states.  Of course if the poor consume the rats more grain will be available for the worthy people.  The fact that rats carry disease and were single handedly responsible for a little thing called the bubonic plague is just a pesky little deterrent. 

As prices continue to rise more and more people are going hungry globally.  In Haiti people are living on fried mud and butter.  We are told to tighten our belts, eat less, or in the case of India consume rodents.  As I think about the well stocked shelves in western supermarkets I must question terming this  crises a "food shortage". It seems to me to be economically based rather than there actually not being enough food to feed people.  We are allowing a social construction (money) to come before people.   Pundits tell us that the world is becoming smaller and more connected - the better to exploit and marginalize the poor bodies of this world.  Globally the proletariat has become feminized and they are more and more viewed as disposable bodies.  Of course it is radical thinking to believe that we should put aside our desire to assign monetary value to basic essential needs like food, shelter, clothing, education and health care.  The bourgeoisie has convinced us that there is nothing that should not be considered a commodity.  It has become natural for us to believe that profit should be the goal of each individual, and this has created a competition to secure subsistence needs.  People no longer work at subsistence and we actually create very little as a society that is essential to our basic needs. 

As I think about the museums dedicated to consumerism (read:malls), I cannot help but wonder how many redundant products do we need that are ultimately destined for landfill?  Most products are designed to break down through normal wear and tear thus forcing us to repurchase the same item repeatedly.  I wonder about the constant changing in fashions to reinforce status and wealth, though the primary function of clothing is to protect the body from the elements.  Consume, consume, from cradle to grave, leave no lasting testimony to the greater good is what we are taught. It is an insidious indoctrination supported by the agents of socialization that often leaves those most in need devalued and forgotten.  But hey, as long as there are rats to eat at least they won't starve.

We will just forget about the countless homes and disgusting riches of the top 1% because they earned that privilege.  We will ignore the fact that capitalism is based on exploiting the most marginalized bodies and pretend that this system is the most natural way of existing.  Change would mean valuing people and social anomie has become normalized therefore communal thought is something to be suppressed rather than lauded.  We should not care that rats are being offered as a solution to poverty and hungry when money is at stake.  So what if you cannot eat money, it is only important that you have more than your neighbour and if a few million people die from starvation so much the better it means more for you. This world is about I and not we and ultimately that will be our undoing.


7 comments:

groovyjoss said...

Probably you have seen this, but here is a really interesting video about our consumerism and how things just get thrown away.
http://storyofstuff.com/

nowickedwitch said...

It is a shame the waste. That I think is what bothers me more than anything. I do not begrudge those who have I came from parents who were comfortable, but we lived rather meagerly my father being a bit of a green hippy type.

The sheer waste in light of what goes on does amazes me. Just one example is a friend of mine went to Costco to get tires. He was waiting around and of course traveled past the trash bin where thy were throwing out a full set of summer chairs with ottoman and a table.
The stuff was a floor samples had some scratches, but sold for around fifteen hundred dollars. The guys were slashing the material with a knife because they were told to do so by the manufacturing company before they threw it out - this stuff they sell to the public was worth so little to those who sell it they destroyed a perfectly functional chairs and table before getting rid of it.

We are certainly being had.

Eating rats is not an option unless they breed them like they do the guinea pig delicacies in Peru. Knowing that rats can transmit
several potentially fatal diseases to humans some of them contagious should make this illegal.

We are an empty society at times and it will be our undoing for sure.

Habladora said...

I've eaten rat! Ok, it was actually a cuy - which, as Nowickedwitch mentions, is a delicacy in Peru and throughout the Andes. I've also eaten squirrel, though.

brotherkomrade said...

I love your blog. Thank you for bringing it home to us using a class perspective.

Falyne said...

Meep! I had pet rats as a kid... I'm probably the only person in NYC who, when seeing one in the subway, goes "awwwwww".

That said, if it came down to it, I'd much rather eat a rat than mud. The rat actually *has* nutritional value. Although, yeah, the decision to eat something unpalatable out of necessity is a LOT different than being told from on high that you should.

And it really is disgusting how much stuff gets thrown out, often to make room for new consumption. I've gotten a decent bit of stuff for my apartment for free from the curbside, so I personally benefit, but... yeah.

And, yes, we're nowhere near any sort of Malthusian limit, nowhere near running out of the capability to feed all of humanity. What we have is a problem of *distribution*, not production. Distribution is prioritized to the powerful, while the rest of humanity gets our*
crumbs. A systemic change is needed, but I don't know where it's going to come from.

*This is meant as a taking-responsibility "our", not an Othering "our". I'm a white technical-degreed middle-class-backgrounded college grad** in NYC; I'm fat and female, but otherwise I've got nearly as much privilege as anyone. And I produce consumer waste out the wazoo as well.

**Last final yesterday, degree not actually conferred until Jan, but point stands.

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