As George Michael vividly shows in his 1990 song "Praying for Time", "These are the days of the hungry man", with 25 000 thousand daily dying of hunger and 852 million living without adequate food (WFP 2006) - more than the combined populations of the USA, Canada, the EU. While we sit at our tables and splurge on chicken by "Mac" and "Kentucky"; pork ribs and rind; garden and crunchy slaw salads; baked, mashed and fried potatoes, and more, thousands of people in Calcutta are eating lentil stew for their unique daily meal. While our children drink twenty ounces of soda and juice everyday, countless children in Bangladesh would give - and sometimes do give - an arm and a leg for a mouthful of clean water. While we have the luxury of dieting, vegetarianism, anorexia and bulimia, hundreds of people in Darfour only have aid rations spooned out under refugee tents or dropped from whirring helicopters. While we can pick, choose and refuse from the confusion of cow's milk, goat's milk, soy milk and rice milk, undernourished mothers in Ethiopia weep in despair over drooping desiccated breasts that have not even an ounce of human milk for their famished babies.
It is impossible to wrap one's mind around the 518 billion dollars of US military expenditure in 2005 (Wikipedia 2006): money that could provide food aid to the entire population of hungry, malnourished and undernourished peoples for five hundred years! When we sit and eat our "dollar meals", we don't stop to think that around the world, 1.2 billion people have to survive on only the cost of that meal per day (BOL 2006). Our mindless lavish spending - 400 dollars for an iPod to listen to hours of music, or for a PSP2 to play hours of games - we are oblivious to the fact that the cost of those now-simple pleasures could provide much needed food, employment and medication to four families for a month. Instead, as George Michael bemoans, "The rich declare themselves poor/ and most of us are not sure/ if we have too much, but we'll take our chances/ 'cause God stopped keeping score."
Except in the rare music video or news telecast, we no longer are confronted with pictures of pot-bellied children in the shanty towns of Jakarta or Bogot with sore-ravished oversize heads and squall on their mouths who squat by slum drains drinking fly- and disease-infested water just meters downstream from where dead animals lay, women wash dirty clothes, and men dump pails of urine and feces. We cannot imagine the trauma of the 800 million undernourished people eking out an existence in India, China, Africa, Asia, Latin America (WFP 2006), buffeted on all sides: poverty on the right, natural disasters on the left, AIDS, dysentery, typhoid from the front, and ethnic, civil and religious wars from behind.
We sometimes purge our consciences with token telethons and all-star songs. Yet for the most part we sit in our comfortable bubbles, isolated and insulated from the suffering multitudes outside our windows and inside our television sets. As George Michael points out, "These are the days of the empty hand/ Oh you hold on to what you can/ And charity is a coat you wear twice a year". Every day we pass hungry people with outstretched palm on the sidewalk as we zing by in our rose-tinted Benzes and Escalades. 'Superstars'