The Slow Violence of Hunger
Within the manifestation of Capitalist theory that we wake up in every morning, being unable to afford food doesn't only make you hungry, it makes you a criminal. Not in the sense of an individual being forced into a life of crime due to limited financial opportunity, though that too. Not having money when you live in a system that is dictated at every turn, every choice, by one's access to capital is contradictory to the system's values. It is outlawed in the law book that underwrites the clumsy bulk of written constitutional "laws". This one articulation of value dominates and supresses all other forms. So if you don't participate, either by choice or by force of external circumstances, your very existence is a cultural crime against the values of a commodified humanity. Humanity sold. Humanity tradable. Humanity expendable.
The slow violence of the opaque liquid line in the little bottle getting lower and lower and knowing as you watch it go that it costs more than you have to replace it. The diminishing nutrient value of the food in your fridge. The slow removal of self from the social milieu that exacts an entrance fee; churches and concert venues alike. The dissolving of bone under the crushing weight of withheld access to basic needs held captive by capital. The blood lines that slow bleed poverty down to their children and their children to their children.
In 2015 the US drew its poverty line at $11 770/yr (R243 279) per person. In 2011 South Africa drew its "upperbound" poverty line (the one that affords food as well as non food items) at R7440/yr per person, a categorization that describes 45.5% of its population.
My personal poverty line, the one which I stretch and stress monthly to meet is the precipice over which i can not cross and still be able to maintain my basic needs. I define my basic needs as healthy food purchased and processed apocappropriately for my son and I, rent for the apartment we share and electricity. This definition does not include cell phone, school fee's and childcare, internet or transit. Additional costs which, if you want to survive in an increasingly technology dependent sprawling urban landscape, are needs fast becoming as near to basic as food and shelter are. My upperbound poverty line is R10 000/ month. So how do my basic needs get met at R10 000/month and 45.5% of the South African population's basic needs get met at R620/month?
Are the South African bodies inhabiting these upperbound poverty statistics better at extracting nutrients from cheap processed foods completely and utterly devoid of nutritional value than mine is? Are their brains better able to develop in vetro without the basic nutritional requirements pregnant women need than mine is? Are their romantic relationships better able to resist the stresses inherent in living in poverty so that their joys are fortified where mine are not?
If you can answer those questions then perhaps you can tell me why Americans' basic needs are met at almost 13.5x the amount of capital required to meet South Africans' basic needs? "FAO Food Price Index blah dee fucking blah" you say? Isn't that just Capitalisma justifying itself in Capitalese? Let us consider that food costs are dictated globally, distributed globally and produced for a globalized market so survival costs are not specific to one nation's capacity to feed itself because that would make some kind of sense. With that kind of sense South Africa, on a per capita basis, would beat Canada's half-covered-in-ice's ass with its year round growing capacity in everything from tropic to Tuscany-esque climate zones. So I ask again; is it because there are so many more mouths to feed in South Africa than in the US making it much more difficult to maintain a higher quality of life for its citizens? That would make sense. But on a list of 241 nations and dependent territories ranked according to their per capita population density (1st place highest, 241st place lowest) South Africa comes in at 169 and the US at 179 so not that much difference in population density either.
Global food prices fall when the US dollar strengthens because that one nation's currency is the benchmark for global commodities. Now, what was that country that had no money left a few years ago and so the world bank gave them a bunch of pretend money to throw in the black hole of their economy? Rigghhht. Sorry for asking so many questions but I do find this particularly confusing; if the US dollar is the benchmark then that means the global poor are afforded fair food prices only when and if the US economy thrives? Did I get that right? Well ain't Imperialism just a wonder to behold!
Of course I am simplifying matters here in order to make a point and of course if I spoke with an economist they would pat me on the head and proceed to succinctly explain in economic terms how this all makes sense. But. If it doesn't make deep sense, sense that explains the slow detritus of entire populations on a globe fit for abundance while holding the perpetrators of the violence accountable for their crimes, then its not about making sense its about making cents and clearly, not all cents are created equal.
A Recipe Ode to Slow Violence
R20 a day keeps the doctor away...and the teacher...and the policeman...and the farmer... and the bank... and the metrorail...
-With the money you have left after paying for transport buy something that will trick your stomach into feeling full (1 apple = 2 packets of NikNaks = 4cigarettes)
-Allow the preservatives and fillers to preserve and fill you, diminishing your capacity for concentration, for immune response, for giving a fuck