Icy normality

By Henning Köhler, February 2012

Every ten seconds, a child under ten dies from malnourishment. Three million children die of hunger before their fifth birthday each year. Ninety percent of these deaths do not occur from acute famine but from chronic hunger which could be prevented.

Hunger is the most frequent cause of death worldwide and it has to be said beyond any ideology that global financial capitalism and its political henchmen contribute decisively to this. The radical globalisation of the markets is “nothing more than a process through which the rich and powerful enjoy the fruits of prosperity at the cost of the poor and powerless”. Those are not the words of Attac but they come from an article published by two World Economic Forum (WEF) staff in the International Herald Tribune in 2001.

The fact that 15 percent of the world population live in severe poverty is not only accepted by the global players but strategically exploited. “Hunger is not accidental. Hunger is designed,” the Nigerian environmentalist Nimmo Bassey writes. “There is no objective shortage,” Jean Ziegler, vice president of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council, emphasises. “The daily genocide of hunger occurs in icy normality. A child that dies of hunger has been murdered.”

Globalisation must become “a social issue”, the legal scholar and publicist He­ribert Prantl demands. In his view such a development could be initiated from western Europe – in the spirit of Christianity which, at root, urges us to practice solidarity with the weak in a way that no other spiritual current does. Just anger, born from compassion, is the order of the day, according to Prantl. “Angry questions initiate change.” Prantl knows, of course, that anger does not in itself solve any problems of understanding. We face huge problems of understanding! One of them is touched on by the ecological pioneer and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, Edward Goldsmith, when he describes the materialistic understanding of development, progress and growth which predominates in the West as a “catastrophic idea” which accounts for “most of the destruction which confronts us today.”

Europe can only become the initiator of a global culture of mutual help if the greatest possible number of people here refuse to be part of that “catastrophic idea” which, for example, also strongly influences our debates about upbringing and education. The next generation has a right that we should set an example with fundamentally different values, both in our thinking and actions. That is what will determine which kind of globalisation will ultimately prevail: the one governed by greed or the one which is socially and ethically responsible. But as long as our educational institutions are institutionally congealed forms of the kind of thinking which in the final instance divides people into winners and losers, rich and poor, it is to be feared that “old Europe” will not experience any new spring.


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