The Immense Hunger

Like all living creatures, people need to eat to live.  Some people, eaten from within by a demonic force, try to deny others this basic sustenance.  All across the world people are starving because the powerful and wealthy create economic and political conditions that allow their wealth to be built on the backs of the world’s poor.  It is an old story, constantly updated.  It is one form of official terrorism.

From the Irish famine with its terrible aftermath created by the imperialist British government in the nineteenth century that caused the death of between one and two million Irish and the forced emigration of more than a million more between 1846 and 1851 alone, to today’s savage Israeli genocide and forced starvation of Palestinians in Gaza, the stories of politically motivated famine are legion.

In their wake, as the historian Woodham-Smith wrote in 1962 of the Irish famine, it “left hatred behind. Between Ireland and England the memory of what was done and endured has lain like a sword.”  This Irish bitterness toward the English was strong even in my own Irish-American childhood in the northern Bronx more than a century later.  Ethnic cleansing has a way of leaving a livid legacy of rage toward the perpetrators, especially in the Irish case when talk of of one’s ancestors’ perilous forced emigration on the Coffin Ships was ever broached.

Today’s Israeli government leaders must be historically ignorant or suicidal, for the Irish rage at the British led to the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the eventual establishment of the Republic of Ireland, where today in Dublin, its capital, huge throngs march in support of the Palestinian people and their fight against Israel. Do the Israeli leaders think that they can evade the lessons of history, lessons that oppressed people everywhere learned from the irrepressible Irish rebels?  Like their arrogant British imperialist counterparts, they have self-anointed themselves a chosen people so they can inflict death and suffering on the unchosen ones, the animal people, those disgusting creatures not deserving of life, land, or liberty.

But starve, torture, and slaughter people enough and the flaming sword of revenge will exact a heavy price.  Dark furies will descend.

Dehumanize people enough, take their land, and the day always comes when the wretched of the earth rise up against their racist colonialist settlers.

Deny the bread of life to people long enough so that they watch their emaciated children die in their arms or search for their body parts beneath the bombed rubble and you will find that the terrified have become terrifying.

Frantz Fanon wrote accurately about the link between bread and land: “For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”

Without bread to eat, as Marx and Victor Hugo told us in their different ways, the desperate become desperadoes.

The poet Patrick Kavanaugh, in his haunting long poem, “The Great Hunger,” concluded it thus: “The hungry fiend/Screams the apocalypse of clay/In every corner of this land.”  Lines that with a slight difference pertain to every land where famine is used as a weapon of war.

But why is this so?  What is this demonic force that drives some human animals to oppress others?

I think we can agree that humans have animal needs of hunger, thirst, sex, etc. that need to be satisfied, but that we also are symbolic creatures – angels with anuses as Ernest Becker has said so pungently in his classic book, The Denial of Death.  We live in a world of symbols, not merely matter.  Unlike other animal species, we have made death conscious and must deal with that consciousness one way or another.  We have beliefs, ideas, symbol systems and get our sense of self-worth symbolically.  Of course, the anuses are the problem because they remind us that despite all our highfalutin fantasies of omnipotence of the symbolic sort, what goes in one hole comes out the other and like those backdoor hole deposits we too are destined for underground holes in the earth.

But this is unacceptable.  The thought of it drives many savagely crazy – individuals, groups, and nations.  So, as Becker writes, “An animal who gets his feeling of worth symbolically has to minutely compare himself to those around him, to make sure he doesn’t come off second best.”  Herein lies the root of competition and the desire to be successful and hoist the symbolic trophies that declare us winners.  And if there are winners, there must be losers.  If I win and you lose, then I can feel superior to you and “good about myself,” at least in the realm where we compete.  Equality is a problem for humans, whom Nietzsche termed “the disease called man.”  This sense of competition can be relatively harmless or deadly.

History is replete with the latter type, where the fear of not being immortal leads to the extermination of others, as if to say: “See, we are number one.”  You die but we live.  This is the case with the present Israeli policy of genocide of the Palestinians through famine, bombs, and guns.  The chosen enemy is always considered dirt, pigs, reduced to animal status not worthy to exist, and in a transference of existential trepidation emanating from a deep sense of insecurity masked as triumphalism, must be eliminated because their very existence threatens the oppressors God-like sense of themselves.

There is physical hunger and there is symbolic hunger.  Each needs satisfaction.  In a just and equitable world, the hunger for bread would be easy to satisfy.  It is the symbolic hunger for an answer to death that poses the deeper problem and causes the former.  For in a world where people could recognize their fears and deep-seated anxieties and stop transferring them to others, the bread of truth might reign.  We might stop slaughtering and starving others to purge ourselves of the self-hate and insecurity that drives us to feel the love of our fellow victimizers but the hate of our victims.  No one would be Number One.  All would be chosen and feast as equals at the table of the bread of life.

If only the Israeli and U.S. government leaders were wise enough to read, they might read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and turn from the path of their joint obsession to obliterate the world for a trophy that they will never hoist.  Ishmael might reach them with his words: “For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”  And they might seek peace, not an expansion of war.

If only. . . . but I dream, for they have chosen war, and the dark furies lay in wait.








23 thoughts on “The Immense Hunger”

  1. “…Fears and deep-seated anxieties” are what create the need for power – and wars. But power is an illusion, no one can hold it forever. History comes down to a simple syllogism: every empire has eventually faced the war it was trying to avoid; today, everyone wants to avoid WWIII; therefore, that is the fate that awaits humanity. Paradoxically, the only chance of avoiding that fate is to accept it.

  2. Speaking broadly, as humans we have consciousness and we know it, but often don’t understand what it is. Here are some clues from the best minds of recent times, taken from the field of scientific inquiry:

    “The total number of minds in the Universe is One. In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.” – Erwin Schrödinger

    “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness.” – Max Planck

    Perspectives such as these can relieve the animal pressure that still makes us savagely crazy, but our species is just not there yet. So the beat goes on, along with the dream.

    1. What a good comment, you are right, we as a human species are one really, one universal mind. That’s why I love a song called Pneuma by the rock band Tool which talks about that. I’ve been learning many strange things lately, about life after death, and that every thing is not material like many people think. The majority of people think that they will never die, that there is no soul, no spirit and the only thing that matters is money, owning 2 cars and 1 house. But cars, houses, money is just a tool of life, not the main goal really.

      Here are the lyrics of Pneuma and a short explanation of what the song is about

      Youtube Song Pneuma by Tool:

      We are spirit bound to this flesh
      We go round one foot nailed down
      But bound to reach out and beyond this flesh
      Become Pneuma

      We are will and wonder
      Bound to recall, remember
      We are born of one breath, one word
      We are all one spark, sun becoming

      Child, wake up
      Child, release the light
      Wake up now
      Child, wake up
      Child, release the light
      Wake up now, child
      Bound to this flesh
      This guise, this mask
      This dream

      Wake up remember
      We are born of one breath, one word
      We are all one spark, sun becoming

      Reach out and beyond
      Wake up remember
      We are born of one breath, one word
      We are all one spark, eyes full of wonder

      Pneuma is a Greek word for Breath. It’s been used by many philosophies and religions as a synonym for spirit or soul, the divine element or the light in every one of us. The song seems to be referring to a spiritual theory in which humans are bound to evolve beyond physical form and become beings of pure light – the living Pneuma. It’s telling us that we, as humanity, come from one light and are bound to become one again at some point. Like sparks becoming the sun, we will also unite in something bigger and more powerful. But the song is clearly referring to a child, one of the seven stages of life. Again though, it’s not viewing this stage as vulnerable and useless, “Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms” as Shakespeare put it. Here, Child is a representation of our innocence and potential – the new spark that will one day become one with light.

  3. This is suprisingly eccentric in a world where every opinionist, columnist, expert, and often also thinker, stop themselves and the range of their observation within the confines of materialism.

    You understood today’s Israel better than, well, 98% of your “colleagues”, by which I mean people of culture and intellect who share their views to a readership or viewership.

    ” we too are destined for underground holes in the earth. But this is unacceptable.”

    What makes the whole thing baffling is that that isn’t even true. There evidently is a deathless essence within every living being (“non-human animals” included).
    And like Borges wrote (but also Nietzsche in some way, with “the eternal replay of the same” — I am translating that revelation that came to him in English), that may be the worst of all nightmares: that we are going to forever be, and it’s going to forever be more or less like this one life here.

    1. You are right, that we live for ever. Take a look at what Nietzsche said about how automatically after we die, we will repeat our own same life again, for ever and ever. What a strange theory, the theory of Eternal Return of Nietzsche is:

      “You think you will have a long pause between your death and the moment you are reborn–do not deceive yourselves! Between the last moment of consciousness and the first glimmer of the new life when you are reborn no time goes by at all. It passes as quickly as a flash of lightning, even if living creatures measure it in terms of billions of years and even then fail to measure it adequately. Timelessness and succession go hand-in-hand with one another as soon as the intellect is gone. ” -F. Nietzsche


  4. Hi friends, hi Edward, another great article based on the philosophies of great philosophers like Feuerbarch who said “You are what you eat”, Nietzsche who said that the most important things for the development of the world are the diet, the body and the physiology (And all the other things are secondary in priority. Believe it or not there is even a lot of extreme hunger inside USA. That’s why there are so many social programs of free food in USA like food-stamps, food banks and many other altruistic programs that are necessary in order to prevent the collapse of the whole society. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, the state itself was created by groups of criminals thousands of years ago with the objective of accumulating wealth for themselves, that’s why I have been evolving ideologically from social-democrat, to 100% socialist, to anarchist-socialist, because after all the research i have done (thanks to the internet) i have jumped to the conclusion that all governments are really oligarchic-plutocratic in their nature (even socialist governments with good intentions), and here is a link with an article about the origin of the state and I think that’s why the Israelis citizens along with the Israel government have become so evil because they have risen in living standards and in economic wealth above palestines, this is related to something that the great progressive writer Joe Bageant (that i liked so much) said in that short Youtube video about the middle comfortable classes of USA, he hated middle class people because middle class people in America tend to despise, put down, look down those who belong to the lower classes and hate those in the lower classes (and from a christian moralist point of view that is not good) we should love everybody even enemies (believe it or not Alexander the Great loved many of his enemies (what an irony). I mention the middle classes as an example of how high living standards, and a comfortable life corrupts people, even the bible says that money is the root of all evil. And i really think that one of the main reasons for Israel and the majority of Israeli citizens have become so evil and fascists is their high living standards. I tend to not have social relationships with people of the middle classes, i hate their philosophy of life, their egocentric stuck-up behaviour patterns, their support of capitalism and the way they are in general. I have middle class families and i love them a lot but I don’t like the way they live a very private life totally divorced from reality, news and politics. And not worrying at all that we as a human species are at the edge of a global apocalypse (like an article says i read today on Counterpunch

    PS: Maybe when the middle class of America will become lower class, they will radicalize themselves toward the radical left and support working class organizations such as the great Socialist Equality Party of USA with Joseph Kishore and Jerry White for USA president and vice-presidents, and-or a United Leftist Front of all the leftist political organizations of USA united in a single front.

    Something has to give !!

    Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy are alive !!

  5. And worse are the people who live – closest in proximity – to me who are clueless, cannot see, do not care…, and some of these people are in positions to make decisions for others.

    1. Yeah i don’t understand how can people hate politics and news. When the italian marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci and Bertolth Bretch, Aristotle all those philosophers and many many other philosopher have clearly said that politics touches every aspect of our reality and existance. So if people want a better life they should support a good political party with a good political ideology, suited for their own self interests, and for the society and world as a whole, because if other humans live a bad life we will also live a bad painful life, because all humans are really part of one single family. So even if people want a better body and a better soul, to eat better, to sleep better and save a future with great living standards for their children, they should and must be political activists in order to see in the future a USA and the whole world where all humans live a great life !!


  6. You wrote Ed – (“For in a world where people could recognize their fears and deep-seated anxieties and stop transferring them to others, the bread of truth might reign. We might stop slaughtering and starving others to purge ourselves of the self-hate and insecurity that drives us to feel the love of our fellow victimizers but the hate of our victims. No one would be Number One. All would be chosen and feast as equals at the table of the bread of life.”)

    What a beautiful description of the world that “could be” if we humans could accept “our place” in the circle of life – as visitors, rather than permanent residents, of this little planet. How much in the way of intellectual and material resources are consumed daily by the globalized war machine – resources what could easily feed, cloth and educate the entire world – but instead keep petty dictators in power in every direction.

  7. Huh?! But we are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, THE MOST POWERFUL COUNTRY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD — IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD! (Joe Biden to 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley; Biden a descendant of those lucky enough to flee the Great Hunger)

    1. Well Joe, had you and your sorry ilk cared more for the moral responsibility inherent to great power, as opposed to the low & filthy pursuits that mark your soul, you might not be such a bewildered & blood-stained wretch.

  8. Yet another great piece Ed. Your first paragraph was truly inspired. Thank you for sharing such a poignant message delivered so beautifully.

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