Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hunger Through the Lens of the World

Many shocking pictures full of atrocities against mankind and animals filter into our consciousness every day through the media or Internet. I sometimes wonder if many of us become desensitized after awhile, as one is prone to do, when the bombardment of images, however reprehensible they may be, tend to become. Yet, all one needs to do is to take one look – just one single look – at this photo and I wager that even the hardest of hearts would crumble and weep at the mere sight.

I came across this photograph a few days ago while surfing the Internet. This haunting photo of a famine stricken child was the 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning photo that depicted the Sudan famine in all of its rawness and horror. It was taken by freelance photographer Kevin Carter (1961-1994), who dedicated his career to covering ongoing conflict in his native South Africa. This child was struggling to crawl towards an U.N. food camp located a kilometer away. Whether she made it or not, no one ever knew as the photographer left as soon as the photo was taken. The image of the vulture waiting for the child to die against her visible struggle, pain and unbearable weakness electrocuted my senses. I read somewhere that the photographer did not come to her aid. This is unsettling, yet I don't know if the child was alone or with a group walking towards the camp therefore I feel I cannot comment. The only thing I do know is that the photographer committed suicide three months later due to depression. This is not hard to imagine. For me, this photo that I was unfamiliar with, automatically shifted something within me. And I am numb and left to ask once again: How can this be?

Now, I am not unfamiliar with the atrocities made against mankind or the famine that is common in many countries around the world. I do not live in an ignorant bubble nor bury my head in the ground when something unnerving to my senses happens to jolt. But, like many, I believe a part of me had become used to the abundance of images given us daily to waken our sense of compassion, to educate us, and to jolt us into action. Yes, each image leaves a mark and makes us question and douses our hearts with more knowledge and compassion, but none like that initial shock that we first experienced. This picture brought it all back to me to that first time – that first time when I lived naively in a world where I thought looking after your fellow human being reigned; that first time when I was young in age and did not yet fully comprehend the evil that existed in this world; that first time when the hideousness of this world raped my soul leaving it traumatized forever more.

I saw this photo two days ago. Since then, I have not been able to erase the image from my mind during day nor night. It is not because I have seen pictures of starving children before and not been affected by them. No. They've made an impression as well. But this picture with the vulture waiting for its meal, is beyond horrific. This absolutely, positively, rawly and powerfully jolts. And if you were to ask me if I would want to erase this image from my mind, my answer would simply be No. Because this is our world's reality in all of its ugliness and heartlessness. Perhaps I am not smart enough to understand certain things, this being one of them. How is it that in this world that produces enough food to feed its entire planet finds itself in this situation? Yes, politics, I understand. Well, politics be damned. How can people in charge of that nation allow this to happen? I am betting they were all very well fed and quite satiably rotund while the rest of their people withered away in starvation. I can't fathom this folks, never have, never will. I see this photo and want to scream but instead are left speechless and numb. It is a sad fact of life; it is a sad look into the capability of our inhumanity.

And so I am therefore left to question my ability to effect a change realizing that I am a mere speck in something so much bigger than myself. And how can I begin doing that? Well simply by staying aware of the world's problems and not developing a blind spot nor a desensitized heart and by helping in any way I can.

There are a number of sites on the Internet where one can help just by mere clicks. Two sites I often frequent are The Hunger Site whose focus is to eradicate world hunger. Founded in 1999, it is an established leader in online activism. Over 200,000 people visit the site each day and if you click on the yellow “Click Here to Give – It’s Free” button, each click donates 1.1 cups of food to the hungry. You can also shop for clothing, jewelry, gifts, etc., where items bought helps fund food for the hungry. Another site for those who like word games is Free Rice. For every definition of a word given that you answer correctly, a donation of 20 grains of rice is given. Now, 20 grains of rice does not seem like much until you begin to play the game and find that very quickly many bowls of rice have been donated. This is an addictive game that not only serves to support a great need, but also improves one's vocabulary.

And how can we effect a change? Next time you see an infomercial on the struggles and plight of starving children and people or receive a solicitation of help in the mail, do not change the channel nor discard. Instead, make a donation, however small it might be. Next time you go grocery shopping, shop with awareness and try not to overbuy so as not to end up wasting and throwing food away. After years of being one that let much food go to waste because of time restraints or sheer laziness, I stopped this bad habit long ago. For me, this was a choice based on many different issues, not just world hunger - the environment and the amount of animals slaughtered to feed not a hungry nation, but a gluttonous nation, were main factors as well.

But each of us, however small and insignificant we may feel in the face of these overwhelming issues, can effect changes simply by living with awareness and also by informing and educating others on the contributions we can make to those in great need. We are blessed by virtue of geography and economic standing. We can help financially, whether in our own countries or in another part of the world; we can become conscious of food spending; and, we should always remember the blessings afforded us come with responsibility: to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

28 comments:

Tammy said...

I have seen this before and I agree that it jolts you into action. Anything we can do to help no matter how small can make a difference.

Excellent post!
HUGS

Stan Ski said...

Disturbing image; certainly brings home many of the things we should be grateful for, yet still take for granted.

gina said...

That photo is horrifying. How could the photographer just leave after seeing this poor child in agony? I know they are doing their job but, I don't even think I would not be able to take that shot. I would have scooped him up and brought him somewhere or did something, not take a photo and leave.


We live in a country that takes everything for granted. If you look on the streets of New York City you can see all the food wasted every single day. We all waste, Its really sad.

d SINNER!!! said...

phew...finaaly i found ur blog again...my blogroll got erased, compiling it since then...thnx to ur comment i found urs once again...:)

i saw this pic, a frnd passed it to me, its sooo... dunno what to say, couldnt forget it, like u even i posted it on d blog...

we think we have seen it all...:(

White Rose said...

It is so refreshing, reading this post. Someone who still feels, I think a lot of us have become desensitized. And I have battled that feeling of uselessness. But I think the smallest action can make a difference.

Stacey said...

This is so heartbreaking...
So many people take everything for granted in life...food, water, electricity,clothes just to name a few things....
But...like you said if everyone took "just one single look" at this picture of this little child...maybe..hopefully...they would never take these things for granted again.
A very thought provoking post....

(Thank you for your comment on my blog)...

keith hillman said...

I have also seen this picture before and I would like to think that it was infact set up, but I fear it probably wasn't

Anonymous said...

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

Great post. Devasting Photo.

David Mascellani.

Robin said...

What a devastating photo.

I am horrified that the current hunger crisis is not caused by the lack of food in many third world countries, but rather by the increasing inability of the poor to purchase it. How can people starve to death when the shelves are full? How can we let them?

Greyscale Territory said...

Totally agree with you. This pic is beyond horrific. I almost feel ill. I do feel ill. And the tears are still welling in my eyes!

I so hate this kind of injustice in the world!

Gemma

Jonas said...

Oh, Rebecca...you've reduced me to tears.

I wrote this piece, today. You may find it...informative...revolting...

http://tinyurl.com/4wxsdn

"Whosoever shall gaze upon mankind, will surely cry"

Rambler said...

I have seen the picture too before, but I did not know that the photographer committed suicide after this. We get exposed to such horror day after day, and it becomes extremely difficult to kind of have the next meal after seeing this you know.
I am glad people around the world are contributing, and I pray that the contributions really reach the deserving people at proper time.

rebecca said...

Thank you Jonas for writing that piece....it was a timely and informative post. And for those of you who are reading this please take a minute to stop by and visit Jonas's write-up on the financial interest/aspect of this tragedy @ http://tinyurl.com/4wxsdn. It is an excellent and informative read.

paisley said...

i know it is gosh to cut and paste a portion of my own comment from another's blog,, but i feel the information is relevant and timely and i want to share it with you as well rebecca in light of this amazing post,, and the anger and confusion it insights in me... here goes:

i just want to add a point of research here,, are you aware that gores carbon credits trading fiasco is furthering the amount of crops that are inedible that farmers are being paid to plant in lieu of foodstuffs so that they an earn credits and sell them for absorbent dollar amounts in the commodity like carbon trading market so that they can further pollute our atmosphere guilt free??? look into it,, you will be appalled by what you find is really going on in that multi-billion dollar a year trading platform...

i wish some of these non-carbon, footprinting individuals would spend an afternoon reading up on what they are looking down at me for not supporting,,, but i guess the view is just not that good from "up there"......


a very emotionally stirring piece indeed,, and that photo.. OMG....

Selma said...

But for a simple twist of fate that could be my child. The horror of it is just indescribable. How that photographer could not pick up that frail little body and carry her to safety is beyond me. Awww, Rebecca, this image will stay with me forever. I can't bear it but I want to bear it because that's the only way change will be effected. Thank you.

Lance said...

This is a sad and horrific picture - and it says so much. I think we can become desensitized to many of the atrocities of the world just because we've seen so much about them. Images, however gruesome, don't affect us the same way they would if we were seeing it for the first time. All that said, this picture is very powerful, and it is hard to get that picture out of your mind. I find it so sad to see a child have to struggle like that, and as it appears, alone. We are blessed with what we have, and yet there are those whose struggles are so much worse - worse than we can even imagine.

Billy said...

Poignant post, and you're right--even five bucks is better than tossing the mail into the garbage and forgetting about the realities on the other side of the world.

Midsummerprism said...

I am left speechless, but what you wrote here is honestly, and in a very raw manner etched in my heart.

SandyCarlson said...

That is a powerful post. I hadn't seen that image in 1994. Thanks for highlighting it as well as our responsibilities.

Jay said...

I remember this quote by Sir Ian Kershaw.

"The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference."

I guess the road to famine is paved with the same thing.

nuke said...

That picture was horrible. I had to do a double take because I couldnt believe that was an actual child. Who knows why the photographer did what he did and didn't help, maybe he tried but wasn't allowed. No one will ever know.

Seeing things like that puts life in perspective. We all complain about the rise of gas, food and etc., but at the end of the day we have a house to live in and food to eat. Nothing compares to how others are suffering like that. In the end we should all think twice before we complain about something materalistic.

Jennifer Boire said...

thank you for letting me know bout the Hunger site, will add to my blog. that photo is surreal, and yet too much the reality of our world - abundance and waste here,
senseless violence and famine there.
best
jenn aka musemother

HollyGL said...

What a devastating image. I could never have left that child there, whether there were people around or not! Deeply unsettling the fact that these things occur many times a day, but more so that another human could have walked away.

John-Michael said...

Bless you!

Lovingly ...

rebecca said...

Hi Holly,

This image is immensely devastating. And even more so when one reads that the photographer left the child there. Like I wrote, I do not know whether the child was with a group (although I tend to think not), and I'm well aware that photojournalists are supposed to cover the news objectively, but there is a line where humanity should trump all. I would like to think that he left the child there because she had help because, otherwise, I find this act of non-involvement very difficult to understand. All I know is that he got a lot of criticism for walking away.

rebecca said...

John-Michael,

Thank you for coming by and visiting my little corner of the world. You have a wonderful blog and I plan to come visit and read more of your eloquent words this weekend.

And in regards to the picture, it is quite difficult for one to grasp the overwhelming sense of it all. It touches the heart in the most primal way. That we, as human beings, can allow this to happen stuns me into silence and shame.

blessings,
rebecca

CoyoteFe said...

Rebecca - Thanks for sending. I have not seen this photo before. I would have remembered it, because it is horrific - beyond any horror we could manufacture in these United States. You are generous in spirit to not dig too deeply into the actions of the photographer. That was my first reaction, but I cannot imagine a sane person leaving after taking that photo unless ... unless what? I don't know ...

I think Money/power and power/money motivations cause leaders to feast while their people suffer so. But there must be something more (insanity?) that allows them to ignore the wailing pain on their doorstep. As for us, we do become numb, because we are overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. If we see a story on the news about one struggling family, we can band together and help. If we see a dozen, we can launch a food drive. If we see a dozen NATIONS suffering for so long that a child must CRAWL a kilometer for help, we are stunned, depressed and hopeless. How ever can we possibly cope?

But you have the right of it. We band together again and again, reach out, grasp a hand, and look directly in each others eyes.

Day Dreamer said...

YOU WROTE: And if you were to ask me if I would want to erase this image from my mind, my answer would simply be No.

I knew it before I read this.Their soul seering pain belongs to all of us.
I have a child that I sponsor in Nepal. She is only one child. But as Save the Children says, we can save the world one child at at time. It is pitifully not enough, but I refuse to simply look away.