(Article changed on March 29, 2013 at 12:20)Crossposted from Axis of Logic
Jean Ziegler, Geneva book fair 2011 by Wikipedia
Activist Jean Ziegler "I am so radical, because I know the victims"
Every five seconds a child dies of hunger -- that leaves Jean Ziegler no rest. He calls banks and corporations "mass murderers". And he hopes for a revolt from below.
Mr. Ziegler, you describe death from starvation as very "painful". Where did you see this for the first time?
In Ethiopia, in an underground hospital of the Eritrean liberation movement. In this cave bunker I saw children dying of hunger. It's much, much worse than we can imagine. For it is not as if with the lack of food, a person's life energy easily leaves him. No, when his reserves are used up, there are infections of the respiratory tract, then bloody diarrhea, then the immune system breaks down, then the muscles give in - it is very painful to watch.
This wasting away you've seen thousands of times over the years. How can you cope?
I had to fight vigorously against identifying with the victims. One immediately sees one's own children and grandchildren. You must prevent that, otherwise you cannot do the kind of work I do. That sounds cynical, but I had to learn it. Even if it never works entirely. There is always the feeling of anger, powerlessness.
Does this pursue you even in your dreams?
Absolutely. At night I see children stretching their hands toward me, see them leaning over my bed, as I want to say something but can not. The facts are so horrible. Every five seconds a child under ten dies from hunger, 57 000 people every day, a billion are severely malnourished, and this is happening on a planet that is overflowing with wealth and that could actually feed twelve billion people.
You like to exaggerate.
No. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, has proved this to be very plausible. Marx believed that "objective lack" would condemn mankind to continue to fight for scarce goods. That was a mistake. Productive forces have increased enormously. Today the problem is not production, but people's access to corn, vegetables, rice ... Many do not have the money.
What was the worst thing that you had to experience as a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food?
The moments when I had betrayed the people -- that really pained me.
Betrayed? You, Mr. Ziegler?
Yes, about the beginning of 2005 in Guatemala. There, 1.5 percent of the ten million people have together with groups like Del Monte Banana Multinational 65 percent of the land. Most of the original inhabitants have to earn their living from rocky corn fields on the mountain slopes. Last year 92 000 children died of hunger. And then we arrived with our whole entourage of blue-white UN vehicles, recorded the expulsion of the people, the fact that they had received no compensation, all the misery. Suddenly, I saw hope in their eyes: a white man who is listening to us and who will help us! It was horrible.
Had you then promised concrete help?
I had handed out business cards that they should show in case of arrest. What nonsense. They pressed the cards like a talisman against their chests. At the time I already knew what would happen when I brought my recommendation to the UN General Assembly, which would be land reform, the redistribution of land.
What the people have been demanding there for a hundred years.
My suggestion was of course shot down by Western governments because of their diplomats who act as agents of the agribusiness. And I already knew that in Guatemala.
"Every child who dies of hunger is murdered." You blame yourself?
Yes, I was the one whom these peasants trusted. And I could not meet their expectations. I have achieved one thing: now at least, thanks to funds from the World Bank created with a correct mapping of Guatemala, there is the precondition for the creation of a land register. If at some point the balance of power changes, land reform will at least be feasible.
Your accusation is often quoted: "Every child who dies of hunger is murdered." Who are the killers?