Recently, a friend posted this on his wall. I was shocked and re-posted it on mine albeit with a disclaimer that I hadn’t checked the statistics to see if this can be substantiated.
Others were shocked too and also wanted to know if this was fact or highly opinionated fiction. The IF campaign is run by about one hundred UK-based charities so you would think it would be legitimate and get its facts right. I decided I needed to check it out.
While I did so, I also read the comments left by those who bothered to respond to the original posting on Facebook.
It made for disturbing reading.
I want to share with you some of the issues raised and the rants that came out that worry me as much – if not more – than the point raised by the post itself.
First, then, the facts. I haven’t spend hours trawling the internet so if anyone can do better than this please send me the links to the relevent websites. Nevertheless, I found some interesting sites:
The Daily Mail agrees with the advert that 13 Billion was paid in bonues in total. (See here) I don’t trust the Mail very much, I have to say, yet it is a major newspaper in the UK and I would be surprised if these figures have been badly skewed – especially considering what the Guardian says (and if you can’t trust the Guardian what can you trust?).
A frightening website I used to ascertain the number of poor and starving which updates its figures in real time is this: Stop the Hunger.com
The figures, if believed, make challenging and disturbing reading:
- more than 900 million undernourished people in the world today (nearly 1 in 7 of the world’s population)
- more than 1.5 billion are overweight with more than 500 million of them being actually obese.
- more than 100,000 tons of food wasted in America alone today while only 21,000 tons of food aid was given.
Of the 900 million undernourished people in the world it is thought around 400 million of them are children. 60% of all the poorest people live in Asia and the Pacific. This gives me a vested interest in this, of course, as almost all the poor live in developing countries and Bangladesh is both Asian and a developing country – we have an awful lot of these people here!
However, I couldn’t find anything to tell me how much it costs to feed the poorest children. The IF site itself gave no references I could find which, unless I’ve made a mistake, is pretty poor show to be honest. But then the poster is unclear what it means about ‘feeding the world’s hungriest children’. How is this defined? Per year? Per month?
I make it about thirteen pounds a head as a rough estimate from 6.5 billion. How long does that last? I would think per month but in Bangladesh it might not last two weeks depending on how you judge ‘feeding’.
So there are problems with the wording and facts behind this campaign. Nevertheless, when you go looking, the statistics that come out make just as grim reading. The poster may not be perfectly worded but it is not lacking in substance and merit.
Which makes me all the more annoyed at some of the comments I saw on the Facebook page. It is often said that the best form of lie is a half-truth and I saw plenty there:
- You are all rich and do nothing to help starving kids so don’t judge others for doing nothing.
- Don’t demonise one group – if Tesco gave 10% of their annual turn-over you’d get the same result.
- If you get rid of the bonuses, you lose all the bankers and the country instantly becomes bankrupt causing far more poor and starving.
- The UK aid budget is more than 6.5 billion already and yet children still starve. It has nothing to do with money – the leaders of other countries just prefer yachts to feeding their people.
- How do you know these bankers don’t give lots to charity? And what about all the sports and film stars? Why pick on bankers?
- Stop giving to charity – it just encourages ‘spongers’. Make them work like everyone else.
That last one is my favourite. Such comments were not from ‘ranters’ but from seemingly articulate and educated people. I’ve heard similar thinking time and again on Facebook but I don’t pick on that particular form of social media. It’s in the streets and around the ‘Developed World’.
The trouble is that all these points have some truth to them but every single one misses the point of the campaign which is simply this:
There are people starving in their hundreds of millions in the world today. Everyone has a responsibility to do something about that. Those with more money, quite honestly, have more responsibility.
This campaign looks at the bankers because their outrageous bonuses (many completely undeserved and, in a very small number of cases, actually given back by some bankers in recognition of this fact) are completely out of proportion to the economic state of the British nation. But ‘picking’ on them doesn’t negate the responsibility of the Tescos of this world or of our own.
The crime of these comments is that far from justifying the bankers (who, let’s face it, don’t really care what others think or they wouldn’t have paid themselves these bonuses in the first place), the thinking behind these comments is really “don’t judge me” which is all too often the attitude of the West. Poverty is somebody else’s problem. Let them sort themselves out.
It’s not bankers that are the problem. It’s selfishness and greed and we all have it. Don’t tell me ‘we’ (collectively) aren’t so because if that were true then, despite equally greedy governments and widespread corruption, there would be no starving children and 14,000 people would not have died of hunger just today.
- World Child Hunger Facts
- Ignore their howls of protest. If bankers leave the country, it would be no loss (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Why is poverty still a problem? (dbphilanthropy.wordpress.com)
- Reckless bankers should pay punitive damages| letters (guardian.co.uk)