There is a certain lesson that echoes from childhood about priorities. I shan’t trouble you with a sketchy recollection from the dusty book of Things My Father Said; you might start to think I have a complex about him.
I probably do.
Er … anyway, moving right along, a question of priorities. British commentator Mark Steel, writing for The Independent, notes,
It’s so difficult, apparently, to work out how to solve the food shortages in Africa. Because the price of food has just gone up, the way prices do sometimes, caught by a freak gust of wind or flare from the sun or something and whoosh, up they go, whether it’s oil or an Olympic Games or rice and it’s just bad luck.
Combined with the growing population, it means there’s no simple way of stopping millions of people starving. But fortunately the same laws don’t apply to other essential items, such as arms. That’s why you never get reports saying: “What with the booming population and rising prices, there just aren’t enough weapons to go round.
“The crisis is so deep there are now allies of America without access to a single cluster bomb, and in one region of the Congo warlords have to share one flamethrower between two. Charities have sent out truckloads of Tomahawk missiles to Uzbekistan but the queues of government officials go back across the hills, and the fear is that for some this shipment may have come too late.”
And aid programmes require summits lasting several days, followed by statements about tying aid to trade deals, that begin: “You don’t solve the problem of hunger simply by giving people food.”
So while getting food to the hungry seems impossible, there has been a 37 per cent increase in global arms spending in the past 10 years, which raised last year’s tally to $1,204bn. Those of you who don’t understand economics might wonder why there can’t be an agreement to only spend $1,203bn instead, then wander round Sainsbury’s buying a billion dollars’ worth of food and take it to people who are starving, especially as Sainsbury’s currently have a special offer of a free box of Shredded Wheat if you spend a billion dollars or more.