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Further Discussion on Poverty – Hunger! – The BeZine, 100,000 Poets for Change

Note: On our (The Bardo Group and Beguine Again, publishers of The BeZine) 2015 Facebook Page for 100,000 Poets for Change, we’ve been discussing poverty, which is our theme for September. I’m sharing some of the conversation there. If you’d like to join us on Facebook, please let us know. All are welcome. For the September 2015 issue of The BeZine, we’ll be exploring poverty and on September 26, we’ll hold our virtual event and we invite reader participation. Instructions will be in our blog that day. Links to everyone’s work will be collected and posted as a Page and also incorporated into a PDF that will be archived at 100,000 Poets (writers, artists, photographers, musicians and friends) for Change; i.e., peace and sustainability.

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Thanks to Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) and Michael Dickel (Fragments of Michael Dickel) for encouraging thought and discussion around poverty and homelessness. How about exploring poverty and hunger, often referred to these days as “food insecurity?” (Better, I think, to call it by its true name.)

One question, for example: How do our consumption patterns contribute to hunger? We first started thinking about and taking action on this (those of us who have been around long enough) with the publication of Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet in 1971 in which she explored the roots of hunger, poverty and environmental crises.

Here is part of an overview of the UN’s 1998 report on inequity in consumption courtesy of Anup Shah of Global Issues http://www.globalissues.org/…/2…/consumption-and-consumerism:
“Today’s consumption is undermining the environmental resource base. It is exacerbating inequalities. And the dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequality-environment nexus are accelerating. If the trends continue without change — not redistributing from high-income to low-income consumers, not shifting from polluting to cleaner goods and production technologies, not promoting goods that empower poor producers, not shifting priority from consumption for conspicuous display to meeting basic needs — today’s problems of consumption and human development will worsen.
… The real issue is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects.
… Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world’s people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures — the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth:
Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%
Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%
Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%
Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%
Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%
Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen.”
Human Development Report 1998 Overview, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — Emphasis Added. Figures quoted use data from 1995

Posted by me last night on The BeZine 100 100TPC 2015 Facebook Public Group Page

Here is some of the discussion that followed. Please add your own thoughts in the comments section below.  

There was a report by Oxfam, a couple of years ago I think, that produced even more extreme statistics regarding the very small percentage of those who own the vast majority of the world’s assets! I shall have to dig it out.”  John Anstie 

“interesting and arresting….but let’s not forget waste….have you ever seen what supermarkets throw away each day? It’s criminal.” Jacqueline Dick

“In a number of urban areas, groups collect “waste” from groceries and even restaurants to distribute to those in need. It should be done more widely. And, for the environment, what is beyond salvage should be composted, not tossed into landfills or incinerators.Michael Dickel

“I wonder how many of us are vegan or willing to go go vegan because land used to feed and raise meat and poultry can be put to better use – and more environmentally sound use – to sufficiently feed the earth’s population on plants? Lappe first brought this to our attention in ’71 followed by many others including John Robbins and Will Tuttle*. There is sufficient body of study to support this, which along with animal cruelty and human health is driving the trend to plant-based food consumption.” Jamie Dedes

* If people don’t have enough to eat, don’t have clean water, and don’t have employment, their anger will foster hostilities. So, for those who feel disconnected from hunger issues because it’s not in front of them and they have enough to eat, I would submit that in the interest of self-preservation world hunger needs to be faced and addressed compassionately and pragmatically.  I don’t know how many people outside the vegan community are familiar with Will Tuttle’s work.  Dr. Tuttle is professional pianist and composer, he’s an eloquent spokesperson for the vegan imperative.  I strongly recommend his book The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Harmony.

The reference to “Earthlings” in the video is about the movie, which I reviewed in 2011 and which I have scheduled to post here tomorrow.

May all sentient beings find peace.

May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to
the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.
– Metta (amity, good will) Prayer (Buddhist)

Photo credit: Jamie Dedes

THE LIVES OF WOMEN

www-cover… For when I shut myself off the outer tick
I find myself listening to the quickening beat
of this dear planet as if it were my own heart’s clock.”
The Composition Hut, Myra Schneider in What Women Want

In this short collection of nineteen poems  – including the ten-page narratively-driven long-poem, Caroline Norton – Myra Schneider manages to cut through our many-layered lives. Her poems often move from the intimacy of  personal experience to a broader frame of reference. The opening poems are nature-and-spirit driven and bespeak a love of and concern for environment. The second part of the collection fulfills the polemic promise of the title to present hard lives and harder times in a clear and righteous outcry.

Among the opening poems is Losing, written for her publisher. Myra starts with the unimportant lose of socks and moves on to finding what is valuable:

“a sparrowhawk perched on your gate, eyes alert
for prey, words that toadleap from imagination,
from heart – to make sure every day is a finding.”

In two poems she hints at the symmetrical beauty of mathematics, “… the square root of minus one you once grasped, dumbfounded.” A visit to the Garden is bursting with color and movement and triggers speculations …

“but what does it matter? You know too well
how the years have shrunk your future,
that the past is an ever expanding suitcase.”

… and further along in the poem she closes with …

“to your feet, to the bees still milking
flowering raspberries. You free a frog
watch it hop back to its life.”

I was riveted by the story of Paula Schneider in Crossing Point, as Paula (probably Myra’s mother-in-law) crosses with her children from Germany into Holland during World War II. This is included in the second half of Myra’s book, which comes to the business at hand: injustice as it affects women and children.

Interesting that this book came my way when I am standing by two friends whose physical and emotional frailty are much entwined with their relations with fathers and husbands or boyfriends. It’s not that things haven’t been improved since our parents’ days…at least for many of us it has. It’s not that there are no kind and enlightened men. Certainly there are. It’s not because women and society are without culpability, because they are not.

The complexity of the gender and social issues examined are clear in Myra’s long poem, Caroline Norton, about the nineteenth century writer and poet,  social reformer and unwitting feminist. Caroline came to the latter two occupations, not so much by choice as necessity. As the poem folds out, we see that the brutal husband who separated Caroline from her children (with tragic results for them), was abetted and aided by the women in his life, influenced as they were by a social context in which women and children are property with no legal rights of their own. No doubt those women were numb to the implications, threatened by the hint of change, and anxious to bolster the sense of surperiority they got out of putting this woman down.

Myra stands firm in her poetic commitment to continue the fight started with Caroline Norton, since half the world is still under siege and the other half still begs improvements. We read about the child-bride (Woman) and the woman who is stoned (Her Story). One wonders what happens to the children – boys and girls – of such women. The short story here is that: What women want is justice.

For two years, I have enjoyed Myra Schneider’s work and appreciated her commitment to encouraging others to honor their inner artist, through her books on writing, her classes, and her support of Second Light Network (England), an association of women poets over forty. I suspect that her work doesn’t have the audience it deserves. I hope the day comes when that is remedied.

The closing poem in What Women Want:

WOMEN RUNNING
by Myra Schneider, 2013, All rights reserved
posted here with Myra’s permission

after Picasso: Deux femmes courant sur la plage
Look how their large bodies leaping
from dresses fill the beach, how their breasts
swing happiness, how the mediterraneans
of sea and sky fondle their flesh. Nothing

could rein them in. The blown wildnesses
of their dark animal hair, their hands joined
and raised, shout triumph. All their senses
are roused as they hurtle towards tomorrow.

That arm laid across the horizon,
the racing legs, an unstoppable quartet, pull
me from my skin and I become one of them,
believe I’m agile enough to run a mile,

believe I’m young again, believe age
has been stamped out. No wonder, I worship
at the altar of energy, not the energy huge
with hate which revels in tearing apart,

in crushing to dust but the momentum
which carries blood to the brain, these women
across the plage, lovers as they couple,
and tugs at the future till it breaks into bloom.

What Women Want, publisher (Second Light Publications)

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Cover art and poetry, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved