Today, there are instant meals that are produced, packed, stored and sold for working people on the go, while there are some restaurants that offer “Eat-All-You-Can” or “All-You-Can-Eat” to satisfy your cravings, as if there is no tomorrow. In the country where this writer is based, you will find places to eat in every corner of the street. In fact, there are now “Food Hub” or “Food Hive” where you can choose between 8-10 food stalls; it is an alternative venue for family and friends to hang around. All these projects that food is abundant in the world. However, there are places in the world where hunger and starvation continue to happen. Why and how come “death-by-abundance” happens?
Kristine looks at the perennial problem of hunger vis-à-vis our projection of abundance. After presenting the foodscape of hunger-abundance, she attempts to make sense of this contemporary moral problem by a two-pole reading of the scripture. First, she presenst a Jewish reading of daqar in the Book of Lamentations vis-à-vis Tisha B’Av (one of the Jewish Holidays). Second, she engages in a critical reading of Lamentations 4.9. From a dialogue between the concern on hunger-abundance and the scripture employ the two views, this Kristine presents a theological reflection to conclude her paper.
In her presentation regarding “Death-by-Abundance: The Daqar of Hunger in Lamentations 4.9,” Kristine describes how food, the right to food and food security have been great concerns in the past decades. This concern is still a reality for many of us today while food business strives as if there is an abundance in food supply. The painful reality is that there are enough food while people go hungry today. Kristine thus asks, “How can one be gastronomically satisfied yet there are still people whose plate is still empty? How can death by abundance still happen?” She reflects on these questions concerning the moral problem of hunger in connection to Tisha B’Av, a Jewish holiday that commemorates misfortunes that befell Jewish community in connection to Lamentations.
Hunger is a perennial problem. Today, almost eight hundred million people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. In the Philippines alone, there is an increase in malnutrition and chronic hunger. In Manila, many people scavenge, and people call this pagpag. Are we not alarmed that we can afford daily meals while people go hungry? How can we not be disturbed when we consume branded coffee which can by three meals? How come?
Lamentations starts with the question of how we can be disturbed. It is the book that is read during the Tisha B’Av which is usually celebrated in the 9th of Av (July or August). The separation meal that consists of bread, water, and hardboiled egg, alone, on a low stool or on the floor. It recalls the plight of the am ha aretz, the poorest people, the remaining scrap in Judah while the rich people are exiled in Babylon. Not to consider the problem of hunger is tantamount of ignoring the people who have died from it. Can we not ask how did this happen? Or where am I? This questions are in lamentations as ah’ee qah? This communicates that death by abundance cannot be a new normal. Indeed life is unfair but we can do something to bring about equity. If only we are more mindful in terms of how we can contribute.
Ah’ee qah was asked by three prophets: Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah. Where are we in all this? Where is the question of God to Adam – ah’ee qah. Kristine reflects on a twist in the question which implies asking “Where are we in this situation? What are we doing to prevent the incidence of hunger?”
What can we do? Educate people to do backyard/community farming/community supported agriculture. Educate mothers or expectant mothers regarding natal health or care. On the individual level, we must be mindful of our consumption. Plan your meal and do not over prepare. Recycle food. What is our answer to the question ah’ee qah?
A Christian reflection in light of Lamentations provokes an understanding of the experience of hunger as daqar, a piercing, slow death. Indeed, there are enough resources but no one shot solution. The problem of hunger can be addressed collectively and affectively according to some of the ways mentioned earlier. Those left in Judah mourned their pitiful condition while the rest are unmoved in the same way those who are hunger today are left in silence. We must therefore do what we can to stop the piercing daqar. God’s silence provokes us to answer this question: Ayekhah – Where are you?