Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stupid Equivocating

The headline reads "Some Americans Lack Food, but USDA Won't Call Them Hungry"

Calling them something other than "hungry" is pretty messed up.

That there are 39 million people in the United States (about as many people who live in California, as a quick reference) who aren't entirely sure where their next meal is coming from is something seriously stupid.

Must everything be political?


Anonymous said...

I feel hungry sometimes, but not because I lack the money to buy food. Should I be included in the count?

The USDA isn't concerned with all hunger, obviously, but with hunger caused by financial constraints and similar systemic failures. Likewise, is "hunger" a subjective feeling of unsatiated desire?

I.e., is it even interesting to say that X% of Americans felt a desire for food last year that went unmet? Isn't that almost all of us? Instead, aren't we really concerned that Y% of Americans were subjected to certain adverse effects (e.g., low birth weights, certain diseases) because of social conditions (e.g., the relationship between wages and food prices)?

Hence, I see three arguments going at each other:

1. Don't use "hunger" because it isn't what is really being examined.

2. Don't use "hunger" because you don't want to awaken the public to the true state of affairs.

3. Do use "hunger" because you want to awaken the public to the true state of affairs.

It seems to me that, of the rationales set forth in your post and in the article, the only one that is not political says not to use the word "hunger." Perhaps when you asked "Must everything be political?" you were being a true realist, assuming that we would all realize that the answer is always and without exception Yes. Then it might follow that the USDA should have realized the primarily political nature of everything, including their report, and elided concerns like Arg. 1 in favor of a political stance (and not just "a" political stance, but your political stance).


Anne said...

Perhaps a clarification is in order, then.

Since the USDA is presenting the results of a survey, questions could be worded in such a way as to leave the term "hungry" in them. Questions could be asked in this sort of way: In the past 12 months have you experienced (alternately: how many times have you experienced) hunger as a result of a missed meal or meals because of lack of money to purchase food?

It could be that the USDA is unconcerned with hunger. I hesitate to accuse the USDA of being concerned with much, including food safety (though they really are Big Agra cheerleaders; The Accidental Hedonist explores these issues at some length.

I personally don't view hunger as a political issue. I view hunger and deprivation as moral issues. I wouldn't think to sully them with the stank of politics.

Thanks for your comments; they were very fascinating, and I learned a new word (elided).