Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

07 May, 2010

Selflessness Is the Hardest Part

Another follow-up to my post on poverty and hunger in Madison.

A commenter named Jenna said at that time:

I would say that part of the reason why Pollan, Food, Inc. and the entire movement takes front and center is because when people get involved and have that inevitable moment of thinking "but what can I do?" there are small incremental steps they can take to feel they are making a difference. Whereas, when the issue of poverty comes up in the news cycle and you ask yourself "what can I do?" the answer is a lot less clear for the everyday joe.

Fair enough. But I think that feeling of helplessness can only be an excuse to a limited extent. Listen to this episode of Here On Earth, a radio show from Wisconsin Public Radio. The topic was hunger in Wisconsin. Helen Hazelmare, the Food Pantry Coordinator at the Goodman Community Center says at 32:26:

It's something that no one wants to really address. I mean that's like homelessness. And also, where's the profit? Unfortunately you have to give of yourself without asking for anything back. And that's the tough part - is you have to be able to give and understand it's simply the right thing to do. So, these are things that people don't want to deal with - they want them to be away. And now that they're here in their backyard, it's a tough time for a lot of people who have no choice but to deal with it.

Madison is full of smart people. You can't tell me that it doesn't occur to them at some point to donate food to a local pantry or to hop on the Internet to learn what they can do to deal with hunger and poverty in our community. More and more Madisonians want these issues to just go away. Going back to my original post, there's just something disconcerting for me about going to a place like Madison Sourdough (where I've bought coffee and noticed on a return visit that rye bread now abounds) and seeing people with Apple laptops ($1,500-$2,000) enjoying a $7 almond butter & jelly or $8 grilled cheese while down the street a school serves too many students a discounted or free lunch that generally consists of crap like chicken nuggets.

Put yourself behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance and ask yourself if that rings of justice or fairness. Do these concepts even have a place in the conversation or can it all be written off as a result of circumstances red in tooth and claw?

|| Palmer, 4:30 PM

4 Comments:

Skip, this is a great follow-up post. I probably shouldn't tell you this but for lunch I made my own annoying sandwich (Madison Sourdough, Pamplemousse apricot preserves, and Futters Almond Haze) and reckon it cost about $2 - a dang sight more than Shur Fine on Wonder, but the $5 I saved on table-rent at a cafe can go somewhere more progressive than my belly, that's for sure.
Blogger nichole, at 4:36 PM  
Thanks. And that sandwich sounds tasty. A certain member of my household who shall remain nameless makes me be organic peanut butter made from Valencia peanuts. I bought a jar of it this weekend but I also donated some food to food bank.
Blogger Palmer, at 7:09 PM  
Thank you for getting it. Respect.
Anonymous Helen Hazelmare, at 11:31 AM  
You're welcome and thank you for all the work you do.

Take care
Blogger Palmer, at 12:43 PM  

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