Sep 22

In Search of Balance

Balance, metaphysically speaking, denotes a desirable point between one or more opposing forces.   And with respect to food consumption and nutrition, I’d certainly like to know where this point is, and maybe go have a look to see what we’re shooting for, if we’re even shooting for it.  It seems like, wherever I am in the world, today….. there is the absence of balance.

It was shocking to me to read in the Guatemala’s Prensa Libre today about Unicef’s urgent plea to take immediate action to remedy the situation that exists with Guatemalan children.  According to their claims, one out of every two children in Guatemalan suffers from chronic malnutrition and this year, through the end of June, there are over 11,083 documented cases of moderate and severe malnutrition.  These are cases that have been brought to public health centers and have required some kind of treatment.  Of these, 3909 have been designated severe.  A severe case is when a child is losing weight rapidly and in danger of dying within one week!  Yeah, I’d say that that’s severe all right.

Ok, before we go on, let’s have a quick look at a couple of sentences from James Howard Kunstler’s blog this week, describing the scene at a late summer country fair, probably in upstate New York.  “Our county fair put me in mind of that American classic, Moby Dick, this year. So many white whales among the try-pots bubbling with rendered blubber, where crews of savages from all corners of the world toiled to bring forth batter-dipped Mars bars, Pop Tarts, corn dogs, funnel cakes, and other rarities of the deep fryer… and then the whales ventured a little further down the midway where they mounted the engines of swirling cosmic death, and were flung about in the centrifugal pods of fate on the ingenious mechanical arms of innovation, until their sickened souls gave forth with a mighty spewage of corn byproducts that rained down upon the moiling innocents below….”

One thing that I know well after living in Guatemala for 15 years is that the Guatemalan people love their children.  I can’t imagine them wanting to knowingly starve their children, but their children are starving in probably more than half the cases.  I talked to a researcher from New York a couple of weeks back and she was telling me about a long study that documented the diminished performance with regards to education, understanding simple concepts, and earnings of people that did not receive proper micro-nutrients in their diet during the first few years of their lives.  Unicef also has found this to be true.  I have dealt with a lot of these people here over the years.  You could say that they just don’t get it, or they’re goofy, or they’re stupid, but the probability is that they just didn’t get the right stuff when they were infants.

So here we have the starving children, and in upstate New York, we have the whales on a Tilt-a-Whirl blowing partially digested maize derivatives, which were ingested for purely pleasurable purposes, out of their spouts.  I calculated that that Unicef’s ideal daily diet for the 6 month old and older, which includes 7 or so tablespoons of cooked beans, one egg, a few tortillas, some veggie protein tortas, a few tablespoons of rice, and half a cup of cooked carrots would cost less than a dollar a day and would probably produce a major rebellion amongst the red, white, and blue joystick generation kids.  No meat and no sweets and no junk food.  And we’re not talking 1960’s dollars here, but today’s almost $40 to park the internal combustion machine at Cowboy’s stadium for a few hours dollars.

The funny thing is, this lack of micro-nutrients in infancy, while affecting the mental functions of the adults here, does not seem to affect the amount or the intensity of physical work they can produce in a day.  I have been intimately involved in hand dug, hand carried, and hand built houses here, and the abilities of men to produce work consistently, day after day, defined according to the old foot pound formula, is nothing short of amazing.  I have always maintained that you could not maintain a slave in the United States for what you pay a worker here.  Coffee, sugar, and bananas, Guatemala’s main exports, are all highly labor intensive products.  I guess that works out for Starbucks and the rest of them.  Keep ‘em all stupid and working hard….so what if they can’t give their kids micro-nutrients, that works out well for the whales.

Gertrude Stein claimed that “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”  But is a carrot  still a carrot or an eggplant  still an eggplant after decades of dumping chemical fertilizers and insecticides and who knows what else on our soils?  Good question.  We, of the first world, of the Tilt-a-Whirl, are not exactly displaying intelligent behavior ourselves.  We supposedly got the micro-nutrients, the quality higher education, but are, as a culture, looking pretty goofy and stupid, and don’t seem to be getting it either.  At least these guys here have an excuse.

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