Living Inside of A Context “It Can Be Done”

“What The Hunger Project intended to do was to catalyze the global grass-roots committed movement and action that would put the end of persistent hunger into place, which means not just feeding hungry people today, but establishing the whole design, the whole infrastructure so that people can feed themselves and their children well into future generations. You see, it was a project of great faith in human beings. Great faith that if hundreds and thousands and millions of individuals took a stand for the end of the persistence of hunger, as an idea whose time has come, that they would then find an action that was appropriate to them. So if they were an engineer or an agricultural specialist, or if they were a politician, or a United Nations delegate, or if they happened to be a scientist or a professor, or the President of the High School Student Body, all of those individuals would have different actions available to them that would have a different impact. The entirety of the impact would be that child in Uganda being fed on a given day, being inoculated so as to survive disease, and being educated – of great importance to end the persistence of hunger – and that ultimately, we the global citizens of the world would be acting for the benefit of our children. And the necessary actions would take place.

So you see it was a stand based on faith and the goodness of humanity, that if human beings knew what they needed to know and lived inside of a context of “it can be done” they would take the actions that were theirs to take that would make that difference.

The Hunger Project enrolled over four million individuals who signed a paper saying “I have taken a stand. I will make the end of hunger an idea whose time has come as my personal responsibility.” The Global grass-roots educational campaign went on from 1977 and through the 80’s. Millions of people enrolled and participated and contributed money and there were many, many groups that broke off from The Hunger Project. “Results” was one that did political action in Washington, DC. Another was “World Runners” where people would do marathons to end world hunger, to get out the news, to alert people that something could be done. In those days, that was really rare, and now you see marathons for everything, which is wonderful. Walks to end breast cancer, and marathons for AIDS awareness, and in those days it was really unusual, it was new. And there was enormous participation through the 80’s and then at the end of the 80’s The Hunger Project made a transformation of its own and began to do very high level strategic work, which it’s currently doing in Africa and India primarily.

I would say in many ways it was successful all the way to the hungry people, in that millions more dollars were given and raised for organizations that were working on the ground doing relief work as well as for The Hunger Project. The Hunger Project raised hundreds of millions of dollars for other organizations as well. Infant Mortality rates fell in many countries. In some countries, due to war since then, they have again risen, The correlation between war and the infant mortality rate is a direct one. War creates the persistence of hunger and starvation. Also, really tens of thousands, if not more, of people, like me, became lifelong advocates for the end of the persistence of hunger and contribute as volunteers, contribute as donors, contribute as professionals to all kinds of organizations and vehicles and policies to help bring about the end of the persistence of hunger.

I think that once one makes a commitment with your heart and soul, I think it takes over your very molecules in a way. It becomes a very part of your personal life’s mission, and then the choices you make will be consistent with that mission. I’ve changed jobs and have participated with projects with many different countries and organizations, all of them consistent with the end of the persistence of hunger, and that will always be the case for me. And I think really for the many thousands of people who made this stand in the 70s and 80s.”

From an Interview with Catherine Parrish on The Hunger Project and Werner Erhard

Nothing is so Powerful as an Idea Whose Time Has Come

Hunger is not something impersonal, something “out there.” It exists in each of us, in all that is incomplete and unfulfilled in our own lives, in all that we have disowned in the world.

Fifteen million dead of starvation each year. Perhaps a billion hungry. The fading, failing cry of a child every moment day and night, undeniable testament to human failure. We try to place that sound on some dusty plot of ground far away – Asia, Africa, South America – anywhere but here and now. We succeed at the cost of some portion of our aliveness, our ability to marvel at the miracle of birth, to hear the hidden depths of love in a son’s or daughter’s voice.

There is land enough, and food to feed all who live on the earth. There is no shortage of practical, well-thought-out ways to end the suffering and dying. But in the refusing to make the condition of starvation our own, we allow it to continue.

We allow it to continue by taking positions that prevent us from acting: the cynicism that alleges starvation to be inevitable, the guilt and shame that go along with powerlessness. We allow it to continue by supporting doctrines that create their own opposition and solutions that produce their own new problems. We take refuge in the belief that relieving the world from hunger is impossible.

The time has come for a different approach. It has come in an age of awakening, when history and technology meet to prepare the way fro transformation. Electronic nerve fibers join once-distant continents. A famine on the Asian steppes affects the destiny of American presidents. The cry of a single hungry child reverberates around the globe at the speed of light. Every day it becomes more difficult to pretend we stand alone and unmoved while millions starve.

The urgent global messages now beating at our conscience offer external evidence of a deeper connectedness: We are in the world. The world is also n us. Each of us is a self, a whole, a context, holding all that was and is and can be. In this light, each of us has the power to create our own universe, our own heaven or hell.

We begin by taking responsibility for the hunger and starvation that exist in the world. And then we take responsibility for the end of hunger and starvation within 20 years.

A simple thing. yet nothing under the sun could be more profound. For when context changes, all that happens within that context takes on a new and different life. Not is this a private, passive matter. True personal responsibility always involves action in the world –

Action that hews to no single doctrine.
Action that does not strive to make itself right and others wrong.
Action that claims no credit for its successes.
Action that is flexible and effective and sure.

We need only open our eyes to see a path of action: contributing time aned money, fasting, influencing public policy, working with organizations, supporting those who are directly involved, offering our own skills and knowledge to starving people. The possibilities are endless. Whatever our own path toward hunger’s end, we move with the power of personal responsibility. Each of us, in our own way, is the end of starvation, each complete and fully responsible. Whether thousands of us or hundreds of thousands or millions, we act as wholes in alignment, not parts of a movement.

But no need to wait for the thousands and the millions. A moment exists for each of us in which context suddenly shifts and what has seemed impossible becomes possible, and instant in and out of time when we take responsibility for the world and what it could be.

In that instant, the end of hunger and starvation begins.

Introduction written by George Leonard to Nothing Is So Powerful As An Idea Whose Time Has Come