WEIBO - Xi'an - sm - © 2022

Sunday Musings: The Power Of Food In Wartime

I tripped over a BBC story this morning about how people locked down in the COVID-quarentined Chinese city of Xi’an have resorted to barter to get enough to eat. The authorities say they’re shipping food into the city and distributing it to the populace. But the people tell a different story…

WEIBO Xi'an - Barter - © 2022 WEIBO comPeople are starving in Xi’an, China: Bartering cigarettes and personal electronics for food…

Bear with me…

Flash back 80 years

My Dad’s forward recce unit – the guys ‘on the point of the sharp end’, as they used to say – liberated Belgium and a few weeks later, Holland (as the Netherlands was still called back then). They were first into most of the towns and cities along the Allied line of advance, often in front of the line. Their standing order was: “Go forward and find the enemy’.

So, it was Dad and his mates in the 12th Manitoba Dragoons who were the first Allied troops most Belgians and Dutch along the North Sea coast encountered. And they saw what the German Occupation had done to the people first-hand.

In both Belgium and Holland, the people were starving. The Jerrys had stripped the countryside of everything edible that wasn’t literally nailed down or hidden under the manure pile, and taken it back with them to Germany on their hasty retreat. Kids under the age of 5 didn’t know what chocolate was. They’d never seen it before. The Dutch were making soup from Tulip Bulbs and grass, and chewing shoe leather to survive. Dad and his tank crewmates gave the starving their field ration packs, and requisitioned lots more. There was no question anywhere along the command chain that the food would be provided.

The boys went hungry at times to make sure the people had something to eat.

Canadians Liberate Holland - © Archives CanadaCanadians greeted by jubilant Dutch after the liberation of Utrecht.

The Dutch people still revere Canada, and the Canadian troops who liberated them, as saviours, sending Canada tens of thousands of Tulip bulbs in commemoration every fall – bulbs which are planted in parks around the national capital, Ottawa, and come into glorious bloom every spring, during our famous Tulip Festival. When Canadians visit the Netherlands, ‘their money is no good’.

That was WAR. What is COVID?

That was all-out world war. Millions upon millions perished both in the line of fire and from starvation, and in a freezing Russian winter. And the casualties were about equally distributed on both sides of the conflict.

I believe it was U.S. President Joe Biden’s point man on the COVID pandemic, Dr. Tony Fauchi, who commented on CNN yesterday, or the day before, that the fight against COVID is also an all-out global war. And millions are dying, just like in the first years of the 1940s.

But this time it’s different. It’s not a shooting war; there are no clear lines of battle, and the ‘fronts’ change from day to day. And it’s a crime that the power politics of world domination – between the U.S., China and Russia – have gotten in the way of making sure further millions don’t starve.

There’s also the question of whether the Chinese central government – or even the provincial administrations in which affected cities are located have the wherewithal, let alone the organizational infrastructure, to stave off starvation in places like Xi’an. Not to mention other, larger cities that are coming under quarantine day by day. So, it’s not just a matter of requisitioning more rations from behind the lines. Politicians are getting in the way of well-meaning folks doing the right thing. Food that is available in China is not getting to the people in quantities that matter. And China is not asking other countries for help. In fact, some countries are withholding voluntary help from China for political and economic reasons.

That BBC story …

I was shocked to read that desperate people in Xi’an were bartering cigarettes and personal electronics for food, just to stay alive. Nobody knows how many are going hungry. Nobody is doing anything to help.

Muse on that…

~ Maggie J.