THE SOLUTION to hunger cannot be found in a book.

I say this, for the times I turn into a “starving writer” (starving because I might have skipped one of my meals and am having trouble getting in touch with my Literary Muse). More seriously now, I say this in behalf of the less fortunate who may want to read books, but would of course prefer to feed their hungry stomachs over their minds.

For few of the quasi-hungry people such as myself who still consider themselves “literate” in one way or another, they would say that they read books to escape reality the way others choose to listen to the radio, watch TV, or engage in vices because they think it would be the cheaper alternatives.

In the essay “Books vs. Cigarettes” by English writer and journalist George Orwell, he mentioned that the buying, or even the reading, of books is an expensive hobby that is beyond the reach of the average person, and is so widespread that it deserves some detailed examination. He added that the costs of books, although inflated cost just as much as smoking and drinking combined.

“It is difficult to establish any relationship between the price of books and the value one gets out of them,” he wrote. “There are books that one reads over and over again, books that become part of the furniture of one’s mind and alter one’s whole attitude to life, books that one dips into but never reads through, books that one reads at a single sitting and forgets a week later: and the cost, in terms of money, may be the same in each case.”

Health Service offers vein screening

As I write this, I get a mental picture of a middle-class man rummaging through book shelves in hopes of finding a good read, and then almost immediately the picture turns into that of a poor man who struggles through a dump site scavenging for food to eat. In many ways, there is a similarity as much as there is a difference.

Book reading is definitely not a pastime for the poor (unless we count in the books worth 35 pesos below).

I have no news about space-age mobile libraries, but as far as a pushcart hero’s concern, not all out-of-school children can benefit from a wagon loaded with education materials if the virtuous goal is to teach kids how to read and write.

Then again, we have technology to hand it to bringing book reading easier to those who don’t have time to drop by the bookstore but would an out-of-school teen spend Internet time reading an actual e-book instead of killing time on Facebook? Definitely not. These are all but jumbled thoughts.

As for some middle-class men who have seem to have developed a distaste for reading books, Carlos Palanca Hall of Famer and lawyer from the University of the Philippines, Nicholas Pichay has had a number of reasons to explain their impartiality.

“First, there are valid distractions or alternatives to reading. Pirated DVDs are cheaper than books in Book Sale. Second, people are lazy. It takes mental effort to read. Third, there are not enough role models for reading. Do parents read? Does your principal or dean exhort reading? Fourth, people don’t know how to read. Check literacy rate. Fifth, Filipinos don’t consider writers as interesting as celebrities. Sixth, reading doesn’t contribute to an income generation. Seventh, there is no substantial book industry in the Philippines. Eighth, the readers don’t know how to write. Ninth, people think that texting, “Tweeting”, and checking Facebook can be considered reading. And 10th, they get by and are happy in life with their simple needs and wants and do not aspire or cannot be bothered with book reading,” he said.

Quick survey of election rules

Desidarius Erasmus, Dutch priest and humanist quoted, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes,” And as much as it has been used as bookstore slogans, I find this practically incorrect. The basic needs for human survival include food, clothing and shelter. Education is not a basic need, but perhaps more like a tool needed in order to acquire these needs.

Surveys showed that there are millions of starving people throughout the world. It is estimated that each year between five and 20 million people die of starvation; many of them are children. In the Philippines, the Fourth Quarter 2011 Social Weather Survey showed that the proportion of families experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in three months was an estimated 4.5 million families.

The world produces enough food to feed the people, but that food is not distributed equally among the rich and poor or across national boundaries. How much can a writer do to feed the hungry (if they are hungry themselves)?

My assumptions are debatable. But if my gut feeling is anywhere near right, some people are too hungry to buy or read books.

Books without a doubt, keep the mind alive. But man cannot live on books alone.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.