David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, said that billionaires “need to step up now, on a one-time basis,” and donate $6 billion to save 42 million people “who are going to die if we don’t reach them.” He also said, “I’m not asking them to do this every day, every week, every year; we have a one-time crisis, a perfect storm of conflict, climate change, and Covid.” If Mr. Beasley believes that this is a one-time crisis and that six billion dollars will eliminate world hunger, he is probably the only one. Hunger does not exist for the reasons he cites, but because of human selfishness, and no amount of money is large enough to feed the people that the ego starves.
Nor will money satisfy the ego. On the contrary, money only makes the problem worse because it goes into the pockets of the wrong people, who become even greedier, while those who could make good use of it see very little of it. If we believe that we can solve the hunger crisis with money alone, hunger will surely increase and many more will die.
In fact, I believe that our approach of fighting the symptoms rather than the pathogen itself will make things so bad that it would be better for us not to live through those times. There will be abundance, yet acute shortage of the most important staples like bread and water all at the same time. People will be miserable.
You will see entire battalions guarding food while others starve nearby. It will not be done in secret, but in plain sight; you will see it in the news. Those who have will say they feel sorry for the starving, but they will not lift a finger.
The ego will never let us feel satisfied. It will always make us feel empty, however rich we are. Even if we deny all the people in the world the most basic needs and keep them all to ourselves, we will still be unfulfilled.
The only good use we have for our egos is to realize that they are leading us to extinction. They are teaching us that as long as we focus only on ourselves, we will not feel satisfied. Once we learn this, it will drive us to rise above our selfishness.
Another thing that the ego teaches us is that we are dependent on each other. We cannot feel rich unless we compare ourselves to others who are poorer than us. We cannot have what we want unless someone brings it to us. In other words, we cannot live, and we cannot evaluate ourselves without other people around us.
Since we cannot get rid of egoism, as it is our core, we must “teach” it the value of cooperation and consideration. When our egos learn that it is in their best interest to be considerate, they will enable us to enjoy unselfish pleasures and we will stop humiliating other people and destroying our environment, which are currently our only pleasures (whether we admit it to ourselves or not).
We can find joy in connection and consideration only if we give up trying to satisfy our ego. We can come to it by seeing what our egos have done to us and to the world around us, or we can come to it by waiting for disasters to strike us personally. The first way is faster, easier, and safer. I hope we choose it before we experience the disadvantages of egoism first hand.
World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley speaks during an interview with Reuters in Doha, Qatar, August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Alexander Cornwell