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White Poverty

2021-07-24
Moore Laurent
It is easy to read history in a well-formed inked paper, lying down on a sofa, carrying a glass of fresh orange juice. Reading could cost you a bit of effort while you are swimming in your imagination so as you may reach an approach that makes you close to the fact of what has happened..
While the hard thing is that your presence in the heart of the historical moment. An extended moment that turns everything you read in lines in your eyes, you witness in your heart and throughout your life, only then you realize what is missed between lines, as a historian repeatedly misses the ordinary because it is ordinary (Exclamation mark).
A completed ten years of war for me in Damascus coincides with the imagined day of what history narrated: Hunger.
The First Panel:
I visit my girl-friend in the pharmacy, downtown.
- “I will make you the last cup of Nescafe of the last ounce we will buy.”
An ounce of Nescafe (100 grams) has become worth a quarter of the salary of an average employee in the state. The relative method is easier for us than following price rates of dollar that increase every single moment.
The first patient enters: Cetamol, the second: Cetamol…….the tenth: Cetamol (exclamation mark).
Why does everyone ask for none, but Cetamol, I ask? She answers me with a painful laughter, “since it is the cheapest medicine.” The patient convinces himself-herself that Cetamol is a cure for disease, even Hypertension, gallbladder pains and gastroenteritis.
The Second Panel:
An elegant woman in Alrawad area (an upscale area) enters to where vegetables are sold, and she chooses the cheapest types of vegetables and asks for a small amount for free. The vendor refuses her attempts to add an additional amount.
-This is called White Poverty, ladies living at the best homes, but there is no income. “We are all for each other,” tells me while suffocating with his hidden tears.
The Third Panel:
My friend eats Nablsia Konafa in front of a store in Arnous. A clean clothed man picks up the leftovers of sweets thrown in the garbage bin in front of the store. My friend buys a hot Konafa plate and hands it out to him:
- How about you eat Konafa with me?
The man politely and proudly refuses and walks away with his bag full of the leftovers.
In the year (one thousand nine hundred and fifteen) a famine struck the Levant land. The number of famine victims reached five hundred thousand according to some estimates. The beginning of the famine was a siege by ‘’allied’’ ships on the ports of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine in order to forbid supplies from entering to Ottoman forces who were loyal to Germans in WWI. It was followed by another siege by thug Jamal Pasha who feared of a collaboration between the Levant people and the allies. The last reasons were locusts, as literature says that they covered the sun circumference.
Today, we are besieged by the same name of "allies", those blockaded the ports and these are besieging our surrounding space. Today the authorities treat us with the same skepticism that Jamal Pasha practiced on the Levant people, preventing what they want to prevent, and permitting corruption to gnaw through the remainder of the food. Today, we are attacked by the locusts of our time, Corona, herding us in one of two roads; to proceed with morsels or starve to death of over-vigilance.
Historical readings and literary traces of the Levant famine a hundred years ago are replete with images of starvation bloated bellies, tales of dead bodies that starved till their last breath by the side of the road, and death throes that the world chose to unhear.
When walking through the streets of Damascus today, one wonders whether history has failed to notice the "normal"? The normal here is that the hungry crowds' yearning for a loaf of bread has not put a stop to the "Diamond Mall" hobbyists’ practices of buying pants hobby for an annual salary of an average employee, nor did it put a stop to importing cashews, cocoa butter and avocados with all the central bank's need for dollars, nor did it interrupt the lifestyle of restaurants and bars frequented today by the war profiteers and the New Money.
If someday you ask the elderly in Damascus about the days of the Seferberlik famine, they would look away and then say:
- “We used to eat dry bulgur in the palm of our hand if we could find any and we used to boil sour orange leaves instead of tea.” Then they would dwell their gazes away with blank eyes.
Today I see those blank eyes as they leave the food store carrying a small bag in exchange for a bag similar in size of Syrian cash.

There are no famines in the modern era. Likewise, logic says; when we munch it inside our intellectual minds. As for the truth on earth, it says that the hidden famine is more horrendous, silently and elegantly affecting everyone. Malnutrition that leads to diseases beyond the patients’ means to buy medicine for themselves. The eyes observing the most flagrant high prices of food items. The pride of those who are dressed in clean outfits that prevents them from begging. This famine may one day be called the “white hunger”. You will starve to death, but not by the roadside rather on your spacious bed, as elegant human development demands.
Famine briskly grows, there is no embellished paper we can read about it from, yet we still behold it and peel our eyes away to believe our books on the floral sofas.
............................................................................................................................................
Notes:
- The article (handwritten) was printed when electricity was supplied.
- Numbers and exclamation marks were written in words between brackets due to a malfunction in the keyboard and there’re no spare parts in Damascus under the current embargo.

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