The Hunger Games, Cuba edition

One of the things I like about the “Hunger Games” series of books and movies is that author Suzanne Collins did her homework on the use of enforced starvation as a control mechanism.  Virtually every totalitarian government deliberately starves its people sooner or later, to say nothing of the deprivation that comes from basket-case communist economics.

One such totalitarian government can be found right off our coast, in Cuba, which National Review‘s Robert Zubrin discussed with some liberal friends who had recently visited the communist dungeon state.  Being leftists in good standing, they had some good things to say about Cuba too, but they couldn’t help noticing the enforced starvation control tactics:

According to my Mexican friends, ordinary Cubans are not allowed to eat beef. Instead, what beef there is in Cuba is reserved for the nation’s rulers and for tourists who can pay for it with foreign exchange while staying at the all-inclusive resort hotels. It is in fact illegal to sell beef to a Cuban — not that any of them outside the ruling class would be able to buy much, since the average wage in Cuba is about 50 cents per day, or one-tenth of the minimum legal wage in Mexico. With this pittance, Cubans must subsist on the subsidized rations made available to them by the government. These comprise 5 pounds of rice, 5 pounds of sugar, 1 pound of salt, 10 ounces of beans, 8 ounces of cooking oil, 0.15 ounces of coffee mixed with unknown stuff that isn’t coffee, 6 ounces of very-low-quality fish, and 1 pound of a disgusting product made from unsalable animal parts, per month. No fruits or vegetables are included. 

I repeat: These rations are not free, but must be paid for, with the total bill consuming most of a Cuban’s monthly salary. This leaves almost nothing to spend on additional food, which is available on the black market or in “dollar stores,” where reasonably good food, donated by Western aid agencies, is sold at (non-Cuban) supermarket prices to foreigners or government elites holding dollars or euros.

When Cubans found out my friends were Mexicans, they would frequently beg them for food.

I should add, by the way, that my Mexican informants are not right-wing Cuban émigrés looking to badmouth the Castro regime. On the contrary, they are individuals of generally left-leaning sentiments who voiced nothing but praise for the Cuban school system. Yet they saw what they saw, and they were willing to bear witness.

Zubrin goes on to chronicle how global media and Western liberals either ignore the Cuban Hunger Games, nonsensically blame it on the U.S. embargo… or even fetishize it into a stylish “diet plan,” as if the loving left-wing tyrants fawned over by Hollywood celebrities are just trying to keep their subjects fit and trim, rather than control them through their food allocation:

While denying the existence of Cuba’s mass starvation, many regime apologists don’t hesitate to simultaneously blame it on the United States. This is nonsense. The U.S. trade embargo on Cuba is almost completely ineffective, as many other countries, including the European Union, do not honor it. The goods of the world market are available for Cuba to purchase, but all the foreign exchange is monopolized by the regime, which uses it for its own power and pleasure. This allows the government to enforce starvation wages on the enslaved populace — who have no choice but to work on such terms as the regime dictates, because the rulers ban private enterprise, and the country has no other employer.

Yet even more shocking, perhaps, than the deniers are certain current Western commentators who actually acknowledge the government-organized starvation but praise it. Some say that “the Cuban diet” is a great way to lose weight. Others see it as a key step forward in the fight to save the planet: “[T]hey have created what may be the world’s largest working model of a semi-sustainable agriculture, one that doesn’t rely nearly as heavily as the rest of the world does on oil, on chemicals, on shipping vast quantities of food back and forth,” wrote environmental ideologue Bill McKibben in his 2005 Harper’s article “The Cuban Diet: What you will be eating when the revolution comes”: “?They import some of their food from abroad — a certain amount of rice from Vietnam, even some apples and beef and such from the United States. But mostly they grow their own, and with less ecological disruption than in most places. In recent years, organic farmers have visited the island in increasing numbers and celebrated its accomplishment.”?

Indeed, organic farmers are not the only ones celebrating. In 2006, the international “Living Planet” report of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Global Footprint Network declared: “Cuba is the only nation to achieve sustainable development.”

“Sustainable development?”  Why, our domestic liberals and their beloved aristocracy are always saying we should have that here, too!  And they love the idea of inescapable super-government controlling everything from health care to employment.  What a coincidence!

Normally I’d resist dire “it could happen here” musings, except the people Zubrin mentions do seem pretty enthusiastic about enforced hunger as government policy.  Our titanic food-stamp program, along with agribusiness subsidies and controls, already make the federal government a big player in food distribution, and it’s hard to see any argument in favor of nationalizing health insurance (and coming soon, medicine itself) that could not be repurposed into an argument for tighter central control over groceries.  There have been suggestions from both Left and Right that the government should exert tighter controls over what food stamps are used to purchase, driven by both Nanny State health concerns and infuriating stories of SNAP abuse.  A growing portion of the formerly independent middle class is now dependent on programs like SNAP, and government subsidies to purchase overpriced ObamaCare insurance policies.  Public health is indisputably a government prerogative.  

Is it so difficult to imagine the balance between individual choice and government control tipping decisively in favor of the latter, as a frustrated Ruling Class decides to battle obesity by forcing its plump dependents to eat more modestly?  You’ve already got these loons praising Cuban weaponized hunger as a “diet plan” that can melt off the pounds.  It might take a while before a substantial portion of the American populace could be forced into the “5 pounds of rice plus a pound of disgusting animal product” stage, but it can start with a much more high-minded, nutritionist-approved regime of diet controls… and accelerate later, when the American Left joins its international brethren in discovering just how effectively hunger can be used to suppress dissent.