Western Famine


There is one movie that forever changed my soul–took a piece of it away–which I did not think a “movie” could do. I was about 12 years old, and the movie was The Exorcist.

Now there is an photograph that has done the same. On Facebook all I could ‘say’ was: “Oh my God. I feel sick and shivering. I don’t know what to do. What can one DO?”

I have a true friend I have never met in person, whose page I saw this image on today. Her name is Onnie Mary Phute, and she lives in Botswana. Onnie is not one to leave you on the precipice. She replied:

“Celia Ingrid Farber, one person at a time reaches the whole world one day, you can change even with your voice, you have been changing lives so, get a warm blanket and look within, you will see, if you were Gates, it would be for the people by the people. He may have good intentions to help but its the opposite of what he wants to achieve. Humans were never made to be speed boats or rockets, they take time and in that time all get well, vaccines are speed and speed kills.”

Onnie is traveling, for our benefit, through the layers of deception, abuse, and soul journey coiled up in an “HIV diagnosis.” On this–especially on the abject refusal to treat her own feelings as invalid, or to reduce herself to scientific cant or code, but rather, to dare address the humanity of it–Onnie is our Solzhenitsyn.

Her landmark essay “Divorcing The Man In The Bottle,” is the piece I am most proud of having published.

I ask that you read it, perhaps a second time, and consider its message, which I find nothing short of stunning.


Tonight my whole body is ransacked by the image of this child. Two days ago I saw the famous photo–similar– of an emaciated child, bent in what appears to be prayer on the ground, as a vulture waits patiently nearby. It is said that the photographer committed suicide a short while later, after winning a Pulitzer Prize. That photo makes it impossible to escape, despair, and I understand him, or I think I do.


This photo: It appears to me she is a girl, our baby–or was a girl, based on the little rope necklaces she has around her neck. I hope she is in heaven, and that she never feels hunger or pain there, and that God himself has placed her on his lap and apologized for the terrible mistake, and that he is distracting her and making her laugh. Maybe her mother is with her. Maybe her whole family. We have no idea where this picture was taken, or when. On Facebook, a rational sounding man said this image should not be used to advocate against vaccines, that’s not “fair.” That this photo must have been taken in a war-zone. And then there was an argument about that.

I had a different thought. Or feeling.

I felt that I wanted to say this: The child is a victim of famine. No food. No real food.

In the West, we too are victims of famine. We have flesh on our bones, often alot of it; But we are famine-stricken nonetheless, emotionally and spiritually. We are right there next to that skeletal girl, with our heads in the ground. We are starving to death. We can’t make a sound. The person next to us only needs one meal, or one glass of water, or one single act of loving warmth directed their way, but we can’t do it. We can not do it because of the extreme and pervasive damage that has been done to us–slowly, over years and years, exterminating our compassion, first of ourselves, then for every other living thing. If there is a way to not feel any empathy, we will find it. If there is not a way, we will find it. This is how we were stunted in childhood.

We are probably the coldest people who have ever lived.

“We look almost happy out in the sun,” writes Tomas Transtromer,” bleeding to death from wounds we know nothing about.”

When Onnie writes to me, sometimes she tells me about poverty, about not having real food, about dying of poverty. And I have not (until tonight) written her back and said: “Onnie, we are too. We are poverty-stricken. Starving. Can I tell you about it?”

She would absolutely listen to me.

Because where Onnie is, there is not the kind of famine that says you can’t hear or empathize with another fellow human being. That kind of poverty has not hit Botswana, or not hit Onnie. And I don’t actually know what Onnie’s poverty is composed of, what its root system is, or what MY poverty is composed of, or what its root system is, but I want so much to discuss this with her.

Why is it that Onnie always has a piece of her spirit and soul to give to me, when she “doesn’t even know me,” and when I stand with my heart almost literally in my hands, like a creature from the road?

Why does Onnie have time and spirit to spare? Why does she make me feel warmer? Why can’t we do that for one another here? Why? Why are we starving?

In families, in marriages, in everything, it has seeped in, spread its spores, this black fungus of indifference.

“I don’t love you. I don’t know why.”

It’s Western famine.

Invisible and deadly.

You’re disconnected, you’re condemned for having feelings in the first place. Nobody wants to hear it. America: The game is to experience nothing, love nobody, and to be proud of it.

Tonight I kiss all three cats on their warm noses and say, “I love you,” out loud, and feed them, a bit too much. I lie down on the floor next to one of them, the famous Jack Mackerel, and place my hand next to his paw, to feel the warmth. I’m pretty sure HE loves me, if nothing else because a) I rescued him from the street and b) we have a silent pact that I shall never castrate him, no matter how much the cat eugenicists bear down on me with their horror stories about how many cats are running around New York in alley ways.

One day I intend to move us all to a peaceful valley where Jack (the only one who has was not “fixed” before i ever met him) can father a small tribe of mini-Jacks. I need to see life beget life and more life. Just a natural order of things.

I am on the floor, with the cats, watching their faces, appreciating their presence more than I can say.

Jacques Brel has put it all into a song, that solves war, famine, and pain. It’s called:

If We Only Had Love (Quand On A Que L’Amour,) and I think it is the most complete and masterful song ever written.


Onnie speaks a language not all can hear. Even writing about somebody very far away who has actual compassion, which is impossible to describe, is difficult and forbidden. But I do wish you would ask me what I mean. Well, let me begin by saying that Onnie never induces emotional famine by those tiny crests, dips, shadows, veiled cruelties, sarcastic salts, short irritations, clipped words, or outright barbarisms that have come to characterize Western communications, even between “old friends.” They should sell protective gear against the way people talk to one another here. It’s as if there has not been love in the soil for 300 years or more.

And I ask myself: Am I exactly the same? Do I induce this feeling if despair in you, friend, whoever you are? Do I make you feel this quiet despair, make you swallow your words and emotions, but especially emotions? Swallowing emotions causes obesity and famine. Am I somebody you would feed, with your actual feelings, or am I the same kind of zombie I repudiate here? I am afraid of the answer but I would face it, hear it, if somebody would just talk to me.

Onnie, I am talking to you. What’s Botswana like, tonight? Tell me about the trees. Tell me what somebody said. I have been to Africa, east, west, central, north, south…and I don’t think I ever heard sarcasm. People speak entirely differently, and it doesn’t cause hunger.

I am getting weaker, by way of obesity, by way of emotional strength that permits everything and responds finally, to nothing. Why does Onnie know how to make me feel loved and valued?

I will never know. I write to her on this night. Onnie? Tell me a story.

4 thoughts on “Western Famine”

  1. I love Onnie and reading bout how she struggles yet how she has triumphed over the obstacles and is not as celia puts in our modern day Solzhenitsyn.
    I love both of these women
    I have a long way to go yet on my journey as an ex victim of ARV’s and the hiv genocide scam but Onnie’s example and lead teach me many things particularly concerning soul spirit truth and courage

  2. Celia, I hear you clearer than you can ever imagine, oceans are what makes us closer. I want to give you a great secret, in it you will forever find joy, peace and purpose of living, and you shall never get tired or worn out, you shall never feel lonely, hated, sad, hopeless and even worthless, you will never see inadequacy where you know for a fact you gave your all and your best humanly possible effort.

    This secret is the one that lies within me. When I first met you on my blog, I also saw this picture http://www.hoax-slayer.com/images/pulitzer1994-kevin-carter.jpg . It touched me deep down. I had the same feeling the other day when I saw this picture. It told me your emotions and the depth of your soul. Later, I learnt the photographer was emotionally butchered until he took his life, for communicating. This picture was one of the realities that happened every day, in my opinion, he knew he would chase the bird before it hurt the child, but what he wanted to show the world leaders and everyone was that children become prey for vultures when they are left to waste away. All people who tell the truth are butchered either in body or soul, I commend his photograph. None stopped to thing is his heart was pounding, tears falling from trying to capture a reality that was happening in that village. We cannot even see an elder or anyone around. He is my eyes is a Hero driven to the grave for being honest. When I saw this, I felt a sharp pain at the same time a link to the person who I was meeting for the first time. I had to care for my own son in this condition, I think it was Kwashiorkor that my son had. Today, he is so in addicted to drinking tea using sugar. I cry deep felt invisible tears knowing that it was my lack that introduced him to sugar in water for a survival when he was a baby. This segment of my life is as good as scrapping off the scare of an old wound that kept oozing puss through all the years. It was a when I was a house maid, homeless with dry breasts from epileptic medication. I had an attack 2 two weeks after his delivery. When a baby has no milk or food, water and the wrong nourishment, this condition is inevitable. I took him to the hospital, straight away they put him on drips, God only lets what he has destined to happen, He was dead. 6 month in hospital, in isolation, his stomach was getting bigger and bigger. I began putting him in a tub, using Vaseline and an organic soap to make in pass more stools by putting it in his bum, he began getting better, I began injecting with my secret syringe apple juice via the tube for medicine. Did is know what I was doing. No chance I did not. Was it risky and deadly yes, he could be drowned or shocked. Two weeks of doing this, he began getting better, started eating soft potatoes and butternut with mince. While all this was happening, I was seeing a social worker in 1993, pestering me to have the child tested for HIV. I REFUSED CONSENT, I never regret that because if I had tested him then, I would have lost myself in grief and distress and shifted focus on getting him nourished. When I got tested in 2001 for HIV and it turned out Positive who you think was the first person I wanted to test more than anything. Him, my son. When he was growing because of Kwashiorkor, he kept getting wounds as he was also living with a grandparent who had no clean water and a lot of mosquito’s and under nourishing. The first time I went with a friend her name is Kesego Basha (google her name) who is HIV +. She went with me, I was purely weak, body mind and soul much of it because I felt guilty for refusing to test my son years before. He was tested and HIV negative, again I tested him and he still was neg. I then quit testing him and was happy I had refused to do the test in 1994. Now Celia you did not know how the bond for you and me started, this was a strong foundation to bond on though in silence it was the most treasured memory I had. I don’t know if I have ever spoken about this before today. So if it were not for this photographer and his photo maybe we would not have bonded that strong. It was purposeful to have the photo.
    Kevin Carter Pulitzer Prize Photograph (R.I.P)
    We all have fingers in this world, until we are in the situation our selves we must cease to judge and blame, rather we must ask questions, listen to the answered and ask ourselves, how I would have reacted if it were me with that child? I think some of us could have dropped food towards the child to bring the vulture closer, even worse put food on the Child’s body to get a photograph of the vulture pecking the child. So I say with a wrinkled frown to stop judging other now, today, at this moment. You in the same situation you are judging will act worse than what you are judging other for.
    Kevin Carter is better off leaving the scenery as is and show the world the reality of United Nation Food Programs (UNFP) and World Health Organization (WHO), Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) just about the whole lot of the UN family’s inefficiency and redundancy in what they say they exist for.
    “There should be less talk; a preaching point is not a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough.” ― Mother Teresa

    There is over billions of people who feel and look like these children, some because the people who feel too fool in the stomach have started a war in that country or suctioned that country, or have condemned a leader / President and make its citizens starve, or bomb other countries or slit each other throats in pursuit of power and wealth. Some of the scenes that journalist see, show and talk about are unbearable but if they fix it who will fix what they could not see when those in power rotate on chairs and have large tummies filed with junk food, sleeping in hotels costing this child’s food supply for a year saying they are speaking up for the kids and women yet their actions prove nothing on the ground.

    Photographs portray a message that can be shared, unlike memory, we can draw any conclusion to any picture we see, that is whey we must be fair judges. We must all learn to read and listen to the message and stop killing the messenger with blame and distress.

    “There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things.” ― Mother Teresa

    My secret the one that I mentioned earlier in the beginning of this story is that I give you what I really want myself, that is why I seem to do it so well, it is never possible to give what you your self have. To give you must give want to desire the most and in it will be your greatest gift. Also I do it in a way that I know it will make me feel good when it’s my turn to receive it. I will answer you the way I want answered, I will listen to you the way I wish to be listened to, and if I were close I would hug you the way I want to be hugged. No matter who we have in our lives, there is always that one person who knows how to listen to your breadths echoes and know just what you are saying and how to make you smile. When I visit the sick, I never leave that persons side before I see them smile, and say yes they are healed, it is the only medicine that with interact positively with all the tender care the doctors are giving, and the drugs are giving. It’s a way to say, I have been there I know how it feels to be in your shoes, let me wear them for you for a while, while you rest your soul catch and breadth and get an ounce of healing. Nature is love and love in it is all things which are to be shared.

    “Each of us is merely a small instrument; all of us, after accomplishing our mission, will disappear.” ― Mother Teresa

    Another thing, Celia these words are true.

    “In the West, we too are victims of famine. We have flesh on our bones, often a lot of it; but we are famine-stricken nonetheless, emotionally and spiritually. We are right there next to that skeletal girl, with our heads in the ground. We are starving to death. We can’t make a sound. The person next to us only needs one meal, or one glass of water, or one single act of loving warmth directed their way, but we can’t do it. We cannot do it because of the extreme and pervasive damage that has been done to us–slowly, over years and years, exterminating our compassion, first of ourselves, then for every other living thing. If there is a way to not feel any empathy, we will find it. If there is not a way, we will find it. This is how we were stunted in childhood. We are probably the coldest people who have ever lived. Celia Ingrid Farber http://truthbarrier.com/2012/04/14/3346/

    In part there is great truth and in part there is great potential for change for all of us who read them. Humans can not consistently and forever be this way, they don’t know how it’s not in their DNA to do so, and it means one thing each one reading this must begin to make change, start where you are at with what you have for the people around you. When you see something, it’s seen by you because only you hold the solution to what you saw that is not right. Our governments are systems and the people in there are paid to be the system, let’s govern what we own, our hearts mind and souls. Waiting for governments is saying let there be no change.
    “Sometimes we fight who we are, struggling against ourselves and our natures. But we must learn to accept who we are and appreciate who we become. We must love ourselves for what and who we are, and believe in our talents.” – Harley King

    This photo i saw and shared from https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000068372107 Dawn Lester

  3. You speak the truth about our universal hunger Celia, about the physical hunger of some, and the spiritual hunger of others, and it is absolutely and indisputably true that hungry and malnourished people cannot be healed, no matter what the disease, no matter the potency of the medicine. Speaking honestly about these matters is the first step though, so good on you; maybe someday the energy behind current solutions will diminish enough that the background sounds of truth will be heard. And love to you too–don’t forget it’s all around, the most essential nourishment, and easy to miss.

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