As the credit crunch threatens to bite, there is another time in history when another credit crunch left people literally starving - the Irish potato famine of 1847-51.
Ireland exported wheat to England and was described as the most fertile country in the British Empire. The Irish peasant farmers worked for their English absentee landlords producing grain for export, but with only enough land to grow potatoes for themselves. When potato blight destroyed this vulnerable and overfarmed monoculture crop, between one and two million Irish people died of starvation and the diseases of starvation. Meantime, more than enough food for the entire Irish nation was exported to ensure a wealthy English minority enjoyed a modern Western life style.
Not all landlords continue to demand extortionate rents while their tenants farmers starved. Some paid their workforce to build the Famine Walls; to collect stones from the ground and make them into walls that went nowhere and divided nothing.
Yet throughout the Irish troubles, those Landlords who built the Famine Walls have remained safe behind the walls that seemed to be going nowhere. Even today, the land still belongs to them and their descendants.
This might be a lesson for all large companies wondering what to do about falling company profits. Before they think about redundancies, these companies might do well to remember that the strength of the human tribe lies in its diversity. Everyone, from the most Sensitive to the most Robust is part of the whole. Companies contemplating making their staff redundant would do well to remember John Donne's words from 'No man is an Island'
"Send not to know for whom the Bells tolls - it tolls for thee"
Copyright (c) Dr. Liz Miller