Hunger talks

Hunger is the topic of one of the news feeds I've constructed at Google News. Every day the alert sends me at least half a dozen stories of people starving themselves as a form of protest. The reasons are varied, and the results often fatal. Hunger strikes have been used as a form of non-violent protest for more than a century (Mohandas Gandhi, IRA prisoners, British suffragettes) and seem, on the most part, to be an effective way to garner attention and inspire action on the part of those protested against.

In the past few weeks people are not only starving, but forcing themselves to starve all over the world. Georgetown students staged a hunger strike for two weeks to fight for a living wage for school employees. The former Haitian prime minister under Aristide is on the brink of death following a protracted hunger strike in jail. More than 1,000 prisoners stage a hunger strike in Morocco and one dies in protest of their incarceration following a terrorist attack in 2003. Seven students in India refuse food and water to protest the expulsion of schoolmates who participated in student riots two years before. In Burma, political prisoners starve themselves to protest "inhumane treatment" on the part of their jailers, and are moved away from family members as punishment.

It goes on. While we fight hunger around the world, we fight with hunger too. The psychology of hunger strikes is powerful: instead of hurting you to get you to do what I want you to do, I will hurt myself instead--in the hopes that your humanity (and complicit responsibility) will not stand to see me perish.


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