On this blog, we usually explore the power to promote peace through food. The recent situation in Guantanamo Bay, however, illustrates how food can be used as a tool for both nonviolence and violence.
While we can cultivate peace through food, food can also be used as a tool for nonviolent protest as it is by the hunger striking detainees. The refusal of food is one way the detainees can exercise their free will, and in refusing food, they take on suffering which may have the power to humanize themselves in the eyes of their captors. This is the power of nonviolence, and Gandhi used hunger strikes numerous times throughout his life as strategies for nonviolent change.
In this case, food also becomes a torture device, as the detainees’ wish to refuse food – one of the few choices and freedoms they can make in their conditions – is denied, and they are dehumanized and degraded in the process. Food actually becomes a form of violence, as you can read from the above linked article from the Guardian that describes in detail how the detainees are being force fed.
Right now, 100 out of 166 detainees are participating in the hunger strike.
According to a Washington Post article:
The American Medical Association and the International Committee of the Red Cross have said they oppose force-feeding. They cite a declaration by the World Medical Association that states that “where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.”
Obama defended the practice Tuesday, saying, “I don’t want these individuals to die.”
It would seem that are alternatives to force feeding, if the above statement by Obama is true.
The intersections of peace and food continue to abound….
For those in the US, today is a time to come together for a big meal with family and friends and give thanks for the abundance in our lives.
As you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal this year, take a moment to reflect on where your food came from, for the many hands the food passed through, for the bounty that nature provides for us, for the hard work and love that went into the meal.
YES! Magazine has put together a beautiful poster called A World of Thanks, which provides pre-meal sayings from various cultural traditions. Perhaps these prayers and phrases can provide you with some inspiration for today’s meal and throughout the year.
May your Thanksgiving be filled with gratitude, food, love, and peace!
Friday, September 21, was International Day of Peace, a day of nonviolence and cease-fire declared by the United Nations. I was subbing for an ESL class in the afternoon, so I thought I would prepare some peace-related vocabulary and idioms for our lesson.
To start the lesson, I asked the students (an intermediate-level class) what they thought peace means. One said the time after a war, and another said friendship and harmony between people, and also an inner sense of calm. I had printed an online definition of peace – to my surprise, there were 17 total definitions of peace! We reviewed and talked about the definitions, found some new vocabulary words within the definitions (such as antagonistic, anxiety, lucidity) and discussed phrases like “rest in peace.”
Somehow, at some point, we began talking about food. I think it was actually a side tangent – one of the students mentioned that she didn’t like to cook, which then led to the topic of organic food and GMOs. It just so happened that I had also printed an article from Breaking News English that talked about the recent Stanford study that claims that organically grown food is no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. We read and discussed the article, with the students largely disagreeing with the study’s findings.
Class time was up. We didn’t have time to finish the peace definitions. As she was getting up to leave, one student commented, “What a funny class! We started out talking about peace and ended up talking about food!”
I told her about PeaceMeal, saying that this progression of discussion made perfect sense to me. And hopefully it will lead us in a new direction for next week :)
There are only 2 days left until our PeaceMeal online course starts with National Peace Academy!
As part of our countdown challenge, today, we offer you Sovereignty Saturday: What is food sovereignty?
From the Via Campesina web site:
“Via Campesina launched the idea of “Food Sovereignty” at the World Food Summit in 1996. This idea has now grown into a global people’s movement carried by a large diversity of social sectors such as the urban poor, environmental and consumer groups, women associations, fisher-folks, pastoralists and many others. It is also recognized by several institutions and governments.
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It develops a model of small scale sustainable production benefiting communities and their environment. It puts the aspirations, needs and livelihoods of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.
Food sovereignty prioritizes local food production and consumption. It gives a country the right to protect its local producers from cheap imports and to control production. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, water, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those who produce food and not of the corporate sector. Therefore the implementation of genuine agrarian reform is one of the top priorities of the farmer’s movement.
Food sovereignty now appears as one of the most powerful response to the current food, poverty and climate crises.”
We will be looking at food sovereignty and other issues during Week 3 on Political, Institutional and Economic Peace and Food.
What are some ways that you can promote food sovereignty? Put your ideas below in the comments!
We were so busy getting ready for the PeacMeal course which starts on MONDAY that we forgot to send our daily countdown challenge yesterday! However, it’s something you can practice every day, so we’ll just include it today!
Be thankful for your food! It’s simple, but we often forget how lucky we are to be eating. Contemplating the source of your food and all the effort that it took for it to get to your plate can be a powerful practice for cultivating inner peace, and can also help us to make better decisions for ourselves, our communities, and the environment.
Connecting to gratitude, we can appreciate all of the farmers who work hard to get us the food on our plates. What are some ways we can do this? Visit a farmer’s market this weekend – better yet, visit a local farm and meet your farmers! Many farms offer tours and have volunteer opportunities. Try to learn more about your local farms and how you can get fresh, locally grown produce in your area. Keep your farmers in mind today and think of ways that you can connect to them and cultivate peace on many levels.
Just THREE days to go until our PeaceMeal online course begins – please join us!
With our online course with National Peace Academy just one week away, we are offering you a challenge each day to help inspire some PeaceMeals in your life!
Today’s Challenge: Tasty Tuesday
So often we eat with a multitude of distractions, in front of the TV or computer, completely unaware of the food we are eating. Building on yesterday’s theme of Mindful Monday, we encourage you to get even more specific and taste your food!
Take one food item and eat it slowly, savoring each bite. To inspire you, try this raisin meditation guided by Jon Kabat-Zinn. If you don’t like raisins or don’t have one on hand, any small food item will do:
Enjoy, and savor each bite!
Our online course starts in one week! To celebrate our 7-day countdown, we’d like to invite you to take our PeaceMeal Challenge, focusing on one practice everyday to promote peace through food.
Today’s challenge: Mindful Monday!
Eat one meal today in total silence, free of distractions and completely focused on your food. Promote inner peace as you quietly enjoy your meal.
For a primer on mindful eating, check out this recent article from YES! Magazine:
Let us know how it goes!
(and if you’re getting this message too late to participate on Monday, you can always start with Tuesday’s breakfast :)