Guantanamo Hunger Strikes – Peace, Violence, and Food

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….

Music to Spread the Word on Peace Through Food

It’s amazing just how many popular education tools are being created to spread the word about the importance of healthy eating, citizen engagement, and food systems these days.  Here are just a sampling of some of the latest (and oldies but goodies):

Mufaqarah Part 13: Exit

I came to this region of the world not knowing what to expect. I had very little knowledge of the area, rather on purpose. I came with an open mind as much as possible. I came to see.

There is a cartoon character whose name is Handala. The reader never sees his face because he is always watching, looking into the cartoon. He does other things sometimes but mostly he just watches, with his hands behind his back. In Palestine, mostly, I watched and listened to see what was happening.

A painting of Handala, on a wall in Nablus.
A painting of Handala, on a wall in Nablus. Continue reading

Creature Comforts: Feeding Time

Creature Comforts was originally a short film produced by Nick Park and Aardman Animations showcasing animals in the zoo in a documentary-style series of interviews about their living conditions.  The actual interviews were conducted with residents of a senior’s home and a housing estate, offering poignant, unscripted views on life and space, which were then complemented by stop-motion claymation, giving each interviewee an animal persona.

This later spin-off is an episode of the TV series Creature Comforts, in which interviewees discuss their eating habits.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the way we carry out our lives and the thoughts we have about our own behaviours. Enjoy!

If you just can’t get enough, here’s a seasonal Creature Comforts clip Continue reading

The Artichoke

by Pablo Neruda
translation by Jodey Bateman

IMG_8729The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
Unshakeable,
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Uncurled
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
Artichoke
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Burnished
Like a proud
Pomegranate.

IMG_8722

And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
Were
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.IMG_7984

But
Then
Maria
Comes
With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She’s not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Bottle
Of vinegar
Until
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.

IMG_8719

Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Then
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.

Mufaqarah Part 12: Paradise lost

The grain harvest continues in the South Hebron Hills. It meanders along week after week as people take their time, harvesting the grain by hand, grazing fields with sheep and pass around the threshing machine. There is no rain or cold coming soon so there is no hurry. The situation here is in sharp contrast to the Canadian harvest in which a chance bit of rain can cost a farmer a great deal of money and deadly cold of winter is approaching.

The neighbor across the valley is threshing square bales of grain. People in Canada don’t use square bales much anymore, and if they do then it is for hay, not for grain. It seems funny to me that you would make and transport bales of grain rather than threshing the grain immediately, shipping the seed and putting the chaff back in the field or feeding it to an animal nearby. But suppose you wanted to ship the straw somewhere as well? It makes sense to use a square bale. People here don’t seem to grow hay.

On this side of the valley we’ve purchased some wheat to eat. I mentioned earlier, way back in the 6th article of this series, that Mahmoud’s family purchases their wheat instead of growing it. It is purchased as animal feed, presumably because that is the cheapest way. The chopped straw, which is actually added after threshing because animals appreciate some straw in their grain, has to be removed by hand. The grain is submerged in a tub of water and the straw, which tends to float to the top, is taken off. There is a little bit of corn mixed in and I wonder where it comes from since I haven’t seen much corn growing here. After taking the straw out, the grain is dried and inspected by hand to look for rocks and other debris. This intimate and labour intensive process for preparing grain is almost unimaginable in Canada, where grain is planted and harvested by huge machines then purchased by most people with it’s germ and skin removed, pre-ground, preserved and bleached.

Drying the grain
Laying the grain out to dry. Continue reading