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.
- Food as a tool for nonviolent change: Detainees using hunger strikes to nonviolently protest their indefinite detention at the Guantanamo Bay prison
- Inflicting violence through food: Human rights violations, as the force feeding of inmates on hunger strike is certainly “cruel and unusual punishment” (for more on this subject, read the recent op-ed in the New York Times by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel)
- What other intersections of peace (or violence) and food do you see here?
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….