A Smoke to Lamentations


“The catastrophe has already arrived. We’re now in a simple fight to save lives – it is a fight against the clock that the international community is currently losing.”

– Ciaran Donnelly, SVP of international programs at the IRC


Hunger, in all of its various manifestations, retains an incredible utility for building and destroying. Aside the biological advantages and disadvantages of controlled intake, it plays an incredible role in the history of political protests. Professor Sharman Apt Russell writes that the use of hunger strikes “has become an established cultural form of seeking justice in the 20th Century,” noting that its life needs the “oxygen of publicity” and the capacity to withstand public scrutiny.

Among the most famous and most successful involved the Irish republicans set against the policies of the British government. Prior to 1981, hundreds of young Irish republican prisoners engaged in “so-called blanket protests . . . living first of all nearly naked in almost bare cells and then – for about three years – with walls covered by their own excreta.”

In 1981, the death of Bobby Sands (see documentary) drew thousands to the casket procession after his hunger strike had attained a level of notoriety due to, inter alia, prison conditions being denounced by Catholic Archbishop Tomás Ó Fiaich and Sands’ ascent to a seat on the House of Commons. The Priest testified that what he saw was a place where “[o]ne would hardly allow an animal to remain . . . [t]he stench and filth in some of the cells, with the remains of rotten food and human excreta scattered around the walls, was almost unbearable.”

Whatever the efficacy and utility hunger strikes provide, they are nothing short of powerful symbols for the human act of political theatre in traversing death’s wire.

However, hunger itself, outside the political theatre, finds no shortage of victims. This oxygen of publicity driving the success of hunger strikes also plays a role in suffocating the lives in places that public opinion has largely ignored.

Currently on the global stage, we are witnessing a widespread famine in several parts of Africa and the Middle East that the world must respond to collectively. According to the United Nations, “the world faces the largest humanitarian crises since . . . 1945 with more than 20 million people in four countries [Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria] at risk of starvation and famine.” Stephen O’Brien of the UN Security Council has called for the immediate injection of funds into the problematic regions to the tune of $4.4 billion by July. Without this money, whatever gains were made and whatever optimism was stolen by people living in these regions will be revered and the “livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost” for those in attendance.

With President Trump’s escalation of bombing in Yemen, the situation is dire for the 12 million awaiting aid while sleeping at the corners of their doors so as to prevent the breaching Death. Recent reports have indicated that this new administration, despite preaching isolationism, has become hawkish in its intervention in Yemen. This means more dead bodies, including children of innocent parents who are no less valuable then you and I.

With the spread of cholera in South Sudan and the deleterious effects of civil war, the situation, according to AP is “worse than it has ever been.” According to O’Brien:

“More than one million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished across the country, including 270,000 children who face the imminent risk of death should they not be reached in time with assistance . . . [m]eanwhile, the cholera outbreak that began in June 2016 has spread to more locations.”

Al Jazeera writes that “evidence of the devastating conflict is everywhere: in the burned walls of schools and clinics, in the ruins of razed homes and public buildings, and in the desolation of the once-thriving market.” People have been reduced to “gathering wild plants” and “water lilies for food.”

Similarly in Somalia, more than half the population (some 6.2 million) needs assistance and protection with $2.9 at risk of famine and death. These numbers include close to one million children facing “acute malnourishment” under the age of five. O’Brien notes:

“What I saw and heard during my visit to Somalia was distressing – women and children walk for weeks in search of food and water. They have lost their livestock, water sources have dried up and they have nothing left to survive on.”

Finally, in northeast Nigeria, the virus know as Boko Haram coupled with a growing affected population facing malnourishment has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced some 2.6 million.

All of this is a byproduct of man, the so-called evolved species that finds only new ways to obfuscate the realities of our fallen nature. There was a time that we can rely on our hallowed celebrities to raise awareness. Instead today, their preoccupation with domestic virtue signaling takes precedent and in doing so they stifle the flow of oxygen to these more important issues. Something like the 1971 benefit concert for Bangladesh seems a remote flicker of a time when human life preceded politics. Something like the 1960s when musicians truly had something to say about the cultural revolutions now being exploited as some sort of foreshadowing for dim flicker sequels—in reality, nothing more than veiled political campaigns paid for by political opposition parties in anticipation of the next election season. Meanwhile, our government subsidizes the slaughter of men, women, and children—explicitly or through non-intervention while waging war on the First Amendment.

The answer for Christians is simple.

By now the hour was already late. So the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is already late. Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But Jesus told them, “You give to them something to eat.”

Donate here.



Famine in East Africa: Multiple Crises Strain Efforts to Respond, NBC News (March 11, 2017), http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/famine-east-africa-multiple-crises-strain-efforts-respond-n731766

UN says world faces largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, Associated Press (March 10, 2017), http://www.startribune.com/un-says-world-faces-largest-humanitarian-crisis-since-1945/415913724/

Un Aid Chief: 20 Million People in 4 Countries Face Starvation, Famine, Voice of America (March 10, 2017), http://www.voanews.com/a/twenty-million-people-four-countries-face-starvation-famine-un-aid-chief-says/3760816.html

“Man-Made” Famine Leaves Millions Facing Starvation in Africa, Daily Signal (March 9, 2017), http://dailysignal.com/2017/03/09/man-made-famine-leaves-millions-facing-starvation-in-africa/

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