Monday, March 27, 2006

Is This Meant to Make Me Sympathetic?

Dr. Guillermo Fariñas Hernandez, a Cuban, is at day fifty-seven in a hunger strike. His goal: To gain unfettered access to the Internet for all Cubans. The Cuban government, like the equally reprehensible regime in China, restricts their citizens' access to the worldwide web, fearful as Havana is of the free interchange of ideas.

Hernandez's cause is certainly a noble one. But frankly, I think that his tactic is ill-advised. People who deliberately starve themselves to death in hunger strikes have never impressed me.

Though the stakes are much higher when one refuses to eat, such strikes are, to me, the moral equivalent of a five year old holding his breath until he gets his way.

Were it not for the fact that, barring a medical intervention, hunger strikers would die, I've always been tempted to say that the appropriate response to this ploy is the same one parents should give to petulant children when they refuse to breathe: Ignore them.

From a Biblical perspective, it should be said, our bodies are precious gifts from God. Starving one's self is an act of contempt toward one's creator.

But the value of the gift of our bodies is compounded for Christians. Paul asks in First Corinthians 6:19: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?"

I confess that I don't take adequate care of my body. I should exercise more. I should eat less and eat more healthfully. But there is no cause so great as to incite me to deliberately abuse God's gift by starving myself to death. God will never call someone to commit suicide, irrespective of how noble their cause.

So, while some seem to be rallying around Dr. Hernandez, I can only lament what I consider to be an unwise course of action and pray that he will finally have a bite to eat.

(For more, see here, here, here, and here.)

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice has linked to this post. Thank you, Joe!

4 comments:

Spencer said...

This method of protest, along with certain other theatrical/dangerous expressions of social discontent have always interested me. Right or wrong,I've found myself becoming increasingly interested in the geneology of a behavior or expression over it's purported truth/righteousness content. I've been looking into this phenomenon for years now, ever since I was absolutely rattled by the famous photo of Thic Qang Duc setting himself on fire to protest Chinese treatment of the Tibetans.
This mode of protest, and other similar manifestations, in my opinion, are desparate attempts at self-validation. I think there's alot of truth in your temper-tantrum example. Also, you have to consider that this might reflect a bubbling over of the Death Wish. This person, by tying his courtship of self-destruction to a social cause, is attempting to alleviate and mask the guilt that is inherent in such an act, and even ennoble it by association. It's a dangerous game, and it suggests to me a truly unstable character.
Thanks for an interesting post.

Apesnake said...

"the moral equivalent of a five year old holding his breath until he gets his way."

An interesting way of describing someone who is giving his life to draw attention to the totalitarian regime that is Cuba.

"Paul asks in First Corinthians 6:19: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?"

So Jesus not taking advantage of the many opportunity he had to avoid execution was kind of ungrateful too, right? It is interesting to me how so many left-wing Christians in western democracies have consistently failed to stand up for Cubans. You expect this sort of thing from the left in general but it seems particularly hypocritical from Christians who ask questions like "Can you be ethical without believing in God?"

Here is a man standing up for his rights and the rights of his people; the same rights you use to compare him to a cranky five year old, against a totalitarian psychopath and all he gets is ignored by his western colleagues and derided by the people like you. Well, to many of us he is an inspiration and you are decidedly not.

Mark Daniels said...

Apesnake:
First of all, thanks for dropping by and for taking the time to share your perspective. I had anticipated hearing from a lot more people expressing the views you do in your comments.

Let me tell you why I disagree with what you say.

(1) It's one thing to stand up for right and just causes. Undoubtedly the cause that Dr. Hernandez ostensibly promotes is a just one.

But I do consider hunger strikes an invalid way of promoting a cause. Frankly, they seem a bit self-aggrandizing and narcissistic to me, as is often true of suicide.

(2) The Jesus analogy is totally wrong. Jesus accepted His death. He did not seek it. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed to the Father that the cup of His passion might pass from His lips. He was no masochist. But He submitted to the Father's will.

Hunger strikers, by contrast, are the active agents of their own destruction. They aren't the victims of others' sin or criminality, no matter how evil the system they oppose may be.

There is a difference between a willingness to die for a cause--and the cause of freedom in Cuba is among the greatest in our world today--and deliberately taking one's own life.

I don't know anything about Dr. Hernandez. But I don't think that he helps his cause one iota by committing suicide.

Mark

Mark Daniels said...

Spencer:
I found your comments interesting. I agree with the first sentence of your second paragraph:

"This mode of protest, and other similar manifestations, in my opinion, are desparate attempts at self-validation."

Therein lies the problem, irrespective of the justice of the cause supposedly being promoted.

Mark