Monthly Archives: June 2011

Note on fasting as a protest form

On fasts – A spoken word piece

A fast is not a childish tantrum. Childish tantrums are unconsciously selfish. A fast is not an adult tantrum. Adult tantrums are consciously selfish, and thus far worse than the unconscious tantrums of children.

A fast is conscious, and selfless. A fasting protester essentially makes this point – I believe in the justness of my cause far more than I believe in the importance of my own body or life. And it is this enticing hook, this glimpse of a larger vision, and higher possibility that makes supporters gravitate toward the center of this ultimate protest. The center, to borrow a Sufi metaphor, is the divine flame toward which rush the moths, seeking total annihilation and union with the divine.

Conscious and selfless activities usually disturb rule makers. The rule makers would rather have you lie in stupor, surrounded by the pettiness of your personal universe, and its little problems. Were you to peek over this wall and look out into the world, they fear you would see too much, and know much more. And knowing usually leads to doing – at least in the uninitiated. The well initiated know the pragmatic answer – that not acting is the best action to take.

At the center of the fast though, there is no room for pragmatism. At the center is a clarion call against the deepest instinct of self preservation. At the center is the echo of a resounding slap against the measured, risk free baby steps of our lives. No pretenses can hold their end of an argument here, in the face of a body that is consuming itself for a stand.

The journey toward that center is one we must take. In that journey something important may be discovered. That the gnawing “I” that takes up our all our time, doesn’t matter that much.


After note:

There is something very Eastern about fasting too. A culture that believes in the perpetuity of consciousness, regardless of the impermanence of the body clearly makes it possible for one to stake the body in the interest of a cause that could benefit humanity even in one’s absence. Of course the drive to seek justice in any case is a universal phenomenon.

Secondly, critics may argue that fasts are a form of blackmail, and hence must not be supported. However, the true success of a fast lies in the amount of support it garners from the general public. And it is here that we can hope that the moral compass of the ‘crowd’ will make the right choice, and support only just causes.


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