The power of a hunger strike, or the threat of such, has been an awesome thing in modern politics.
It may not be especially effective or directly influential in delivering the actual wishes of the protagonist(s), but it certainly acts as a major propaganda coup (and recruitment aid) for the given cause and attracts a strong level of media attention and focus on the situation which the striker represents. This in itself can be claimed as a victory, especially if the ‘enemy’ is seen as those who denied the sustenance to the hunger-striker for whatever reason.
The idea of hunger striking has a long history, and has been commonly used in Ireland from at least the 12th century as an effective way of shaming a debtor into complying with or repaying a debt owed to the striker. In modern times, it has been used to score political points and bring attention to specific causes in many varied forms, from Bobby Sands and the Maze hunger strikers, to Kurdish asylum seekers in the UK who have no wish to be deported back to their country of origin, through to Palestinians acting against the perceived injustices of harsh Israeli rule. Animal Rights activists, Anti-Globalisation protestors and many others have considered this tactic legitimate. Even Carlos the Jackal used this form of protest to bring attention to the conditions he was made to endure in prison.
The questions I wish to set in this regard:
[li]How effective a form of protest do you believe hunger striking has been in historical terms? Has the death toll in this capacity been sufficiently high profile, and public, to warrant the loss, in respect to forwarding the represented cause and, perhaps, alleviating future suffering? Or is it seen as completely uneffective?[/li]
[li]How widespread is the practice compared to the amount of coverage certain causes receive? Is this form of protest always a guaranteed headline grabber, or is it generally ignored unless the cause is deemed ‘worthy’ of being mentioned in the headlines regardless? Does this practice happen frequently in other places where we in the West never hear of it?[/li]
[li]To what extent will the threat or act of hunger striking in face of a perceived injustice help or hinder future causes supported by those desperate enough to perform it? Will it still continue to retain its strength to shock and galvanise citizens to focus on the desperate situation that has driven the individual to perform such a self-depreciating feat? Or will it soon be discarded to the dustbin of history as another failed method of attracting attention to a chosen cause?[/li][/ul]