Planned, written and edited in a forty minute time limit with the inspiration of the title Famine is something I have never suffered. I was raised in a first world country by middle class parents with modest to above average incomes who assured that there was always food on the table. And food in the fridge, and the freezer, and the pantry. Should any of those be exhausted there was always food at the local shops. Food was, is and likely will always be a certainty in my life. However I decided to challenge this absolute as a naive fifteen year old by participating in the aptly named Forty hour Famine to help raise awareness for poverty and inequality.
The rules of this pseudo-famine were simple; don’t eat any food for forty hours and you will gain an understanding of how those living in poverty stricken nations live every day. Even from the time of writing my name down on the form I had my doubts about the success of the demonstration. The official recommendation was to over-eat prior to starting as to give the participant the best chances of success so they could promote the demonstration to other people my age. The irony of gorging oneself silly prior to this juvenile attempt at political demonstration was laughable.
By any sense, objective or otherwise, this was not a forty hour famine as the famine only really started twelve or thirteen hours after my body had finished digesting the last of the banquet enjoyed earlier. Furthermore, as my proverbial last supper was around midday, I was already tucked up warmly in my expensive bed protected from the elements and unforeseen danger of the outside world by the sturdy walls of my parent’s modest five by three, two story, gated house. A far cry from any semblance of what those going through a real famine might be experiencing.
The main body of the experience was, quite frankly, not overwhelmingly uncomfortable. I remember having some mild nausea from hours 20 through 24, however it was self limiting and in the grand scheme of things, short winded. Upon reflection I attribute most of this sentiment to the fact that I was able to keep myself occupied with things during the countdown to forty. This coupled with the fact that the experience was indeed going to end didn’t really require me to invest much mental fortitude into surviving the experience. Further adding to the brewing sense of fraud I was experiencing.
As the clock finally ticked over to hour forty and my famine had ended, so too did my hope that this demonstration was not going to be in vain. I was certainly hungry, but the forewarned absolute discomfort of a completely void gut was never experienced by me at any point in time. What good had any of this experience done if the rules stipulated that I didn’t really need to truly place myself into the life of someone who is trapped by the vice-grip of poverty. Not only had I earned an official certificate authenticating my now worldly, personal understanding of the dynamics of poverty and famine, in addition to a well earned pat on the back, I was also issued a growing feeling of hopelessness for those who suffer with famine and poverty everyday.
And so maybe that was the whole point of the experience. To show that even when we take away something so important as food from our secure first world lives, things go on. I never lost sleep during the course of the famine due to uncertainty about my safety, or because I had to share my bed with anyone else. I was able to ward off stomach cramps because I had clean, drinkable water that was assured to come out of any one of a dozen faucets strewn throughout my house. And lastly the famine was sure to end, unlike those who live hour to hour not knowing when their next meal will come, or whether they will have to wait another forty hours for a chance to eat.