A tribute to the 2003 Fast for Freedom in Mental Health Information
The Hunger Strike to Challenge International Domination by Biopsychiatry began on August 16, 2003 as six MindFreedom International members from throughout the USA gathered in Pasadena, California. This fast targeted human rights issues in our mental health care system.
The hunger strikers refused all solid food while they awaited responses to seven challenges addressed to leading national advocates of mainstream psychiatry.
The Hunger Strikers included – Vince Boehm (Wilmington, DE), Krista Erickson (Chicago, IL), David Gonzalez (New York, NY), David Oaks (Eugene, OR), Romi Sayama (CA), Mickey Weinberg (Pasadena, CA). [Plus solidarity strikers in various locations internationally.]
The six Hunger Stikers supported the rights of people labeled with a psychiatric disability to be able to choose from a wide variety of these empowering alternatives holding steadfast to the belief self-determination is important to achieve real recovery. Click here to visit MindFreedom’s website to learn more about the 2003 Fast for Freedom in Mental Health Information.
By Maria Mangicaro
As a way to pay tribute to those who participated in the 2003 Fast for Freedom in Mental Health Information I wanted to share my passion for the work of the great masters in art, science and literature, so many of whom are considered to have been suffering from “mental illness”.
At the same time I would like to send out thoughts of deep gratitude to all of the individuals who participate in the ISEPP discussion group and social networks. The information and conversation that you contribute and pass along is very valuable and your time and effort is greatly appreciated.
ISEPP’s long-time member Vince Boehm kindly took care of passing along informative emails for many years. His contributions were the foundation to supporting ISEPP’s growth through social networking sites and creating a chronicle of events on this site.
Vince shares both my appreciation for the work of Franz Kafka and for magic. We also both understand very well that there are no “easy buttons” for recovery strategies. I think that is why the 2003 Hunger Strikers deserve a lasting tribute.
As a thoughtful way of expressing appreciation to ISEPP, PsychRights and MindFreedom International, I would like to share a paper I wrote for English Literature that I think translates to a fitting tribute to the six “Hunger Artists” among us.
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“A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka can be interpreted as symbolic of the industrial revolution’s effect on the individual craftsman, including those who chose the craft of facilitating the healing of others through the various disciplines of medicine, counsel and therapeutic modalities.
The hunger artist represents the true craftsman of that era who dedicated his life to his profession. The self-sacrificing artist who was once an interest to the public was replaced by a panther. The panther and other “beasts of prey” that satisfied the public’s amusement are symbolic of corporate power, that uses machinery to mass produce goods, with no concept of mastering the arts of a trade. So easily does the public fall prey to consumerism and the illusion of quick fix solutions and easy button options.
The artist however was so dedicated to his profession that he was caged during his performance to be viewed by the public. Kafka illustrates the importance of the time it takes to perform true craftsmanship in the clock that was in the Hunger Artist’s cage, “paying no attention to anyone or anything, not even to the all-important striking of the clock that was the only piece of furniture in his cage…” The artist was so involved in his craft that he did not take note of the time that passed.
A craft is something that not everyone can do, but the craftsman has spent considerable time perfecting his talent until his art is part of his very essence. “For he alone knew, what no other innate knew, how easy it was to fast.” Kafka uses a biblical analogy to fasting for a period of 40 days as the significance of the artist’s endurance and self-sacrifice for his professional passion. “The longest period of fasting was fixed by his impresario at forty days, beyond that term he was not allowed to go…”
During the time period of appreciation, there was much fanfare for completing the feat, “So on the fortieth day the flower-bedecked cage was opened, enthusiastic spectators filled the hall, a military band played…” He was honored and adored by the public for his fine skill of fasting.
The invention of machinery during the industrial revolution gave corporations the ability to mass produce good that were in demand. The power of mass production has even infiltrated the minds of those who believe in the medicalization of psychology, sociology, philosophy and behavioral studies. Particularly bitter were former artisans – shoemakers, woodworkers, iron casters, – whose crafts had been absorbed by mechanization. Likewise, the hunger artist found his craft obsolete, “For meanwhile the aforementioned change in the public interest had set it; it seemed to happen overnight; there may have been profound causes for it, but who was going to bother about that; at any rate the papered hunger artist suddenly found himself deserted one fine day in the amusement-seekers, who went streaming past him to other more-favored attractions.”
The hunger artist held onto his pride even though his fasting went unnoticed by those who passed by him. The dehumanization aspects of the assembly line are represented in the way he was displayed to the public who took no interest in him. “When the first great rush was post, the stragglers came along, and these, whom nothing could have prevented from stopping to look at him s long s they had breath, raced st with long strides, hardly even glancing at him, in their haste to get to the menagerie in time.” The assembly line took away all personal involvement in production and make people mindless of what is around them.
The hunger artist died forgotten by those who had honored him for his craft and his space was quickly replaced by a panther. The panther created quite an attraction, “Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary… The food he liked was brought to him without hesitation by the attendants…” This final translation of human artist for a beast, is symbolic of the corporate take over of industry and mass production of consumer goods.