Absurdity of fasting as activism (or fancier still – social intervention)

Here is a crude joke which sums up whats happening at this place I attend.

An ageing philanthropist, a promising young mountaineer and an activist are flying in a small plane. Half way in their journey the plane develops a snag. The pilot declares that the plane will crash soon, grabs a parachute and jumps off the plane. The three men are horrified at this and look for parachutes. The activist manages to grab one in the scramble (experienced as he was in stuff like this. Hadn’t he managed to break the security cordon and ripped off the state flag last time?) and jumps off.

Now, the philanthropist and the young mountaineer remain. Philanthropist says to the other,

“Son, as you see I am much older than you are and have seen many glorious seasons in my life and lived it well. I do not regret dying at this age. You have a long life ahead of you. Please take the remaining parachute and save your life.”

The two of them are in a strange but poised silence.The young man then figures things out and replies,

“Sir, we need not worry. The activist in his haste has jumped off with my backpack. There are two parachutes here and we both will make it to the ground safely. Come. Let us not delay.”

This has much to do with my irritation at the string of mails that are urging people to not eat (as in fast) at least one meal of the day and instead consider sending the food over to the people whose homes (considered slum) were recently demolished by the city’s municipal corporation. More on that here. There is an understanding that a meal shifted from one set of people to the other is likely to help the situation in some manner. If one argues on the morality, humanitarian and other such ethical-moral-spiritual concerns then I will sure have to ask him to cut the crap and on further insistence to shut the f*** up.

Why does it escape these young folks who are driven by a concern to help the distressed people that a meal once or twice a day really doesn’t matter. The significant bandwidth they spend on organizing the logistics of this food support program (and mind you just as a one off thing) takes more effort and resources than the help or impact that it is likely to have. In anyway, these people are able bodied men and women who are generally capable of managing their food. So, why such an ill thought idea to help is something I am trying to understand.

The fiery zeal of “helping” and “working” for a “cause” is probably burning their thinking as well. Why not take some time to figure out what the people rendered homeless might require at the moment. It is often seen that they value resource support, legal representation and other help of similar nature more than their immediate food and clothing, unless it is a natural disaster or calamity including difficult weather.

Taking a more broad sweep, I have often felt that this is what is wrong with the Indian variety of activism – poorly thought ideas of intervention (poorly understood as well) and the haste to run and do something. The activists would be quick to retort “but we do grab attention and bring the issue to focus”. I say that is not all and that is not even the starting point. More on that later. At the moment, it is much about venting out my exasperation at this variety which sits all around me and spams my mailbox with such bleeding heart mails asking me to give up food.

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