By Jeff Girod
Six former and current postal workers—calling themselves Communities and Postal Workers United—have staged their second hunger strike in the last six months in Washington, D.C. As scheduled, it lasted last week from Tuesday until Saturday, and sought to bring attention to a Senate proposal to limit mail delivery to 5 days per week.
“We have to be on guard, to raise awareness and pressure the decision-makers,” said the group’s spokesman Jamie Partridge.
Raise awareness? Awareness of what? That a group of pouty postmen are willing to not eat for six days? Six days? I’ve had bouts of stomach flu that lasted longer. That’s not a hunger strike. It’s a colon cleansing.
Cesar Chavez once fasted 36 days to protest the use of dangerous pesticides on farms. Nobody uses those pesticides anymore.
Genocide, religious and political oppression, racial injustice—these are all great reasons to stage a hunger strike. From Gandhi to the Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, world changers have famously demonstrated they would literally rather starve than go one second longer without immediate, revolutionary change.
But staging a “hunger strike” because you’re a 200-year-old antiquated company like the U.S. Postal Service? That you’re getting phased out because progress has swept you aside and everyone has switched to email? Well, that just seems whiney.
Hunger strikes aren’t going to magically turn the calendar back to the 1940s and make the U.S. Postal Service self-sustaining. Even advocates of postal carriers accept that it’s an incredibly complex problem that will require a multi-tiered compromise.
And it seems like the U.S. Postal Service has been sitting around long enough not doing anything. What it needs is a little less starvation and a little more self-preservation. Order in a couple pizzas and come up with something more innovative and forward thinking than raising the price of stamps another 3 cents.
And since when are hunger strikes penciled in from when-to-when like a spa treatment or a golf game? If you’re able to stage two hunger strikes within a six-month period, buddy, you’re doing it wrong.
You don’t get to choose when your hunger strike is over. It’s over when you’re over. Or when you finally get what you’re striking for.
Now I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and starve themselves. There’s nothing so delicious as food. I can’t jog around the block without taking pie.
But if you ask me, hunger strikes are getting soft. Today, there are all sorts of qualifiers piled on for what a hunger strike is: The strike has to be over by Saturday. You get unlimited sips of Gatorade. You can still eat any foods that end in a “y.”
Some guy misses two trips to Soup Plantation and everyone calls it a “hunger strike.”
Just don’t threaten that you’re going to go on a hunger strike if you’re not actually going to follow through. You want anybody to take you seriously? I gotta see a couple of ribs.
Plus these modern-day hunger strikes have always struck me as a little self-centered. One-third of the world is suffering from dirt-and-rocks starvation. The rest of us have a McDonald’s on every corner. You don’t think every hungry person in Ethiopia would skip Saturday mail delivery for a Happy Meal?
It’s Christmas time, so I’m going to give everyone a nutcracker’s worth of honesty: You’ll never get anything worth a damn out of pity. (I’m just sorry that didn’t come with a card.)
These postal workers in Washington, D.C., aren’t “raising awareness.” They’re tourists playing “let’s-pretend” and hoping someone else will feel bad enough to solve their problems.
Real change takes sacrifice. It takes discipline. It takes every shred of energy you have and courage you don’t.
The difference between a hunger strike and a “hunger strike” isn’t just a matter of days and weeks, or even what it’s even being staged for. It’s a mentality.
If you’re willing to do whatever is necessary—if you’re willing to literally starve to death—odds are you’ll rarely have to.
That’s just one reason why everyone has heard of Cesar Chavez Day (March 31)—but even mail gets delivered on National Postal Worker Day (July 1).
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.