Toma Nikolic, after what seems to be 48 hours of hunger striking (although I cannot be sure of the accuracy of media reports) in an attempt to bring about early elections in Serbia, has been hospitalized. Even Dr. Atkins says that you need at least three days before the body starts feeling the effects of hunger.
With all due respect to the Mahatma, I just do not get the political savvy behind the hunger strike. It is the equivalent of a child holding its breath until his parents buy him a pony. I looked up a few examples of "successful" hunger strikes and found, aside from Gandhi, almost no positive outcomes. Gandhi was butting heads with the British Empire and trying to bring attention to the plight of subjugated Indians to the world. Toma, on the other hand, is butting heads with the Serbian electorate, a few million voters.
I guess Toma's party ran out of arguments. They have been vociferously screaming and shouting for early elections for the past few weeks, culminating in a mass rally in Belgrade on Saturday. When nothing else worked, the idea of a hunger strike must have seemed just too cool to ignore. We will stop eating! Great idea!
[As a side note, we in Belgrade began a Traffic Strike on Saturday (reinforced on Sunday by the marathon) and left our cars at home for most of the weekend since the city was not navigable.]
The thing about the hunger strike that bugs me is that it contains no rational argument or reasoning. Basically the Hunger Striker is placing the butt of a very, very slow revolver to his temple and telling us that unless we give in to his demands he will commit suicide. I think we get it. He wants elections now. But failing that: death? I am not sure history will record this favorably. I am not even sure if history will record it at all...
It will be interesting to see how the ruling coalition deals with this. If they give in, they lose all the way around - their positions, their sense of dignity, and their backbones will all be unceremoniously trash-heaped out back behind the Serbian parliament. If they hang tough, people will call them inhuman monsters. And what about Toma? Will he allow the hunger to kill him?
The disproportion of this hunger strike is the thing. On the one hand, the stakes are an election - we have them all the time. Most pollsters show that no matter when we have elections Toma's party anyway will fare better than the others. So what is the hurry? I wonder. On the other hand, the crisis level of Toma's hunger strike seems a little exaggerated as well. Two days? The autumn of 1924, Gandhi was on a hunger strike for three weeks in protest. But in 1933, he did a 21 day fast of purification for the benefit of himself alone. He trained for this. Did Toma?
Maybe I should go on a hunger strike until Toma ends his. At worst I will lose the extra five kilos that I have wanted to get rid of for awhile now.
I will start after breakfast....