SCND’s Iona Soper, Emma Cockburn, Janet Fenton and Brian Quail, and are undertaking a fast in commemoration of the atomic attacks by the US Government on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945. They act as part of an international initiative. Their statements will be issued, one for each day.
From Janet: Fasting from the day and time of the Hiroshima attack until the time of the Nagasaki attack for me is taking a little time and experiencing a little personal discomfort. It a kind of marker as each year goes by. I was young when I learned, from John Hersey’s book, Hiroshima, of the effects of the bomb detonated there and the shock of his words has never left me. At the time, as a child of the post-war years, I was aware of the Nuremberg trials, and fully expected the US Government to have to appear at the Hague. I imagined that the UK Government could not possibly understand what they were dealing with and I thought that when I explained they would stop it at once. Not so.
Years later, I ran a shop, a community resource, and that was when I started with the annual fast. We’d take all the stock out, and redecorate, and then some of us would just sit there, with water to drink, and people would call in to ask why there was nothing there although the door was open. It was a good opportunity to explain to people who might not have come to a public meeting or engaged with us on a street stall. The level of discomfort is far less than that experienced in various illnesses I have had to cope with, but it is real and it does focus on the essential frailty of the body and the changes that even a mere three days without food cause. A reminder that human beings (and other animals) need bodies to live in, and bodies are vulnerable. Its a profoundly personal experience and others may do something different.
However, Hiroshima must be remembered and the inextricable links between our treatment of the planet we rely on and the reality of our bodies must not be underestimated or ignored. In the 1960’s I started with stuffing envelopes for Youth CND, and activity for nuclear disarmament has taken me eventually to the UN and work on the prohibition treaty, and to resistance at the bases and the institutions of power. Reflection and engagement with the body and the planet are a necessary part of the activity.
From Brian: Day 3 and it’s getting difficult. Why am I fasting? I fast because this is – in the deepest sense – a gut response to the evil of Hiroshima. By this small act, I am spiritually identifying with the victims. People like Fukuhara Eiji, nine years old; he was walking to school when a red dragonfly flew past and settled on a fence. He reached out to catch it, and at that moment his world ended. When he came to, everything was darkness filled with screaming. He thought he had died and gone to hell. Then he saw shapes approaching and recognised his mother. He reasoned: This cannot be hell, because my mother is good, and she would not be in hell. But why are her clothes trailing behind her? Only it wasn’t her clothes, it was her skin.…
Everywhere was heard the cry for water Misu, Misu…. Miserere nobis, Domine. God forgive us the blast of our blasphemy. What we have done to your children, our brothers and sisters.
When I threw the chrysanthemums into the Kelvin, I though of the people who burnt black and maddened with pain, threw themselves into the water.
A surgeon bends over a little girl, and gently lifts her eyelids with tweezers. Her eyeballs had melted and run down her face. She is turned round and the doctor extracts a white maggot from her arm. Why does irradiated flesh fester so quickly?
I think of Analong Lijon, from the Marshal Islands, whom I met her in Glasgow. She told us of her experiences, as a victim of atom testing. She had had six miscarriages; her sister carried 13 dead babies She told us about the jellyfish babies, the miscarriages, the gross birth defects, babies like a bunch of grapes. The unspeakable horror. When she finished speaking I went up to her and took her little brown hand in mine. Not one word could I say to her. I still can’t.
I am sick of words. Of are death-bringing lies. “Trident” – Latin, abstract, remote classical and therefore acceptable. And all the other hellish weasel words. Deterrence, robust defence policy, multilateral, unilateral, balance phased reduction, surgical first strike, countervalue strategy and so on as nauseam.
I am sick of the whole hellish pantomime. So I fast.
From Iona: I am fasting for myself. I am fasting for strangers. I am fasting for the dead, along with those not yet born. I am fasting because I love this planet.
I am fasting because I do not have the luxury of ignorance about what nuclear weapons are, or what they can do. The censorship surrounding atomic bombs was lifted long before my birth, and I believe my generation has an obligation to resist the normalisation that replaced it. I will be spending the week at Faslane Peace Camp, where we will hold commemorative vigils for the victims of the 1945 nuclear attacks at the Faslane nuclear base across the road.
All are welcome to join the fast, or to join us at the peace camp in solidarity.
I am fasting to remember the terrible suffering that has already come about as a result of the atomic bombings in Japan. During the Pacific War, many children aged 6 – 11 were evacuated from central Hiroshima to the surrounding countryside amid fears for their safety. The bombing killed more than 90% of the central city’s population, creating a diaspora of young orphans who tried to return to the city, only to find their homes destroyed and families gone. Hibakusha Shoso Kawamoto recalls how a black market sprang up around the ruins of the train station, where local women set up stalls to attempt to feed the orphaned children. Older children bullied younger children; the only way the smaller ones could survive was by scraping the food left in the pans. Within months, many of the orphans had died of starvation. Shoso recalls that ‘some were so hungry, they died with stones in their mouths’.
I am fasting to foreshadow the terrible suffering that is yet to come if the struggle for peace cannot be realised. Research by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) suggests that if even as few as 100 Hiroshima sized warheads are used in a ‘regional conflict’, this would throw five million tonnes of black soot into the atmosphere, triggering a reduction of 1.25°C in the average temperature at the earth’s surface for several years. As a result, the annual growing season in the world’s most important grain-producing areas would shrink by between 10 and 20 days. Countries which import more than half of their grain, such as Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan, would be particularly vulnerable. So, too, would 150 million people in north Africa, which imports 45% of its food. Many of the 800 million around the world who are already officially malnourished would also suffer. Increases in food prices would make food inaccessible to hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest. Even if agricultural markets continued to function normally, 215 million people would be added to the list of the malnourished over the course of a decade. This level of malnourishment and starvation is unprecedented in human history, and one that we have not prepared for. Global grain reserves currently stand lower than they have in the last five decades.
I am fasting to protest the funding of human suffering over human need. Attention must be drawn to the grotesque amounts of money dedicated to warfare and weaponry in the name of ‘defence’, while so many souls are left defenceless against starvation. In this country alone, we have pledged £200bn of taxpayer funds to maintaining our weapons of mass destruction, while 8 million live in food poverty. Globally, one out of every nine humans on earth does not have enough food to sustain themselves. It is expected that over the next ten years, world governments will spend over $1 trillion on nuclear weapons.
I am fasting to acknowledge and salute the role of the woman in this struggle for peace.
I am fasting because hunger is a powerful force. By experiencing even one tiny aspect of the suffering I have dedicated myself to overting, it is my hope that I will do a stronger, hungrier, and more empathetic service to this vital campaign. We need change. We need it now. And we need it fast.