Food is the crucial source that keeps us alive. Since human beings cannot produce energy with their own power, they have no choice but to seek energy through other resources. Nonetheless, there are people who voluntarily quit eating food. Those are the bereaved families of the Sewol Ferry accident and the citizens who support them. In the past, there have been such cases where heartbreaking despair toward life lead people to situations of refusing food and further, putting their own lives at stake; yet, this time the circumstance is different. On the outside, the ones participating in the hunger strike seem to have forced themselves to come close to the threshold of death through the hunger strike. However, such strike this time seems to embody an important statement. In fact, the citizens participating in the strike are actually trying to appeal to the society sincerely, with their own lives as collateral through such action. What they are trying to demonstrate to our society is that their life objective is not merely of surviving and prolonging life by taking any means they can; but rather, is to protect and further expand human dignity and humanity. Hence, they are questioning us the value of life which is beyond the sollen or instinct to live.
Nevertheless, there are people who have begun to give out chocolate bars indiscriminately and devour enormous amounts of pizza in front of the hunger strikers. Against the hunger strike of the left wing, these people have named their performances as the “Binge Strike.” Now, Fasting and overeating behaviors are standing face-to-face in the center of our city’s agora which used to be unoccupied or empty. What is more is that the aim of the binge strike to turn the public sentiment seems to be successful due to the fact that the confrontation has now simply degenerated into a political strength contest.
Democracy maintains its healthiness by approving diverse opinions to measure their political strengths against one another. In other words, democracy is unsustainable without the trial of the strengths of various ideas. However, there is an important fact which should not be dismissed in such competition. It is the fact that there is a limitation to the extent of the freedom of expression to which democracy can guarantee; the respect to other people’s lives and its value is not a subject that can be freely discussed. As social contract advocators assert, people live together and constitute a society for the purpose of protecting one’s life and its value through the cooperation of a community rather than only relying on one’s own power. When viewing the two strikes – hunger and binge strike – without much though, both can be mistakenly perceived as just another mediocre method of political struggle. Yet, one of the two is without doubt, a position that cannot be permitted in democracy. Such stance is the side binging, which is the action of mocking the lives of those dying and its’ value. That is, the action of binging is the act to ignore the efforts of the hunger strikers to argue that human’s purpose is to protect and further expand humanity and human dignity. Furthermore, those participating in binging act are not simply scoffing at those who are fasting, but also laughing at us all who are quietly starting to avoid the Sewol tragedy for the exhaustion in each one’s lives. We need to quickly prepare a new disapproving standard. If not, our democracy will end up only with its puny form without any substantial meaning.
*Professor Kim Hye-ryung majored in Christian studies in Ewha Womans University and Graduate School, and received a Ph.D degree from University of Strasbourg, France.