Does Fasting Help?

Before Thanksgiving the local leftists here decided to raise money for Oxfam by bringing in a speaker who made an extraordinarily stupid claim — that the reason people starve in the developing world is because people eat so much food in the developed world. Carol Fenley, an advocate for homeless people who took her children and moved into a homeless shelter after a religious epiphany more than a decade ago, claimed that people starve around the world because of the developed world’s focus on “excess” and that the “enemy isn’t Iraq or Communism, it is our own greed.”

During the question and answer period I asked Ms. Fenley to elucidate how greed and excess, rather than xenophobic Communism, caused famine in North Korea. Or how greed and excess were responsible for Ethiopia’s continuing problems. Her answer each time was that she was not an expert on the international food situation, leaving one to wonder then how she concluded greed and excess were the cause of food shortages in the developing world.

Of course it is the internal policies of the governments of the developing world which are responsible for most of the suffering in those nations. Skipping dessert will do nothing to free North Korea of totalitarianism or end decades of madness in Ethiopia. Which brings me to the main lesson. Like many activists, Fenley places her faith in action, saying, “doing nothing guarantees absolutely nothing.” But doing nothing is often better than doing something out of ignorance of the facts merely to satisfy our psychological desire to see some activity.

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