STARVE: a note-poem for the hungry. (to be interpreted as variously as possible.)

PART I:  In which we analyze and attempt to understand the most basic level of need–hunger–and the outcome of failing to meet this need.


starve

verb \ˈstärv\

starved | starv·ing

Definition of STARVE

intransitive verb

1          a : to perish from lack of food

b : to suffer extreme hunger

2          a archaic : to die of cold

b British : to suffer greatly from cold

3          : to suffer or perish from deprivation <starved for affection>

transitive verb

1          a : to kill with hunger

b : to deprive of nourishment

c : to cause to capitulate by or as if by depriving of nourishment

2          : to destroy by or cause to suffer from deprivation

3          archaic : to kill with cold

Examples of STARVE

  1. Without food they would starve.
  2. They left him to starve out in the desert.
  3. providing food for starving children
  4. They tried to starve their enemies into submission.
  5. It was clear that the dog had been starved.
  6. You don’t have to starve yourself to lose weight.

Origin of STARVE

Middle English sterven to die, starve, from Old English steorfan to die; akin to Old High German sterban to die, and probably to Lithuanian starinti to stiffen — more at stare

First Known Use: 15th century


PART II:  In which we locate and acknowledge an important outlier in Abraham Maslow’s pyramidical theory of Need.

It should be noted.

Edward Said notes in Culture and Imperialism that the Irish were not considered white by the British. He writes: “The idea of English racial superiority became ingrained; so humane a poet and gentleman as Edmund Spenser in his View of the Present State of Ireland (1596) was boldly proposing that since the Irish were barbarian Scythians, most of them should be exterminated” (222). In an essay entitled “Race, Class and the Imperial Politics of Ethnography in India, Ireland and London, 1850-1910,” Kavita Philip examines this “idea of English racial superiority” more completely and her findings are far more frightening than the racist suggestions of a poet. Philip’s research regarding the scientific theories of race during the latter half of the 19th century is most troublesome not simply because of the “construction of fictions about foreign natives,” but “the belief that the science of the day revealed truths about the inherent character of populations” (289). Philip further notes:

While political considerations often operated explicitly in the formative stages of scientific knowledge, once ethnological stereotypes were reported in official tracts, supported by masses of data, they passed into the apolitical realm of incontrovertible scientific fact. Evidence of their conditions of production erased, they passed into the domain of cultural belief. (289)

The net effect of this kind of racism transcends the idea of English racial superiority and advances on to a level of imperial justification that is not only palatable to the British subjects, it is, as Kipling noted, their burden. Philip explains this in terms of the Irish problem: “stereotypical representations of the Irish as barbaric, primitive, and simian date back to the twelfth century, and were no less politically motivated then—serving as a justification for Henry II’s invasion of Ireland…the nineteenth-century stereotype was different from its predecessors only in being supported by the scientific theories of the time” (295). Descriptions of the Celts from the mid-nineteenth century included references to their being “the missing link between the gorilla and the Negro,” the Irish as “being for squalid filth and raggedness,” and as for Ireland itself, J.W. Jackson noted that “it was a moral fossil, like India, the only difference being that India is a civlised, while Ireland is a barbarous fossil” (Philip 296-297). In an attempt to understand Joyce and his works it is important to consider the prevailing attitude towards his people during the time period he was writing about. The air of English superiority is heavy in Joyce’s works and is present even in the systems of power that the Irish adopt from the British.

The idea of exterminating the Irish did not end with Edmund Spenser in the 16th century; in fact, it arguably came to fruition during the 19th century Irish Potato Famine, not long before Joyce’s birth. In an essay entitled “Dumbness and Eloquence: A Note on English as We Write It in Ireland,” Seamus Deane writes of a study the Irish government commissioned in 1947, the centenary of the Famine’s worst year. Deane notes:

Two convictions dominate what was remembered [of the Irish Famine’s worst year]. One was that the Famine did indeed have a genocidal dimension. Genocide was of a piece with traditional British government policies towards the Irish Catholic majority. The other, sometimes felt to be compatible with the belief in genocidal intent, sometimes not, sometimes entirely independent of it, was that there must have been a radical fault in Irish civilization, and most especially in the Irish-speaking civilization, that allowed it to succumb so completely to the potato blight and all its attendant ills. Some of the old people interviewed – and necessarily, they were on average an elderly group – believed or remembered that their predecessors had believed that the Famine was a punishment from God; and whatever the responsibility of the British government or of anybody else, that it ultimately constituted a divine judgment on a way of life that did not deserve to survive and that had to be expunged. (109)

Most interesting here is not the possible genocidal intent, disregard or justification of the British, but the Irish willingness to accept that it was God’s will for them to die. The most resounding note of religious hegemony is the native population’s willingness to die for Britain’s imperial agenda, all the while believing it to be penance for their sins against their God. To address the question of how the famine could be part of Britain’s imperial agenda, it is important to consider that the famine served to both make it easier to control the Irish and to promote the spread of the English language and make the Gaelic language obsolete, changing what Deane calls “Old Ireland” in exchange for the emerging “Modern Ireland.” Deane ponders the question of what the famine meant to the British: while it was ‘terrible’ to lose lives, in the long run the country would benefit from economic reform and the adopting of the English language (110).

What is still more disturbing, however, is the possibility of genocidal policy on the part of the Church. “To a much lesser extent, but still notably there,” Deane writes, “is also [the] belief that the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in advertising people to accept their fate and to resign themselves to God’s will robbed the victims of their urge to resist and therefore allowed the export of food from the country and the evictions and clearances to take place without serious opposition” (10). Here Joyce’s “two masters,” the Roman Catholic Church and the British Empire, work one with the other against the native Irish population. Their religion suppressed any large scale resistance and the dissemination and decimation of their population allowed for the virtual destruction of their native language.

In 1970, Abraham Maslow hypothesized that human behavior is influenced by a hierarchy of five classes of needs, or motives, which are listed below:

  • Biological, such as food, water, oxygen, activity, and sleep.
  • Safety, such ase being cared for as a child and having a secure income as an adult.
  • Belongingness and love, such as being part of various social groups and participating in affectionate sexual and nonsexual relationships.
  • Esteem, being respected as a useful, honorable individual.
  • Self-actualization, which means becoming all that one is capable of.       People motivated by this need explore and enhance relationships with others, follow interests for intrinsic pleasure rather than status or esteem, and are concerned with issues affecting all people, not just themselves.  (Bernstein 360).

Bernstein also notes that according to Maslow’s model, “needs at the lowest level of the hierarchy must be at least partially satisfied before people can be motivated by higher-level goals” (360). This speaks to the importance of privilege in the establishment of a postcolonial “new,” that correlates directly to the condition of modernity as a means of expression. Bernstein’s one noted exception to Maslow’s hierarchy is interestingly concerned with British imperialsim: “the motivation of people deeply involved in political and moral causes seems to defy Maslow’s hierarchy; in 1981, Bobby Sand and eight others starved themselves to death protesting British Rule in Northern Ireland” (361). In Educational Psychology, Anita Woolfolk writes of Maslow’s humanistic approach to motivation:

In the 1940s, proponents of humanistic psychology such as Carl Rogers argued that neither of the dominant schools of psychology, behavioral or Freudian, adequately explained why people act as they do. Humanistic interpretations of motivation emphasize such intrinsic sources of motivation as a person’s needs for “self-actualization” (Maslow, 1970, 1968), the inborn “actualizing tendency” (Rogers & Freiberg, 1994), or the need for “Self-determination” (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991). So from the humanistic perspective, to motivate means to encourage peoples’ inner resources—their sense of competence, self-esteem, autonomy, and self-actualization. Maslow’s theory is a very influential humanistic explanation of motivation. (249)

Woolfolk’s analysis of Maslow’s model help to illustrate its more performative aspects. “Self-actualization is Maslow’s term for self-fulfillment, the realization of personal potential,” she notes, and for this to be possible, each of the lower needs must be met before advancing to this higher need (249). To understand the psychology of literary and linguistic agents of empire, it seems we should start by understanding their motivation. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides an excellent framework to understand how these romanticized notions of colonial territories arise, as well as how these texts influence and encourage other authors or agents of empire to work to seek similar adventure, either in imagination or in reality. Maslow labeled the higher level needs—“intellectual achievement, then aesthetic appreciation, and finally self-actuallization—being needs,” and suggested that unlike lower level needs, these ‘being needs’ can never be completely satisfied, “when they are met, a person’s motivation does not cease; instead, it increases to seek further fulfillment” (249). In the introduction to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence writes: “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible” (24).


PART III:  In which we contemplate representational examples of hunger‘s influence on rational thought.

It was good discipline, he said.

As good as any other.

It isn’t the first time we starved as a people. Still you starved as persons, they starved our people. Distinction: made. Next: non servium, he said. Always in search of the father he never found.

Yes, then:   good.

Beware rabbit holes leading to bell jars. There is no candy in my kingdom.

Still: I won’t say I didn’t want to run my hand up her thigh until I reached her kingdom come.

Fuck the pain away

Sands of South Armagh

Abraham needs

Nothing

Air food water shelter

Next: no next.

There is an exit on Route 80

Center right in the rectangle

Where I was once told the head is good.

Belonging.

Always be longing.

But: not hoping.

Conundrum: yes, but not also.

Also, rarely yes and rarer still

Expecting.

Self-

Actualizing: as was said before.

Now: ibid.

Love: easy to give.

Thought: complete.

Companionship: rare.

Day 282: day 281+1.

Surgically repeat.

Listless, no. Not kinetic,

Not feeling hungry, but knowing

hungry.

Eat for life, not for taste.

Not entirely tasteful.

Strength comes from: ?

Non servium. Yes? No.

Would you like it long or soft?

Good.

My scars are visible in polite society:

Some: Are.

There are rockets in the South.

News: attended to.

War: (more) imminent.

The way it worked with the potato famine was objectively brilliant.

Starve them out of their language: resolve: irrelevant.

Mechanism: willingness and means.

Motive: property and real estate.

And: pride of winning.

What won: property, real estate, hubris.

What lost: a matter of perception.

Moynihan: “To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart.”

Noted.

Still:

“Hunger was good discipline,” another said.

“At least that if no more.”

Spoken through her eyes.

“Graven in the language of the outlaw.”


PART IV:  In which hunger drives the test subject deeper into variable pasts.  

NOTE: There remains a marked distance from linear and chronological thought and reasoning.  This symptom seems to be accelerating quiet rapidly; however, we have not yet found a logic to which we can attach our efforts to develop any justifiable estimate of outcomes (much less timelines for those outcomes).  Further, it is evident that any attempt to establish elements of “truth” or “meaning” in the subject’s rambling would prove fruitless.  Absent of logic though it may seem, it is equally clear that the subject nonetheless understands these scribblings to be an imperative expression of some facet of that which he is enduring.  More importantly, there appears to be an underlying, yet thus far indiscernible, explanation of “why.”  

Craven in the language of the outlaw.

These words, even if spoken, are not enough

If: we define enough.

Objectivity: in one sense, open to interpretation.

Find your way in the rectangles.

Break service, create winners, eliminate unforced errors.

Keep to the basics. Serve and volley. Advance the net.

Acknowledge all rules of engagement.

There is no mention of a top to the tank,

And so I think freedom via evaporation.

Patience may be required, but the water retains control.

Please note and remember.

Dear bombs,

I know a story of a hand grenade.

Dear unknown dead friend of my father,

I wish you remembered the specifics. Bunker. Beer. Grenade. Despair. Time. Laughter. Forgetfulness. Boom. Blood. Tragedy.

Still, he says the metal in his arm is from another day and a different bomb. Shrapnel, he calls it. Sometimes he speaks of puff the magic dragon. Or of the woodcutters. Or of the dog who’d eaten C4 and needed to be put down. K. above all muntions, there was the time he went to clear the field after a B-52 airstrike, having just smoked pot for the first time. Far from the blast site, there were the dead lying between jungles with their fingers knuckle deep in their brains to stop the slow intolerable pounding of the bombs. K.

Dear Pennsylvania,

Ibid. You adieu.

“nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” on the side, in fact.

On all sides: Quarries. Mines. (Not in the exploding yellow blue red white flash sense, but mines to be worked and lived and died in. Pappy H. Mammy H.) K.

The burial of the dead:

It goes as such:

First, you stand far off in the distance with your shovels so that the family and loved ones cannot see you. Respect.

You watch them mourn and cry and you wait for them to go back to their cars and drive away. When the last of them drives off beyond sight, you walk to the site, and you put your shovel in the upended dirt and you put it back in place. You tell any jokes that you can think of and you laugh and smile as much as possible throughout the task. You pretend that what you are doing is not what you are doing, and that in some few months it will only be grass that you are mowing.


COMING SOON:

PART V – PART VIII: In which we observe the effects of hunger transitioning towards starvation.  What follows is both anecdotal and analytical evidence that our notions of need appear to be subjective.  

(TO BE CONTINUED.)


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