The enormity of Michael Schmidt’s hunger strike is sinking in with more and more people.

For one person to put his life on the line so that others might re-gain or keep the right to eat the foods of their choosing–not the government’s choosing–says more than anyone could articulate in a speech or an article.

It’s important to remember as we consider Michael Schmidt’s act of self sacrifice that he comes from a country with a tragic fascist background. I mention it because he frequently brings it up to me–he knows well of my family’s Holocaust background.

He brings it up in the context of contempt for all autocratic systems. He has the same contempt for the Soviet communist system, which dictated to producers what foods they could grow and produce.

Michael Schmidt with supporters at Foodstock event in Canada Sunday; it drew an estimated 28,000 people to publicize food diversity. It seems to me he sees ever less difference between the fascist and communist systems and the supposedly democratic systems of the U.S. and Canada, which have come to take on the same controlling apparatus of fascist Germany and communist Soviet Union. Our system of food control is draped in a more glib ideology, and images of plenty. Rather than preaching nationalism (as fascist Germany did) or equality (as the communist system did), ours preaches “safety” and “protection,” all wrapped up in the “approval” of government-sponsored science and health “experts.”

But the end result is the same. Frankenfoods, genetically modified foods, and highly processed commodities like corn and soy are okay, because they have the experts’ approval (and corporate backing) and natural nutrient-dense foods like raw milk and raw juice, or farm-slaughtered meats, are banned or nearly banned because they have the experts’ disapproval.

It’s important to remember that Schmidt has pushed for discussion and compromise over many years now, to prevent distribution of the highly prized nutrient-dense foods from being pushed underground. But the answer from the government regulators has always been negative. So much for the democratic approach.

Now, Schmidt says there is evidence that the authorities plan to raid his farm for a fourth time since 1993, and possibly arrest him in the process. He has received communications in which they have raised the fear decibel–that Canadians are being endangered by the continuing distribution of raw milk…even though not a single person has become ill over the nearly twenty years he has been waging his battle for free food access. Now that they have an appeals court decision in their favor, they could very well be emboldened to take action, he worries.

Might the authorities be dissuaded by the growing attention accorded his hunger strike? As several people have pointed out here, likely not a prayer, as little would make the authorities happier than to have Michael Schmidt out of the way. His is the strongest voice in North America for food rights.  

Indeed, it might be said that controlling our food is more important to American and Canadian authorities than controlling prisoners is to prison wardens. In California, ongoing hunger strikes by thousands of prison inmates over the summer and fall have won negotiations and important concessions on easing certain conditions. (Interestingly, this huge act of civil disobedience has received very little media attention in the U.S.)

The California prison situation also highlights the importance of showing a broader base of support. As Mark McAfee suggests, one of the big challenges of the emerging food rights movement is explaining to the mass of people what is at stake. Most people in the U.S. and Canada have no idea that their governments are gradually whittling away at the availability of their food choices, and pushing ever more processing of what is available.

Most fundamental, though, Michael Schmidt is saying with his hunger strike that much more will be required of all of us in terms of commitment and action. A few weeks before his hunger strike, he wrote a telling comment on this blog: “Unless we ALL rise up to reclaim what we have lost, we will lose it all. Are we talking about real pain, real suffering, real non-violent resistance? You bet we are…It will get much worse my friends, you have not seen the real deal yet. ”  

In spite of all he has going on, he said yesterday he still hopes to join the November 1 Raw Milk Freedom Riders who will be transporting raw milk across state lines and consuming it in Maryland. He is still hoping to have the strength to attend and speak at a rally in front of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Rockville, MD. If he can even contemplate such a commitment, then lots of us should be able to as well.