On September 23, Mark McCormack began his week-long “Worldwide Polycrisis Hunger Strike” on Main Quad at the University of Alberta. It was the first of 12 hunger strikes, in which he will be protesting a lack of universal logic.
McCormack, a third-year philosophy student, said that universal logic is essential to solving meta and polycrises.
According to McCormack, the metacrisis is a cultural inability to communicate well-enough to solve the polycrisis. A polycrisis is a number of serious crises happening at the same time and compounding. The metacrisis “is at the heart of the polycrisis.” McCormack thinks instilling universal logic, in places like the U of A, is a solution to these crises.
“I want to radically accelerate — in a non-linear way — progress towards a universal logic that can solve the metacrisis, which can solve the polycrisis.”
“[The metacrisis] is a cultural crisis that’s preventing us from cooperating fast enough to create innovative, radically transformative paradigmatic solutions to the polycrisis. We’re too divided in the way our logic, grammar, and language convey our truths to each other,” McCormack said. “This universal logic is missing on all campuses.”
Specifically, McCormack wants the department of philosophy to adopt universal logic. He thinks the “philosophy [department] is probably one of the best departments to make this sort of paradigm shift happen.”
“I think that we have a heavily good-natured department, but they’re stuck in contradictions. Which is why philosophy is not in its universal position.”
The Gateway reached out to the university for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.
McCormack intends to continue escalating the seriousness of his hunger strikes
According to McCormack, the September hunger strike would be classified as a grade two hunger strike. He said in total, there are 14 hunger strike grades. Each month he intends to go on a more severe hunger strike. On October 23, he escalated further — he will not eat for two weeks but will still drink water. Like the September hunger strike, he will remain on Main Quad for the strike’s entirety.
“Then it’s three weeks, then four weeks. Then we reset to dry hunger strikes where there’s no food and no water for three days, seven days, 10 days, 12 days, and 14 days,” McCormack said. “The last hunger strikes are very serious. We actually make declarations potentially to the death with realistic goals that can be achieved. You just keep them going until those goals are achieved. There’s no end date.”
“We hope that it doesn’t get that far. That’s a year and a half away. Hopefully we have a movement by then. It’s escalating so that if the university is trying to ignore the message, it gets harder and harder.”
As he had anticipated negative reactions from the student body, McCormack was surprised at how interested students were in his hunger strike.
“I’m actually amazed at how much better this is going than [I anticipated]. I thought this would happen by the second hunger strike. I’m feeling optimistic. I think we can actually do this.”
For his hunger strike on October 23, McCormack will protest “anybody who is not taking the polycrisis seriously or working on universal logic.”
“So even if you’re an activist organization, if you’re not radically increasing your interventions in a non-violent, peaceful way, then you are part of the problem. That means activists, academics, non-academics. Everybody’s a part of the problem because nobody’s working on this universal logic to solve the metacrisis.”
As well, McCormack is planning to host a tent city for an upcoming hunger strike.
Office of the Dean of Students takes issue with McCormack emailing community members about his hunger strike
On October 3, McCormack received an email from the Office of the Dean of Students (DoS). The email stated that he had allegedly engaged in misconduct against U of A community members. McCormack had been emailing professors about his hunger strike using his U of A email address.
According to McCormack, Ravina Sanghera, vice provost and dean of students, told him that some community members felt “like their safety wasn’t present while [he] was emailing them.” As an interim measure, McCormack was blocked from emailing professors using his university email. He does not think he did anything that could make someone feel unsafe.
“They totally got rid of all my rights to message professors for any reason. So I felt like that was a big overstep because they didn’t even give me a chance to correct my behaviour. I didn’t realize it was that severe.”
When he first began planning his email list, McCormack said he emailed DoS to confirm there would not be any issues. He did not think his actions would violate the Student Conduct Policy, which he had read. He said DoS did not respond to his email, so he “was under the impression that [he] was fully good to go.”
McCormack sees emailing as an important way to get word out about his hunger strike.
For that reason, McCormack told Sanghera during a meeting on October 11, that if he was unblocked he would initially only email community members once. If they asked to be removed from the emailing list, McCormack would no longer contact them.
Although he called the situation “not ideal,” McCormack felt that DoS is being “quite reasonable.”
McCormack plans to get other students involved in his emailing list
On October 13, The Gateway received a written statement from Chris Beasley, vice-president (external) of the U of A Students’ Union (UASU), on behalf of the organization.
“I am a believer in student activism and its role in making a difference, but it’s crucial to underline that the UASU doesn’t support methods that might force people into physical danger or use tactics like shaming and pressure. As a representative of the Student’s Union, my main duty is to make sure that every student can voice their opinions and concerns, without engaging in coercion or harming anyone else’s safety on campus.”
“At this time, neither myself nor the Students’ Union are planning any future hunger strikes or involvement with McCormack.”
As of October 21, McCormack cannot email U of A email addresses. He is currently waiting to hear from DoS with an update.
Although McCormack will refrain from emailing professors who do not wish to be contacted, he said “that doesn’t prevent other students from doing it.”
“So even though I will take them off my list, if we get 100 more students to come, they can add those professors to their list. The professor is going to [have to] turn off that list. Then that will create the effect we want. As much as we’re making you feel uncomfortable, the reality is we are much more imminently in danger.”
McCormack said he is planning to start a student group called “New World Spirit.” Through the group, students will receive training on how to conduct email lists. He intends to launch 64 teams of students “that will work with this wider societal organization and globally societal organization.”
“We need a concrete, well thought-out, comprehensive holistic strategy that does a paradigm shift all at once. That’s where I think students could engage with a student group to connect to this bigger movement.”