November 26, 2013

A modest proposal: Cannibalism should be reconsidered

By Adam Dahmer–


Last issue, I spoke at length of things divine. The response was surprisingly negative, with some of my readers condemning my irreverence, and others at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum chastising me for being “preachy.” I appreciate the level of engagement from my readership, but I feel that some of you have been woefully underexposed to provocative journalism. For those of you who were offended, I wrote this article, in hopes that I can show you what a truly controversial opinion piece ought to look like.

Cannibalism, the consumption of human flesh by human beings, is widely frowned upon in
Western Society. People eschew the “other red meat” in all but the direst of circumstances, when physiological forces like madness or starvation compel them to abandon social norms. This is, in my opinion, a flaw in the social structure of our civilization which, for various reasons, ought to be corrected.

In the first place, there is no shortage of historical precedent for cannibalism – not the desperate, half-hearted sort practiced by castaways, or the depraved symptom of psychopathy – but wholesome, decent, community centered cannibalism. In fact, cultures throughout history, and from various geographical regions, have used cannibalism as the ultimate means of honoring the dead. This sort of veneration comes in two forms: indocannibalism, and exocannibalism.

Exocannibals devour pieces of their worthiest enemies, while indocannibals eat the remains of their departed loved ones. Both practices have decided benefits. How better to acquire the noblest attributes of your foes or ancestors than by osmostically, by digestion?

The concept is unscientific, yes, but certainly poignant in its symbolism. Realistically, exocannibalism would probably fail to gain wide acceptance in the developed world, simply because no one wants to be eaten by their enemies, even in a complimentary way.

To my mind, that seems selfish. The unlucky porcine at my breakfast table didn’t begrudge me his bacon, and surely human beings ought to be held to a higher moral standard than pigs. Nonetheless, in the case of cannibalism, as in all interactions of the flesh, consent is paramount to social acceptance. If people don’t want to be fed to hostile strangers, I suppose they can’t ethically be forced to do so, no matter how unselfless their motives. After all, despite any nominal connection to a certain cannibalistic serial killer—no relation—I would hardly advocate immoral cannibalism; to the contrary, strict ethics must apply.

All in all, indocannibalism presents a far more likely candidate for a successful social movement than its violent alternative.

How many times has a beloved great aunt told you “you’re just so cute, I could eat you up?” Through indocannibalism, in what is surely a touching eulogy-of-action, you could finally say the same of her.

How often have you wished that a relative could be part of you forever? Well, wish no more! Some of the nutrients derived from your loved ones’ bodies will likely come to compose some molecules your very DNA, passing along from generation to generation in a glorious, doubly personal genetic inheritance.

Additionally, cannibalism gives the deceased an excellent asset in estate planning.  Real estate and money are, of course, valuable bequeathments, but they couldn’t compare with the prestigious privilege of taking the first bite.

Finally, a willingness to be cannibalized is a testament to the virtue of the departed. Nothing is more generous than giving your surviving family members your very last and dearest earthly possession –one that you kept with you your entire life.

In addition to a wealth of new funerary traditions, cannibalism would contribute enormously to the public good. Cemetery plots, and the caskets and vaults that fill them, entail vast expenditures of time and money, and the gross misuse of valuable resources like timber, steel, urban space and arable land. Concurrently, the recession economy has made hunger a growing problem, even in the United States. By eating the dead, we could handily eliminate two social ills in one a single, swift action!

Cannibalism would also serve as an added incentive to stay in shape, since no one would want to be remembered as being unpalatably fat, bony, or gristly, or as containing an unsafe level of trans-fats. Regular exercise and a healthy diet would ensure that everyone was at least as edible as his or her peers. As the saying goes, we have to keep up with the Joneses.

After reviewing the evidence, a reasonable person could only come to the conclusion that cannibalism is not an evil to be shunned by polite society, but a social good—even a moral imperative! So, the next time someone asks “What’s eating you?” elevate your chest, uplift your eyes, and declare with pride, “No one yet, but one day, my children!”

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