Let's Talk About: Cannibalism

This is a mind warping exercise with a souljourn into the social weirdness made possible by the internet. Stay with me, kids. Let’s begin here:

The Philosopher’s Magazine has a test about your taboos or “moral intuitions”. Go ahead and take the test, it has thought-provoking weirdness like the following:

A man goes to his local grocery store once a week and buys a frozen chicken. But before cooking and eating the chicken, he has sexual intercourse with it. Then he cooks it and eats it. He never tells anyone about what he does, never regrets it and never shows any ill effects from behaving this way. He remains an upstanding member of his community.

  1. Should his poultry lovin’ be prevented (assuming we know about it) or should he be punished for it? Suppose you learn about two foreign countries.
  2. In one country, it is normal for people to have secret sex with dead chickens. In the other, people don’t in the normal course of events have intercourse with frozen poultry. Are both these customs okay morally speaking or is one of them bad and morally wrong ?

That’s really quite funny. I especially like the poultry lovin’ line. My results: [T]here is no inconsistency in the way that you responded to the questions in this activity. The averages are after 13915 responses.

Moralising Quotient is: 0.00. (avg 0.30)
Interference Factor is: 0.00. (avg 0.16)
Universalising Factor is: -1. (avg 0.44)

Translation: I am willing and able to let people eat their road kill cats, pork their frozen chickens, dance about with carrots in their ears or do whatever other weirdness they like, as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. If someone wants to check out early, well then it’s their life and that’s their business and I don’t feel I have a right to tell them they have to stick around. I may have a hard time firing up the indignant moralist synapses because I rather enjoy the weirdness other people engage in, particularly when I have not inclination in that direction myself. Chicken guy above, for example, had me giggling.

Mind you, so did the aggregate responses from the Philosopher’s survey:

22% Judge the eating of a dead family cat to be wrong.
44% Judged poutry lovin’ to be wrong.
58% Judged sex between a brother and sister to be wrong.
61% Judged a son’s failure to keep a promise to his mother on her death bed to be wrong.

There you have it folks: more people believe breaking a promise is morally wrong than believe incest is wrong and the majority won’t even condemn sex with dead animals.

That line about a “live boy or a dead girl” just came to mind, but never mind that.

We all know about Hannibal Lecter and cannibal savages with big iron pots and bones through their noses. The age of the internet has brought us a new model of human cannibal: The Gentleman Cannibal. It seems – and this is news to me – that there are online chat rooms for people who want to eat people and people who want to be eaten by people. The German fellow above, by all accounts a well-educated member of the gentry class with impeccable manners, had something of a fetish for eating human flesh. (Not unlike Diego Rivera.) The anonymous German Gentleman Gentry e-Cannibal met a number of people for lunch dates at his Rotenburg mansion and agreed to a mutually beneficial arrangement: he would eat them. Most decided after they were hung from the ceiling by their feet that they didn’t feel like dinner after all, so he let them go. One was persistent, so he slaughtered him, froze parts for storage and slowly ate him over the course of several months.

Now, the way I see it, we can’t have people going around eating each other like in the old days when it was permissible to eat captured soldiers. Imagine: you’re sitting at a bus stop when someone walks up and eats you. This is why we have cities: so things won’t eat us as we’re walking along thinking about the Raiders. Lions and Tigers and Bears… and all that nonsense. I’m pretty sure that off the table for the Wicked Witch of the West and Dorothy certainly never worried that The Wizard would eat her. It would be pure bedlam for any urban society to accept the cannibalization of unwilling victims.

But, as I said above, I figure a fellow ought to be allowed to decide how he’s going to go out. If he’s had enough, let him quit. I suppose being eaten isn’t any weirder than auto-erotic asphyxiation, which has been known to claim the lives of numberous perverts. That’s just the fully intentional stuff, we all know the Darwin Awards. In the words of a song I heard once: knives they hurt / Water is wet / Gas smells bad / Pills don’t work / Fuckit! You might as well live.”

But getting back to the business at hand, there seems to be something wrong about cannibalism. Like the M&M’s commercial says “You’re not supposed to eat your own kind. That’s just wrong.” Fine.

Let’s focus for a moment on the 88% that doesn’t find eating a dead family pet to be morally wrong. Presumably this means the same percent, or larger, fell that eating meat of any old animal (human excepted) isn’t wrong. Maybe you like to eat salmon or beef or pork or chicken (just eat!). I hate chickens and they taste good. So I’m with you.

It’s worth remembering, however, that other animals feel much the same way. Remember, there are lions starving in the Sahara who’d kill for that steak you didn’t finish. To hell with that: they’d kill and eat you. And your shot gun hunter-boy. So when it comes along that someone gets eaten by a cougar or a bear, I don’t really feel that bad. I mean, there are plenty of people who’d have eaten the bear if they had the chance so it’s only fair the bear wins every now and then. Of course, when a bear eats a person he’s as good as dead. The biggest, meanest, baddest SOBs in the forest- Fish & Wildlife – are going to be gunning for him with a dozen forensic hunters and Ranger helicopters. Every man’s a Made Man if you’re
another species.

So I would like to go on record and ask that should I get eaten by a bear, I would appreciate it if Fish & Wildlife would allow that bear to be barbecued and served at my wake.

Is that wrong?