Monday, 3 January 2011

Cannibalism: an Answer to Overpopulation

Like most people, the very thought of eating human flesh makes me feel physically sick, but if cannibalism is the ONLY way to survive, then surely it is an option that must be considered, rather than dismissed out of hand.
It’s easy to dismiss something as unthinkable, when there is no pressing, no life or death, need. But when your, and your children’s, very survival depends on something, no matter how abhorrent, then surely you have a moral duty, to your children, if not to yourself, to at least contemplate it. That doesn’t mean you have to do it – just think about it, as a option for survival. Only a “moral-supremacist” would forbid it – notwithstanding that there are many of them about.
Normally, cutting off your own arm, would be a morally abhorrent thing to do, comparable with cannibalism, but there are circumstances, as the recently released film, 127 hours, shows, when it can be the right, even heroic, thing to do.
Or if an isolated population, for example, were faced with starvation, with the only way for at least some to survive until the next harvest being cannibalism, then surely that is what they would have to consider doing. Some of the men, perhaps, instead of sacrificing themselves in war (as canon fodder for kings, popes or politicians), offering themselves as food for their people.
We have few quibbles about men sacrificing their lives in war, even for the most dubious interests of state, so why should we not accept them sacrificing their lives so that their bodies can serve as food for their nation?
Our physical repugnance at the thought of eating human flesh is probably no different from the repugnance many feel at the thought of eating any animal flesh, and many more at eating certain kinds or parts of an animal.
Personally, I cannot conceive of eating human flesh to save myself from starvation. I’d rather starve, or so I believe at the moment. But placed in that extreme, life or death, situation, who knows? Perhaps I would change my mind. On the other hand, if my own children were facing starvation . . . . ?
If I were to offer myself, MY body, to MY people as food, if that is what they needed to survive, would that not be a noble thing to do?
I’m reminded of the story of the Buddha, in one of his lives, sacrificing it for the sake of a starving tigress and her cubs, laying down in front of her and cutting his own throat with a sharp piece of bamboo.
Is that story morally abhorrent, as I imagine most Christians would say it is? Not to me. I found it an inspiring story (though not necessarily one I would want to imitate) and still do, expressing the belief that we are far more than just our body, which will eventually die anyway. If we choose, for a good cause, to sacrifice it earlier, why not? It’s just a body. It’s my immortal soul that counts, which may well be strengthened, rather than diminished, through self-sacrifice.
The first point I want to make with these shocking ideas is that when it comes to survival, a question of life or death (not just your own, by your children’s) even cannibalism is an option that only a “moral supremacist” would forbid (better to let your children die than offer them human (even your own) flesh).
For me, personally, cannibalism would be the very LAST option, when the choice was between that and death – and even then I might choose death. I can’t say for sure, without actually being in that situation.
The second point I want to make is that cannibalism, whether we like it or not, WILL be a consequence of overpopulation, as will be (to some extent, already are) starvation, disease and war. These are ruthless Mother Nature’s ways of re-establishing balance and sustainability, when humans prove incapable (as we currently are) of doing it for themselves . . .
And what are we doing about it? Nothing. We’d rather not think about it; or when we do, delude ourselves into believing that human ingenuity, technology and perhaps the colonisation of other planets will come to our rescue – before we are forced to resort to cannibalism. Unless “moral supremacists” force us to leave the job to starvation, disease and war.

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