Monday, February 07, 2011

The choice: Being a cannibal or just being rude

I haven't tasted human flesh and I hope I never do. It's just how I feel. There is a certain absurdity to the thought that discards any potential of rational discussion of 'why'. Why don't I like the idea of eating human flesh?

Have you been around a table and hear someone say, "There's a tribe in India, the Aghori sadhu's who eat human flesh', to which you could possibly hear, 'Eew' or 'how could you?' or "that's just plain cold-hearted and yuck!"

What is it that makes us discard the idea of chomping on human flesh? Why can't we think of a juicy piece of buttock meat, or thigh meat, whatever you are into, rolled through a skewer, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled liberally with adobo seasoning?

  • Is it because there is a thinking brain inside each of us that recognizes pain, but more importantly can voice it through shouts for help?
  • Is it because it is conditioning of the mind with the deep-rooted idea that we do not betray those from our clan
  • Is it because of emotions and the connections we have with people, either by seeing the sadness or fear in their eyes and being able to empathize with that?
  • Or is it because we are just consider ourselves superior enough to do it to other animals BECAUSE we think:
  1. They cannot display all the emotions we relate to (i.e. fish don't make loud crying sounds), so the pain or heartlessness is peripheral and hence easily ignorable.
  2. We can ignore the painful cries because we don't understand them (e.g. a pig wailing as it is chopped)

We are empathetic, some more than others (e.g. vegans, nice people), but we enjoy the meat so much that we have adapted our minds into a process where it is 'OK' for planned death to happen to certain animals.

Then, we try to hide the process of killing (KFC will not show you explicitly how they kill chickens), and then bask in the idea of humane killing - if we have to kill anyways, and that's a given, let's do it in a slightly less painful way.

Don't we have different standards?

As you can see in the video above (See it now, if you haven't already), there is a practice in Madagascar where a high ranking person/guest is offered to eat the foreskin after a boy has been circumcised.

Andrew Zimmern
, some call him the crazy guy coz he really eats anything, visited Malagasy as part of his 'Bizarre Foods' show, and witnessed the cermony in the video. For a guy who eats pretty much everything, this was still very difficult to comprehend on many levels.

Here's something for you -

You are a true explorer, an adventurer, someone who loves people and always wants to learn more about their lives, their traditions and be them, if only for one day. This means you try to be as gracious and respectful as you possibly can because you understand and even preach that what someone does 3000 miles across from your land, is normal, by their standards.

So then, if you are sitting amongst a group of 50 tribesmen in Malagasy, with women, children and all the locals crowded around the petrified little boy, and the proud Chief, waiting for the ceremony to begin. Then, the snipping is done, you hear the wails of the boy no more, there seems to be an energy of celebration, and just then the Chief turns and offers you a banana with a little piece of skin on it (did you just squirm?), all eyes on you with awe and wonder of this precious visitor being honored with this offer - What would you do?

Today I'm humming: Govinda by Kula Shaker


  1. The rationalist in me - sitting behind the protective veil of his computer screen (it's so effective, there's no boys' wailings coming through nor blood squirting...) - says "carpe diem". The more you think, the more you'll squirm. If the Chief surprises you with his offer take advantage of your surprise and chomp. The damage has been done. You can't sew the poor guy's foreskin back on. You're not a better human for refusing it and letting it go to waste. And most of all, I think it would be blinkered to think your refusal could change the ways of the tribe. Besides, what should be changed? The circumcision or the ritual cannibalism?

    Needless to say, without this filter that is my computer and the remove allowing me to rationalise I would be gagging and most likely unable to eat the offering.

  2. No way. I wouldn't let myself get into that situation. May be hypocritical as I love eating meat. And I understand hypocritical as my wife is vegan and I am carnivore.

    With little exception, we eat what we eat, I think, because it's what we were fed as children. If I was raised in a community where this practice was common and even revered, then I'd have no problem with it. Similarly, if I was raised in a place where eating partially developed duck fetuses in the shell were common, I'd probably be all over it.

    I love raw oysters, stinky cheese, extremely rare meat, sushi, caviar and boiled artichokes with mayo. On and on. But a boy's foreskin. No way.

    Great post!

  3. Milo and Casey: Thank you for your comments!

    Not sure if anything should change, coz circumcision has been around as a tradition for a long time and we've come to accept it, which is perhaps the basis of this post - what we know and conditioning.

    The post was triggered more because of the 'eating a part of a human' perspective, so its the ritual cannibalism that is in question, again, not saying it should be changed, because I think as we all know conditioning plays a huge role, as Casey says. I was born eating squid and goa sausages, and tongue which to many others are 'ugh', but I LOVED them, like mouth watering love.

    Eating human flesh though interestingly is a yucky thought to most of us. And I just wanted to know why?, coz Ive had some responses beyond this blog and its funny, some people just thought it was weird that I should choose to write about something like this (instead why not pick 'puppies and sunshine!:)) which in itself shows the 'mind block' we have against words being expressed on what we consider morbidity because of our conditioning.

    I couldnt penetrate the reasons behind Why we do NOT want to eat another humans flesh. (not necessarily the foreskin). Historically, or in current times?

    Casey, Boiled artichokes with mayo? Not that's a first! :)