Thursday 22 December 2011: "With patience more than savages could suffer
A few months ago I finished working with a pair of documentary film makers who interviewed me about being a working-class or poor man who has served Science as a human guinea pig. Since then they've shared the finished film with me, and by cleverly juxtaposing certain things I said, it has me more or less hinting that if I ever get hungry enough, I might just start eating cats. The effect is hilarious --at least to me --and it was not my idea! I expect that the movie will be well received in the coming Spring.
In recent years I've read a number of histories that involve exploration, prison escape, and long-distant travel, sometimes finding groups of people without any food --or still worse, without food or water. It is only in recent years that the subject of cannibalism has been frankly discussed, but there have always been stories like exotic zoo animals being eaten by well-connected Parisians as the poor finished off pigeons and rats during the Siege of 1871.
On the one hand, no one wants to be reduced to eating a cherished animal and the thought of eating our own dead is a nightmare. On the other hand, starvation robs the human mind of all civilization, and in the last hours before death, we will eat the dead.
When the famous 33 Chilean miners realized that they were trapped and almost certainly doomed, every one of them was tormented by thoughts of cannibalism, but none spoke of it. Then, when the drill broke through the rock and they knew they were saved, they all started making jokes about it.
My dear Max weighs around 17 or 18 pounds, which would be fairly large for a Thanksgiving turkey. Game butchers will refuse to buy a rabbit unless its head and feet are intact because without those, no one can tell them apart from a cat --that is, until they eat it. Cats are said to be sweeter. Raccoons are common now in many American cities and can weigh up to 40 pounds.
I love Max. On the other hand, he probably could feed a family of five for three days! The slogan "Eat The Rich" is universally understood as a blue-collar joke, but no natural law says that it must always be a joke. Eating is so often a pleasure that we easily forget that we do it in order to continue living.
In the play Antony and Cleopatra, Caesar says to Antony:
When thou once
Wast beaten from Modena, where thou slew'st
Hirtius and Pansa, consuls, at thy heel
Did famine follow, whom thou fought'st against,
Though daintily brought up, with patience more
Than savages could suffer. Thou didst drink
The stale of horses and the gilded puddle
Which beasts would cough at. Thy palate then did deign
The roughest berry on the rudest hedge.
Yea, like the stag, when snow the pasture sheets,
The barks of trees thou browsèd. On the Alps
It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh,
Which some did die to look on. And all this-
It wounds thine honor that I speak it now-
Was borne so like a soldier, that thy cheek
So much as lanked not.