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Offbeat – 8 June 2012

Cannibalism never went away. The difference between then and now is that it is about to become fashionable.


What’s with this business of eating man flesh? It’s not like we’re evolving to become orcs. First there was the guy who ate the face of this other guy. Then there was the guy who ate the brains of another guy. And now there is a porn star who may have taken the figurative idea of eating someone one step too close to the literal side of things.
There has been some predictable rumbling about zombies. The US Center for Disease Control has denied that it is a catching disease, which probably means that they haven’t identified it as a disease. They are probably turning a little bit red in the face now. Not so long ago they launched a zombie apocalypse website to teach preparedness in an amusing way.
The psychiatric profession hasn’t denied that it is catching, which should give us all pause for thought. Be afraid. Be very afraid. While you are at it, take a close look at the people around you. Are you sure they look normal?
The next steps in this sorry progression are probably a lot of noise from outraged US Republicans, a ban on George A. Romero, US Democrats springing to the defense of the zombies and all the halfway sane people who don’t participate in politics rushing outside for a quick snigger where they won’t offend anyone.
I can hardly wait for this one to go down.
Three, so close together, seems a bit like a case of Charles Fort’s synchronicity. If I were a betting type of person, I would lay money down on repeats of these bizarre events. If you were the sort of person who indulged in betting, your smart move would be to turn my bet aside.
Now that we have got that out of the way, let’s get down to the facts. Cannibalism has been around as long as mankind.
Once upon a time, it was as common as can be. Meat is part of man’s natural diet, and it is easy to imagine that hunger could have led eyes to stray towards a slightly overweight neighbour. Ritual cannibalism, eating parts of a person to absorb that person’s attributes, is not unknown either. In fact, it is still a symbolic part of two major religions, and a real part of the lives of at least one warlord and his militia. It is also a hallmark of madness, be it physical neurology or a drug induced psychosis.
What is potentially very interesting about cannibalism at this point is that it has entered the mainstream US media. The stories were not buried in the back of a paper as small but bizarre items for people who read from cover to cover. They were splashed across the covers of newspapers and as lead items on websites across the world.
The US media and global media are akin to Pandora’s Box. Once opened, the ideas spread and they can’t be put back in place. Take the school shootings. Once those were sufficiently publicised, everyone wanted a go, or at least every psycho with a grievance, an arsenal and sufficient gumption.
The US media has picked up on cannibalism now, and every human, sane or not, comes with teeth. In fact, as you read this, two more attacks have been linked to cannibalism since the first three, and we’ll just ignore the Japanese artist who served up his genitals on a plate as some kind of heartfelt but unnecessary statement on something or other.
Cannibalism never went away. The difference between then and now is that it is about to become fashionable. Kids with guns can be addressed with security. Kids with teeth, humans with teeth, are an entirely different matter.
Andy Warhol talked about fifteen minutes of fame. It seems as if there’s a new way to attain it, whether willingly as the aggressor or unwillingly as the victim.
That route to fame will become somewhat more tenuous soon, if my guess on a sudden upsurge in attacks proves correct.
I was mildly discomforted by the taboo in the realm of my beloved horror novels, even in Shakespeare’s ‘Titus Andronicus’ or modern classic ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’, but I am extremely discomforted by the idea of it becoming commonplace. That’s not rumbling in my stomach. That’s churning.

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