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Dreamed 1995/2/15 by Chris Wayan

A cannibal I know is horrified that we bury our dead. How disrespectful! We should eat the corpse at a big feast, and sit around praising the departed as we digest. An anthropologist would say the rite developed because his people were in a game-poor jungle and needed the protein, but he feels it passionately, as a religious duty--we're cheating both the dead and the living.

I'm almost convinced, and I'm a vegetarian!

At the inquest, before the jury, he argues his case. The whole court is flooded; we stand in thigh-deep water. It makes me nervous--that water could hide anything. Crocodiles?

The Moral Cannibal stages a play to argue his case. He pulls a huge Alaskan king crab from the water, prepares to bury it. Then a three-foot lobster, put in a coffin. Point taken! The jurors can't help feeling upset: they want that lobster, and know how valuable it is...


I just read the book "Consuming Passions". Its chapter on cannibalism argues that many Aztec sacrifices were about protein. I'm skeptical. Skeletal evidence suggests that Mayan and Aztec sacrifices had histories of lifelong injuries, suggesting constant fighting; were the sacrifices really capital punishment of troublemakers? Besides... of all the early farming societies, the New World corn-bean-squash growers had the best vegetable sources of protein: both beans and squash seeds, not to mention avocadoes. Maybe if they had nothing but yams, or bread, or potatoes...

But my dreams are not so sure. Taboos, whether food or death, aren't about logic. They're about feelings. Those jurors didn't need that lobster. But they sure wanted it!

LISTS AND LINKS: death - food - cannibals - trials - crustaceans - ethics

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