Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?
Slander is worse than cannibalism – St. John Chrysostom
Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian. – Herman Melville
There is no cannibalism in the British navy, absolutely none, and when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount. – Graham Chapman in a Monty Python sketch
Unable to sleep in the small hours of this morning, I got out of bed and watched the recently released film of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. As a great admirer of McCarthy’s work since first reading Blood Meridian some twenty years ago, I was interested to see if the film-makers had stayed faithful to the book.
I expect the basic storyline is tolerably familiar to most people by now, given the reviews and publicity the film has had. A father and son travel through a bleak, post-apocalyptic landscape. It rains incessantly and everything is broken, shattered and decayed. The sky is a turmoil of ugly chemical colours and giant fires dot the horizon.
It’s 10 years after some unspecified cataclysmic event that has destroyed America (and by implication, the world). All the structures and norms of society have crumbled and gangs of cannibals roam the landscape in search of prey. It’s a bit like Gaza, really, except for the cannibals.
You can tell it’s an American vision of a post-apocalyptic world because everyone has very bad teeth.
So, yes: the film-makers adhered faithfully to the book and it makes for a very grim 110-odd minutes.
But it got me thinking about cannibalism: under what circumstances would I (or any of us) consume human flesh? My instinctive reaction is never: I’d rather starve to death. But would I? Really?
After all, it’s just meat and God knows, I have no objection to being eaten myself once I’m dead: worms or people–eaten is eaten. Clearly, murdering people for food is very wrong but is eating people inherently wrong? Or is it just cultural baggage like our objection to eating insects (considered a delicacy in some cultures)?
Sharpen your teeth, set that missionary-sized pot on the fire and let’s have poems on cannibalism.