January 25, 2000
early nineteenth century, a slave trader named Theophilus Conneau
kept a journal of his experiences in Africa. On one occasion he witnessed a
cannibal orgy, in which one tribe performed acts of torture and mutilation,
including castration and decapitation, on another tribe which they had
particularly struck by the ferocity of the women of the conquering tribe,
who, their naked bodies decorated with chalk and red paint, gleefully led
the gruesome festivities. The chief matron bore an infant babe torn
from its mothers womb ... which she tossed high in the air,
receiving it on the point of her knife before eating it. During the
ritual this same woman was adorned with a string of mens
genital parts while collecting into a gourd the brains of the
Such practices may not justify European
colonialism, but they do help explain why the Europeans thought they were
bringing civilization to savage places. As G.K. Chesterton pointed out,
regretting the white mans arrogance need not mean idealizing the
conquered natives. Chesterton also observed that cannibalism
wasnt a primitive practice but a highly decadent one.
The cannibals werent satisfying
physical appetites, like carnivorous animals, but indulging a specifically
human or diabolical malice. The historian Francis Parkman
describes Iroquois Indians, having captured a party of Algonquins, roasting
and devouring their infants before the eyes of the agonized
mothers, whose shrieks, supplications, and frantic efforts to break the
cords that bound them were met with mockery and laughter.
Mocking the suffering of the victims was
part of the fun; the very essence of it, in fact. The lion doesnt
gloat over his prey, with a circle of his fellow felines whooping at the
agony of a slowly dismembered antelope.
Inflicting and observing torture for
amusement is a distinctively human delight. In the case of the African
cannibals, it would be a feeble excuse to say that the unborn child was a
mere fetus, and therefore somehow not fully
human, as we say now; the woman who killed it obviously regarded
it as human, which was more or less the point of the orgy.
Eating a fetus might strike even the
National Abortion Rights Action League as a little unseemly; our
enlightened society still retains a few irrational inhibitions, which may,
however, eventually go the way of so many other taboos. Western man
(including Western woman) has learned to justify abortion, if not yet to
enjoy it. We still observe a certain nervous and clinical decorum about the
But we are making progress. It is already
possible to purchase aborted children and their body parts from
abortionists. New uses are constantly being found for them; in time we
may learn to relax and see the potential for fun, humor, and even
nourishment they can afford us.
In the anti-Nazi hysteria among the
victors after World War II, it was reported that the Germans had made
soap and lampshades from the body fat and skin of murdered Jews; such
stories have now been exploded as myths. But we are becoming inured to
similar practices, provided that the materials are taken before birth. It is
worth noting that the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, after his
escape to South America, made his living as what would now be called an
abortion provider. For some years Dr. Mengele, though
unobserved and unappreciated, provided a living link between the Nazi era
and the liberal era.
We are proving once again that people can
get used to anything, including practices that would have sickened their
ancestors, as long as those practices are introduced gradually and under
suitable euphemisms. Perhaps the first cannibals were somewhat
shamefaced about their tastes and had to refer to their repast with a
certain delicacy alternative cuisine, or something
of the sort until their contemporaries became more open-minded
and receptive to new ideas. Then, at length, the practice may have become
so acceptable that it could be enjoyed without apology, and in fact with
guilt-free exultation, by the whole tribe.
Is that how it happens? I dont
know; Im only guessing. But we may be about to find out.
Archive Table of Contents
|FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.