Gruesome Prospect

In an extremely interesting, if at times gruesome, article in the New York Times, we read about cannibalism in various animal species — including among human animals. Apparently it is not that uncommon, even though in humans recently  it has become less common since our “civilized” tendencies would rule it out as unthinkable. Still, we have read about crises and so-called “life-boat” situations in which humans have drawn straws to see who shall be sacrificed to save the rest. Our skin crawls at the very thought. None the less, as the article concludes,

As scientists have come to understand, factors like overpopulation and a lack of alternative forms of nutrition lead to cannibalism among animals, and it is clear that even modern humans have been driven to the behavior on many occasions. What, then, of the future?

Populations are growing. Resources are dwindling. Deserts are spreading. And the societal rules that bind us together are proving more fragile than we ever imagined they could be. Maybe it is wise to remember that human cannibalism, so unthinkable now, was not uncommon not so long ago

In a word, as humans continue to populate the earth and food becomes increasingly scarce — especially with global warming making food production more and more difficult and major storms destroying food supplies– this unthinkable possibility looms large.

I recall reading many years ago a novel by the prolific British novelist Anthony Burgess entitled The Wanting Seed. It is a dystopia, as those novels are called, about a possible future in which there are far too many people and food is scarce. This is fiction, of course, and we all know it is at best an “alternative fact.” In the real world this could not possibly happen. Right.

In any event, in Burgess’ novel, the powers that be conjured up a bogus war in which thousands of young lives are taken; the dead are then chopped up and placed into cans to feed the remainder of the population — which knows not wherefrom the food they eat has come. Now, again, this is fiction (gruesome fiction at that), but it is not beyond the realm of possibility given the state of things as they appear on the horizon. Needless to say if the powers that be resemble in any way, shape, or form the powers that are at present sitting in Washington this possibility seems even less remote. Those folks seem to lack any moral sensibility and are willing to do whatever might advance their own particular agendas. And, clearly, survival would be among those agendas.

The point of this strange post is that we really need to recognize the elephant in the room in the form of a human population that increases daily — a problem which may well be at the root of all the other problems we face at this time. We also need to stop and think about what we are doing to the planet — and also think the unthinkable. What if food production falls off precipitously and there simply isn’t enough to go around? Who makes the decisions about which mouths to feed and who should go hungry? And is it totally beyond imagining that humans might indeed start to eat one another — as they did in 1846 at the Donner Pass when desperate times demanded desperate measures? If we continue to ignore the so-called “population explosion” and continue to turn a blind eye to the fate of the planet earth on which we all depend we may face desperate measures before we know it.


You have almost certainly heard about the brew-ha-ha surrounding Michael Sam, the large football player from the University of Missouri who “came out of the closet” last Spring to the delight of talking heads around the country. He was recently drafted by the St. Louis Rams and gave his partner a large kiss on the mouth moments after breaking down in tears upon receiving word that he had been drafted. The moment was doubly shocking to many because Sam is black and his partner is white: not only homosexuality, but inter-racial homosexuality! The emotions of the two men were very real and the ensuing discussion by the talking heads rather intense. . . . and certainly ongoing.

To their credit both the NFL and ESPN, which have supported Sam in their coverage of the events surrounding his announcement and subsequent draft status, aired the film of the kiss repeatedly ( I say again, repeatedly) as if to say: we fully support homosexuality in sports and if you don’t like it that’s your problem. The networks love to show raw emotion as a rule, but the kiss between a man and his male partner broke new ground and it was praised on one side and condemned on the other. Some have likened this event to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955. This was a historical event, to be sure, and the emotions of many people have been stirred: reverberations will be heard for many months to come, I dare say. I suspect that many folks in TV land sprained their thumbs tweeting hate mail regarding Sam to their friends. The man has made a bed that I suspect he will find very hard to lie in. But I sincerely wish him well. He showed great courage given the temper of the times; homosexuality is simply a fact of life and it is time we grew up, recognized it and came to accept it.

After all, the Greeks, especially the Thebans and Spartans who were reputed to be some of the most fearless warriors the world has known, were unashamedly homosexual. They admired the male body, wrestled in the nude (as did their Athenian neighbors) and simply accepted the fact that men could love one another and even have sex with no social stigma attached. Socrates was supposed to have had a sexual relationship with Alcibiades while, at the same time, he was married and had several children. Homosexual practices in Greece, usually involving an older man and a younger one, go back at least to Homer who suggested the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad. There were, as well, homosexual relationships between women as depicted by the poet Sappho. These relationships were not regarded as the least bit unusual, which leads me to surmise that 2000 years ago they were more sophisticated and mature than we are! What happened in the meantime, of course, was organized Christianity in all its myriad forms (especially Puritanism) and the attendant taboos against all sorts of sexual conduct, not the least of which were homosexual activities, and even simple nudity.

Anthony Burgess wrote a novel years ago titled The Wanting Seed in which he envisioned a time when the earth had started to dry up and stop producing food to feed its burgeoning human populations. The expanding numbers of hungry humans led the leaders of his world to embrace homosexuality and hold it up as a paradigm for human conduct. It was one way to reduce the exploding populations of humans: after all, there cannot be any progeny as a result of sexual intercourse between consenting, same-sex, partners! He may have been on to something. It might be that after the dust has settled from Michael Sam’s passionate embrace and kiss on national television — and that will take some time — we will come to not only accept homosexuality as a fact of life, but regard it as exemplary behavior to be emulated. In a word, we may eventually grow up, which is a good thing. And as a bonus, as Burgess suggested, it may be a way of reducing the growing number of humans who seem determined to destroy the planet while they express their mindless outrage at what they regard as bizarre sexual behavior.