Skip to comments.No matter how you cut it up, eating people is simply wrong -
Posted on 12/07/2003 4:54:53 PM PST by UnklGene
No matter how you cut it up, eating people is simply wrong -
By Barbara Amiel (Filed: 08/12/2003)
Not a few modern cannibals in the West have been German and it would be tempting to say, after reading the testimony of self-confessed cannibal Armin Meiwes, now on trial in Kassel, that eating people is a peculiarly German thing to do. But there have been some American and British cannibals, with the odd Russian as well.
What may be an EU speciality is that apparently cannibalism is not a crime - though using wooden chopping boards may be. Somehow, one would feel slightly more comfortable living in a union where people may eat each other occasionally, but at least it's against the law.
What seems more predominant in Germany is the confusion of crime, sex and the culinary arts. Several German cannibals have made their victims into sausages for sale. I do not know whether their motives were purely economic or whether it was a case of taking Robert Frost's advice to combine vocation with avocation.
Meiwes, 41, advertised on the internet for someone he could eat and apparently it took 400 e-mails before he got it right. Quite a few sites exist for people with a predilection for cannibalism, but, like much of the internet, people lie about their age - and their tastes.
According to Meiwes's testimony, several prospective meals showed up at his home, including a man who was wrapped in cling-film with the parts of him he wanted eaten labelled.
But "cannabilees" are picky: the man in cling-film found it "too cold" on the hook that Meiwes had hung him on, so he was cut down and they had pizza instead.
Another wanted his genitals burnt by a flamethrower before being eaten, which Meiwes found "too weird". There are gradations in weirdness and they seem to effect cannibals as much as anyone else.
The encounter that resulted in the charges against Meiwes was something of a "techie" affair. Meiwes is a computer technician and his victim, Bernd Brandes, 42, a computer engineer. One cannot know what goes on in the technological soul, apparently so nerdish, but it may be that all the exposure to bytes has consequences.
According to Meiwes's testimony, Brandes came to his house perfectly ready and eager. "I hope you'll find me tasty," he said.
Brandes is said to have swigged down a bottle of the cold remedy Night Nurse and some non-prescription sleeping pills. Apparently Brandes wanted his penis cut off and made into the meal's appetizer, but didn't want it to hurt.
Night Nurse, as many a sufferer knows, is the only good part of having the flu, since it has a relatively high alcohol content. Non-prescription sleeping pills are hopeless and it comes as no surprise that the excitement of the prospective amputation triumphed over the tablets' sedative effects.
Anyway, the whole thing was nearly called off when an un-sedated Brandes decided to return to Berlin. But at the train station, like many a lover, he turned back for one more go and downed another bottle of Night Nurse.
This did the trick. "Cut the thing off," he is said to have demanded and Meiwes obliged. The video Meiwes made of these events apparently confirms that Brandes's participation was voluntary, though prosecutors claim Brandes must have been incapable of rational thought.
According to Meiwes, Brandes was so keen to taste his own fried member that he started eating it before it was cooked properly, so as not to die without experiencing this longed for pleasure. He perished 10 hours later.
The internet has quite a lot of cannibal sites. Some of the language is slightly unusual. "I am a tall stocky long pig looking for a big-bodied male chef who would like to have a feast of me," says one man at a hotmail address. People swap helpful tips, such as "How to Practice Safe Cannibalism".
Cannibals may not know that "eating people is wrong", as the Flanders & Swann song has it, but they do know that eating the wrong people can be medically dangerous.
Prosecutors have chosen to charge Meiwes with "murder motivated for sexual satisfaction". His lawyers argue that he is only guilty of "killing on request", which, in the wake of society's sympathy for euthanasia, carries a maximum term of five years.
Legal opinion in Germany seems to be that, given the victim's evident consent to the crime, it will be difficult to get a murder conviction.
Heaven knows, I'm an extreme libertarian and really believe that the state has no place in the bedrooms - or dining rooms - of the nation. But surely it cannot be legal to eat people, even if they wish to be on the menu.
I'm enough of a libertarian to suggest that sado-masochism between consenting adults should be lawful, certainly if it stops short of grievous bodily harm, and some might argue so long as it falls short of death.
Cannibalism has long-standing roots in human behaviour. Primitive people would eat their enemies for their qualities as much as for nutrition: Meiwes feels he now speaks English better because Brandes was proficient at it.
Ingestion can also be a symbol for sex or sacrament. Lovers bite each other. Christians celebrate a metaphorical consumption of the Saviour's body and blood. Virtually every known cannibal has alluded to a quasi-religious component in his actions. Meiwes testified "it was almost like Communion".
Christianity doesn't remotely justify cannibalism, but shows that, like all sicknesses, cannibalism is an extreme or perverse form of a deep-seated human trait. Such sicknesses are parodies of a normal condition. A deformed person has six toes - he does not have five toes and one propeller.
The thin line that separates sexuality and perversity in the human mind is curious. One man's lust is another's perversion. Any type of sexual practice you happen not to like can become repulsive to you. This includes sexual behaviour well within the normal range, such as deep kissing, which most people would find unexceptional but a minority would find utterly revolting.
As you go up the line of sexual variations, a greater number of people are disgusted, until you get to such preferences as cannibalism that make almost all of us sick.
But the uniqueness of the human sexual response makes it difficult to understand how society decides that one unnatural act should be more favoured than another - when force or children are not involved. Why do we have gay pride days, but forbid two consenting adults to engage in incest?
A mother and daughter or two brothers in an incestuous relationship self-evidently cannot have a child. And shouldn't heterosexual incest be legal if issue is prohibited? Necrophilia I suppose lacks consent on the part of the dead person, but what if the dead person made a living will giving his consent?
Our regulation of sexual behaviour constantly baffles me. But, if the situation in the Armin Meiwes case makes him guilty of a lesser crime than murder according to German law, that is the crime of which he should be found guilty.
It's more important to uphold existing law than to substitute one's natural disgust for cannibalism. Which wouldn't prevent one from concluding that the German law on "request killing" is an ass.
I have to assume this is from the point of view of the eater, since being the eatee is by definition highly unsafe.
I mean how many people did the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater eat in the Fifties...?
This is a very intolerant and small minded position for a newspaper to take. Who are we to stand in the way of choice . . .
The author is not an extreme libertarian. He is not even a consistent libertarian. These were private acts committed in the privacy of a home. They harmed noone other than the voluntary participants.
How many times have I heard libertarians here post that drug users ought to be able to kill themselves? They aren't hurting anyone else. So this idiot chose a slightly weirder, if no more perverse, means of killing himself. Libertarians wouldn't send John Belushi's dealer to the gas chamber. Why should they send this guy to jail.
The author just wants to impose his old fashioned conservative morality on other people. And I agree. Eating people is wrong.
It's nice to know that there are moral judgments that even self styled 'extreme' libertarians will make. This confirms my belief that deep inside every libertarian is a conservative waiting to get out. It's just a matter of where you draw the line. And once you start drawing lines, you aren't a libertarian--at least not in a consistent or pure sense.
It's like taking S&M to another level. If you're going to CHOOSE to be the cannabalizer or the cannabalizee, why, oh why would you chose to be the one that SITS THERE AND GETS EATEN?!?
Excuse me, beg pardon. Could you pass the me, please.
If you want to volunteer to get literally eaten alive in a savage frenzy of which you have no chance of surviving intact, find a way to become Howard Dean's VP. It's a lot more embarassaing, albeit not quite as painful.