Welcome to XIV. Possibly the best sentence with "fourteen" in it comes from a guy who recounted, "I once got so drunk on slo-gin that I couldn't touch it again until I was 14." We don't endorse underage drinking, but that's funny. Incidentally, we do think underage drinking is too strictly proscribed. It's a shame youngsters can't learn to drink responsibly in family circles, like weddings, waiting instead until they're 21 and then blowing out the doors–and sometimes their lives.
As regular readers are aware, the purpose of TWE is to provide spirit and light in the middle of the work week. Unfortunately, this week will be a little dark. Our feature posts discuss the new book from Penguin, Cannibal.
We bought this book, literally, for the hell of it. We weren't disappointed. Hellish subject, hellish style.
First, the style. It's bad. We're guessing Penguin was so excited to get this book to press that they forgot to read it. Factual inconsistencies dot its pages: Was the cannibal friendless in childhood or not? Did the male members of his family desert him at age six or eight (the first two pages contradict each other)? Did his move to Rotenburg pre-date his witch friend's move to Rotenburg? The book is also filled with clichÃ©s and canned sayings, valued so highly by the author that she occasionally allows them to override the text.
But the book is still a helluva read. Sub-titled The True Story Behind the Maneater of Rotenburg, it recounts the life and appetite of Armin Meiwes, a German cannibal who was convicted of manslaughter after eating 44 pounds of Bernd Juergen's flesh. A short commentary piece by Theodore Dalrymple that we recalled reading in early 2004 prompted us to buy the book. In his piece, Dalrymple said the trial evidence showed that Meiwes and Bernd both consented to it. Under the modern doctrine of "Two Consenting Adults" (which holds that anything between two consenting adults should be lawful), how could Meiwes be convicted of anything?
The book confirms Dalrymple's factual background. Though both participants were mentally disturbed in some fashion (both had homosexual proclivities; both enjoyed pornography and indulged violent sexual imaginations; both had non-existent or bizarre relationships with their parents while growing up), they were by no measure insane or incapable of making their own decisions. This feast was fully consensual, planned, and discussed. More thought went into it than the planning behind a small wedding. The participants held respectable jobs; their acquaintances were shocked that the men were capable of any such thing.
The smug Meiwes, in fact, wanted only a consensual victim. On two occasions, he had naked men tied up and ready for slaughter, but both suddenly changed their minds. Both times, Meiwes immediately released them. The judge in the Meiwes murder trial agreed that the slaughter was consensual and declined to convict for murder, opting instead for manslaughter, with the result that Meiwes will be eligible for parole in 2008 and will definitely be out of prison by 2012. When you consider that he has been offered serious money for his autobiography and at least $1 million for a film deal (can you say "four Oscars"?), he will make out pretty well in this deal. The author didn't speculate on whether Bernd's relatives will get "a cut" of the proceeds (sorry 'bout that; couldn't resist).
Though filled with fluff, the book provided a handful of interesting facts and anecdotes. Here are a few:
*Meiwes researched cannibalism extensively. The author tells us that he accumulated more than fifty slaughter stories and documents, including "essays promoting cannibalism as a way of lessening overpopulation in the Third World." (Did someone just see a light bulb turn on at the UN and Rockefeller Foundation?)
*There have been numerous documented cases of cannibalism: Jeffrey Dahmer; Fritz Haarmann, the "Monster of Hanover," a meat butcher who murdered at least 24 boys between 1918 and 1924 and then sold their flesh to customers seeking cheap meat (presumably an economic thing related to the miserable Weimar Republic, but the author doesn't say that); Albert Fish, called "America's Bogeyman," who raped, murdered, and ate at least 15 children during the 1920s; Adolph Luetgert, one of Chicago's master butchers of the 1870s, who killed his wife and melted her into his sausage vats (sausage sales in Illinois and Michigan reached all-time lows when that information hit the press).
*As of a few years ago, there were 800,000 web sites devoted to cannibalism. After Meiwes advertised for a "slaughter boy," 204 offered themselves up (though none, except Bernd, followed-up all the way). Thirty others volunteered to help do the slaughtering and 15 asked to watch.
*PETA contacted Meiwes after his conviction. They wanted him to change his appetites and become a vegetarian. It would've been a PR coup for them. "What this man did to a German computer expert [Bernd] is done to other creatures every day. The cruel scenario of slaughtering, cutting up, portioning, freezing and eating body parts is the grim reality for more than 450 million sentient individuals that are killed in this country every year." With the major exception, of course, that Bernd wanted it, the cows and pigs don't. Does that make Bernd's case better or worse than the slaughter pig's case? The author didn't explore that one.
"Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less." Robert E. Lee
"Nothing will sustain you more potently than the power to recognize in your humdrum routine . . . the true poetry of life." Sir William Osler. Try squaring that with this stray quote: "Habit is the denial of creativity and the negation of freedom; a self-imposed straitjacket of which the wearer is unaware." Arthur Koestler
"Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself a slave to it." Benjamin Franklin
"To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be controlled in everything." Fredrich von Hayek
"Can a man be a materialist who sees a dead body?" John Henry Newman, reflections after his father's funeral.
Misology: Hatred of argument, reason, or enlightenment. "Are you a misologist or just drunk?"