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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

“Please Don’t Feed the Cannibals!”

“Please Don’t Feed the Cannibals!”

I have come to the conclusion that imperialism and exploitation
are forms of cannibalism and, in fact, are precisely those forms
of cannibalism which are most diabolical or evil. – Jack D. Forbes

By Butler Shaffer
Information Clearing House
February 18, 2015

It is an unavoidable fact of nature that living beings can survive
only by consuming other forms of life.

Neither dirt, sand, nor rocks, nor other lifeless matter, can provide
nourishment to maintain the continuing renewal of energy upon
which living things depend.

It is the mark of civilized people to reject the consumption
of human life in this endeavor.

Vegetarians and vegans would like to extend this exception to other
animal life forms, a choice that does not negate the underlying fact
that living organisms must sustain themselves at the expense of
other forms of life.

They have simply chosen to confine their dietary choices
to “vegetable” rather than “animal” categories.

So rare is the practice of cannibalism in America that the occasional
case that does arise attracts a long-standing public curiosity.

In 1873, the notorious Alferd G. Packer confessed to cannibalizing
men he had taken on a hunting trip in Colorado.

In 1968, students at the University of Colorado gave the student
cafeteria the name it still bears: “The Alferd G. Packer Memorial
Grill.”

Nor has the memory of Jeffrey Dahmer’s epicurean preferences
faded.

But feasting on human flesh is not the only expression of the cannibalistic behavior that plagues mankind.

The verb “cannibalize” is often used in commerce, industry, and technology to refer to the practice of using parts from one system to repair or construct another system.

In wartime, badly-damaged airplanes would often have their usable parts removed to repair other planes.

A business firm that puts out a significantly improved product is said to have “cannibalized” its earlier products.

One dictionary defines “cannibalize” as to cut into; cause to be reduced; or to diminish.

In some cannibal cultures, the practice of eating another human being is thought to transfer to the cannibal the spirit, strength, power, or other energies of the victim.

Modern Western cultures reject such direct exploitation of people, but do embrace the forms of meatless, ersatz cannibalism that nonetheless consume these qualities of being human.

When individuals are conditioned and compelled to substitute institutional interests and purposes for their own, are they not devoured by the insatiable appetites of abstract systems?

What could be more dispiriting than to be forcibly deprived of the control, direction, and meaning of one’s life; qualities that go to the essence of being human?

Is not cannibalism a perfect metaphor for the state depriving individuals – through its powers of taxation and regulation – of the products of the energies that are essential to maintaining one’s life?

And how can wars and genocidal practices be looked upon as anything but feeding the machineries of power at the expense of what institutions regard as collective, fungible “assets” and “resources” to serve their ends?

When, in 2006, White House press secretary Tony Snow casually dismissed the deaths of 2,500 American soldiers in the Iraqi war as “it’s a number,” his words reflected the indifference of human costs in calculating political purposes.

He could just as perfunctorily have been commenting on the number of cattle slaughtered at a meat-packing plant in a given period of time.

So, too, did former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright express her disregard for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children who died as a consequence of the Clinton administration’s economic boycott of that country.

“The price was worth it,” she publicly proclaimed, as though she was commenting on the beef bourguinon at her favorite French restaurant.

Of course, as with all political programs, the costs are always borne by others, never by those who institute and profit from them!

Such is the character of cannibalism.

The cannibalistic nature of the established order manifests itself in so many other ways: churches and schools that do not inspire, but squelch curiosity and punish children for the spontaneity that fires the human spirit.

In a year in which one of the most popular films lionizes the American Sniper, the quantum change in how human life is valued is rather evident.

When snipers and drone operators, who kill on behalf of the state and from great distances, are treated as “heroes,” the life-destroying character of our erstwhile civilization is no longer in question.

Plato provided a politically-structured model for human society that has long been embraced by Western culture.

His pyramidal design envisioned, at the highest level, the men of gold, whose wisdom would make them ideal rulers; at the next level were the men of silver, who were the soldiers and other enforcers of the legislation established by the rulers; at the bottom level were the men of brass or iron, i.e., the farmers, laborers, artisans, and other producers of the goods and services that would allow the society to sustain itself.

For my purposes, I would transpose Plato’s characterization of a political hierarchy into these levels: the ruling cannibals, who will be the principal beneficiaries of the coercive transfer of energy and other resources from others; the vultures, (the soldiers, police, bureaucrats, judges, and other functionaries of the state) whose function is to forcefully harvest the zombies (the productive people) of their energies, wealth, other resources, and obedience to state authority.

Members of the zombie class must, of course, be conditioned in the virtue and necessity of accepting their subservient role of producing the wealth that others will consume!

Within the vulture class will also be found members of academia and other teachers, the mainstream media, writers, and others who will provide the conditioning.

Plato’s own words reveal just how irrelevant his 2,400 year-old ideas are to modern society.

He declared: “A state comes into existence because no individual is self-sufficing; we all have many needs.”

The industrial revolution made evident to intelligent minds that free markets, not the supposed wisdom of philosopher-kings, was the most effective system in which “individuals” with their “many needs” can each pursue their respective interests and, in such a pluralistic process, generate an abundance of material wealth that elitist rulers will always be incapable of matching.

Twentieth-century experiences with centrally-planned economies revealed to intelligent minds – with the same certainty as the proposition of 8 being the square root of 64 – that the liberty, spontaneity, and respect for private property that are implicit in marketplace systems, is the most effective means of fostering human well-being.

The study of physics informs us of the fundamental truth that actions have consequences.

Those who fail to understand the causal connections that allow men and women to produce the values – be they material, spiritual, aesthetic, or otherwise – upon which civilized society depends, hold mankind hostage to their ignorance.

Franz Oppenheimer’s distinction between the “economic means” and the “political means” of acquiring wealth, has particular meaning here.

The economic means is premised on the production and voluntary exchange of resources through which people endeavor to maximize their respective self-interest-driven well-being.

The political means, on the other hand, is nothing more than a system of spoliation, with force being used to transfer resources from productive to non-productive persons.

To enervate the creative energies of some in order to allow the privileged despoilers to sustain themselves at the expense of the productive, is but to engage in a sophisticated form of cannibalism.

Slavery, conscription, eminent domain, asset forfeiture, war, taxation, govt.-mandated insurance, the state’s creation of rules for uniformity and standardization of products and behavior, involve some living at the expense of others through forced transfer of resources and energy.

There is more than just hyperbole involved in regarding such behavior as a form of “cannibalism.”

That so many of these practices are carried out by people who self-applaud themselves as “public servants” should remind us of the Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man,” in which aliens from another planet come to Earth with promises to end wars, hunger, resolve health problems, and other benefits to humanity.

They have brought with them a book, titled “To Serve Man,” that earthlings try to translate.

As a number of humans are being loaded onto the spaceship to take them to the alien’s planet, one man figures out that “it’s a cook book.”

“Serving mankind” is a political mantra that could be inscribed on every cannibal pot!

A business firm that begins to consume its own investment capital is on the way to extinction.

So, too, is a culture that undertakes to consume the principles, values, expectations, and other conditions that foster its vibrancy.

The health of a civilization depends upon its being able to produce the values that sustain it, a truth acknowledged by a number of eminent historians.

Arnold Toynbee observed that the collapse of a civilization arises from a “loss of creative power in the souls of creative individuals;” a movement “toward standardization and uniformity” ending with a “forcible political unification in a universal state.”

Will and Ariel Durant concluded that the health of a civilization depends upon “creative individuals . . . capable of effective responses to new situations.”

Jacob Burckhardt advised that “the way of annihilation is invariably prepared by inward degeneration,” while William von Humboldt stated that civilized cultures depend upon “human development in its richest diversity.”

More recently, historian Carroll Quigley offered an analysis demonstrating how the structuring of societies to achieve equilibrium weakens and destroys the “instruments of expansion” i.e., the systems that produce the values that sustain the health of a civilization.

The erstwhile centers of industrial production in America that have devolved into the current “rust belt,” provide a concrete example.

If the assessments of such historians are correct, it should be clear that cultures whose foundations are deeply set in violence, war, centralized power, fear, disrespect for life, along with the looting and scavenging which, alone, can sustain a privileged caste of cannibals, are fated for collapse.

When cannibals have finally despoiled the well-conditioned zombies of the life-force and other energies upon which all of life depends, they will, like other parasites, have to look for new hosts upon which to feed their voracious appetites.



Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School of
Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade:
The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938, Calculated
Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival, and
Boundaries of Order.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41016.htm

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