Human meat

If we really want to unveil what's under the surface of the real, we have to go deeper to notice things that seem irrelevant within a larger context, no matter how absurd and grotesque they may be. “These things are just symptoms”, many will say. Symptoms of major problems, symptoms of the situation. Those who say things like that are not entirely wrong. But I would add that some of these things are very serious and painful symptoms of our condition in general, regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes, whether we like it or not, these grotesque aspects of reality are rubbed in our faces. But most of the time they are remain hidden under the veneer of civility and normality that we have created for ourselves throughout our history.

Study of hands and feet, by Théodore Géricault

We live as if we're inside a bubble that protects us. Even the most pathetic defenders of the “politically incorrect” and the “life is hard” conservatism live inside this bubble, no matter how brave they pretend to be. Those of us who inhabit the chaotic urban centers of the world occasionally end up having reality shocks: these are moments when the bubble of normalcy is broken and shocking scenes are captured by our retinas. Sometimes we pass by some vehicular accident with fatal victims. Other times, we see pedestrians being run over, either when that happens or shortly thereafter. Murder victims. Suicides. Either way, I'm referring to a closed casket. Certain events are unique, such as the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Those who died when the planes impacted the buildings had their bodies almost disintegrated. But in addition to them, it's estimated that about 200 people fell or jumped from the twin towers that day, trying to escape the fire and smoke. The photographic and video record of what happened is terrifying, although it doesn't show up close the damage done to the bodies of those who jumped.

In the hermetic and sterile world that we've created, regardless of political positions, such scenes are viewed as too grotesque and should always be censored. Funerals of obliterated bodies must always have closed caskets. There are several reasons for wanting not to show or even describe in words how horrifying the various forms of our physical destruction are. Respect for victims and their families is one of those reasons. There are also those who say that there is an unhealthy morbidity in those who observe such images and that such behavior should not be encouraged. If you are not one of the professionals who deals directly with obliterated bodies, the world considers it inappropriate to see them. I agree that there is an unhealthy morbidity in those who see such images and feel some kind of pleasure. I also agree that we must have complete respect for the victims and their loved ones. Certain events, however, are important records that can help us reflect on our existential condition. Grotesque as they are, they should not be seen or described only to doctors, nurses and first responders.

Our imagination often isn't capable of producing an effect big enough for us to take action. The reaction to George Floyd's murder would most likely be way smaller if it hadn't been filmed—it is a shame humanity needs to see that level of brutality in order to act. It's probable that many wouldn't believe how barbaric it was. A lot of people would make excuses in their heads, and say to themselves that the whole incident was exaggerated. No doubt, some would try to justify the cops attitude. Even those who believed in the oral or written report—those who knew Floyd was slowly asphyxiated by a white police officer—might not have been so impacted without the video. This seems to be a sad aspect of human life: words, whether spoken or written, do not have the impact they should. It's not the first time that a video like this has been made public, of course. But after hundreds of videos showing racism being perpetrated by cops, the video record of George Floyd was the last straw for tens of thousands to come out and protest against racism and police brutality.

Written reports or images of police officers being extremely violent against blacks and the poor, while being kind to whites and the rich, show symptoms of bigger problems: systemic racism and class domination. Similarly, written reports or images of terrorist attacks show symptoms of various conditions that afflict us: religious and political fanaticism; struggle for hegemony in a certain regions of the planet; geopolitical clashes between powerful groups and weaker groups, where the weaker groups are forced to use terrorist tactics in order to combat the power of those who dominate them. Ultimately, tortured and obliterated bodies are symptoms of major events and trends, especially when those bodies are deliberately tortured and obliterated by other human beings. Accidents and illnesses can also be symptoms of bigger problems, but, unlike deliberate human action, accidents and illnesses do not always fit into grandiose narratives aimed at political change.

Narratives that explain situations through their most visible symptoms are abundant. They are also perfectly valid and are often correct. However, something is lost along the way, something that almost nobody seems to want to admit, because it goes against the great hope that unites reactionaries and utopians, conservatives and progressives: the hope that the future can be fixed in some way that the sufferings of the past and the present are justified. The particuar pains are sublimated so that everything fits into a greater sense, a sense that can be changed, improved, so that the future justifies everything bad that happened.

The idea that remains is the following: no matter how bloody all our misfortunes may be, we can make it worthwhile in the end. We must not doubt our ability to improve the human world, of course. But the idea that one day we will reach a stage where we will be free of any and all forces capable of torturing and obliterating our bodies is extremely naive. Even if all of us became docile towards one another, accidents and illnesses will continue to exist. Will we spend an eternity denying the totalitarian reach of pain? How long will the pain of bodies disfigured by life be swept under the rug of human history?

When we put together written and photographic records, it's possible to make an even deeper analysis of the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves—and it becomes more difficult to sustain the thesis that all of these misfortunes will be justified “in the end”. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but “a thousand words” are not that many. As evidence of the world's pains, we have millions of words written in philosophy, history and medicine books. We also have tens of thousands of images. Let us now deal with words and images that can help us realize how extremely hostile this universe we inhabit is.

Two bizarre news made me think about human flesh in the past few days. One of them is that Guilherme de Pádua, Daniela Perez's murderer, became an evangelical preacher. In 1992, Guilherme and his then wife murdered Daniela Perez in cold blood. Both Guilherme and Daniele at the time were starring a famous soap opera. The weapon used was a dagger. The murderers left Daniela's body in a vacant lot, in a deserted street in Barra da Tijuca, an upscale neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. Despite being 9 years old at the time, I remember it well. I was at my grandparents house, who at the time lived in the greater Brasilia are.

The other news that caught my attention was that of soccer goalkeeper Bruno—the main person involved in the murder of his son's mother, Eliza Samudio—becoming the poster boy for a kennel. This is shocking because, after suffocating Eliza to death, Bruno and his friends dismembered her body and fed the meat to Rottweilers. Eliza's body was never found. Descriptions of both crimes are already terrible enough. I repeat: many times, our imagination alone isn't capable of horrifying us enough to take action. This is not a positive thing. It's sad. The description itself should have horrified us enough to live the rest of our lives in peace with all other sentient beings. But that's not what we do.

Much is said about the deep web and the dark web, but the most grotesque records of pain and cruelty are found on the regular internet that we use every day. They are indexed by Google and Yahoo, anyone can search and access them. I'm not talking about text, but photographic and, worse, video records. I hope that no one makes the mistake of looking for such things, although I don't think we should censor those records entirely. I'd just like you to believe me when I write the following: we usually have no idea how bizarre the dimensions of pain are. There is a hell that inhabits the flesh of which most of us are ignorant. Generally, we don't know how absurd the world's pains can get. The position I take is that such records, whether oral, written, photographic or video, serve as indisputable proof that the world is unjustifiable.

It shouldn't be necessary for us to have to witness the most grotesque pains in order to understand this. The most up-to-date science tells us that single-celled life appeared on Earth about 4 billion years ago. Multicellular life came much later, just over a billion and a half years ago. Animals appeared between 600 and 500 million years ago. At some point during the development of the first animals, nature was able to produce organisms with nervous systems developed enough for such beings to feel pain. Knowing that there were countless beings capable of feeling unimaginable pain, and that their existence didn't serve any purpose except the perpetuation of their species should be sufficient for us to admit that the world can't be justified. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case.

I have no intention of converting anyone. The truth is that not even slaughterhouse images are enough to make most people vegetarian. So, what to expect from vague descriptions of the countless beings that served as mere DNA propagators long before the first primate ever appeared? Nobody will be convinced that animal life is a mistake by reading this, much less the life of the human animal. The aim here is not to convert anyone, but to describe evidence against sentient existence. The thesis that such evidence is intended to support goes as follows: no future transformation will justify the torture of our flesh and the suffering of our “souls” without our prior  consent, which could never have been obtained since we didn't exist before we were born. Although most of us do not go through the worst tortures I deal with in this text, a life considered to be normal already has enough pain to amaze us and make is think. But if that isn't enough, perhaps the next few paragraphs will help you to reflect.

Human history is full of cases where people were skinned alive. Flaying is a method of torture and execution in which a person's skin is peeled off by sharp instruments. It can be performed quickly or slowly, both of which are extremely painful. In Greek mythology, the satyr Marsias was skinned alive after challenging the god Apollo to a musical duel and losing. According to Christian tradition, Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, was skinned alive and beheaded—in the Sistine chapel there's a painting of Bartholomew holding his own skin. In the town of Bruges, Belgium, there's a relatively famous painting by Gerard David, called “The Judgement of Cambyses”. It shows the judgment of a corrupt judge by the Persian king Cambyses, and the execution of the judge by flaying.

Until the beginning of the last century, one of the forms of execution practiced in China was the lingchi, which is the slow flaying of the person in a public square. The method started around the year 900 and was banned in the first decade of the 20th century. But the practice has not stop around the world. Regardless of the situation or the regime in which we live, pain remains the greatest stimulant of our species. It is because pain is the great stimulant of animal life in general. It's essential for us to seek to survive and pass the damn DNA molecule to future generations. Our human differential is that we can imagine and inflict even worse pains on each other and on other sentient beings. More recently, in the 21st century, criminal factions in different parts of the world—mainly in Latin America—have adopted flaying as a tactic of torture and execution. The objective is to frighten rivals. There are videos on the internet of various tortures and executions where people, including teenagers, have their skin ripped off while they are still alive. These are terrible of scenes of unimaginable pain.

I argue that nothing will ever justify any of these sufferings. Nothing in the future wil ever justify such pain, no matter what we do. “But most of these people were involved in crimes”, some ignorant may claim, trying, again, to justify the unjustifiable. In January 1941, there was a massacre of Jews in Bucharest, Romania. The immediate results of this massacre was witnessed by the American ambassador Franklin Mott Gunther. A meat-processing factory was full of bodies, some had plaques with writings such as “kosher meat”. There were about 60 bodies hanging from metal hooks made to hold beef. All of them were flayed. Gunther wrote that the amount of blood on the floor was so great that the victims must had been skinned alive. His biggest shock was finding a 5-year-old girl among the victims. According to him, he couldn't have imagined such cruelty before witnessing the scene himself.

A universe where this kind of barbarism happens shouldn't be praised or repaired, but abandoned.

By Fernando Olszewski

(This article was posted on July 1, 2020 @ Exilado Metafísico)

. SIMPSON, Christopher. Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Destructive Impact on Our Domestic and Foreign Policy. New York: Open Road Media, 2014.