The Mad Hatter, mad from the mercury in the glue the workers had to endure in the British sweatshops of the 1840s, says to Alice in Wonderland when she is lamenting the situation: ‘You have lost your muchness, Alice. You were much more muchier before.’ After having deliberated upon this, Alice decides in favour of her muchness; to make use of her freedom, and become a champion. By becoming a champion she is the one who kills the Beast, the war machine / the body prison / the patriarchy no one has mastered before.
Utopias can be the same as nowhere, can be the same as doom. Utopia is an unrealistic place and we are living in it to a large extent already. But let me start from the beginning. A wordless relation may be perceived as more profound than one filled with words. In Swedish the term used is ‘djur’, in latin animalia, or metazoa. In English the term is ‘animals’, originating from the latin animal, signifying with soul (anima).
In other words, those who breathe, those who have a soul. Those who have spaces of air to fill with consciousness. However – nota bene – no envy is justified here. ‘Animals’ is a term we ourselves are included in; man is also an animal.
Yet – among humans, the most common nonhuman animal is not a being who breathes. The most common nonhuman animal in human society is a being whose breathing has been extinguished. Extinguished consciousness. Extinguished body.
In Carolee Schneemann’s performance Meat Joy, exhibited at the First Festival of Free Expression at the American Center in Paris 1964, a group of almost naked people move around each other, and around meat parts of sausages, chicken, and fish. The group radiates energies of pleasure.
The artwork Meat Joy lets the bodily move. If not entirely freely, then at least openly. The bodies blend in voluptuous embraces. Senses and flesh are united. Living bodies are united with dead bodies. The art work’s element of meat food product blends the living flesh with the extinguished rotting meat.
The artwork is a free expression of sexuality against a backdrop of war. Intimacy and eroticism are staged against the aggression in Vietnam and Cambodia where the soldiers’ sex lives are destroyed (that is if their bodies survive). Surrounded by the stench of dead bodies, young people’s tenderness and playfulness are transformed into anger and madness.
Schneemann’s work may be interpreted as a fulfilling of the patriarchal existence: Since human (by tradition) is the same as man, and man (historically) is the same as killing or commanding to kill, beginning in the obtaining of dead flesh as food, the being who has killed, or has survived the killing, becomes more of a human, and to consume that which is killed is transformed into an ideal erotic act.
The kind of protein chosen (the extinguished body of another animal, that which we call meat), requires killing, requires callousness of spirit. The one who aims to kill must learn to harm and to extinguish the breathing of the other. This is how the everyday practice of aggression begins. As a repetitive feature turned into a food habit that ingrains culture and evolves into a driving (necrophilia) force for dominance, and war.
A cultural force that contributes to civilization’s consumption of other species; in the aberration that the survival of other species is not intertwined with humanity’s own survival and that the nourishment and survival of mankind require the killing of others. In the aberration that the breathing of the human is not dependent upon the breathing of others, and that wordless consciousness does not count.
What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down
The Doors, ‘When the music’s over’ (Strange Days, 1967)
Jim Morrison’s ecofeminist despair is poetry’s depiction of and protestation against an attack war that resembles rape: The world is not to be harmed. The world is too indispensable to be exploited. And some paths are too beautiful to be mowed down. Some areas are too wonderful to be scrutinized. The gain is too small (or, too trivial, or harmful). The advantage is too small, and the price is too high.
But the materialized utopia of the exploiter is the same as the cutting down without repercussions. And deliberations are unnecessary since the Earth’s other beings are not regarded as someone’s sister.
In this kind of reality, meat from dead bodies becomes more valuable than other kinds of meat (meat from mushrooms, soya, fruit) since the bodies cost more energy and work (i.e. ravaging) to produce. Thus meat from killed animals is seen as more valuable because it requires more resources, thus requires more from society’s economy than the equally valuable plant protein (produced without war).
In such an economic order, animals are forcefully inseminated and lawfully covered in barns and well locked up facilities. Producers of cow milk may launch milk from Swedish farms on the market as ‘come a little closer to nature’, and The Asthma- and Allergy Association may sponsor TV-commercials speaking of meat parts as ‘safer food’, only a few months after the global H1N1-epidemic (originating from animal industries).
In such a global public space, silence resides when the Environmental Programme of the UN, in a report on the World Environmental Day 8th of June 2010, says that the two most important problems the world faces are the usage of fossil fuels, and agriculture’s focus on animal production (meat and milk from animals).1
The country’s political parties close their eyes, and stage an unaware replica of the artwork Meat Joy: All of them, with the exception of the Left Party, gather to enjoy extinguished animal bodies at a Swedish hamburger chain’s advertising party, in Almedalen, the biggest political festival of the year. They bring the barbecue into the garden and pull off the plastic cover from the meat packages.
And the Baltic Sea and the Saaristomeri Sea are filled with mud and algae. At another place, where the Swedish consumption affects even more, the corals of the seabeds turn white. The earth molders. The freshwater reserves runs dry. The forest areas are reduced. Cultivated land areas are diminished. The oxygen content decreases.
Peak Oil is followed by Peak Meat. The choice of protein, the choice to destruct animals and nature to obtain a certain type of food, pushes up the food prices at the world’s Southern continents. Simultaneously, the current family norm propagates mankind beyond the sustenance of the Earth (plus ninety million humans every year).
In a reality of impossibilities, utopia becomes unthinkable. In the endeavor for utopia, dystopia is created; the humans who contribute the least to the destruction (women and the young) are the ones who have to fight the hardest against getting rammed by the Beast’s ravings and temptations.
Hitherto humans in the category of women have attained liberation on the condition of not changing society’s direction. Not changing its glue and building components. If they, when having reached the steering wheel, have wished to turn the ship, they have had to say farewell. In this way, we are, not the least by our mothers, brought up to become pillars and backbone in the prevailing machine: lured into shopping, cooking, and being very afraid.
The obstacle to a joint liberation of the trivially extinguished bodies (Bos Taurus, Galliformes, Sus scrofa domestica, Melengridiane, Struthio camelus, É quus caballus and other species) is the arrogance humans show other humans. When the superordinated at the steering wheel of the Beast not even look minimally to their own species (regardless of sex and gender) – the right of everybody to a decent living standard, food to sustain one’s body, sexual freedom, and a membership in a union – they will hardly care about the necrophilia food culture they have created.
So – time to choose one’s own muchness. The liberation of animal bodies may give also human bodies the freedom to enjoy their own living flesh. Materializing their own humaneness, the uniqueness of our own species, and each and everyone’s personality, is to take what we want.
Nobody wants the imprisonment and the standing of no chance. And – the essentially common: Nobody wants the forceful covering. The kidnapping of the offspring, the confinement, the cramming, the rottenness and the stench, the hurting, the horror in the farming facilities, the assembly line of slaughter.
As we perceive it, nobody who is conscious wants this either.
No being who breathes. No soul sister.
Before performing her deed to kill the war machine, Alice convinces herself:
‘Why, sometimes I have believed as much as six impossibilities before breakfast.’
The Hatter gives her his support:
‘It is an excellent habit.’
In a world that has gone mad, it is indeed an excellent habit.
©Arimneste Anima Museum #4
Published in Bang Magazine, #3 Summer Issue 2010, translated from the Swedish.
- About the UNEP Report.