You can’t know beauty.
Let go the distinction between subject and object.
You can’t know innocence.
Let go the distinction between good and evil.
You can’t know love.
Let go the distinction between self and other.
I scrupulously wipe the final gobbet of flesh from the plate, lifting it to my mouth with an index finger, rolling it slowly across my palate, savouring the last delicious morsel before consigning it to the enzymes and acids of my gullet.
At what point does it become part of me? This miracle of biological process. This relay baton of life. Passed first from the sun to the green leaf of a plant. Packed into a grain in the forlorn hope of reproduction. Absorbed into the body of a battery hen where it is broken down and rearranged into new protein, different DNA. Now feeding my gut flora even as it releases nutrients through my digestive membranes and into my blood. Soon that sunshine will be captured by my own cells. My muscle, my fat, my neurons. Is its energy already flowing from my fingertips into these words? Has some of it now become part of you?
And what of the suffering that has been transmuted into my pleasure? Could the chicken have enjoyed eating the grain as I enjoyed eating it? A bird born and bred to be consumed, living its stunted life alone in a tiny cage even as its ancient genes cry out for forest and flock. Could it have known elation and despair? Yearning for something that was not to be? Or just a grim, grey emptiness that could only find relief in the terror of the slaughterhouse. How much misery in that tasty mouthful?
To live is to suffer. To live is to inflict suffering. Even in the midst of pleasure.
I roll the words around my mouth like pieces of well cooked corpse.
Carnage. Carnal. Carnivore.
The freedom of our governments to install kleptocratic despots to rule over them.
The freedom of our corporations to steal their resources and consign their children to sweatshops.
The freedom of our militaries to slaughter them at will without fear of being held to account.
The freedom of our media to portray them as stupid, superstitious savages who aren’t fit to manage their own affairs.
Sometimes I hate our freedoms too.
The New Zealand police force recently did a disturbing social experiment. They hired a very convincing child actor – maybe 10-12 years old – to dirty his face, dress in shabby clothes, look generally dejected and apparently search for discarded food in rubbish bins on a busy intersection in downtown Auckland.
About 500 people walked right past him as if he wasn’t there. A few even threw garbage into the rubbish bins without acknowledging his presence. One photographed him with a phone. Over the duration of the experiment only seven people stopped to ask if he was OK or offer help. Just seven.
The cops videoed it for a recruitment advertisement. The tagline comes when a group of young women stop to see if the kid’s alright. “They cared enough. Would you?”
Karen Jones of NZ police public affairs explains “If you said you would have stopped, then you may be just the kind of person NZ police is looking for”. I’d rather not be the kind of person police look for. It’s not healthy. I’m not sure how the NZ police force sees itself but here in NSW if you would have stopped, ordered the kid to empty his pockets, demanded to know his name, his address, what he was doing, why he wasn’t in school and whether he’d recently used any drugs or alcohol, thumped him a few times if he didn’t answer promptly or gave some lip then threw him to the ground, pinned him with a knee to the back, handcuffed him and ran him in for Offensive Language, Resisting Arrest and Assaulting Police then you already are a cop.
But what about you? Would you have stopped to offer help? Are you one of the seven in five hundred? What if you saw police treating him badly? Would you still have tried to help? Would you have stood up to the cops who were abusing him?
you measure me with calipers and pin me with your gaze
i’m quantified as figures and dissected into trays
you’ll tell me what i really am once all the data’s in
strip me of delusions as you peel away my skin
objective facts are all that’s real, the truth we all can see
i feel that i’m the subject but i guess that’s only me