September 29, 2013 · 5:22 am
Brent Cunningham has a fascinating write up about last meals in Lapham’s Quarterly. Consider some of the distancing methods articulated during the execution phase:
The last meal as a cultural phenomenon grew even as capital punishment faded from public view, and in less than two centuries the country has gone from grisly public hangings, in which the prisoner was sometimes unintentionally decapitated or left to suffocate, to lethal injection, the most common form of execution in America today, in which death is “administered.” The condemned are often sedated before execution. They are generally not allowed to listen to music, lest it induce an emotional reaction. Last words are sometimes delivered in writing, rather than spoken; if they are spoken, it might be to prison personnel rather than the witnesses. The detachment is so complete that when scholar Robert Johnson, for his 1998 book Death Work, asked an execution-team officer what his job was, the officer replied: “the right leg.”
via Last Meals – Lapham’s Quarterly.
Good observation that the act of eating the food provided by one’s killer is really a kind of communication to justify the act.
What unites these customs is an emphasis on the needs of the living, not just the dead; so too with last meals before an execution. When Susanna Margarethe Brandt sat down to the Hangman’s Meal, she signaled that she was cooperating in her own death—that she forgave those who judged her and was reconciled to her fate. Whether she actually made those concessions or not is beside the point; the officials who rendered and carried out her sentence could fall asleep that night with a clear conscience.
via Last Meals – Lapham’s Quarterly.
Thanks to Longreads for the suggestion.
Filed under communication, food, memorial, prisons, propaganda, representation
Tagged as Brent Cunningham, clear conscience, Lapham's Quarterly, last meal, last meals, last meals as communication, last meals of prisoners to justify conscience, Longreads, representing consent of the killed, suicide food
November 16, 2011 · 5:30 pm
Nintendo’s new Mario video game apparently contains some animal violence. Humans, playing the game can kill a tanooki raccoon dog and wear it’s skin to get special powers. I’ll probably skip playing the game.
I thought the defensive reaction was pretty interesting.
While it is true that at points in the game, Mario dons a raccoon-ish looking “Tanooki” suit that enables him to float in the air and swat bad guys with his tail, he never slaughters an animal to get it.
Instead, as MSNBC’s In-Game blog points out, “the magical Tanooki suits that [Mario] wears in the game typically spring from magical squares that magically hover in the air. These squares magically give up the suits, (which at first look like magical leaves), when Mario bumps his head into them.”
via PETA takes on Nintendo’s Mario and his Tanooki suit – latimes.com.
This is an interesting take on the notion of suicide food. I’m not buying the argument that abstract violence against animals in the fictional world is any less significant because the realism has been distorted. In particular this is the slaughterhouse-as-magic-box theme. I think this idea only fuels the disconnect between eating meat (or wearing fur) and the killing of the animal.
June 16, 2011 · 7:29 pm
I have taught the ideas of Carol Adams connecting feminism to vegetarianism for the last fifteen years. I believe Carol Adams and other ethical vegetarian thinkers provide important insight into the most persuasive articulation of compassion and for animal rights. These thinkers provide help exploring the questions associated with ethics, violence and killing.
One key insight I’ve drawn from Carol Adams is to scrutinize the language of representation. How living animals are re-articulated to become advertisements for their own obliteration. Unpacking the driving justification for violence itself involves interrogating the artifacts that sooth the conscience of human animals.
Suicide food is a humorous attempt to pinpoint images which represent animals as happily giving their lives for human consumption. Here is the commentary on the angelic pig advertisement above:
If we could hear the thoughts of this pig, this newly minted angel, he might say, “At last! I am delivered at last from the stinking life into which I was born, and which was bequeathed to me as a necessary precondition for my ascendance into blissful eternity!” (Getting killed and grilled really brings out the poetry in a pig.) “Ill will? I bear the humans—my betters from their soles to their souls—no malice, for they have engineered my deliverance! And the only cost was a brief—so, so very brief—lifetime of worthlessness!”
Which is why the haloed food wears a beatific smile. Through his suffering and utter abnegation, he is clarified into his essence. And now, on ornamental wings, he soars to his last and best destination, and the life beyond life that his death and consumption made possible.
via Suicide Food.
I like the concept of suicide food — the term itself. It provides a moment of critique to those who eat meat without reflection. It also mockingly brings forward the image of the tools (confined animals, slaughterhouses, butchers) used to actually produce meat.
Smart and useful. Thanks to Lisa Wade at Sociological Images for the connect.