Soylent Green is, beyond a doubt, my favorite movie of all time. Released in 1973, it was directed by Richard Fleischer and starred Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson in his final cinematic performance. I first saw the movie on video when I was fifteen years old and I suppose my initial attraction to it, aside from the story’s conclusion, was that final sequence with Charlton Heston screaming, “We have to tell them! Soylent Green is people!” while dying from a gunshot wound; he holds up his hand and the credits begin over lovely shots of flowers, pretty fields, and other beautiful aspects of nature. Aside from its shocking finale, which is popular knowledge these days, the film has its own special beauty with its grim portrayal of a stinking, overcrowded future, the mania and lengths people go for simple pleasures we take for granted now, and the romanticism of Robinson’s suicide.
I suppose that if someone really invested enough thought into the matter, they would realize that there is a connection between my tastes in cinema and my previous job choices. Although nobody else found it funny, I got a sick joy out of shouting, “Burger King is people,” or “Black Eyed Pea is people!” You see, the culinary arts are a great passion of mine and if I ever had the patience I would have gone to school to further my knowledge about cuisine.
When it comes to cooking I have one major proverb, “It’s amazing what you can do with a cheap piece of meat if you know how to treat it.” No matter where you go this adage remains true. Look at McDonald’s for instance; they’re the most popular fast-food chain in the world and the beef they use is atrocious. In fact, McDonald’s once used kangaroo meat until a group of activists spoke out against the practice. On the same topic, consider the fact that a twenty-dollar cut of prime rib comes from the same animal as a twenty-cent serving of hamburger. What makes Soylent Green such a perfect vision of our future is that human beings make the ideal cheap meat.
The owner or proprietor of a cattle ranch will spend countless sums of money to provide food for their product. It costs ungodly amounts of money to house chickens and keep them in ideal health. Human beings are self-sufficient and can feed themselves. Even without the financial means, a person can live adequately on what others throw away. Population is also another factor. If there were billions upon billions of chickens in the world, nobody would give a damn; there can never be too much meat. In fact, it seems that there’s never enough meat to feed our growing population. People eat more than they produce, waste more than they create, and bring children into the world that they cannot possibly afford. We plunder the world’s resources not always for comfort or greed, but because the ever-expanding volume of our species requires it. As Charles Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol, “If they would rather die, perhaps they should just do it and decrease the surplus population.”
Before I go on let me clarify one thing. Although I’ve described the socioeconomic and financial benefits of consuming out own species (I haven’t even touched on the obvious dietary ones), I don’t want people to misunderstand me and think that I’m condoning murder; I’m not. Let me put it this way: “cannibalism” is the blatant murder of an innocent person for food. What I’m talking about is something I like to refer to as “homogeneous consumption,” which is the self-absorption of our society in order to better ourselves. I guess you could think of it as eugenics with food. In China, in the early 1900s, the government allowed cannibalism for the dual purpose of controlling the population and providing food for the masses during a horrible famine. Back in the 1930s and all the way up to the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. government sponsored sociological research to assess the ethical elimination of weaker members of society. The experts at that time felt that it would be beneficial to euthanize or, at the very least, sterilize people that were mentally handicapped, physically disabled, or anyone else they felt caused a negative impact on the genetic impact of our society. The plausible future hypothesized in Soylent Green takes that one step further by proposing that elimination would not only be beneficial, but the functioning majority of society would gain both physically and mentally by consuming the lesser portion.
I’ve laid out for you the ethical issues regarding “homogeneous consumption,” and how it would benefit our society to consume the weak (not to mention the dead because, after all, corpses are of absolutely no use to anyone except for a possible food source). Still, one may inquire as to the moral issues. I have just one thing to say about that. This is a sociological theory, not a theological one. Although some primitive cultures once believed that by eating another person you consumed their life force and their soul. Homogenous consumption is about nutritional value, nothing more. As for the notion of a person’s soul, let me tell you that I’ve put a lot of research into that matter and found that nowhere, in any religions dogmatic beliefs, does it refer to a cadaver having a spirit.
I’m not saying that we should actually do anything at this time, I’m just providing food for thought.