Monday, April 09, 2012

A thought on Soylent Green

Have you seen the movie?
One of the few Charlton Heston movies I liked. Even if he was a misogynist ass:
Thorn [Heston] investigates the murder of William R. Simonson, a director of the Soylent Corporation, while helping himself to the latter's food, liquor, bathroom, and books. He questions Shirl, an attractive concubine (referred to as "furniture"), and Simonson's bodyguard, Tab Fielding, who claims to have escorted Shirl shopping when the attack took place.
He also helps himself to the furniture, dragging Shirl into the bedroom for a quickie. But his character doesn't jar in this setting. Everyone is reduced, dehumanized. In the crush of a world with 40 million people living just in New York City, there is no room for the individual. Unless that individual is rich enough to afford the better things in life.
I've been thinking about Edgar G Robinson's character in the movie. And his trip to the suicide rooms, after he discovers the truth about Soylent Green.
Was it only that he couldn't live with the knowledge? Or was it an acceptance of the logic of his society's situation. If humans refused to manage their population growth, if they had ruined or destroyed all other sources of protein, then there was no where else to go for protein but to the largest renewable source. If humans were going to breed like cattle, then let them be the cattle.
Please note: I am not advocating the rendering of human flesh into food products. But I do think we are well on the path towards facing that choice. Talk of limiting population growth is usually met with howls of protest, and cries of "Look what's happened in China when they tried it!" But the unchecked growth of humanity is stripping the seas of fish, poisoning the oceans and the soil,  turning fertile ground into deserts, razing mountains for coal to burn to poison the air.  Meanwhile medical science ensures that more and more of us live longer and longer, and that organ transplants are almost routine. If we routinely harvest organs [and there's a new move afoot to make it even easier to declare the donor ready for harvesting, as the demand for organs grows] how much of a step is it to harvesting the flesh as well?

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