A demonized taboo
Cannibalism disgusts many, the sheer thought of one human eating another is the fabric that the scariest fictional monsters and real life monsters are made from. That being said there is much more to cannibalism than the topical Hollywood versions and the versions that live as fears in the minds of many. The almost universal aversion to cannibalistic acts is unique in that it is such a strong taboo that it may seem to most as though cannibalism is unarguably vile, that it is physically ingrained in all human beings that it’s wrong to practice and will cause sickness of the mind and body. This isn't definitively true; the existence and extreme power of the taboo of cannibalism is a cultural construction with a small undertone of scientific advisory against the practice. The practice was proliferate throughout mankind’s collective past but as increasing numbers of civilizations in the west became more technologically advanced they used the old practice to create classes that were on the basis of human verses sub human. By doing this they used cannibalism to perpetuate a hegemonic apparatus by giving justification for physical and moral colonization. Now that there aren’t any dark corners in the world and we live as a more globalized and arguably integrated knowledge world it is time that as a collective society that we understand the kneejerk aversion to cannibalism for what it is, a disregard for values that are different from a majority but are not wrong.
Cannibalism is a part of all living decedents today. From the limited amount of fossil evidence that has been found, the fossil evidence is substantial for prehistory cannibalism. The earliest hominids had evidence of damaged bones but these quasi humans were less sophisticated in their social constructions and as a result they are arguably less conscious of the ramifications of what they were doing. The trend of cannibalism continues to decedents that are 500,000 years old onwards to cannibalism in Neanderthals that dates to early as 35,000 years ago until they died out (Askenasy, 23). In recorded history cannibalism is even more prevalent with significant distributions of peoples practicing it at any capacity in most places that held early civilization excluding Western Europe (Askenasy, 19). Populations existed in subarctic North America, central and southern America, Tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and the south pacific being the more the sites of significant cannibalistic cultures (Askenasy, 19). Despite being a distant part of everyone alive today and a more vibrant memory for many cultures outside of Europe cannibalism has developed into the strong taboo of today. It may be this fact that it was such a prevalent part of everyone’s distant and more recent past that perpetuated the taboo to manifest its self to be what it is today. We collectively being human beings that have been part of a larger sphere of social influence had a unique drive to advance, in knowledge and the way we live. We have been driven by the quest for knowledge this is evident in the incredible advancement we have made in the last few thousand years coming from stone to iPhone. This is undeniable, and cannibalism is a dark part of our past that a collective being would like to forget so that it doesn’t tarnish the civilized collective we have become.
This being said cannibalism has been not only a dark memory of our savage past that a perceived more civilized culture would like to forget it. Another factor is the nature of the world’s communication and transportation up until very recently. During this time when knowledge was seen and recorded by writing or memory alone it was easy for knowledge to be extrapolated and when one potentially hostile cannibalistic tribe was encountered. The Mianmin was known for their “savagery” and particularly one sect of the tribe was known for its outward aggression towards Europeans but it was later discovered that what