From: Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power, The Entrails of Power …

Eating, crushing, as a form of wielding power over other living beings … Elias Canetti in ‘Crowds and Power’ pp. 210-211: (link open in new window)

I don’t agree with much of Canetti’s view on nonhuman animal behaviour in this nevertheless excellent piece of work of his. However, these thoughts about the ingestion of flesh as an act of wielding power over another animals life, are unique.

Another of his thoughts about human domination over nonhuman animals in the same publication is noteworthy too:

The Entrails of Power: ‘ …But even more than fear or rage, it is contempt which urges him to crush it. An insect, something so small that it scarcely counts, is crushed because one would not otherwise know what had happened to it; no human hand can form a hollow small enough for it. But, in addition to the desire to get rid of a pest and to be sure it is really disposed of, our behaviour to a gnat or a flea betrays the contempt we feel for a being which is utterly defenseless, which exists in a completely different order of size and power from us, with which we have nothing in common, into which we never transform ourselves and which we never fear except when it suddenly appears in crowds. The destruction of these tiny creatures is the only act of violence which remains unpunished even within us. Their blood does not stain our hands, for it does not remind us of our own. We never look into their glazing eyes. We do not eat them. They have never – at least not amongst us in the West – had the benefit of our growing, if not yet very effective, concern for life. In brief, they are outlaws. If I say to someone, ‘I could crush you with one hand,’ I am expressing the greatest possible contempt. It is as though I were saying: ‘You are an insect. You mean nothing to me. I can do what I like with you and that won’t mean anything to me either. You mean nothing to anyone. You can be destroyed with impunity without anyone noticing. It would make no difference to anyone. Certainly not to me.’

One Response to From: Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power, The Entrails of Power …

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