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The Smell of Death

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Armed Liberal has, I gather from his posts, been taking some time to reconsider his posts on killing your own meat. Since he seemed to feel like he and I were talking about the same things, let me venture a few words on the topic.

Today I took a long morning walk -- six miles or so over the Georgia hills, a good stretch of the legs. Much of this was along country backroads, but for two miles in the middle, it was along a two-lane highway. Logging trucks went roaring by, their wake turning the stagnant, humid air into a brief cyclone.

As one such truck tore past, the rush of air behind it whipped up a smell that some of you will know. I knew at once that some large animal was dead nearby, and sure enough, as the air settled the smell remained.

It grew stronger and stronger as I kept my pace, until off in the forest, just away from the road, I could see the corpse of a buck, bloated with the heat of late summer.

It had died of blunt force trauma, struck no doubt by one of those same trucks, limping off to die a few feet in the forest. I could tell this because it was not butchered, as a poacher would do. Anyone who has found where poachers keep court knows that deer who meet their end that way are found in a far worse condition. Heaps of gore are common, where unwanted hooves and organs, and sometimes the heads, are left to rot after venison is stripped from the bones.

The smell of death is a singular one. Anyone who has smelled it once strongly will know it again immediately. Like all smells, it is hard to put into words. It disgusts, and repels.

A scientific mind knows why. The smell is only the way that the human brain interprets certain chemicals, in certain quantities, touching certain nerves in the nose. The sense that comes with it is a chemical reaction in the brain. That we can smell it, and recognize it, is only a feat of engineering -- the work of evolution, no different for men as for any beast that smells.

What is interesting, to a philosopher, is that is smells bad. It is only a collection of chemicals, as is the breath of a rose: it might have smelled as sweet.

Evolution explains this too. For untold thousands of years, men -- aye, and beasts before we were men -- had no better protection than their senses against disease. However it arose, by mutation or design, those for whom rotting corpses smelled bad had an advantage. We shy from the bloated corpse, and it is well for us that we do: its flesh is putrid, harbors disease and deadly microbes, sickens and kills. No good comes from the association.

This is not the only thing about death that repels us. Return for a moment to the alternative scene, the one where a buck is killed by a poacher. It is clear why death smells bad, but why does the death of a butchered animal look worse than the death of one killed at a blow by a speeding truck?

There is a reason, but it is not as immediately obvious. We have been hunters since before the beginning, as far as Mankind is concerned. Why should it be true that the sight of a butchered animal should bother us? The sight of a steak does not: it makes us hungry. It is not the simple fact of blood, or flesh, or parts of an animal slashed and chopped to order. It is the encounter with an animal that was plainly slain by a predator.

To understand this factor of ourselves, we have to reach back to a time when we were not the top of the food chain. We have to remember that Man grew up with lions.

Nor was it only lions. Our brains carry memories more ancient than our species, and far more:
Marco Iacoboni and associates at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center used fMRI machines to observe the neural impact of Super Bowl ads in five volunteers.... For example, during a Fed Ex ad a caveman ends up being crushed by a dinosaur. Although subjects described the ad as funny, it also elicited a strong response in the amygdala, which governs responses to threats or fear. They may not have consciously experienced fear, but their brains were assessing the threat of that dinosaur.
We see the pile of gore, and something deep within us lights up in alarm. We are on guard, to see if we might be next.

All those ancient lessons are whispering in our minds at the sight of a corpse. They work on deep and secret parts of us. Yet there is still one more, the greatest secret of death magic. It is the mystery of the severed head.

Today, among Americans, only hunters have encountered this directly. It comes in the time when you are cleaning a kill. You cut the head from the body, and hold it in your hand. Though you slew the beast yourself, though your own knife did the cutting, seeing the head disjoined from the body is the most disquieting experience it is easy to know.

Indeed, the hunter finds, it is as if the whole power of the animal were in the head. The body, with the head set aside, no longer really resembles an animal at all. It is plainly dinner, and a hide to use as a blanket in winter.

We do not react to the severed leg as we do a severed head: a drumstick is a delight to the eye; the haunch of a deer or a pig both looks and smells fine as it roasts on the fire. Or think of a fish, if you have ever had one served as they serve it in China: with the head still attached. It is a very different experience to eat such a one, than to eat a fillet.

This is why some hunters take the heads of their beasts, and place them as trophies upon the wall. It is why the ancient Gael took the head of his famous and noble foe, and tied it by its own braids to his chariot as a warning to others. It is why the more ancient Celt built temples to the severed head, with alcoves and emplacements specially constructed for displaying honored skulls.

It is why we have legends of Mimir, and Celtic tales of other severed heads that spoke wisdom to the wise. They conversed with us from the realm of death; they kept the power of great men.

All these things move us at a level deeper than we know how to understand. It is easy to explain why the smell of death repels us. Though not so obvious for a hunting people, it is yet still possible to understand why the butchered corpse is more upsetting than the whole one. The power of the severed head, though, is not easy to explain. Yet it is just as universal among mankind.

Armed Liberal wrote about the problem of those who 'keep their hands clean,' never hunting, buying meat prepackaged and without an awareness of the moral cost. I disagree: there is no moral cost. We are monsters, who butcher though it creates mounds of gore: who sever heads, and find it moves us though we know not why.

But it isn't killing that makes us monsters. We are exactly that same kind of creature, whether we have ever killed or not.

The moral problem of 'the clean hands' is that it is an illusion. It makes people believe they are better than they are, and therefore that others can also be better than they can be. It creates a class of people who feel clean, because they have never felt blood on their hands.

Yet all these things arise from things buried deep in the genetic code. You cannot walk away from them. The failure to experience these things does not mean you would not react to them in just the same way as everyone else: it only means that you cannot understand how you would react, and how others do.

The man with clean hands is just the same as the hunter. It is only that he does not know it. He does not understand that part of his soul, as it lurks beyond his experience. He comes to believe that there is a kind of human that is and can be clean: perhaps that sweet, aged lady on the corner, who in her youth broke necks every night before dinner.

Failing to understand what Man really is, he opens himself more than is wise, and defends himself less. The man with the clean hands believes in diplomacy but not the force that makes diplomacy viable. He believes in staying clean, because he believes it makes him better than you. He does not understand that it only makes him blind.

This is not a call to amoralism, but precisely the opposite. It is a call for true morality, which can only begin with awareness of sin. It can only come from a recognition of how deep-set, how permanent, how personal sin is in each of us.

It is only in that way that we can begin to put real chains on sin: by recognizing the truth about it. We must learn to face the truth about ourselves, so that we can better ourselves: we must learn to face the truth about others, so we will recognize when murder is in their hearts.

In Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership, translated by Thomas Cleary, there is a lesson to which my mind often returns. It is a lesson taught by a great master of early Zen Buddhism, called Chan in the Chinese. He had made a life given to fasting and simplicity, relinquishment and moderation. One day he visited a hermit, preparing a simple meal of rice:
The master said, "Why do crows fly away when they see a man?" The hermit was at a loss; finally he put the same question back to the Chan master. The master said, "Because I still have a murderous heart."

So do you. And so do I, and know it. For which cause I set guards on myself, chains of chivalry and courtesy, forgiveness in spite of anger. Our ancestors knew it, for which cause they learned to fight duels instead of wars, and make laws that legitimized violence in defense but not aggression.

Armed Liberal is right. Modern society has given many, for the first time, the problem of clean hands. It has yet to teach them how to overcome that problem.

Iran may teach them, soon. Al Qaeda has already tried, and failed. I counsel them, as he tried to do, to take up hunting: for this is a lesson that can only be grasped by hunting or by war. If you do not grasp it soon, war is coming to teach you. Yet there is still time, now, to learn the better way.

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Tracked: September 6, 2006 8:07 AM
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Tracked: September 6, 2006 10:43 AM
Excerpt: Grim has done it again with another good and thoughtful post that looks at what truly lies below the surface.  Go read The Smell Of Death, and think about that which lies below in us all. 


Great post. Money 'graf:

"It is only in that way that we can begin to put real chains on sin: by recognizing the truth about it. We must learn to face the truth about ourselves, so that we can better ourselves: we must learn to face the truth about others, so we will recognize when murder is in their hearts."

Thought this one certinly nailed the problem of too many people whose sheltered existence creates fools:

"Armed Liberal is right. Modern society has given many, for the first time, the problem of clean hands. It has yet to teach them how to overcome that problem."

In some very important ways, that is indeed the core question. It is not a new question - the Romans called it luxus. And it was an inportant reason why Rome fell. Though A.L. will probably point out rather quickly that Rome's destruction of its middle class over time also played a significant role.

I normally leave Roman matters to Grim's Hall's own Eric Blair. Greece, Saxons, Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Vikings -- all that is in my purview. But the Romans I leave to him. He's much better at it than I am. :)

This War is too Clean!

Great post Grim! And an excellent follow-up, Joe.

A very deep and thought provoking post.

This war [GWOT or War Against Islamofascism or whatever] is too clean The regular folks mislead by the MSM don't undertand what the real stakes are.

The MSM from its biased reporting and naivete is aiding and abetting the enemy. The MSM is perversely rooting for the enemy like some underdog against an imperial invading army. This is no Sunday afternoon football game. There can be no appeasing this enemy. There is no moral equivalence to the enemy's religous cultlike ideology.
This is an enemy that seeks to subjugate us, to destroy our very way of life, and to take away our most cherished value - FREEDOM

We have the same problem in American law enforcement. The arrest of violent/dangerous suspects are never clean. It's not a gentlemen's game. But the videos shown on the news often show the naked violence without the accompanying context to put it into perspective.

It's not that the cops are brutal (some are of course) it's just most cops on the street want to go home at night. You can't afford to invoke measured responses because if you're not a young rookie with endless endurance you must win the fight quickly and decisively.

This in part is what I was driving at in this past comment here:

FREEDOM - Thx to The Greatest Generation for Preserving It


The whiners and snivelers of our generations must appear as ungracious wimps and whooshes. Yes, we are a spoiled and complacent lot and forget the precious gift you gave us. We have not experienced the pain and hardships you lived through. WWII was already past history to be read in our schoolbooks. WWII has no collective visceral memory for us. We have no first hand experience. You did not dwell on it and shielded us from its impact. You didnít consider yourselves as heroes. You picked up and got on with life. While the Vietnam War is still fresh in our memories some thirty years later, WWII ended less than a decade before we were born and has less of an impact. Our collective memory only is of grainy film clips and those few first-hand stories you told us on rare occasion.

We demand instant gratification, super-human perfection, are quick to find fault and lay blame instead of solutions, and will equivocate on all things to achieve these ends. We too, of course, want it done by yesterday. And yes, if you please, it must be done in an antiseptic and politically correct manner, lest we offend anyone or give us queasy stomachs. Yes, we often stand for nothing and everything at once. We are unlike your generation who understood the difference between, RIGHT and WRONG, and GOOD and EVIL. You lived by these principles day by day. You are not swayed by situational ethics. You stood firm and resolute in what you held dear and believed in.


Read More

and this thought in War or No War by Callimachus [A Best of WOC]

Someone once speculated that nomads made better troops than farmers because they came from cultures that were herdsmen and they learned the lesson of how to steel oneself to butchery better than agriculturalists.

Which is true, SPQR - but the farmers far outpace them in productivity. Which can make up for the nomads' superior individual skill and ingrained tactical sense (from learning to herd animals, cut out the resistant and cow the rest, et. al.) via superior organization, equipment, and tactics.

The ongoing battles between these types tended to shift based on the development of new weapons or tactics that gave the less productive nomads a considerable edge despite their inferior resources, or legendary leadership that gave the nomads organization, tactics, et. al. to match their counterparts.

On the flip side, changes within societies that made them less able to muster and fight, either from social decay/barriers or sheer exhaustion facing a much larger pool of barbarians, could also swing the balance more locally.

I just picked up Eric Larson's The Devil in the White City, which is both about the building of the Chicago World's Fair and the serial killer "H. H. Holmes" who stalked Chicago at that time.

I've been struck by Larson's description of late 19th century Chicago, the fastest growing city in the world at that time. On the one hand, there was a boundless optimism (Larson says the term "Windy City" was meant to describe Chicago's big mouths, not the winds of Lake Michigan) and an enormous amount of talent and ingenuity that built the world's tallest city on a sea of mud, with the bedrock more than a hundred feet below grade. On the other hand there was the endless stench of blood and manure from the enormous slaughterhouses. He quotes contemporary descriptions: "That Gordian city, so excessive, so satanic"; and "a gigantic peepshow of utter horror, but extraordinarily to the point."

There has to be a connection there. Larson makes much of the social divide between the architects who worked on the fair, half of them from Chicago and half from New York. The "western men" of Chicago, industrious and progressive and wading in money, blood, and shit; versus the comfortable and genteel eastern men who ate meat packaged in Chicago, and who were already beginning their long decline.

Its a fantastic book, and of course being a Chicagoan it's that much cooler. The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the only remaining structures built for the fair and I always found it an amazingly magical place when i was a kid. The other museums on the lakeshore (Field, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, as well as Soldier Field) were built to compliment and replicate the worlds fair buildings years later. Great buildings in their own right, but somehow they dont have that authenticity and authority to them.

Science and Industry looms at you, is the only way I can describe it. You feel the weight of a century of achievement and the people who worked and suffered like most of us cant imagine; not to 'discover' their dreams, but to build them. What other city and culture would have a museum of 'Science and Industry'? Its seems vaguely offensive in this day and age, probably obscene to some. So much the better. Its a dont miss when visiting Chicago.

Great Post!

Recognizing that no human has "clean hands" and that each of us has a murderous heart does not equal support for Bush foreign policy. Equating nationalist resistance to occupation with support for global jihad is just an incorrect equation.

"Someone once speculated that nomads made better troops than farmers because they came from cultures that were herdsmen and they learned the lesson of how to steel oneself to butchery better than agriculturalists."

Read Guns, Germs, and Steel or any history text to find out that the farmers always win in the end. Better armies trumps better troops.

"Recognizing that no human has "clean hands" and that each of us has a murderous heart does not equal support for Bush foreign policy. Equating nationalist resistance to occupation with support for global jihad is just an incorrect equation."

I grant both points, gladly.

Grim, fascinating, and indeed true.

While I don't believe in Original Sin (as a doctrine; its false.) it does relate to a pervasive truth.

We exist, whether vegetarian, meat lover, warrior, pacifist, farmer or industrialist, on the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors. There's no equality among inheritences in this world, some of us inherit greatness, others of us inherit smallness. We live, as humans, partly because of the death of other human beings. And definitely because of the death of animals. This, I believe is, more or less, a description of 'the fallen state of the world'.

We love to call ourselves clean while claiming that others are dirty. The truth, naturally, is that we have all fallen from grace. How? By our choices, no doubt, but also by the choices of those who came before us. This is not to say that a person is born from sin, or something like that-- but that these ills and offenses pervade the lives of everyone. This is an important distinction that Calvin got wrong. (Note that the combination of Original Sin with Predestination doctrine makes for a very grim existence. I should not be the first to say that neither doctrine holds up to careful inspection.)

Note, I don't think that it is human nature to be a murderer, a killer, a hater, a rapist... but instead, it is human nature to have potential for all of these things. Most of us are kept from following these paths by a combination of luck, good influences, good environment, and with some knowledge, good choices.

But the important distinction is that just because we haven't done these things does not mean we won't. Once a man can make decisions and think for himself innocence is an illusion.

So, obviously, there is also a drive for good existing within mankind as well; but we mistake ourselves to look toward what is 'natural' for us, or to completely trust our feelings. Since both the good and evil reside within, our feelings drive us to both. We must have discernment.

Some of the greatest among the saints did terrible, terrible things before repentence. I'm sure Grim could recall quite a few.

Anyhow, really insightful. I don't know so much about the evolutionary wiring, but there certainly is a cultural wiring, cultures who did not eat raw flesh suffered from fewer illnesses, and at the very least outnumbered those who ate of rotting, uncooked flesh. There was a time when eating uncooked meat was seen as a sign of savagery. (I'm recalling 'Last of The Mohicans'.)

Its largely about attitude, perhaps?

"We love to call ourselves clean while claiming that others are dirty. The truth, naturally, is that we have all fallen from grace. How? By our choices, no doubt, but also by the choices of those who came before us."

Good gracious, man. You say you don't believe in Original Sin? You couldn't have written a better defense of it as a doctrine, both in the lines I quoted and in the rest of them. Aside from a bald assertion that it's false and doesn't hold up to inspection, what do you have against it? I'm not sure if you are the heretic you believe yourself to be, or if you're just irritated with the semantics. :)

Original Sin - Is true. It is why we need a Constitution with checks and balances. It is why we will never have peace. It is why there will always be criminal and predators.

We have fallen from grace but there is no original sin. Pretty circular.

Sorry, but I think one of your "posits" is incorrect.
Mankind grew much more as a scavenger than a hunter, and the "smell" of death is much more an impulse to feed contraverted by the veneer of "civilization" which decrees such an impulse is wrong.

Great post, Grim.

I don't want to kill anybody or hunt anything. I don't even want to hook a worm, though I've done that. What I have done is listened to friends and family who have done these things. I've also read things from which I hope to learn wisdom.

But the world is increasingly specialized. At one time, a family took care of its dead, but now we have funeral home specialists. On one hand, we can avoid the face of death, but on the other, we benefit from the skills of those practiced in nursing and embalming and butchering.

I've walked and waded and waited with hunters, and I know Aldo Leopold was correct that they have a greater conservation ethic than the tourists, but I still don't want to be a hunter(nor do I believe Leopold ended his days as a hunter). What he valued was perception, something which could not be purchased, nor necessarily learned in school. Something that could be observed, like roadkill drawing flies at the edge of the road.

I will not wade in the blood. In some ways, my parents and their parents (etc.) lived their lives to make that possible, and I intend to do the same with my children. It would almost seem perverse to do otherwise. Maybe what is lost can be learned by observation, though probably not taught.


With respect, would you provide some documentation for that claim? Having myself encountered a dead deer even today, I have to say that I can't believe I was experiencing a suppressed desire to feed on it. I'll consider the notion if the science is good enough, but for now, it's sufficiently counterintuitive that I'm going to set the claim aside if there's not some pretty solid evidence to support it.


That's an interesting response, which I will consider. It seems like an honorable position, though I wish to think it through.

A complement to the topic of this post, and I paraphrase here, would be Victor Davis Hanson's commentary on the mystic attachment to the land (the earth of their farms and family groves, their woodlots, and hunting grounds)that many of the WW2 generation felt. Hands that work the ground will defend it.

Seriously riveting read-thanks Grim. I didn't see the conclusion coming, either. Very well done.

Great post, Grimm. Great post! Good thread too - kudos to all.

Please take nothing that follows as a criticism of the ancient and excellent sport of hunting.


#16 from stevesh: "Hands that work the ground will defend it."

Not necessarily effectively enough though - and that's the tragedy.


#4 from SPQR: "Someone once speculated that nomads made better troops than farmers because they came from cultures that were herdsmen and they learned the lesson of how to steel oneself to butchery better than agriculturalists."

For this and many other reasons the nomadic savage is a superior killing machine, compared to the civilized individual.

What the nomadic barbarian, the desert raider, does, may in some cultures not be so much "making war" as carrying on his bloody life at a greater level of excitement, organisation and intensity.

The civilized person, the maker and maintainer of houses, temples, granaries, libraries and roads, upon whom all the goodness that mankind can accomplish through cumulative improvement depends, has no equally natural individual answer to this except to die, or to be exploited in any way the savage pleases and then to die.

Hence the legitimate purpose, the necessity and in my opinion the virtue (when it is necessary) of warfare - the ugly side of a coin which on the other side is real peace, and which is beautiful.

Real peace, and when necessary war (without which there is no peace), is in principle the business of civilized people - all of them.


Just yesterday I saw United 93 for the first time, twice. I'm still trying to absorb it.

I am not a believer in the theory of sheep dogs and sheep, not at all. Rather I believe in the spirit of the crew and passengers of United 93.

The attackers were all fully prepared to kill, and as deeply indoctrinated as possible in a religion which breathes the spirit of the desert raider. Other than the kind of upbringing Genghis Khan's Mongols had, they were about as ready as they could have been, and they did not fail for any lack of bloodthirstiness.

The predator, the killer, knows something that the prey, the man with clean hands, does not. But it is not very much. The knowledge is an advantage. But it is not an advantage that needs to last for very long.

Maybe Jeremy Glick at kosher, and never hunted and ate his own kill in his life. I do not think that those who have done so know by that fact alone anything terribly important that he didn't.


Finch: You and I share a secret. We know how easy it is to kill someone. That ultimate taboo. It doesn't exist outside our own minds.


Dormer: You don't get it do you Finch? You're my job. You're what I'm paid to do. You're about as mysterious to me as a blocked toilet is to a ****ing plumber. Reasons for doing what you did? Who gives a ****?

- Insomnia (2002)

Detective Will Dormer made the serious mistake of thinking as though was a sheep dog in a world of wolves and sheep - as though it was his job alone to deal with what is ultimately our job. Apart from that, I think he was right.


You can over-psychologize these things.

Holden: "Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your mother."
Leon: "My mother?"
Holden: "Yeah."
Leon: "Let me tell you about my mother."

- Blade Runner (1982)


Our enemies, intoxicated by the bloody fumes of their religion, suppose that they have wisdom we do not. If they win, they were correct, and everything that our ancestors were and built and that we are and build amounts to less than the virtues that Muhammed Atta's men supremely exemplified on 11 September, 2001.

I think that instead they are disposable killing units animated by a program that we should extirpate.

At some point, late but not too late, and for most of us inevitably without the benefit of a hunting trip, I hope enough of us will figure that out.

If not, then we're stupid and we'll die.

I'm going to have to disagree with David on many counts.

First, again, nothing against hunters--most in my family enjoy it quite a bit, and I naturally love the venison and jerky that results. But it is not a sport. A sport is a friendly competition with established rules and a system of scoring where either side can 'win'. But both have a chance, and both walk away at the end. Hunting, like duels to the death or bullfighting, almost always end with the death of a participant.

The nomadic savage is not a superior killing machine. He is merely one that is more used to it out of necessity and does not balk at the need to do so. He may or may not have an aversion to it, but he doesn't let that stand in his way of doing the job because, whether it is true or not, he believes it is necessary for his own survival. It is not a surprise that some might come to enjoy it. It doesn't mean he's better at it, simply that he's less likely to let an aversion stand in his way.

Despite David's disbelief in the "Sheepdog Theory", I am a firm believer in it. It applies quite well in this instance. The 'civilized person' is not necessarily without options. His ancestors were nomads, as well, long before his agriculture and architecture were developed. The necessity of killing to survive has been surppressed, in some ways, by the communal development of 'civilization', but it is not gone. There exist varying degrees of suppression, based on an individual's specific factors (how they were raised, what they believe, what they've had to do to survive--a butcher likely has less problems killing than a mason, for instance), but the latent capability is still there, buried deep. To most, the learned behavior of civilization and the inherent behavior of our omnivorous natures are mutually exclusive. One can not exist in the presence of another for these people, and those who favor one side or the other have different positions within that civilized society. But a rare few can reconcile this difference internally. Perhaps it's not even that, perhaps for them the two concepts are not mutually exclusive as they are with everyone else. Whether due to belief or a practical nature, the two concepts are able to coexist without friction inside these people.

These people are the sheepdogs. The belief in such a concept does not imply that the 'sheep' in the analogy are unable to defend themselves. Indeed, quite the contrary, sheep are herding animals and understand safety in numbers. But just like herding animals, they need an individual to lead them in their defense, because without it they run about in a panic. 'Civilized' non-nomadic people have always had sheepdogs who are both different and essential. And those sheepdogs are quite capable of training sheep or even more of their own kind, if they are allowed to do so, and treated seriously by the civilized people who's hands are clean and who can not reconcile their civilized and inherent natures. But if they are marginalized by a society which beliefs their are outdated or anachronistic, then said society will have to deal with a harsh and often brutal future when confronted by those who do not believe as they do.

THIS is the core of the conflict. Each 'side', civilized and primitive, believes that the other's techniques and way of life are fatally flawed and can not survive in the real world. One is accustomed to violence, and it is their first choice of technique to use. The other is, actually, quite skilled and capable of violence, but prefers for it to be the last resort. It won't be the 'knowledge' of one whom has killed versus one who hasn't that determines which philosophy is to survive. It will be the merger of capability and willingness--belief and determination--to defeat the opposition. So far we're trying, but not anywhere close to our full capacity. The opposition believes that they can win because we will NEVER use our full capacity; they believe we are inherently inferior and nothing we do, nothing we build or wield, can change that.

Is there any particular-sized animal that has to be shot or otherwise disposed of to gain the knowledge that only warriors and hunters have?

Does pig-shooting count?

Roo shooting?

Dropping feral cats and bunny rabbits?

Cane toads?


And does a surgeon who hasn't yet lost a patient lack the special knowledge, while one who has lost a patient does have it?

I'm sure a surgeon has knowledge of his own, but it isn't quite the same as that which comes from intentionally killing something, and butchering it for food. I don't think you need to set a size limit on an animal. The first animal I shot was a squirrel, but the experience of cleaning it was full of lessons.

Thanks. That's a clear answer. I can't ask for more.


Fast food
Instead, the remains probably represent temporary meal sites - perhaps a convenient patch of shade - where the group gathered around a fallen animal, O'Connell and his team suggest.

Most likely, the "hunters" were not actually hunting either. Many of the bones bear both cut-marks from primitive stone tools and the tooth marks of animals. When the researchers compared these with marks on bones made in modern experiments, they found that the pattern of marks and the mix of bones were similar to those left by human scavengers (see graphic).

This suggests that early humans drove other predators away from freshly killed carcasses - a view now gaining support among palaeoanthropologists. But O'Connell's team went a step further. They wanted to know what kind of a living early African Homo erectus made if in fact they were scavengers, not hunters.

The Hadza people today scavenge avidly in the same way, and studies in the late 1980s noted that they found an average of one carcass every two to three weeks. Based on that observation, the team estimated that early humans might have picked up a carcass every few days in the wettest areas, but in drier areas might have got as little as one a month: nowhere near enough to live on.

Good. I have no problem with that assertion -- it wouldn't surprise me if humans learned to use lions or cheetahs as 'labor saving devices,' letting them use their speed to make the kill and then driving them off.

That said, driving predators off a freshly-killed carcass has nothing to do with the 'smell of death,' which arises from putrifaction. There's no reason to believe that the sensation that comes from encountering that smell, the smell of flesh that has been dead long enough to rot, is a signal to feed. It is, rather, a signal not to.

Maybe the three categories really are

1) wolves,
2) sheepdogs, and
3) canids-of-unknown-temperament-in-sheeps'-clothing...

It can be hard to see in or out through all that wool.

Just a thought,


#25 from Nortius Maximus:

"Maybe the three categories really are

1) wolves,
2) sheepdogs, and
3) canids-of-unknown-temperament-in-sheeps'-clothing...

It can be hard to see in or out through all that wool.

Just a thought,




But I've been thinking about the strong gut reaction that underpins my responses, and it comes down to this: No predators inside the wall of horns!

I have about as much use for self-declared "sheep dogs" as your friendly neighbourhood cape buffalo might have for a "good" leopard loitering around the young calves.

Well, good for you. Maybe we're all cape buffalos then.

I agree that labeling people as sheep or cattle is a bad idea. I was therefore trying to remedy that.

Evidently I didn't go far enough to suit you.

Pity, that.

Have fun being an irritable, harem-guarding superbovine.

See you 'round the water hole. Or not.




Grim: I see your point. I think there is a distinction between the doctrine of Original Sin and what most people think of it as.

I will not disagree of the notion 'Sin entered the world through one man (Adam)'. My disagreement with Original Sin is this: Sin is, and has always been, a choice. We are not born sinners, though each man given the choice will disobey God. (At least once...)

The error in Original Sin as a doctrine was, if we are, because of Adam, all born sinners, there become some weird ideas that take hold. 1. Is sex a sin? (Some have believed it is. The action itself without a context is just an action. The context/motivations determine its morality.) 2. If all are born sinners, then babies must be saved immediately, or they will die & go to hell.

Obviously, #2 clearly breaks the rule of judging others. Categorically, we cannot be born sinners, because being saved is a choice. God would not condemn those without a choice to hell. All things aside, how are we to know, anyway? Isn't that His job?

There are also generational curses (may sound like I'm going out on a limb here.) Usually, it is a matter of the bad choices your parents and your parents' parents made (and so forth) being taught to you, especially at a young age when you are very impressionable. Then also more than likely, when you are old enough to make your own choices, you will follow that path (unless you choose not to.)

The thing which you speak of is the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Free will is a double edged sword. Nobody is guarded by some kind of radiant goodness that makes them unable to do evil. Everyones' hands are dirty, only because from the least to the greatest we have decided to sin.

Does that make my position a little clearer?


Oh, gawd. A superbovine with his tongue hanging out. How gross.

{Kind of hot, though.}


Extremely well thought-out and written, and good "meat" to ruminate over.

This is just my experience and opinion, but it seems mainly men who are deluded by the concept of "clean" humans. Women know better. We touch and handle blood and worse and it is a very basic part of life. That does not mean we are any less repulsed by gore and death, but we are not able (honestly) to live with sweet fantasies that humans are not animals and predators. A close family member of mine was recently raped and violently murdered. I believe your assertion that all humans are monsters. It's in our genes, and we like to think we can rise above, but we can only strive to control that which drives us.


I understand your position better, certainly. I myself think that some of what we're talking about in the piece above isn't chosen sin, though, but a sort of natural sin -- "Original Sin," if you like, though in a sense that doesn't require Adam and Eve, or the efficacy of priests (which are theological topics beyond the scope of the present discussion).

There is the sort of sin you choose, which you mention; and the sort that is kind of chosen for you, but which you can choose to avoid, which you also mention (e.g., the sins of the fathers who are abusers).

There is a third type of sin, though, that arises from nature: it arises from the genetic code, and pre-exists thought, and therefore choice.

For example, wrath. What you do with wrath is freely chosen. The experience of wrath, though, is hardcode -- it has to do with the dumping of chemicals by the brain, which occurs instinctively in the face of some kinds of stimuli.

Is it a lesser sin (or not a sin), because it's not a choice? Or is it a greater one, in that all the additional sins that follow arise from it?

Regardless of which it is, it's there. That's the sense in which we all have murderous hearts -- even the Zen master, whose choices have all been to the good. Yet the evil remains, embedded.

Interesting discussion. I'm sorry I didn't find it sooner.

I will not wade in the blood. In some ways, my parents and their parents (etc.) lived their lives to make that possible, and I intend to do the same with my children. It would almost seem perverse to do otherwise. Maybe what is lost can be learned by observation, though probably not taught.

Your parents, and their parents, have made a profound error.

Those who will not willing to wade in blood to preserve their civilization will be conquered by those who are, for there is nothing more tempting in this world than undefended wealth- and for all the prowess of western militaries, the will to use them is lacking.

I am afraid that we are in for a brutal lesson in the next decade or so.

I would love to send this post to family members, some of whom have not ever hunted. It speaks so well of what I believe. Thank you.

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