I cannot help but wonder why cannibalism is such an offensive term. At its mere name drop, peoples’ faces twist in repulsed horror. Perhaps, it is the implied image of a human being consuming a fellow human being that causes this sickened face. Perhaps, it is the arousal of “humane” feelings of compassion that causes this disgusted face. Perhaps.
Or perhaps it is another thing. Perhaps, it is guilt.
An uncommonly known fact is that the practice of cannibalism is fairly common. Although the history books will tell you that this preposterous act only occurs in times of desperation, I feel confident asserting that it happens every day—more than once a day even. In fact, its occurrence is ever-present.
I am a cannibal. You are a cannibal. We are all cannibals.
People are constantly cannibalizing each other. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes in frustration or rage, or sometimes out of sheer pleasure. People constantly rip one another apart through words, actions, or feelings. People constantly devour each other out of selfishness, out of feelings of inferiority, and out of misunderstandings. People often forget that the other people they share the world with are much like them—they have thoughts, beliefs, and feelings too.
My first experience with cannibalism was as the cannibalizer. A couple of years ago, I belonged to this clique of about seven friends, that is, on the surface we may have appeared as seven friends. However, the truth was that really we were not all friends at all. For there were cliques in this clique, and I belonged to the innermost clique of three. And for reasons I cannot explain even to this day, we liked to pick fun at this one girl. What’s absurd to me now is that there was nothing remotely wrong with this girl. There was nothing physically revolting about her and her character was sound. Yet still, it was she who fell victim to our rude remarks and suffered from our endless games of “ditching.” In fact, my two closest friends and I picked that girl so close to the bone that year that the next year she transferred to a private school. An overwhelming feeling of guilt and regret flooded my heart as I finally realized the negative effects of my words and actions. I caused another girl, another human being to feel so low and depressed that she contemplated suicide. I cannibalized her. I devoured her to the point where her bones could be seen through the thin layer of flesh.
As karma would have it, my second experience was as the cannibalized. In another group of friends that I had, my role reversed. Instead of being the loud, outspoken and leading character, I was the one who remained in silence listening carefully to the others around me. It is not that I had nothing to say. It is just that I was intimidated by the overwhelming, strong personalities around me and didn’t want to steal their spotlight. Day after day went on like this: them talking and me listening. And pretty soon it was just them talking because I was no longer included. Pretty soon, I was left to dwell on my own. And even though now I have grown to love independence, at first this came as a cool slap in the face to me. The world I had known had been revolutionized overnight. The people that I always considered my “friends” in my head had become the cannibalizers of my soul, my spirit, and my life as I sank closer and closer to suicide. I had been cannibalized. I had been devoured to the point where my bones could be seen through the thin layer of flesh.
Although both of these experiences have left me feeling in the gutter, these two experiences have altered my perspective drastically. Now, I have learned to be more conscious of others because they, like me, have their own thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that are not presented on a golden platter for me to devour.
I believe in saying the word cannibalism aloud. Despite the horror-struck faces that it arouses, it reminds me that my actions do affect the others around me and being conscious of this is the swallowing of the first bite of a new sort of meat.
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