There I was a naked, mentally ill catholic gay man high on some voodoo smack married to my teenage cousin in Mormon country. I’d just cooked a juicy dog steak when I noticed my dead uncle Bob was beginning to wilt. I called my slave and told her to fetch a flagon of ale, my welly boots and a shaven sheep from the Harem for tonight we ride
Yes you got it, I’m talking about taboos; taboos are, by all accounts the things to which we can look to explain a society, its moral codes, its ethics, its fibre, integrity and its grit. When a civilization from any time in history, from the earliest Neolithic to the most modern post-post modern is reduced to its fundamentals you’re left with what it stands for; or indeed what it won’t stand for.
Derived from the Tongan word Tabu – I lifted that from Wikipedia – it really means forbidden, disallowed or just plain weird dude. Interestingly, some taboos have remained strictly inappropriate throughout the ages while others have become more main-stream, more tolerated, accepted or perhaps even venerated.
Sometimes when I’m bored at work I play a little game called ‘would you for a million quid?’ which is where I put forward a fictitious but despicable proposition rewarded with cash if carried out. Surprisingly in theory many people will do anything for money and are prepared to break any Taboo to get it; or so they say. ‘It’s a million quid man!’ they shout at me when I look aghast at the fact that they would have sex with a still warm, one legged ginger corpse. Disgusting isn’t it, I mean ginger of all things, where’s your dignity, you after all have to live with what you have done for the rest of your life!
Necrophilia has been outlawed in the UK for at least ten years but is considered a ‘misdemeanour’ in some parts of North America, well what do you expect from a country that allows you to marry your cousin? Some pre Christian cultures believed that the premature death of a ‘bride to be’ would prevent her from reaching the afterlife if she remained a virgin soooo, yah you got it; bring on the best man! This is not an example of a taboo that’s going to make the heady journey from outlawed to venerated anytime soon but some are, if not completing that journey, well on the way. Homosexuality for example has become not only legal but generally treated with tolerance by most people these days. Mental illness is more understood than it used to be, a child with any form of mental illness would generally be hidden away somewhere and never talked about. Or the poor child would be left in the woods for the fairies to take care of.
Witchcraft and wizardry are just silly and silly people believe in such superstitious nonsense, we know that now but once upon a time you never spoke of such things. You never mentioned Granny Sabrina’s uncanny ability to heal Acne and warts or how Auntie Hilda turned Uncle Bob into a frog or unmarried sister Susan’s pathological love of cats. You wouldn’t mention these things for fear of persecution, for fear of being tarnished as a witch lover!!
Abortion is not the Taboo it once was albeit still controversial in some cultures as is incest, polygamy and drug addiction. Slavery, once a totally fine and descent thing to do is now a ‘no, no’ as is spanking your children or locking them up in the cellar. Whereas alcohol consumption was tabooed in the states but is now ok, smoking is becoming Passé, objectionable and soon a social taboo. Some people reading this I suppose will find some of the practices discussed abhorrent others may well find the idea less obnoxious if presented with a million quid.
A social Taboo may not necessary reflect a personal Taboo, Sex and food are two areas where the lines are often blurred, let’s take food as an example, sex has after all been done to death; well not literally. Obviously food and sex merge in places, for example eating elephant meat is believed to improve your sex drive as is nibbling a tiger’s penis; ideally the penis should be detached from said tiger before the nibbling commences. Also a hungry zoophile may I suppose eat his mate if the relationship has become complicated; as if it wasn’t complicated enough!
Would you eat a cat, a dog a rabbit or a snail; another person, a horse, a pigs nose or a sheep’s testicles; an elephant – well not a whole one – the dried penis of a tiger, the last sea turtle of its kind?
Eating cat and dog is generally regarded as wrong, although most of us probably have consumed one or t’other without realising it! But other than the fact that it’s a pet some folks deny a distinction, why eat lamb and not cat, meat is meat after all so why be a fucking hypocrite man! Others may well say ‘when in Rome’, when what they mean is ’when in Guangdong China’, suggesting that under normal domestic circumstances they wouldn’t touch the stuff but if experiencing the local norms of another culture, in for a penny in for a Yuan. If a particular food is considered a delicacy by some, then maybe there’s a good reason why. Some bizarre delicacies include crispy deep fried spiders from Cambodia, guinea pig from Peru, live octopus from Korea and kopi luwak a coffee bean shat through the arse of a cat in Indonesia…nice. Cat shat coffee in my house is defiantly a taboo but goat shat Argan oil is an acceptable ingredient, one I would happily serve my guests, have served my guests.
Other food is off limits to whole soaves of people due to a sense of moral duty towards the survival of the species. Endangered animals on land, in sky and sea are off the menu to many but not all because it’s irresponsible. Albeit some countries – I’m looking at you Japan – seem to think it’s OK to fish blue fin dolphin and the much endangered fin whale for sushi; can you fish a mammal? Bush meat, I’m talking Gorilla and chimpanzee are common tucker in some parts of Africa, that’s like eating a very close relative don’t you think. Shark fin soup has got to be the most hideous idea, sharks are caught, their fins cut off while they are still alive and then thrown back into the water, plain bloody nasty. The list is endless, I’m not opposed to trying new foods or dishes but I draw a line and where that line is drawn is not on whether the food is tasty or not but whether it’s necessary.
If it’s not for moral, personal or environmental reasons it’s for religious ones, religion has probably created more Taboos than any other body of men in the history of human civilization. When things are just not talked about they often become Taboo subjects. We can thank religion for that, we can thank religion for a lot of weird shit but that’s another story.
Back to food, I predict that within the next one hundred years eating any kind of animal product will become taboo. It will, as it already is by some, be considered disgusting, immoral and an unthinkable act akin to shagging your Uncle! Maybe shagging your uncle will be more socially acceptable, who knows but truth be told we are well on our way to a vegan, guilt free lifestyle. Not many people these days would willingly kill their supper, most people don’t even want to acknowledge where it comes from. Supermarket shoppers want their meat to be displayed as least like a dead animal part as possible. I think the privileged westerner is running out of good reasons to eat dead animals and sooner or later the general consensus will change, swing towards a bloodless diet. Anyhow, who knows, if we enter a time of severe austerity then of course we will eat whatever is available, rats, cats or each other, that’s actually the secret to our survival, we will adapt and we will do anything to prolong our existence.
On a lighter note
A Taboo seldom spoken about is of course public flatulence, braking wind in the company of others, floating an air biscuit, cutting the cheese, stepping on a frog, a trouser cough, to send forth as wind from the anus, a raspberry tart, a bratwurst bugle, a botty burp, a mud slapper, to bust a grumpy, lay a jelly bean, shoot bunnies or play the butt trumpet in a packed elevator, cinema, supermarket or church. This is because we are embarrassed of our bodies and their functions. We often – I hope I’m not alone here – feel comfortable letting rip in the company of our nearest and dearest but would be mortified if by accident we dealt one during a meeting or god forbid a funeral. If this unfortunate scenario were to occur, the unspoken rule is to say nothing but look accusingly at someone else who will in turn be looking accusingly at someone else. From my own experience there is little point in trying to redirect the blame towards the deceased, although I’m reliably informed that it is actually possible. I rather like this taboo; it’s one I’ve broken on countless occasions, stealthily or at times loud and proud. The result sends me into a kind of delicious fit of the giggles tinged with embarrassment and an understanding of the futility of the act. The response of my victims is another matter, oh the look of horror upon their stupid faces, the disbelief, you’d think I’d just eaten their hamster. A harmless taboo, one I hope remains that way because it allows the practitioner the sense that he or she but probably he is breaking the rules, a taboo breaker, a warrior on the edge of time or trend setter. Someone willing to liberate the minds of others and change public opinion and the way we view/judge our selves. Go forth and bust a grumpy today!