March 15, 2007
maggots make me sick!
Here's something I hate that happens to me all too often (and probably indicates senility).... I'll be in the course of looking for one thing, and I'll stumble upon something interesting (or inane as the case may be), but because that's completely unrelated, I'll forget where I saw it, and then days later something else will remind me of it, but I can't remember where I saw it.
In this case, it "bugs" me, because it involves insect fear, and the "yuck" factor so often invoked as philosophically informative.
There's an irony here, because in this case I think the "yuck factor" is philosophically informative.
Anyway, once I put aside my guilt over how many Boreal virgins were sadistically shredded in pulp mills to produce this morning's Inquirer, I opened it up with my guilty, bloody hands, and saw a piece about the growing gastronomic trend -- eating grasshoppers. They serve them in a local restaurant, and the importer had to jump through years of FDA hoops to sell them as food (they're "agricultural pests" naturally enough), but now they're on the menu as gourmet food, and they're said to be delicious:
In a warm tortilla slathered with creamy avocado, they taste great, providing a crackling chew and hit of salt and garlic. (Priced at $15.95 for a heaping ounce with avocado, lime and two soft tortillas.)(I draw the line at eating ants for moral reasons. Ants are hard-working, and grasshoppers are lazy! Just kidding, of course....)
While I'm neurotic where it comes to eating liver and hard-boiled eggs (something that could probably be fixed with therapy), I have no problem with eating insects, and when I was a teenager I ate fried termites (by the plateful) in the Congo. If shrimp are served to me with the heads on (as they are in Europe and South America), I'll eat them in their entirety. Some people consider this gross, but I enjoy the taste and it doesn't bother me at all.
Certainly there is a yuck factor involved, because we are conditioned that way. But it would never occur to me to think of this in moral terms, much less scold people for eating insects.
However, I was reminded of something I'd seen somewhere. Someone somewhere had said insect eating did involve morality, and I'd seen it recently but just couldn't remember where. I googled and I googled, and finally, some angry leftists (trying, in their usual inane way, to link all conservatives to Dinesh D'Souza), supplied a clue. In the comments to this Crooks and Liars post, they claimed that D'Souza "implied gay marriage is akin to eating maggots" because liberals ate maggots on the "Fear Factor" show or something. One commenter was particularly irate:
Dinesh D'Souza's version is that liberals eat maggots and promote the videos on TV. I do take exception to that because the Republicans own all the TV stations and they want to do everything on the cheap so they put on shows like the ones described. They find some idiot broke enough to compete for money by eating maggots. As a liberal, I refuse to take responsibility for such a middle school concept. When the adults take control of the TV landscape I'll start watching again.While I don't see what's liberal about eating maggots (or any other insect), this triggered my memory, and finally I found the source. It was D'Souza (in a screed I had linked just two days ago for other reasons), and I had not considered the maggot decadence remarks all that interesting, but here they are:
...are the radical Muslims right? Is America a threat to the traditional cultures of the world? Is American culture a worldwide destroyer of morals? Do American values undermine the traditional family and corrupt the innocence of children? Many Americans are likely to indignantly answer, "No." Even conservatives are reluctant to admit that some radical Muslims may have valid objections to American society. Patriotism itself seems to demand an American response that highlights the horrors of Islamic behavior. "Look how your religion inspires terrorists to kill women and children!" "Look how you oppress women!" As broad judgments on Muslim society, these charges are ethnocentric, which is to say they reflect a narrow, prejudiced view of Islamic culture. But even if the charges were true, they would hardly constitute a vindication of American culture.There's no question that most of us would find eating maggots to be disgusting, so I think it's a good example of the "yuck factor." (Certainly, a better one than ice cream licking, although the father of philosophical yuckery once deemed that to be disgusting, at least, if done in public.)
I admit, eating maggots doesn't appeal to me, but for the right price I'd probably detach myself from my senses and give it a whirl. But would this be decadent? To people with religious dietary issues, perhaps. (Many Muslims, for example, are said to be prohibited from eating crabs and shrimp, and I can remember someone saying "God hates shrimp!" a few years back, and yes, it appears that God hates maggots.)
Back to D'Souza, who shifts gears immediately from maggots to vaginas, and after reeling in what I'm assuming is sincere horror from "The Vagina Monologues," he asks an interesting question about "rights":
If the garbage heap of American excess leaves many Americans feeling dirty and defiled at home, what gives America the right to dump it on the rest of the world?That's an unanswerable question as he poses it. I don't feel dirty and defiled by Fear Factor or the Vagina Monologues, and I'd be lying if I said I did. But what do my feelings have to do with the fact that some producer somewhere will sell videos of these things to people who are willing to pay for them? I mean, traditional Muslims hate alcohol too. Does that mean the Gallo wine company has no right to sell wine in other countries?
Lots of people are grossed out by lots of things, and I am sure that many people find alcohol to be worse (and more yucky) than maggots or vaginas. Why should the yuck factor be invoked to limit the free market? It isn't as if anyone is being forced to rent videos and vomit over them, is it?
Drink enough booze and you'll vomit too, and just whose "fault" would that be?
But let's stick with maggots. I think they're disgusting. But is that "wise"?
I'd probably find it more creepy to have maggots crawling inside my body. Such a reaction might very well be wise in the medical sense, because if maggots are crawling around inside me, I probably need a doctor.
There's now an emerging medical consensus that maggots can actually be good for you. That under the right circumstances, they promote wound healing:
This "illuminating idea" generated an interesting conservative discussion at Free Republic, and interestingly, the "yuck factor" is discussed at length, but it didn't seem to be philosophically informative -- even to conservatives.
I'm not sure whether that means FreeRepublic has gotten decadent, but I'm sure Sayid Qtub would think so if he were alive today. Hell, he thought vaginas were disgusting, and had a lot of issues that way, but is an organ that half of us humans have worth getting so exercised over that you have to start a movement around it?
Is it wise? As it happens, I have known many gay men who find vaginas disgusting too. It is no exaggeration to describe their reaction as another form of the "yuck factor." But most of them didn't think this was a form of wisdom.
We all have our "yucks," and they're all worth taking into account. But because they involve emotion, I don't think they're should be controlling over our ability to use logic and reason, and I disagree with the approach of calling them "wisdom."
Obviously, billions would disagree with me, although I should try not to let their collective "yucks" trigger my counter "yuck."
Of course, I'm human, so it's counterintuitive.
posted by Eric on 03.15.07 at 09:58 AM
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