"Let them eat cack"
Wearied by the insanity of the current food crisis - a crisis induced to a significant degree by food being fed to cars, while the poor are pushed further into hunger and giant corporations and speculators prosper, someone just sent me a copy of Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal' (1729).
In this famous satirical essay, Swift suggests that the malnourished Irish should eat the children of the poor in order to not only feed themselves but stop the children becoming a burden to their parents and society.
Swift writes, "I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children."
This is not the only parallel in Swift's work to the current insanity, particularly when it comes to the solutions being punted.
Following a visit to the Royal Society in London, Swift satirized this scientific institution in the section of Gulliver's Travels where Gulliver reports on his visit to the grand academy of Lagado on the flying island of Laputa - la puta in Spanish meaning "the whore".
Gulliver describes, "The arts wherein the professors employ themselves" in the academy. These projects famously include one aimed at extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, and another for making spiders spin naturally coloured silk for stockings.
Other less well known projects include attempts to convert human excrement into food, breed sheep whose entire bodies are bald, and to develop a novel form of ploughing, using pigs and acorns, of which Gulliver reports, "...upon experiment, they found the charge and trouble very great, and they had little or no crop. However it is not doubted, that this invention may be capable of great improvement."
Swift was also unsparing about the academicians' funding drive: "[he] intreated me to give him Something as an Encouragement to Ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear Season for Cucumbers. I made him a small Present, for my Lord had furnished me with Money on Purpose, because he knew their Practice of begging from all who go to see them." (Gulliver's Travels, 1726)
Just to prove that we now live in an age beyond satire, there was experimentation into using human excrement as food back in the 1970s, with the principal researcher waxing lyrical about what such an approach could do for the hungry: "The direct use of human excreta in the human diet could play a major role in solving the world's food problems,"
*"cack" is a now obsolete noun for faeces