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Francisco de Goya (1819-1823)

Peter Paul Reubens (1636)

Cannibalism/anthropophagy, here in it’s symbolic form filtered through  Greek & Roman myth of  Titan Cronus/Saturn , the paranoid God who fearing that he would be overthrown ( just as he had usurped his own father) devoured his own newborn sons.

‘Devouring our young’, ‘eating our young’; these are phrases in common usage often attached to societal disturbance, age old conflicts between the old and the new guard and a derogatory term associated with describing the underclass.

Changes in government, radical work and education reforms that affect the younger generations sanctioned by fearful, older, entrenched figures of power. They fear rebellion, death, an overturning of the societal equilibrium by fresh, angry, youthful minds and the rage and passion of the underclass.

Absolute horse shit you might be thinking. Perhaps. I’m thinking out loud here so coherence and self- editing is probably not a concern here. What triggered my interest in the Goya painting? A video clip from  an excellent 2011 documentary entitled ‘Page One: Inside the New York Times‘. The Times forthright columnist David Carr confronts the fresh faced management team of the Vice Magazine whose Guide to Travel videos adopt a somewhat irreverent approach in covering the more strange, disturbing aspects of farflung holiday destinations.

We see footage from their Guide to Liberia in which the ‘reporter’ focuses on some of the more depraved aspects of Liberian culture which included the ongoing practice of cannibalism. A teenage boy holds what looks like a  brain and stem in his hand. He stands amidst a group of other Liberian boys and they seem energized, possessed by some ecstatic, horrifying power as they proudly display their ghoulish trophy to the camera.

Just those few seconds repulsed and disturbed me. To know that such an act of transgression can exist in the known world but maybe it was the style of the video that made it even more horrifying, sensationalizing the act with editorial tricks designed to instill a primal fear and revulsion in the viewer. Yet the practice of cannibalism has always been there throughout history, in reality, myth, stories, art symbolizing the most primitive, darkest part of our souls.

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