[KS] Re: custom and new environment:dog-eating
kimchee at nwlink.com
Fri Jul 21 10:59:55 EDT 2000
On 21-Jul-00, HEEKYUNG LEE wrote:
>> Eating the flesh of other living beings may well be cruel. Yet,
>> in the name of human well-being we have always eaten the bodies of
>> other creatures. However, it is also true that we seem, either
>> consciously or subconsciously, to try to eat only those creatures who
>> we feel are rather more 'remote' from ourselves than those we take as
>> our 'neighbours'.
"You look a little shy: let me introduce you to that leg
of mutton," said the Red Queen. "Alice -- Mutton: Mutton --
Alice." The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little
bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether
to be frightened or amused.
"May I give you a slice?" she said, taking up the knife and
fork, and looking from one Queen to the other.
"Certainly not," the Red Queen said, very decidedly: "it isn't
etiquette to cut anyone you've been introduced to."
--Lewis Carroll, *Through The Looking Glass*
But seriously, folks ...
Among the native tribes of the northwest coast of North America, the
opposite belief is held. One does not eat creatures who are "remote" from
one's tribe. One eats only those creatures with whom one's tribe has an
acknowledged relationship. (Reversing Carroll's etiquette, one does not
eat strangers, one only eats friends.) If you can't acknowledge a creature
as your brother or your sister, to whom you have sacred obligations, then
you have no business eating them.
Accepting the sacrifice of a sister or brother creature, and making promises
(as of performing rituals in their honor, or protecting their
breeding-grounds, or keeping their river clean) is sacred killing, not
murder. Killing and eating a creature with whom you acknowledge no
relationship is anathematized as a violation of the sanctity of all life.
This is quite the opposite of the mainstream Euro/American way of looking at
killing vs. murder. The mainstream believes that destruction is not
murder, provided the thing/creature being destroyed has no soul. Among the
mainstream, some groups believe human fetuses have no souls, but whales do;
others believe that whales have no souls, but human fetuses do. But both
groups are in agreement on the basic assumption that if something is
regarded as soul-less then one has carte blanche to destroy it whatever way
is convenient, but if it is regarded as having a soul then it is taboo,
making it "murder" to kill it.
Among the Northwest Coast tribes -- EVERYthing is regarded as having a soul,
not just whales and fetuses, but also trees and rocks. There's no such
thing as something that is soul-less, something that is okay to destroy in
any way that is convenient. If you want to kill a whale, you must ask the
whale spirits if there is a whale among them who is willing to sacrifice
itself for your tribe at this time -- and you will also have to make
promises to the whales in return. If you want to weave a basket out of
cedar bark, you must ask the cedar spirits if there is a tree among them
who is willing to give up its bark at this time -- and you will also have
to make promises to the cedars in return.
They do not divide the world up into "things it's okay to destroy," and
"things it's not okay to destroy." Rather, there's a right way to kill and
a wrong way to kill.
The right way to kill is first of all to be in a sacred (=reciprocal)
relationship with the non-human tribe, to ask for and accept with due honor
the willing sacrifice of an individual member of the non-human tribe, and
to honor all one's obligations to its spirit and to the surviving members
of that tribe.
The wrong way to kill is to refuse to acknowledge any relationship with the
non-human, to unilaterally decree that it has no soul that you need concern
yourself with, and to use it and discard it with no regard for the welfare
of its spirit or its surviving kin.
That is the belief system of some of our local tribes (I'm in Seattle), but
I guess I had always thought of this as being the attitude of
shamanists/animists more generally. So now this discussion has me
wondering, is this kind of attitude found among shamanists/animists in
Korea? Or do they have the same attitude as mainstream Americans: that
killing something you acknowledge a relationship with is wrong, and the
LESS relationship you have with something, the more justification you have
to exploit/destroy/consume it with no restrictions?
More information about the Koreanstudies