Three polemicals: Pork

Do you like pork?

Upon reading Hitchen’s extended essay, God is Not Great. I considered writing a single piece of a review but I thought against it. Instead I will pass over particular issues as vignettes; some issues brought up are quite original, some formulaic in the New Atheist tribe, but Hitchens is a figure who I am surprised to find some enjoyment of reading. Not to say that I agree; here is one particularly curious notion he addresses: Pork.

Islam and Judaism are typically horrified by the eating of pork; and Hitchens does not wish to give the standard explanation concerning how improper cooking of them brought illness; instead, he appeals to the perception of pigs as animals which are barbaric and dirty. The cultural prejudice against the pig, which is completely the opposite in Britain (so Hitchens claims), has led to the Islamic world either banning, or severely editing works such as Animal Farm, or Winnie-the-Pooh.

This prejudice, Hitchens argues, is challenged when we see pigs in more habitable and humane living conditions. When pigs are given free reign, they act in more individualistic, amicable and even an intelligent manner. There is a sense in which pigs are human-like, in their ability to seemingly have conversations between each other, and form personal bonds and rituals of hygiene when they are not herded and under strict surveillance by humans.

If treated in such a manner where they are herded and under strict control, they would act frightened, irrational, and in a constant state of panic. Given this, it would seem understandable to perceive them as frantic and disgusting beings, as we have seen them, and put them, in their worst situation. It is the human analogy of pigs that also sheds light on the frantic behaviour of human beings when they are oppressed. Being an expert on George Orwell, Hitchens’ allusion (unstated) to 1984, I think, is presumed upon the reader and, surprising enough; a Foucauldian point is made in this analogy. Through the agencies of state surveillance, we become like the prisoners in Bentham’s panopticlon. This is no representation of humans insofar as it is a contingent situation; mutatis mutandis, we can be just like those pigs in factory-farmed conditions.

The last observation I wish to make is that, despite the aforementioned undeveloped and somewhat profound point, Hitchen’s makes a point which is very weak; there is a point at which he insinuates that the very value of the taste of pork is a reason to oppose the notion that pork-eating is abhorrent. Clearly here, Hitchens is no friend of the vegan, or the various dietic and sustainability arguments against meat-eating, but I will not address it from that angle. Hitchens is making an appeal to experience and the pleasurable nature of pork to base a wider assertion of his approval of pork in the guise of an essay’s argument.

While it is far too juvenile to make the point that the liking of pork is a subjective matter; but one might make the point that it is simply a matter of disposition as to whether one likes pork or not, and is not the subject of genuine and disinterested approval. More often than not, my recent experiences with pork have not been great; although that is not to say that there have been good, if not great times with the ingredient.

While it is certainly possible to elaborate on how the pork is prepared or additional ingredients; what kind of food and drink accompanies pork well. While it is possible to argue the merits of pork between people; there must be some assumed shared culinary ground. In other words, there is a point where which disposition may fundamentally decide whether one likes pork or not, and one simply cannot argue for or against that which one is disposed by. I shall still consider it moot, as my own view on pork is moot. It seems wanting, however, to bank on the revelation that pork by means of its taste alone, provides a merit for the eating of pork. Pleasure in the agreeable is hard to argue about.


2 thoughts on “Three polemicals: Pork

  1. It’s a safe bet that Hitchens never considers how the denial of food could create a genuine spiritual experience. This is at the heart of Ramadan, for instance, and it’s something that non-Muslims struggle to appreciate.

  2. There are some pigs being fattened up in the barn next to my house. I feel genuinely sorry for them, in such a small space without exposure to the outside, and no stimulus. The thing that bites most is they are considered to be being ethically, organically reared. Pre-packaged sterile chops in the supermarket desensitise us to the reality of where food truly comes from. In the case of these five young animals, they have another nine weeks of fear, boredom and claustrophobia before the trip to hell. MMmmmm les odour du bacon, c’est irresistible non?

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