Jack D. Forbes (Powhatan-Renapé and Lenape) was the author of Columbus and Other Cannibals, one of the most important books ever written. In this excerpt, edited slightly for publication, he offers the reader analysis of the nature and origins of evil in human beings. Image depicts former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
The Origins of Evil in Human Beings.
For several thousands of years human beings have suffered from a plague, a disease worse than leprosy, a sickness worse than malaria, a malady much more terrible than smallpox.
The disease that is overrunning the world is the disease of aggression against other living things and, more precisely, the disease of the consuming of other creature’s lives and possessions. It is cannibalism, a cannibal psychosis, and it is the greatest epidemic sickness known to humans.
Cannibalism is the consuming of another’s life for one’s own private purpose or profit.
A cannibal is an evil person or spirit who terrorizes other creatures by means of terrible evil acts, including cannibalism. The slaver who forces blacks or Indians to lose their lives in the slave-trade or who drains away their lives in a slave system is a cannibal.
They may ‘eat’ other people immediately or they may ‘eat’ their flesh gradually over a period of years. The wealthy exploiter ‘eats’ the flesh of oppressed workers, the wealthy matron ‘eats’ the lives of her servants, the imperialist ‘eats’ the flesh of the conquered, and so on. The wealthy and exploitative literally consume the lives of those they exploit.
The overriding character of the cannibal is that it consumes other lives, that is, it is a predator. Somehow, cannibals believe that they have a right to use another’s life (or their property) in a manner which is decidedly one-sided and disadvantageous to the victim.
Predation can lurk under many guises, such as ‘patriotism,’ profit-seeking, ‘protecting our way of life,’ and ‘investment returns.’
Lying is almost always a factor in cannibal behavior. Lying and petty thievery, hustling, ‘wheeling and dealing,’ cheating, usury, and so on are all symptoms of a cannibal. In a cannibal society, the common training of large numbers of people is that of a hustler. The individual may learn to be a hustler in business, or in school, or in scientific research, or in politics, but their basic attitude is one of fierce competition to ‘get ahead’ of other people.
There are many psychological traits that help form the cannibal personality. Greed, lust, inordinate ambition, materialism, the lack of a true ‘face,’ a schizoid (split) personality, and so on, are all terms which can be used to describe most cannibals.
One of the major traits characterizing the truly evil and extreme form of cannibalism is arrogance.
Arrogance is a key trait of the cannibal or of a person liable to become a cannibal. Sadism and cruelty are closely related to cannibal behavior. The option of being sadistic and cruel is available to people in the cannibal world, and what is more, being sadistic and cruel can even be made to appear as being patriotic, good, or even pious. Thus the sane become insane, and the crazed become rulers!
‘Scientific’ experimenters on animals, social workers intimidating poor people, bureaucrats being rude to ‘common’ people who dare to approach their desks, teachers treating pupils with mental cruelty, and so on, are using disguised means of expressing the sadistic derangement fostered by the cannibal world.
Imperialism and exploitation are forms of cannibalism and are precisely those forms of cannibalism which are most diabolical or evil.
Imperialists, rapists, and exploiters are not just people who have strayed down a wrong path. They are insane (unclean) in the true sense of that word. They are mentally ill with the cannibal psychosis. The rape of a woman, the rape of a land, and the rape of a people, they are all the same. And they are the same as the rape of the earth, the rape of the rivers, the rape of the forest, the rape of the air, the rape of the animals. Brutality knows no boundaries, greed knows no limits, perversion knows no borders, arrogance knows no frontiers, deceit knows no edges. These characteristics all tend to push towards an extreme, always moving forward once the initial infection sets in.
The cannibal psychosis is a very contagious and rapidly spreading disease. It is spread by the cannibals themselves as they recruit or corrupt others. It is spread today by history books, television, military training programs, police training programs, comic books, pornographic magazines, films, right-wing movements, fanatics of various kinds, high-pressure missionary groups, and numerous governments.
The cannibal disease, the sickness of exploitation, has been spreading as a contagion for the past several thousand years.
And as a contagion unchecked by most vaccines it tends to become worse rather than better with time. More and more people catch it, in more and more places, and they become the true teachers of the young. Exploitation is thriving. The exploitation of children, of love, of women, of old people, of the weak, of the poor, and, of course, the intentional commercial exploitation of every conceivable thing, from the hair around women’s vaginal areas, to worry over natural body odors, to adolescent insecurity, to the fear of growing old, to thirst (for example, persuading people to drink liquid chemicals and sugar in place of water or natural beverages).
The cannibal psychosis is a sickness of the spirit that takes people down an ugly path with no heart. They may kill, but they are not warriors. They may learn skills, but they acquire no wisdom. They may be surrounded by death but they do not, or cannot, learn its message. They chase after the riches or rewards of a transient world and delude themselves into believing that big tombs and monuments can make it permanent.
A pimp is someone who follows other people’s orders, follows someone else’s path, and who refuses to take responsibility for what they do. Such a person cannot be authentic. Such a person is not merely a pimp, they are also a ghost, a mere imitation of a person. Their life is an imitation of life, lacking solidity and realness. The cannibal world is full of such pimps and ghosts. The cannibal world believes in the use of tricks, constant opportunism, ‘situational ethics,’ life adjustment, personality adjustment, wheeling and dealing, double standards, and plain fakery. Such a life of deception and rootlessness leads easily into pimpery.
To a considerable degree, the development of the cannibal disease corresponds to the rise of civilization.
Cannibal civilizations are (usually) societies with large slave populations, rigid social class systems, unethical or ruthless rulers, and aggressive, imperialistic foreign policies. Colonialist-imperialist systems seek to create cannibals. They recruit them because colonialism is maintained by means of properly controlled cannibal behavior. More especially, they need to recruit cannibals from within the native population in order to keep that group divided, exploited, and in a hopeless frame of mind.
Colonialists spread notions of racial and cultural superiority and transform hitherto free people into super-chickens (as it were) with an especially brutal pecking order. This pecking order (ranks, social classes, castes, and so on) is what maintains the system of exploitation and degrades the masses who become its victims. Such systems are a form of physical and psychological terrorism. When conquered people are reduced to a state of impotency, poverty, and despair, certain individuals will decide that survival depends upon cooperation with the exploiters. Slowly but surely, if they are especially aggressive or ambitions, they may come to see that there are ways to make money, get favored jobs, or obtain jobs for relatives, by becoming dishonest and corrupt. One of the tragic characteristics of the cannibal psychosis is that it spreads partly by resistance to it.
Those who try to fight cannibals sometimes, in order to survive, adopt cannibal values.
Imperialism creates the illusion of wealth as far as the masses are concerned. It usually serves to hide the fact that the ruling classes are gobbling up the natural resources of the home territory in an improvident manner and are otherwise utilizing the national wealth largely for their own purposes. Eventually the general public is called on to pay for all of this, frequently after the military machine can no longer maintain external aggression.
The material prosperity within successfully imperialistic societies, especially for middle-class and upper-class citizens, unfortunately serves to not only hide internal decay but also to blunt people’s desires for truth, justice, and personal authenticity. Even when obvious examples of wrong-doing appear, the bulk of the citizenry will refuse to take any action, in some cases because of a fear of reprisal, but more commonly because of a desire to continue to enjoy their prosperity without being disturbed.
Organized crime, in its many forms, is the most important manner in which the cannibal disease finds concrete expression.
It is true that individual cannibals, operating on their own, may cause great misery at times, but it is much more common for the most brutal aggression to take place as a part of an organized, systematic assault. Organized crime is indeed ugly, corrupting, and brutal. The terror and suffering lurking just beyond the curtain of wealth ultimately enters into even the gardens of the affluent; and, more importantly, that material wealth and power seldom seem to bring to their possessors the spiritual and psychological nourishment which human beings truly need.
True organized crime commences with the state or with state-approved aggression. The difficult and tragic thing about many systems of inhuman exploitation is that they usually are directed by innocent-looking, suave cannibals whose offices are never contaminated by the sweat, blood, and dying flesh of the oppressed.
The cannibal disease is not limited to the brutes and goons who handle the gun, the lash, or the instruments of torture. The nice people in the offices, the typists, the lab technicians, the clerks, and, of course, the owners, directors, stockholders, senators, generals, and presidents who use, profit from, and feed on human exploitation are also cannibals to one degree or another. The most guilty of the cannibals are those who mastermind, justify, and profit most from such systems. Such persons are the ‘master predators.’
Many people in the capitalist and communist worlds are not Real. Many are puppets or pimps, whose strings are pulled by others or who follow a life-path dictated by others. Thus they are ripe for the cannibal infection. Imperialism, predation, and cannibalism, as diseases of culture, seek to militarize societies.\
Part of the process of creating a cannibal world is the sustained effort to brutalize the sensibilities of human beings.
In part, this has been (and is) accomplished by denying the spiritual character of humans and other living creatures and by treating them in a demeaning manner. An important aspect of the cannibal sickness is the apparent drive of some, especially scholars and university people, to de-sanctify that which has been regarded as holy and sacred, or beautiful and spiritual, especially for non-cannibals. The significance of de-sanctifying the earth, the animals, the plants, the trees, and even human beings is that the world is made a potentially ugly and very exploitable place.
A cannibal society seeks to prevent people (except for a select few) from pursuing their own spiritual fulfillment since the economy and the politics or such a society requires masses of laborers who live a regulated, predictable, conformist life.
‘Obedience’ is the objective, not true ‘salvation.’
Alcohol is a universal weapon of the cannibal. Exploitative and imperialistic programs may become very popular in countries where an improved material standard of living is believed to be dependent upon aggression. The systematic use of terror seems to have been developed as a control and domination strategy for many ancient empires, especially during their expansionistic phases or when faced by unhappy subject peoples.
Cannibals often leave a record of murder and terror that is shocking in the extreme. And the people who usually suffer the most are honest, simple, democratic people of the world, the non-materialistic, the freedom-loving, and the truly spiritual. These people are precisely lacking in the insane desires and delusions which motivate the cannibal. (Non-cannibals may, at times, be cruel, but their cruelty is individual and sporadic, not part of a system of cruelty). Folk peoples are the targets for intensive programs of social change engineered by cooperating teams of missionaries, armies, pacification squads, so-called ‘developers,’ and others.
One of the essential characteristics of cannibalistic-imperialistic societies is that each social class seeks to exploit those below it.
In a cannibal society, all those who lack physical-material power will be exploited or abused. The cannibal world creates an intensive propaganda system designed to perpetuate the values of such a system. A facet of organized systems of aggression is that the governments, syndicates, corporations, or groups controlling or profiting from such behavior also control the greater part of the organs of public opinion modification. Patriotism, sectarian fervor, news, and propaganda are often used to justify aggression, genocide, slavery, and torture, and also to make the masses willing (or even anxious) participants.
The subjugation of women and their use as means instead of ends is part and parcel of the cannibal psychosis. There is a close correlation between the rise of patriarchal societies and the rise of imperialism and cannibal behavior. In systems that oppress women an element of the cannibal disease is certainly present. In many societies where exploitation reigns supreme, a hierarchical class system ordinarily exists and at every level, although in somewhat different ways, women are controlled and prevented from realizing their full potential. Occasionally, a queen or empress may be the titular or even active head of a male-dominated system.
Terrorism is a male disease.
The madness of violence, aggression, war, assault, rape, murder, conquest, dominance, and terrorism is, overwhelmingly, an insanity that strikes males primarily. Women can, of course, be vicious and mean, and they can goad men into violent action, but the kind of anger and sheer destructiveness that typifies the aggressive male rarely finds a female counterpart. Many of the cannibals are socialized by a society which has extremely negative attitudes towards sex (and which sees sex as a form of aggression, often against women), and which cultivates various forms of cruelty and sadism.
Male dominance typifies a number of major religions, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, Southern Baptists in the U.S., Northern Ireland Presbyterians, and Sikhism, Hinduism, and Shinto. Only within indigenous religious traditions can one find major female leadership and participation accepted widely. The union of male religion with male military dominance has been an all too frequent problem among human beings. The result is the suppression of dissent and, perhaps, of the original core of the religion in question.
It is terribly dangerous when major societies and its movements are ruled by men only or primarily, because male behavior is, historically, all too predictable. From the raping of women, to the raping of countries, to the raping of the world. Acts of aggression, of hate, of conquest, of empire-building.
No discussion of terrorism, school violence, domestic abuse, war and peace, or crime should take place without confronting the world-wide phenomena of male dominance-seeking and violence.
Folk cultures have tended to be the most friendly to women, until very modern times. Perhaps this is because ‘empires’ and hegemonic systems (larger and larger organizations, states, churches, sects) are almost always the creation of men or cultures dominated by a male drive for power, expansion, dominance, and exclusivity. (And the ultimate exclusivity is the blasphemous claim of a group of males to possess the exclusive pathway to contact with the deity, for example, God, Allah, Jehovah, and so on).
Overpopulation appears to be a direct result of the creation of cannibal-dominated societies. Perhaps this results from the degradation of women in a cannibal system, or perhaps it correlates with the disintegration of traditional folk values, or perhaps it is stimulated by the need of industrialists, generals, and dictators for continual supplies of cannon-fodder and cheap labor. The cannibal disease seems to flourish in overpopulation. And in the slums, factory towns, and crowded countryside, babies, violence, hustling, prostitution, hunger, malnutrition, alcoholism, dope addiction, and fear often live side by side in a fertile culture of demoralization controlled only by prisons and monstrous armed forces. But of course the ‘big cannibals’ do not live in these slums, rural or urban. They live, as they always have, in fancy houses or apartments, guarded by the security forces whose salaries they pay.
The Cannibal’s Ten Commandments:
- Thou shalt make a profit.
- Thou shalt disown thy parents when they become old and send them away to perish alone; but thou shalt put on an expensive funeral for appearances sake.
- Thou shalt deceive with false looks and flattering words, for appearances are everything.
- Thou shalt gather to thyself alone as many material things as thou can obtain.
- Thou shalt save and hoard, sharing not with others unless for thy own self-interest.
- Thou shalt adulterate the foods which people eat, and deprive them of healthy sustenance.
- Thou shalt take whatever thou can from the forest, from the earth, from the air, or from the defenseless and weak.
- Thou shalt kill whenever it profits thee, and thou shalt exalt killing and violence since all progress results therefrom.
- Thou shalt be arrogant, aggressive, and bold since such qualities insure success.
- Thou shalt not worry about thy sins for the Almighty has arranged a means whereby thou can be forgiven, even at thy death bed.
You shall know a tree by its fruit and by its fruit the cannibal world stands condemned.
Jack D. Forbes (January 7, 1934 – February 23, 2011) was an Powhatan-Renapé and Lenape indigenous writer, scholar and political activist, who specialized in Native American issues. He is best known for his role in establishing one of the first Native American Studies programs (at University of California Davis). His book Columbus and Other Cannibals (1978) is foundational to the anti-civilization movement. Forbes analysis of civilization enabled readers, listeners and learners across decades to understand the systems that enable terrorism, genocide, and ecocide.