Last night, I read on AlJezzera a dreadful prognostication. Thanks to the failure of this year’s corn crop, we can look for even more food riots than took place a couple of years ago. Egypt, for example, survives only because it gets its vittles from The Great Satan. If we have nothing to give the Egyptians, what then? Part of the unrest which spawned the Arab Spring came from this very kind of food scarcity. Not enough to eat, and what there was cost like sin. The people got ugly and that was that. People do strange things to eat.
A few posts back I wrote of a world cleansed of our surplus numbers by famine and pestilence. I imagined our new, smaller, population would milder sorts of creatures and we’d enter an era of peace and tranquility. I’ve changed my mind.
One afternoon, in some gawd-awful pest-hole of a country there is a barren heath, lifeless save for a few desiccated plants. Standing under a broiling sun is a man we’ll call Gnut. He’s standing just outside his hovel, a heap of packed dirt and weeds. Inside lay his wife, freshly dead from Ebola. At his feet, bloated from starvation, sobs his toddler in mortal distress. It’s beseeching its father for something, please god, to eat. Gnut, nothing but a bag of sticks himself, is ready to collapse in resigned apathy.
Then, off on the left, Gnut spys his neighbor eating an insect and something turgid in Gnut’s soul comes to life. Picking up a rock, Gnut saunters over and smashes in his neighbor’s head. Gnut proceeds to hack off one of the dead man’s legs and takes it back to his child. A fire is laid and the two dine on their hideous repast.
Slaked with human blood and sated with human meat, Gnut and his child live to see another day.
But we notice, do we not, that no one else in Gnut’s community was committing murder and cannibalism. His neighbors, who were in equally bad straits, simply drifted off, casting away their dead babies as they went. When enervation finally overtook them, they simply sat down on their keesters and died. Not a peep.
Of course, all around the ruined earth there were some others carrying the same genetic anomaly as Gnut; before they even thought of starving, they’d happily eat their kith and kin. Because of this gruesome trait, these people survived. As the earth endured its tribulation, those like Gnut and his child became an ever-greater portion of humanity and they thrived, for they were — there is no other word for it — Fit.
As in survival of the fittest. Fittest for the new conditions that obtained.
These Gnut-like humans have a gene buried deep in their DNA; a gene that wouldn’t cavil at murder and cannibalism to survive. Indeed, in the face of lethal threat, this gene demanded action. In a few generations, these people will have eaten everyone else and they’ll have become the dominant (if not only) species of human left. Enter Homo Cannibalis.
As Gregor Mendel pointed out, a gene once expressed will continue to improve itself until reaching a point of diminishing returns. As Homo Cannibalis kills and eats its own kind, there will be a point of diminishing returns and a runaway spiral downward will take over. Within 4-5 generations, Gnut’s descendants will have eaten themselves out of existence; the last human on earth will die while eating the second-to-last human on earth. Then the cockroaches will take over.
Straight out of a Lovecraft story.