Why They Want Us to Eat Bugs

In Mel Brooks’ 1995 film, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Count Dracula (played by the brilliant and funny Leslie Nielsen) hypnotizes a real estate solicitor, Thomas Renfield (Peter MacNicol), and convinces him to become his personal slave. He promises an eternal life. “I will give you lives, Renfield,” says Count Dracula, “albeit small lives.” Dracula’s meaning here is a reference to the fact that from that moment on, Renfield would only be able to feast on insects and nothing else. There is a particularly funny scene in which Renfield is trying to prove his sanity to Dr. Seward (Harvey Korman), yet cannot help but obsessively catch crickets and stuff them in his mouth.

We’ve seen the “yew vil eat ze bugs” memes—riffing on comments from Klaus Schwab, the founder and leader of the World Economic Forum. Although Schwab never quite put it like that, he and his cohort have been among the leading advocates of insect consumption, especially in European nations. According to them, we should all accept the bugs in our food because they’re chock full of protein and they’re good for us. The planet, they insist, is overpopulated, so we must fight the dangers this presents by eating bugs. It certainly puts a different meaning on the pronouncement, “There’s a fly in my soup!”

Similarly, Bill Gates, the computer nerd who fancies himself the ruler of the world, has advocated for wealthy nations (such as the United States) to switch from real beef to synthetic, lab-grown meat. That, too, apparently is good for the planet. I wonder if Gates will come up with a catchy name for it, say, like “Soylent Green”?

Schwab and company are very good at finding ever more oppressive ways of sucking the joy out of life—right down to eating. Although it’s not quite on the same level, the modern obsession with diet fads, veganism, protein shakes, and other extreme eating regimens, have this in common with Schwab. They, too, reject not only the importance of food but most of all, food culture. Food is not only about counting calories and nutrients. Nor is it merely about the chore of preparing it or the mundane tossing of a frozen meal into a microwave.

A fully human experience of food, essentially, is a sensual one—meaning that it incorporates all of our senses in the ritual. Modern people also seem to be unable to realize that health is not about dieting but about moderation, which applies to every sphere of our life.

But even more than the flavors and dining experience of eating, it is first and foremost about the sharing of the meal. We engage in an encounter with other people when we gather to break bread. Amid good smells, tastes, and the beauty of food, we talk and listen, we speak of ordinary things in life or big ideas. In some way, time stands still. The meal unites us and takes us away from the strict chronology of our daily lives or the diet fads, to which we obsessively adhere.

There are shifts happening in our society, perhaps due to the mixture of ideology and technology, that are causing us to forget what it means to be human in the most basic ways. How else to explain a wish to impose on people notions like the eating of bugs or lab-grown meat? These strange ideas are some of the most anti-human proposals one can take. But they should come as no surprise given the degree to which people like Klaus Schwab and Bill Gates are disconnected from the realm of the sacred, or at least from finding anything sacred in ordinary people. Otherwise, they would not be uttering such nonsense.

In his 1963 book, In Tune With the World: A Theory of Festivity, philosopher Josef Pieper asks whether people are able to find meaning and joy in festivals. He quotes Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote, “The trick is not to arrange a festival, but to find people who can enjoy it.” Pieper offers his own commentary: “The implication is that festivity in general is in danger of extinction, for arrangements alone do not make a festival. Since Nietzsche’s day it has become a more or less standard matter to connect “the misery of this present age” with “man’s incapacity for festivity.”

We could just as easily apply this to eating. Pieper is not nostalgic and makes a point of saying that man has always been prone to boredom and joylessness, but there is something to be said about Nietzsche’s words and Pieper’s analysis. Today, technology has inserted itself too much into people’s lives. The much-maligned loneliness and sterility of “TV dinners” looks harmless compared to today’s levels of alienation from reality and the embodiment of life.

There are many spheres of life that are under attack today. Most of all, the things that make us human seem constantly to be suppressed by those forces seeking to control our lives and make them smaller. We can laugh at Klaus Schwab and his preposterous statements, as we should. But his anti-human stance reveals a certain force (however weak it may be) that vampirically feeds on (no pun intended) the so-called optimization of life.

This push for the eating of bugs is the epitome of rationalist thinking, in which science (or in this case, pseudo-science) determines the outcome of human life and seeks to order it according to some vaunted expertise. When it comes to eating, however, normal people must affirm the importance of the food that nature gives us and the seed of human encounter that it provides us so that we can remember our sacred nature, and our duty to our Creator, in thanking him for His bounty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.