Yesterday a prominent Perth businessman went missing whilst swimming near the Indiana Tea Rooms at Cottesloe Beach. Seven hours later police divers found his shredded bathers on the ocean floor. Another hungry Great White is blamed and today talkback radio is buzzing with locals' anecdotes, arguments and philosophies regarding whether Great Whites have any right to exist in our suburban waters.
The commentary today included that of a champion body boarder who said (and summarising here) that the Great Whites are obliged to share the waters with us and not eat us: therefore if they are eating us they should be culled. This considered hysteria reminded me of Val Plumwood's amazing essay. She wrote it ten years after she was mauled by a crocodile in the Northern Territory. Val Plumwood was an environmental philosopher and her essay Being Prey is a rendition of her experience but also a razor sharp examination of how us humans dislike the idea of being eaten.
This denial that we ourselves are food for others is reflected in many aspects of our death and burial practices - the strong coffin, conveniently buried well below the level of soil fauna activity, and the slab over the grave to prevent any other thing from digging us up, keeps the Western human body from becoming food for other species. Horror movies and stories also reflect this deep seated dread of becoming food for other forms of life: Horror is the wormy corpse, vampires sucking blood and alien monsters eating humans.
Here is her essay and here is my original post on Val Plumwood.