In Straw Dogs, while discussing the dark tango between scientific progress and mass murder, John Gray makes reference to the remarkable yet neglected study of human violence: The Twentieth Century Book of the Dead. Written by Gil Elliot, the book was published in 1972, with twenty eight years of violence still left in the century, including the vast killing fields of the Khmer Rouge. In the passage below, Elliot tries to digest the indigestible:
Let us now return for a moment to Reviel Netz and his “ecology of modernity”; his thesis that history is embodied not only in the bodies of human beings but in the bodies of all living things. Next, let us contemplate the staggering violence inflicted upon global fisheries, as documented (among others) by Callum Roberts.
Consider the following slides from Roberts’ report on the past and future of European fisheries:
Returning to The Twentieth Century Book of the Dead,we find a strikingly similar graph, and (elsewhere in the text) an astonishing passage regarding the “universal body of death”:
We close for the day with one final duet from Roberts, on the theme of our apparently limitless appetite for disappearance: