a grand character in human’s cultural history
“Well do natural philosophers speak of the pig…”
from the text of The Physiologus (c. 200-300 AD)
A Character of Paradox
This is the manifesto of Porkopolis.org – a collection of arts, literature, philosophy and other varied considerations of the pig. In the irreducible complexity of what we call nature, pigs are one of the most iconic and paradoxical animals ever to have developed a relationship with man. Some form of pig has been visibly present in the vast majority of human societies. The pig is a grand character in much of human’s cultural history.
Savory and Intelligent
Under collective consideration and scrutiny, hogdom’s complex and ever-changing relationship with humans seems to place the pig uneasily into the concurrent categories of somewhat wild beast, somewhat pet and somewhat livestock.
Human’s attitudes of revulsion at the hog’s promiscuous diet and the filth they seem willing to inhabit are the counterpoint to others’ thoughts of the hog as a symbol of power, luck, status and plenty. Health and religious food taboos seem to clash with widespread praise of pork’s palatability and savoriness.
Pig-bearing initiates to pagan devotional sacrifices would probably have contested the swine’s worthiness as a host for Satan’s legions. The precepts of agricultural pragmatism have always posed a clear contrast to others’ praise of the great intelligence of swine, their companionability and the virtues of their distinctive character.
Is human sentiment misplaced? Do utilitarian concerns out weigh an affable character? Each culture makes its own decisions about the pig based on expedience and practical consequences.
The Cutlet of Circumstance
The nature of the past, the present, and the future relationship of pigs and humans is a circuitous tale, complex and ever spiraling into change. Throughout the histories of pig and human, facts and ideas about all swinedom have varied according to the play of circumstances.
Our modern disassociation of the cutlet from the slaughterhouse, our commercialization of swine in advertising, our sentimentalization of pigs in order to entertain children and the political uses for which some cultures have resurrected or redefined religious taboos about the pig are but a few modern examples of this.
A Friend ‘Till Eaten
Yet the pigs themselves are philosophers who know no prejudice. Since their earliest associations with man, pigs have worked overtime following humans across cultures, climates and economies. Whenever humans moved pigs into a congenial climate or culture they have flourished. They are unconscious and amenable instruments to the aims of humanity.
And the pig has never attempted to contest mankind’s claims to their own noble superiority as the paragon of animals. Indeed, pigs have remained on ambivalent if not friendly terms with most all humans until that last clear moment of apprehension of the plans of those that intend to eat them.
Swine of Sensibility
Because swinedom lends itself freely to those interested in further scrutiny, Porkopolis.org is an evolving collection of selected ideas and records of the interactions of pigs and humans. Here is a study of humanities and hogritude, a search to say something essential, and a wish, perhaps, for a world where:
“Supposing swine (I mean four-footed swine), of sensibility and superior logical parts, had attained such culture; and could, after survey and reflection, jot down for us their notion of the universe, and of their interests and duties there… .” (Thomas Carlyle. ‘Pig Philosophy,’ Latter-Day Pamphlets, 1850).
Illusory, Mysterious, Meaningful
As editor here, I freely defer to the simple situation that what constitutes real fact from fiction and aestheticism from practical speculations is more of a mystery these days than ever. There is quality content here, as well as content that might seem to have no particular or obvious purpose save that it was fun to create or was the initial inspiration for further and more complex thoughts and associations.
And certainly quality, just like the extent of pigs’ involvement in human culture, is a paradox, subjective, and in areas illusory or ill-defined. I hope everyone finds something interesting here and that some segment leads to somewhere down the pig paths of the world where you find it is meaningful to be.