The Man Who Ate the World – by Frederik Pohl

Many moons ago I read the short story with the above title.

The Man Who Ate the World
The Man Who Ate the World

Although not one of Pohl’s best works, it has nevertheless left an obviously lasting impression on me. Written in the mid-fifties, it’s a future tale of consumerism gone mad.

  • In the tale, it’s illegal not to consume as much as possible.  The hero of the story takes this to extremes and eventually is consuming more than a city, but actually, the only thing he really desires is his teddy bear which was taken from him as a child.
  • He’s never grown up.
  • He lives to eat and consume to take away his torment.

There’s not much discourse about the story on the web.  Try here and here.  You can get old copies in the usual places, but try here.

The real World Now.

The story is a warning against swallowing up the world and it’s resources.  After all;

  • it is round,
  • we really are stuck on it
  • and can’t get off
  • so if we destroy it,
  • we’re knackered.

Now amazingly, the global downturn in the world’s economies (The Credit Crunch), has made everyone believe that the only way to happiness and good fortune is;

  • to spend like we all did previously over the last few years,
  • for governments to have massive infrastructure projects,
  • to return to a time of cheap money so we can all spend, spend, spend again, like there’s no tomorrow,
  • to drill for oil all over the place,
  • to have massive battery powered cars…

Pohl doesn’t look so daft now.  These are some of the headlines below taken from today’s Business news page of the BBC News website.  (Other sites say much the same thing – it’s just handy ).  Check them out and see that I’m right – the only possible future envisaged is one like before the Crunch, but with “safeguards”, whatever that means.

It’s like a mad panic to make anything as long as someone, somewhere has enough money to buy it and thus keep someone else in work.

No thought whatsoever is being paid to the notion that the “object” being made is a useless bad object that does nothing except give a job to someone.

We’ve a long way to go until we are safe on our world!

Also, early this morning, a few young protesters from Plane Stupid became national pariahs for daring to block Stanstead runway for a couple of hours as a demonstration against the profligate use of the Earth’s resources by air transport.

The most vocal complainers about the demo were those in the 20 quid Ryanair seats having a quick break to some foreign clime – exactly the most consumptive folk on the world!  Someone on the radio said the demonstrators should “have the book thrown at them” and be locked up for 10 years at least!

Many demonstrators are indeed still locked up without charge…  They could still be in the nick, perfectly legally, on 6 Jan 2009.  The fact we know they are locked up is a bonus.   The police are within their rights not to tell anyone, who has been locked up, or why, or where.  In fact, I can be locked up for asking.  And so could you!

The man who threatened their lives by attacking them with a snowplough went home without any bother.

https://youtu.be/TcC0Eo6MTVA   What a wonderful country we have.  😕

By Strangely

Founding member of the gifted & talented band, "The Crawling Chaos" from the North-East of England.