As part of the ongoing process of rediscovering and re-evaluating my childhood I have had cause of late to contemplate SPAM, the food. This past weekend the meat passed my lips
for the first time in a long time; I had previously subjected corned beef
to a similar process, although the outcome of that experience was disastrous, and turned me off food for a while. SPAM, on the other hand, was much more to my taste. I like pigs. I like them so much that I want them in me, I want to pass their flesh through my body. Except in certain forms, masked by spices, the cow will remain outside my permeable
membrane, in the otherworld of otherbodies.
SPAM is not so much a food as a symbol, a symbol of mankind's total dominance over the animal kingdom. Where once we merely baked the flesh of our food, the SPAM-making process subjects the pig to conditions similar to those on the surface of Venus. The pig is killed; its body is deconstructed, and mixed with the mashed flesh of other pigs, erasing the animal's individuality. What was the pig is formed into chunks, forced into a vacuum-sealed can, refrigerated and mixed with salt, sugar and sodium nitrate, and baked for seventy minutes at a temperature of two hundred and thirty degrees fahrenheit. The can is then wrapped in paper and put on a shelf.
The pig is killed as thoroughly as it is possible to kill a living creature; it is as dead as can be. Not only that, the concept of 'pig' is strained to the extreme; the meat is an unrecognisable rubbery mass. SPAM does not have a face; it has a ringpull, a cruel mockery of the pig's tail. The can's packaging and the product's name de-emphasises its animal nature; the cover photograph is of SPAM itself, whilst the name 'SPAM' is artificial, an acronym, a processed word for a processed food.
The astronauts of 'The Right Stuff' referred to themselves as 'SPAM in a can', as they were an organic component in an armoured metal machine, itself the product of another machine, an intangible machine of economic theory, applied scientific knowledge, military power, and the will to use all three. The most effective tool on Earth is of no use without an iron will, and SPAM is the triumph of the will; not the will to power, but the will to Pig.
For we are SPAM. Each one of us. We are trapped in the belly of a horrible machine, and the machine is unstoppable; it is baking us at a temperature of two hundred and thirty degrees fahrenheit. William Blake believed that, if we could cleanse the doors of perception, we would see an infinite universe. I believe that the universe is in reality the inside of a refrigerator; cold and dark and full of vegetables and cans of beer, each one waiting to be eaten by a hungry God.