To Serve Man: Nothing Beats Home Cooking

report posted 1999-07-26 - last updated 2016-03-22
Two dishes but to one table

We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat King and your lean beggar, is but variable service, two dishes but to one table; that's the end.
-- Hamlet, Shakespeare

To Serve Man

In 1962 the classic USA TV series, The Twilight Zone, aired an episode in which visitors from a distant planet convince humans that the mission of the aliens is to use their advanced technology in aid of humanity. When a skeptical expert decodes the title of one of their books as "To Serve Man", full trust is affirmed. However, just as humans are boarding the visitor's spaceship, he runs up and shouts his latest discovery: he'd misinterpreted the title. "It's a cookbook!".

Today, however, if you're looking for chefs from exotic planets to show up and skillfully butcher flesh for you, your wait is in vain. The current market is dominated by local talent, serving up home-cooked man in African, American, Asian-Pacific, and European cuisines. As with the extra-terrestials, the first course served is always a message of altruism: safeguarding human rights or political/religious utopia offered those who are willing to take the next step - that leads the trusting souls into the boiling kettle.

Each of the world's major religions is used to serve man (Despite Buddhism's non-violent image, today there are Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka using Buddhist rhetoric to push for escalation of the tragic war there. In 1959, the prime minister of Sri Lanka was assassinated by a Buddhist monk). And the USA deserves special mention for serving directly or indirectly (by supplying weapons) in most places humans are being slaughtered.

Though marketing of armed conflict usually reduces it to a simple formula of good vs. evil, some (particularly writers and film makers) view it as a uniquely rich reflection of human consciousness - fragmentation, clinging, ideals, ideology, religion, belief, rigidity, greed, cunning, brutality, ambition, ruthlessness, jealousy, suspicion, pride, deceit, confusion. However, the naive mind may not perceive this and be tempted to see today's conflicts, superficially, as simply ridiculous. But by taking the time to probe deeper into the background, to consider the historical, sociological, and economic forces at work, one finds instead that today's conflicts are deeply, profoundly and tragically ridiculous.

The Menu

Site/YearSummary of DisputeKilled/DisplacedInvolvedReligions
Aceh, Asia/1989 Indonesia troops vs. independence rebels5,000/140,000Mobil Corp. (US oil company), US armsAlthough Muslim (like most Indonesians), Acehnese see themselves as culturally distinct and practicing a more devout form of Islam.
Afghanistan, Asia: under Taliban rule/1995 Ruling Taliban troops trying to capture areas controlled by opposition??/2600,000Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, US arms and training Opposition coalition of religious and ethnic minorities against ruling Sunni Muslim Taliban religious army, that controls 90 percent of Afghanistan and imposed a strict version of Islamic law in areas under their control. Other areas of government administration are virtually non-existent
Afghanistan, Asia: under US attack/2001 US pressure Taliban to expel group said to be responsible for attacks in US1000-3600(*)/??US, UK, PakistanTaliban rule disintegrated and Transitional Administration established, composed of rival ethnic/religious groups. But effective reach of government does not extend beyond Kabul. Strict version of Islamic law still rules. As of April 7 2003, both US air attacks and Taliban attacks on US forces continue
Algeria, Africa/1992 Algeria troops vs. ousted opposition100,000??/?? Rebels are fundamentalist Islamic
Angola, Africa/1975 Angola troops vs rebels??/1500,000 South Africa, US, UN??
Assam, Asia/1979 India troops vs rebels fighting for self-rule10,000??/?? Bodo claim culture is threatened by Muslim immigrants who migrate from Bangladesh
Burundi, Africa/1993 Burundi troops vs. militia200,000350,000/????
Chechnya, Asia/1994 Russia troops vs. independence rebels??180,000/?? Chechens are Muslim since 1600 ; Islamic (political) revival as Chechen government is the only government in the former Soviet to have officially embraced Islam as a state religion, with sharia laws and courts being introduced last year; Rebels are pushing Islamic agenda
Columbia, South America/1964 Columbia troops and paramilitaries vs. Marxist rebels.35,000/?? US, Ecuador??
Congo, Africa/1997 Congo troops vs. rebels loyal to ousted government??/700,000 US, France, Belgium, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia??
Eritrea/Ethiopia, Africa/1998 Border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia50,000/500,000Russia, Italy, Bulgaria, China??
Guinea-Bissau, Africa/1998Army mutiny leads to civil war??/359,000Senegal??
Iraq, Asia/1990UN sanctions cripple economy, force starvation US/UK air strikes on defense sites.500,000/??US, UN, UK, Turkey US, UK claim zone is to protect Kurdish rebels in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south
Kashmir, Asia/1989 Territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, involving independence rebels.25,000/?? India, Pakistan, China, Israel, Russia Kashmir is the only predominantly Muslim state in predominantly Hindu India and Pakistan is Muslim.
Korea, Asia/1950 Active Cold War remnant??/?? US, China None
Lebanon, Asia/1985 Israel and proxy troops vs. anti-occupation rebels??/?? Israel, US, Iran, Syria Israel established as a Jewish homeland in Muslim Palestine. Rebels are Shiite Muslims.
Maluku, Asia/1999 Communal dispute between Muslims and Christians3,000100,000/?? Muslims vs Christians
Nagaland, Asia/1954 India troops vs. independence rebels????/????
Nepal, Asia/1996Nepal police vs. Maoist rebels1176??/????
Northern Ireland, Europe/1969Reunion with Ireland vs. British rule3225/??Ireland, UK, USReunionists are typically Catholic, who suffer discrimination from Protestant majority
Palestine, Asia/1947 Israel troops vs anti-occupation rebels??/3200,000 Israel, US Israel established as a Jewish homeland in Muslim Palestine
Peru, South America/1980 Government vs. Maoist rebels30,000/??US arms None
Senegal, Africa/1982 Senegal troops vs. independence rebels in south1200/7,000US arms??
Serbia, Europe/1998Albanians vs. Serbs in cycle of retaliation??/200,000 NATO, UNSerbian forces are mainly Orthodox Christan. Kosovars are mainly Muslim.
Sierra Leone, Africa/1991 Sierra Leone troops vs rebels10,000500,000/????
Somalia, Africa/1991 Militia battle for control??/900,000Ethiopia, Eritrea, US??
Sri Lanka, Asia/1983 Sri Lanka troops vs. independence rebels61,000/750,000 India Rebels are Tamil Hindus in a majority Sinhalese Buddhist country. "As we all know, both religions give the utmost importance to Ahimsa, the principle of non-violence to all living beings." - Bandu Masakorala, delegate of Sri Lanka Veg. Soc.
Sudan, Africa/1983 Sudan troops vs. anti-sharia rebels in south1900,000/450,000 Uganda Christian and animist rebels against government's strict form of Islamic law
Timor, Asia/1975 Post-independence violence??/??US arms Timor is predominantly Catholic, Indonesia predominantly Muslim
Tripura, Asia/1979 India troops vs. independence rebels10,000??/????
Turkey, Europe/1984 Turkey troops vs. rebels for autonomy37,000/??US arms??
Uganda, Africa/1986 Uganda troops vs. rebels??/?? Sudan??
Site/YearSummary of DisputeKilled/DisplacedInvolvedReligions


  • (*)See Studies counting Afghan civilian casualties
  • To Serve Man, screenplay by Rod Serling (based on a short story "To Serve Man" by Damon Knight)
  • Photo, top left: Ethiopian militia
  • Photo, top right:US Navy in Adriatic Sea. Photo by Kris White, 1996

Updated Resources (2016/03/22)

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

--Holy Bible (English Standard Version, Matthew 10.34)

In the years since the above data was crudely stitched together (1999, updated in 2003), armed conflicts have come and gone, while the role of religion in violent conflict has received increasing attention, so research is easier to find. Often cited:

  • A Surprising Calm: the Religious Peace in East Asia , Isak Svensson, Global Asia Vol. 10, No. 4, Winter 2015

    Religiously defined civil wars have become a dominant form of political violence globally. Of all the civil wars being fought in 2014, 73 percent were over religious issues. Since 2000, civil wars in which at least one party defined the stakes in religious terms have represented a majority of the civil wars in the world. Research on religious civil wars — which has grown rapidly in recent years — shows that they tend to be more bloody, intractable and difficult to settle through peaceful means than other types of conflicts. As the world witnesses a decrease in other types of civil wars, religious civil wars remain an acute security problem.
  • "Running on Faith? : A Quantitative Analysis of the Effect of Religious Cleavages on the Duration and Intensity of Internal Conflicts" , Jo-Eystein Lindberg, Master Thesis, University of Oslo, 2008

    Examines how conflict intensity and duration are influenced by the presence of identity-based religious cleavages.

  • "UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia (UCDP database)", Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Uppsala University

    Free online database, providing detailed data for specific conflicts in the period 1975-2014

  • "Armed conflicts, 1946–2014", Therése Pettersson and Peter Wallensteen, Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Uppsala University, Journal of Peace Research, July 2015

    Article on state-based conflict, that concludes:

    • Since the end of the Cold War, the number of armed conflicts in the world has decreased substantially
    • 2014 had the highest yearly death toll in the post-Cold War period.
    • The scale associated with the number of fatalities caused by armed conflicts in 2014 was still lower than that of the large-scale wars of the 20th century

  • "Organized Violence in the World 2015", Erik Melander, Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Uppsala University

    Report on state-based conflict, conflict between nonstate actors, and one-sided killings of civilians, that concludes:

    • Over 100.000 people were killed in organized violence in the year 2014, which is the highest death count since the 1994 Rwandan genocide
    • The last five years have seen a dramatic increase in organized violence
    • Violence in 2014 still much lower than the previous peak in 1994, and post-Cold War genocides were more frequent with much higher death tolls

  • Map of the world's conflicts in 2014

    Therése Pettersson and Peter Wallensteen (2015) Armed Conflicts, 1946-2014. Journal of Peace Research 52(4)