We then cut to the spot where mass burials of all these headless bodies had taken place. Even Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been tossed in here – disgraceful! All the while the presenter was getting more and more excited. ‘Can you imagine,’ he breathlessly asked, ‘just how bad the smell was at the height of summer?’ Pretty bad, I imagine, but luckily there was now an expert to help us in case our imaginations weren’t up to the task. The expert – who had apparently attended actual mass graves and so knew of what he spoke – said this to the presenter: ‘Well, you know what the smell of rotting meat is like….’. I have to confess that at this point I turned it off.
A European grey wolf watches in anticipation for the fall of the guillotine.
So, this is what I was wondering. Here in the blessed civilised world, are we beginning to feel too civilised, too peaceable, too averse to a decent bit of murder and mayhem to satisfy our primal urges? Is that why we need this kind of thing – I say ‘need’ because presumably someone’s watching it if they’re showing it – to address this gap in our lives, this absence, this appalling gentility which frowns upon guillotining 300 citizens of a weekend? And have we become so detached from reality that it seems perfectly normal to be asked to imagine the smell of rotting meat so as to become better acquainted with the stench of decomposing corpses? Are people actually watching this kind of thing and going, ‘hmmm, yes, interesting, I guess that is what it would smell like’? Really?