Brow Beat

In Defense of Soylent Green Inventor Henry C. Santini

The Soylent Corporation maestro is under attack for making Soylent Green out of people. But we need people who take risks. We need people who try. We need people to eat.

A still from the film Soylent Green, showing a conveyor belt transporting Soylent Green.
A Soylent Green production line.
MGM

On October 16, 2018, Popular Mechanics published a deeply weird tribute to mercurial industrialist Elon Musk, in which a carefully-curated group of technology journalists and Musk’s fellow rich people praised him for trying, regardless of what he was trying to do, whether or not he succeeded, or the methods he used to pursue his goals. One writer compared him at length to Mark Twain!

On October 16, 2022, NYPD detective Frank Thorn discovered that Soylent Green was made of people. The ensuing public scandal threatened the reputation of Henry C. Santini, the Governor of New York and a board member of both Holcox Manufacturing of Norfolk, Virginia and its parent company, the New-York-based Soylent Corporation.

On October 17, 2022, Slate sprang into action.

He is under attack. For saying the wrong thing, for not making enough Soylent Green, for creating a global manufacturing pipeline based on baking human corpses into little green crackers and telling people they’re made out of plankton. Some of the criticisms have merit. Much of it is myopic and small-brained, from sideline observers gleefully salivating at the opportunity to take him down a peg and maybe score a few extra rations in the process. But what have these anti-cannibalism activists and pontificators done for humanity?

Henry Santini is an engineer at heart, a tinkerer, a problem-solver, a genius at disguising the taste of human flesh—the kind of person Slate has always championed—and the problems he’s trying to solve are hard. Really hard. He could find better ways to spend his money, that’s for sure. And yet there he is, trying to build a gigantic assisted suicide facility inside the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and build a transportation network that can secretly move corpses into Soylent manufacturing facilities around the world and build processed human meat products that make world hunger go away, both for the people who are no longer hungry because they are eating other people and the people who are no longer hungry because they have been boiled and cooked into deceptively-labeled food products. The point is they aren’t hungry. For all of Henry C. Santini’s faults and cannibalism, we need him out there doing that. We need people who have ideas. We need people who take risks. We need people who try.

We need people to eat.

Because of Mark Twain, Somehow

by Miniver Fleischer

It must have been fun to have been alive when Mark Twain walked the earth. You might have lived in Columbus, and made your own fine living selling barrel hoops. Just you and your trusty steed, keeping the barrels of Columbus fully hooped. At the end of a long night of hooping barrels, sometimes you’d pretend to strike up a conversation with your finest barrel hoop, just for laughs. “Why haven’t I found a fine, strong wife yet, in this young, ever-growing nation?” you would ask your hoop. If you listened very carefully, sometimes the hoop would reply, “Steamboats, probably?” And somewhere in the very same country was Mark Twain, who for the purposes of this discussion is primarily known for his letters to the editor. And also his big thoughts, which mostly did not involve grinding other people up into crackers, but what if they did? Wouldn’t that be cool? Mark Twain, the man who coined the term “Gilded Age,” looking down on Henry C. Santini from heaven with approval?

Not everybody liked Twain. They still don’t. He could be scandalous and self-indulgent. He smoked too much. Judgmental. Mustachioed. But he was out there. Wishing. Hoping. Thinking. Praying. Crushing labor unions. Turning the excess population into bland, tasteless food on an industrial scale. I bet we would have been friends. Oh, the times we’d have, talking about the ins and outs of the barrel hooping business and the personality quirks of our respective trusty steeds!

And now, Henry C. Santini walks the earth, making Soylent Green out of people. The pleasure of his presence on what’s left of the planet is similar to Twain’s. You might live in New York City and make a living writing embarrassing bootlicking articles about the people wealthy enough to still afford exotic luxuries like beef or strawberries. But admit it, among your everyday pleasures is the possibility that the next time you go to the distribution center, Henry C. Santini will have found a delicious new way to trick you into eating corpses. Soylent Orange. Soylent Maroon. Soylent Twain.

If the last ten years have convinced you of nothing else, you have to admit: Henry C. Santini is somewhere out there, thinking about grinding dead humans into nutritious food paste for poor people. Right now, I’m glad for it, because I am hungry. He has ambitions, sure. But his ambitions relate to something more than the vast wealth and power Soylent Green has brought him. They relate to the obligations of possibility, to our sense that corpses are wasted on graveyards. Santini feeds these people to us, the other people, because he knows we would enjoy eating them. Hunger is an element of our humanity.

My favorite Henry C. Santini idea is the one where he invents a time machine and sends me back to meet Mark Twain, murder him, bake him into a brand-new Soylent product, devour it, and gain his powers. To be honest, I don’t care about the economic effect, or the environmental impact, or anything or anyone else. I just want to bake Mark Twain into a cracker and then eat the cracker.

And I will.

Because He Keeps Going

by E. Bunny

For years, you’ve seen some commercials where one battery company’s toys outlasts the other toys. So you may have assumed their battery outlasted even Energizer® batteries. Fact is, Energizer® was never invited to their playoffs. And today’s Energizer® won’t be invited either. Why? Because no battery lasts longer than Energizer®. So now you know. A word to the wise: Energize®.

I’m sorry, who is Henry C. Santini?

Because It’s a Fun Ride

by Shirl Heston

Dear Henry C. Santini,

Maybe it’s because I write about pop culture and not food, cannibalism, or industrial-scale euthanasia—could somebody please explain the Ceremony again? I swear I’ll get it this time!—but it’s been hard to follow what’s been going on with you. First, you were the eccentric tech billionaire I’d been waiting for. Rather than doing something boring and responsible with your money—say, trying to revive human agriculture—you used it to produce exciting processed plankton products. Soylent Red. Soylent Yellow. Then, instead of continuing to entertain me, you turned into a supervillain. Cornering the market on human cadavers? Cooking them into processed human food products? Not sending me review samples? Seriously, dude, what the hell?

But the saving grace was the circuses. Especially when you started attending them along with a singer whose work I enjoy! I was like, who doesn’t like a circus? Not me, that’s for sure. Elephants! Cotton candy-scented Soylent Green! Clowns! And the parades! I was like, is he really going to throw a parade to tell people the circus was in town? And then I was like, he really is! And then I was like, I’m slowly starving to death and so is everyone else in my socioeconomic class! And then I was like, balloons!

In conclusion, I would like to request more parades.

Because He Redefines Ambition

by Chuck Fielding

Revolutionary ingredients don’t jibe with the food industry’s business model, which is based on not eating other people. Why get mired in moon-shot R&D when Americans recoil at the site of a freshly roasted octogenarian? That’s how the food business works. At least, that’s the way it worked before Soylent Green.

By now, the Henry C. Santini origin story is well known, but a short recap: A graduate of Yale Law School, he was a principal partner in Simonson, Borden, and Santini. While there, he served on the board of Holcox Manufacturing, specialists in manufacturing freeze-drying equipment for commercial food processing. When the Soylent Corporation acquired Holcox, he moved to their board. Then he started making food out of dead people and lying about the ingredients, but let’s not focus on that part right now. What matters is he is a mover and a shaker and a cannibal and a rich, rich man, and his ambition helps me feel less guilty about my own.

No matter what happens from here on out, Henry C. Santini’s inspiring story has changed my goals … and my palate. Fruit and vegetables and thinking small are out. From now on, it’s a neverending banquet of human flesh.

Because He’s a Superhero

by Palmer Luckey, Oculus VR

Hi, I’m Palmer Luckey, and I exist in the fictional world of this article in more or less the same form as I do in your real world. Did you know I gave $5,400 to the Ted Cruz Victory Committee? And another $5,400 to Steve King? And another $5,400 to Darrell Issa? And funded a pro-Trump meme factory? What I’m saying is, I’m an asshole.

Anyway, I think comic books and video games and flamethrower manufacturers and white supremacists are cool and fun and if poor people get tricked into eating each other, that’s more than okay by me.

Because They All Made Mistakes

by A Would-Be Industrialist-Type

Jay Gould. Joseph Stalin. Pol Pot. Jeffery Dahmer. Elon Musk. Henry C. Santini. Big men. Big decisions. Big meals. Big mistakes. Short sentences. Glib comparisons. Pobody’s nerfect. Soylent Green.

Because He’s Rich and So Am I

by Another Billionaire

I have a pretty good thing going right now, what with the real food I get to eat in my nice apartment protected by private security. I’m not noticeably smarter or harder working than the people who built my fortune, but somehow I have more money than I could spend if I blew every dime I could on the most ludicrous bullshit imaginable every day for the rest of my life, which is exactly what I plan to do.

My advice for Henry C. Santini is simple: quit breaking kayfabe before you screw this up for the rest of us.

Because of the Attempt

by Joseph Hatcher

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some sort of inspirational gloss we could put on the fact that it’s not enough for us to live at the pleasure of the extremely wealthy, we have to admire them, too, even if they tricked us into becoming cannibals? Let’s try it! Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and Henry C. Santini took the one that involved grinding up corpses … no, wait. If you can keep your head while all about you / Are losing theirs and baking them into Soylent Green … that doesn’t work. The English professor we hired to write for this package keeps talking about that Mark Twain guy he wants to marry or eat or whatever; maybe the open letter Twain wrote to Cornelius Vanderbilt—the Henry C. Santini of his day!—will strike the right note of supplication:

Most men have at least a few friends, whose devotion is a comfort and a solace to them, but you seem to be the idol of only a crawling swarm of small souls, who love to glorify your most flagrant unworthiness in print; or praise your vast possessions worshippingly, or sing of your unimportant private habits and sayings and doings, as if your millions gave them dignity; friends who applaud your superhuman stinginess with the same gusto that they do your most magnificent displays of commercial genius and daring, and likewise your most lawless violations of commercial honor—for these infatuated worshippers of dollars not their own seem to make no distinctions, but swing their hats and shout hallelujah every time you do anything, no matter what it is. 

Huh, that wasn’t it, either. Well, at least I can say I tried, which is really all that matters, right? Remember: Tuesday is Soylent Green day!