Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gross Indifference to the Suffering of Others

I'm one full week into my stay at Weir Farm. I've not left the site since arriving. I brought my food with me. I've used enough to think am I using too much. You think about food differently when there isn't a store around the corner. And what am I reading while pretending I can't get food from town? Reading Ordeal by Hunger by George R. Stewart. Written in 1936 by a man obviously enthralled with 1846, it is full of all the bigotry of its day. Yet still it rapidly reads like a transcription of a campfire story told by a veteran story-teller. Its a gripping tragedy, gruesome in a way that is unfathomable. I've spent a good amount of time traveling the western states, and its first hundred pages seem all too possible to me. A party of farmers and merchants in a mountain and desert landscape follow a shady salesman's new route to the Sierra Nevada. Lost time saved none, and imagine the feeling of being trapped between a snow bound route over the mountains and the desert before it through all of winter. Food low, animals starving, most possessions dumped. Men, women, and children stuck on a trail with no way of surviving on their own. Meanwhile, the terribly depicted tribes are all around, and there is no communication, no ability to find out how they survive the climate. The party is trapped by their own relationship to the world. As Stewart ominously puts it "the trap has clicked behind them."

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