Thursday, July 22, 2010

Slaughter Fodder

May 2010 – Sri Lanka. Chicken farm in a tiny village on the outskirts of Colombo.

22 July 2010 - Phuket, Thailand...counting the days:(

I almost never read books. I buy them constantly, start them often, but finish them only on rare occasion. Oddly, two of the few books I’ve read this year included ominous references to one of my most haunting obsessive compulsive thoughts.[bxA]

Bangkok Days (2010) by Graham Greene (atop my pocket map of Bangkok).

I was enjoying the tales of hapless farangs in Bangkok Days until I got to about page 83 when the protagonist’s feckless friend takes him to Roong muu, “the city slaughterhouse, buried inside a mixed Thai-Viet slum: only these impoverished Catholics could kill animals, an act forbidden to the Buddhists who happily ate their flesh...

“The killing of animals is secretive in Bangkok…I noticed now the slaughterhouse workers idled around the low, metal-roofed buildings with the look of men who are stoned and who will be killing pigs with hammers all night long. To get them through it they are said to take drugs...”

At the shrimp warehouse, “McGinnins put a hand to his ear and said, ‘Can you hear them? The shrimp are screaming. Boiled alive, and no one cares. So much for Buddhism.’”

Dec’09 – Bangkok. Schoolgirls praying atop the Golden Mount Buddhist temple.

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Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day begins, “When it came to concealing his troubles, Tommy Wilhem was not less capable than the next fellow. So at least he thought…”

Seize the Day (1957) by Saul Bellow,

On page 84 Tommy was walking through downtown New York to pick-up tickets for a baseball game and, “…on the walls between the advertisements were words in chalk: ‘Sin No More,’ and “Do Not Eat the Pig.’”

A paragraph later, Wilhem was at the stock market gambling to win money to pay his debts.

“The old fellow on the right, Mr. Rappaport, was nearly blind…He was very old…and if you believed Tamkin he had once been the Rockefeller of the chicken business and had retired with a large fortune.

May’10 – Sri Lanka. Inside the chicken house.

“Wilhem had a queer feeling about the chicken industry, that it was sinister. On the road, he frequently passed chicken farms. Those big, rambling, wooden buildings out in the neglected fields; they were like prisons. The lights burned all night in them to cheat the poor hens into laying. Then the slaughter. Pile all the coops of the slaughtered on end, and in one week they’d go higher than Mount Everest or Mount Serenity. The blood filling the Gulf of Mexico. The chicken shit, acid, burning the earth."

Jan’10 – Siem Reap, Cambodia. KFC in the town center.

“And Wilhelm thought this was the way a man who had grown rich by the murder of millions of animals, little chickens, would act. If there was a life to come he might have to answer for the killing of all those chickens. What if they all were waiting? But if there was a life to come, everyone would have to answer. But if there was a life to come, the chickens themselves would be all right.”

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There’s no escaping it on the internet either. I love reading the Fighter Guy’s blog because he captures lots of things about Phuket that I notice too, but then he has all these totally inconceivable observations and experiences I’ve completely missed. Check out his post on cockfighting in Thailand.

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Is there a life to come? Will the chickens be all right?