My senior year in high school saw the school host a hunger banquet. About 70% of the people who came (which, as the event was mandatory, was a nice chunk of campus) sat on the ground and ate rice out of a communal bowl with their hands. Roughly 20% ate rice and beans at a table and had water, thier own bowls and a spoon. The remaining 10% had lobster, were waited on, and ate three other courses besides.
I was one of the groundlings. It was fun, I got enough rice, and got to commiserate with my fellow third worlders. That's the whole point. So I decided to go again and humble myself.
At the door you pick a card. I draw a black card. "Congratulations, you're high class."
Entering the set-up is the same, and I find myself being seated by waiters at the luxurious table. I am, at this point, the only person at the high-end tables. I've been seated so my back is facing the second and third worlders. Oh, the shame.
The night goes on, the statistics are read out, and we all feel bad at the 'high-roller' tables. But not too bad, and this is what I found interesting. After everyone was done eating (Except us. We were just being served cake.) they asked how many of us at the upper-end felt a desire to share our food with the lower levels. Almost every hand went up. I say almost becuase every hand went up except mine. Why not?
Well, here's how I viewed it. After we'd eaten our food they asked us if we wanted to share. However, not a single person who raised their hands after the fact had made any effort during the meal to do so. Frankly there was something hypocritical about it. If you'd really felt that way why didn't you just share you food? Nothing against sharing in the rules. Instead I chose to eat everything on my plate, something which some of the other high rollers didn't, all claims about wanting to share aside.
One of the last things that happened was asking people's reactions, and a fellow house-mate stated that the guilt didn't come from watching the third-worlders eat their rice, but from being watched by them. Everyone agreed on this point at our tables. We see pictures in the non-simulated world of hunger and destitution fairly regularly, that is they're not hard to find if you look around, yet there is some sort of assumption that we are not watched. It is a faulty assumption, and was the best lesson I got out of the night, the rememberance that we are being watched, and if there isn't some guilt from that, perhaps there should be. After all, there are plenty of hungry people in our country, you need not go to the third world to help out.
Moral conundrums were then set aside for old friends and Apples to Apples.
And Now For Some Shameless Plugging:
My friend from Bennignton who served me well as a mentor in my first year has a blog of his own. His writings (and Jon Carroll's) are what inspired me to start writing. (Actually it was their lack of writing, since I used to put their stuff on my wall and one week neither of them wrote anything.) You can check out his site at johnwiswell.blogspot.com. He is a fine writer, I've been reading his stuff for a long time, and on average it makes me chuckle or think.
My other friend from my first year at Bennington who graduated that year recently removed himself from Facebook because he now has his own webpage. He, too, is a writer, and a very good one. You can read about his playwriting at: www.walstonecounty.com. The page also has his essays, and in general the man is a very good writer, whose productions stand out in my recollections.
And, of course, a final plug to blogs.bootsnall/Jessica+Dillon/ my sister's travel blog. She is currently in New Zealand, and is about to go exploring for a few weeks before returning home for Christmas. Her blog is especially good for entertainment news.