Friday, May 02, 2014

The Cotton-Pickers by B. Traven (Allison & Busby 1926)

The thought that from now on I would be working with a murderer day and night, eating from the same pot, perhaps sleeping in the same room, this thought didn’t occur to me at once. Either I’d sunk so low morally that I’d lost all feeling for such niceties of civilization, or I’d moved so far ahead of my time and so far above the moral standards of the day that I understood every human action, and neither took upon myself the right to condemn nor indulged in the cheap sentimentality of pity. For pity is also a condemnation, even if not so recognized, even if it is unconscious. Should I have felt a horror of Antonio, a revulsion against shaking his hand? There are so many thieves and murderers on the loose with diamonds on their fingers and big pearls in their neckties or gold stars on their epaulettes, and decent people think nothing of shaking hands with them, but even regard it an honor to do so. Every class has its thieves and murderers. Those of my class are hanged; others are invited to the president’s ball and complain about the crimes and immorality of workmen like me.

When you have to struggle hard to get a crust of bread, you find yourself down in the mire, floundering among the scum of humanity.