I See the Water // Paul Kozel

Before I even started school at SCU, I was dreading this class. It was a class I did not choose to take, it was at night, and it was called food, self, and culture. All I could think about was that this class is just going to be a bunch of PETA videos and the professor is going to convert us into vegetarians, but that is not what the class ended up being about. It was about a lot more; more than I ever expected.

While we did watch some videos from PETA and other groups about the inhumane treatment of animals, we were watching them to see what is really going on in our society. By watching videos like Food, Inc and reading books like Eating Animals and Columbine, my class became more aware of what is going on in our society and how the media influences that. That seemed to be the overarching themes in the two quarters of CTW: awareness and the media. In our “global village” (McLuhan 67) of society today, we are losing touch with the outside world. With modern technology advances, we are so focused in ourselves that we are not aware what is happening around us.

One of the works we looked at in CTW 1 was This is Water by David Foster Wallace. This is a commencement speech given by Wallace. In this short video of his speech, Wallace shows day-to-day adult life and explains how we are so absorbed with what we are doing in our lives, we do not look beyond and see what is around us. Wallace starts his speech with three fish swimming. One fish asks the two other fish “how is the water?” The two fish reply with “what the hell is water?” (Wallace) The fish are obviously swimming in water but they do not know what it is. Wallace then says that the “most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about” (Wallace). In regards to the fish, they swim in water all day long and they need it to survive, but they do not know what it is because they are not aware of what is going on around them.

In our society, we are so consumed by technology that we are not aware what is going on around us. Last summer, I worked as a lifeguard at my community pool. A woman brings a boy up to me with a bloody foot and she says that she found this boy sitting on a chair after he stubbed his toe. This boy, not the woman’s son, was walking on the pool deck and stubbed his toe and a chunk of skin was missing. I asked him where his parents were at and he said he did not know. I treated the boy’s wound and I sat with him at a table by the guard shack. After about five to ten minutes of sitting, I see a man looking frantically around the pool deck and he looks my way and comes running over. The boy stands up and says to me that that is his father. I asked the father if this was his son and he says yes. I told him what had happened and asked where he was. He said he had to make a work call and was on the phone. He was so consumed in his work that he failed to see his son get injured. Just like Marshal McLuhan said, “all media will work us over completely” (McLuhan back cover) What he means by this is that media will affect all of us. It will affect you, it will affect me, it will affect the boy with the stubbed toe, it affects everyone.

We also read a book in CTW called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. In this book, Foer explores all aspects of our eating habits. This book real put what we eat into perspective. We eat meat all the time, often every day, but we have no idea what really happens to the food we eat and how it got from living animal to our plate. Foer talks about how if something is “organic” that does not necessarily mean it is humanely raised and all natural. Because of advertising in the media and we do not know what is really happening to our food. The meat industry publishes pictures like this

when in reality, the chicken you eat looks like this:

The media distorts or awareness of what really goes on behind our food, and that is what Foer and the film we watched, Food, Inc taught us. In Food, Inc, we were able to see what really went on in the meat industry and it was shocking. The animals are beat are tortured before they are killed. Even if chickens are cage-free, they really are not “free.” Foer says “the free-range label is bullshit” (Foer 61)because it means nothing. But shopping in the store, we see “cage free” or “organic” or “free range” and we buy that because we think it is natural. Thanks to Foer and Food, Inc, we know that that is not true. If we were aware of what really happens to our food, we would know that cage free means nothing.

Moving to CTW 2, we focused on David Cullen’s novel Columbine. This book described every detail about the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Littleton is a small, quiet town that is a suburb of Denver (Cullen 21). Cullen describes the community as your typical American suburb. Even though the community is “quiet” and close-knit, one of the deadliest school shootings in American history happened there and two killers grew up in this community. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people and injured many more in a rampage at Columbine High School in 1999. Leading up to the massacre, there were many warning signs, like Dylan’s dad finding bomb-making materials in his room and Eric losing control and holding on to Brooks Brown’s car (Cullen 161). Also, before the massacre, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office started a report of Eric and Dylan, but did nothing to further investigate.

Despite all these warning signs, no one expected the massacre. If the sheriff’s office would have carried out the investigation into the boys, the massacre might not have occurred. If Eric’s dad reported Eric or at least did something about the materials found in Eric’s room instead of ignoring it, the massacre may not have occurred. This community was too concentrated on their lives and they were not concerned with the world around them. If they picked up on any of these warning signs, one of the country’s deadliest shootings could have been prevented.

David Foster Wallace concluded This is Water with the following quote:

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘This is Water.’

After entering CTW 1 with a bad attitude and low expectations, I emerge from CTW 2 with the exact opposite reaction. This has been one of the most useful classes have have taken because we not only learned facts and learned to write, but we learned valuable life skills. By analyzing all the material we covered in CTW 1 and 2, we learned to be aware in our society. We learned to look at what is around us and be less focused on only ourselves. We learned to be conscious in our adult lives and to consciously be thinking about the water around us. So thank you to Professor Nicholas Leither for opening my eyes and letting me see the water.

Works Cited

Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
Food, Inc. Movie One, 2008.
McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. The Medium Is the Massage. New York: Bantam, 1967. Print.
Wallace, David Foster. “This Is Water.” Kenyon College. 21 May 2005. Web.
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