I was interested in the themes of technology and nature. More specifically, how chapter five embodies the tension between the two. The bank is personified as a monster that eats the land and controls the tenants that work on it.
The landowners drive up in their cars to tell the tenants they have to leave. The bankers tell them that, it’s not them, the bank. They owe the bank money, they say, “The bank—the monster has to have profits all the time. It can’t wait. It’ll die. No, taxes go on. When monster stops growing, it dies. It can’t stay one size.”
The bank also characterized as a machine that they, the landowners, have to feed, via taxes. They also remark on how banks don’t shrink or lose money. If a bank shrinks, it dies. It only gets bigger and bigger and becomes a huge monster of vast reach and presence.
The landowners go on, “The bank is something else than man. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than man, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.”
This shows how even though the mechanical is an extension of man, the creation of man, it does things that man can’t predict. It takes on a life of it’s own, like an unstoppable monster to some. The landowners ask the men,
“Why don’t you go on west to California? There’s work there, and it never gets cold. Why, you can reach out anywhere and pick an orange. Why, there’s always some kind of crop to work in. Why don’t you go there?
And so I think about the monster as a creation of man and where that can leave man. The quote is suggesting that California is a type of promise land, the land of milk and honey. Which, it was how it was seen in the day. But whenever, promise means work, and the promise land is full of workers with no work, there isn't much promise for a man seeking work. There is this notion of hopelessness that arises. The men feel left behind by the mechanization, they feel uselss. This idea/state reminds me of a Richard Hugo poem that Bryan Shutmaat turned into a photography book. The poem deals with the hopelessness a man can feel and the photographs are a visual representation of it.
You should read Richard Hugo’s poem below before looking at Bryan Shutmaat’s “Gray’s the Mountain Sends
.” Or maybe look at the photographs first, in order, and then read the poem and then look again at the photographs and see how they parallel.
Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg
By Richard Hugo
You might come here Sunday on a whim.
Say your life broke down. The last good kiss
you had was years ago. You walk these streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn’t last, bars that did, the tortured try
of local drivers to accelerate their lives.
Only churches are kept up. The jail
turned 70 this year. The only prisoner
is always in, not knowing what he’s done.
The principal supporting business now
is rage. Hatred of the various grays
the mountain sends, hatred of the mill,
The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls
who leave each year for Butte. One good
restaurant and bars can’t wipe the boredom out.
The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines,
a dance floor built on springs—
all memory resolves itself in gaze,
in panoramic green you know the cattle eat
or two stacks high above the town,
two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapse
for fifty years that won’t fall finally down.
Isn’t this your life? That ancient kiss
still burning out your eyes? Isn’t this defeat
so accurate, the church bell simply seems
a pure announcement: ring and no one comes?
Don’t empty houses ring? Are magnesium
and scorn sufficient to support a town,
not just Philipsburg, but towns
of towering blondes, good jazz and booze
the world will never let you have
until the town you came from dies inside?
Say no to yourself. The old man, twenty
when the jail was built, still laughs
although his lips collapse. Someday soon,
he says, I’ll go to sleep and not wake up.
You tell him no. You’re talking to yourself.
The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall.