From John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America
- “American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash—all of them—surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index. Driving along I thought how in France or Italy every item of these thrown-out things would have been saved and used for something. This is not said in criticism of one system or the other but I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness—chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk in the sea. When an Indian village became too deep in its own filth, the inhabitants moved. And we have no place to which to move.”
- “He said bitterly, ‘If anywhere in your travels, you come on a man with guts, mark the place. I want to go to see him. I haven’t seen anything but cowardice and expediency. This used to be a nation of giants. Where have they gone?…’ ‘Must be somewhere,’ I said… ‘There used to be a thing or commodity we put great store by. It was called the People. Find out where the People have gone….Maybe they never existed, but if there ever were the People, that’s the commodity the Declaration was talking about, and Mr. Lincoln….’ I remember retorting, ‘Maybe the People are always those who used to live the generation before last.’”
- “Can it be that we do not love to be reminded that we are very young and callow in a world that was old when we came into it? And could there be a strong resistance to the certainty that a living world will continue its stately way when we no longer inhabit it?”
- “But Charley doesn’t have our problems. He doesn’t belong to a species clever enough to split the atom but not clever enough to live in peace with itself…I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
- “…all the polls and opinion posts, with newspapers more opinion than news so that we no longer know one from the other…”
Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley: In Search of America. New York: Viking Press, 1962.