Thursday, June 26, 2008
A friend passed along this article from Travel & Leisure magazine about WWOOF:
It has got some of the basic information about WWOOF, how it started, with whom and a few details of the author's, Patricia Marx, experience. This article has been pretty thoroughly fact-checked because that's how they roll at T&L-I know because I worked there last year for about four months.
Fact-checking is a strange gig. Reading this article I had a flash back to the looping hallways, long paper trails and quietly ringing phones of the Hippodrome. I never fit in there because I never really tried which isn't exactly something to be proud of. A lot of people would want the opportunity to work as an editorial assistant at a publication like T&L, I saw them waiting in the lobby clutching resumes, and the FACT that I didn't make much of the situation is a testimony more to my failures than T&L's.
That being said....
There were times when the fact-checker's job was more about justifying inaccuracies than correcting them. Sometimes the letter of what was being written could be considered "fact" but the spirit of what was being conveyed was skewed for the sake of T&L's prospective readership. Very wealthy and, probably, white city people. If you challenged the perspective of an article you were an enemy of the writer, the editor, everyone. You were gumming up the works! Just say that it's true so we can go to lunch! What could I expect from a popular magazine that focuses on life's luxuries for the elite ? Travel and Leisure... it's right there in the title, moron. That's what you get!
Marx's piece brought back my discomfort with this attitude. She's a little snide, a little dismissive. Presumably this trip did more than affirm her love of artificial sweetener. Yeah, she probably shouldn't pack up and move out to the country to live in a yurt. Most of us probably shouldn't, until the apocalypse comes. But, to me and many people interested in organic or locally grown food, WWOOFing is more about breaking down the crazy consumerist, industrial, micromanaging structure that makes the place our food comes from seem so distant, out of reach or impossible to change/improve. Instead of approaching it from this far more positive, truthful angle this article instead delineates the difference between those nutty new age farmers dancing their "Universal Peace" crap out in the woods and us New Yorkers who have the decency to shut ourselves into a spa during those ten days off a year from the office. Why promote the idea that only a dirty hippie or stunt journalist would attempt to WWOOF?
At the moment I'm neither a farmer nor an office worker. I haven't gotten to one place and I didn't belong in the other. But I like to imagine a third place (or several thousand such places) that isn't so concerned with cramming people to fit the labels laid out for them or the facts into the conclusions we wrote first and researched later.
So am I being a total jerk or what?