I've spent what little free time I've had in the last several days (time when I haven't been scrambling across the dirt in the cold, planting food) at the clinic. I've put off my work with the captive New Breed for the time being. There are too many people in need of medical attention and too much agricultural work to justify spending any time on the undead captives.
I've been trying to do what I can to help out around the clinic. Most of my time has been spent with the folks from the Louisville crew who have taken ill. One person can basically take care of all of them--they aren't helpless. They've got what looked like flu symptoms at first, but that has changed a little. Their fevers have gone down, but they still have the body aches and some difficulty breathing. Evans thinks it's pneumonia. I'm not a doctor, but I tend to agree.
I spent a good portion of the early hours at the clinic. I woke up halfway through the night full of energy and decided to give whoever was on duty a break. The night shift isn't so rough and it gave me a chance to do necessary work that didn't occupy a lot of my brainpower.
Ha. You know me. That shit never works.
I sat there with our ill guests, and I was reminded of all the messages I've had from other survivors since I started this blog. Most of my interactions with people outside of New Haven are mundane: sharing information, planning trade routes, status updates, that kind of thing. A good number of them have been supportive of our efforts here. And then there are the ones that just...aren't any of those things.
A few people have sent me messages pointing out that I sometimes use entire posts examining my motivations or those of my fellow citizens. They have a point, I guess--I could have used that space and my limited time in a better way, maybe. Like jotting down information that might be useful or giving accounts of tactics that work. I can see the point of those scattered critics. People can always do better.
But as I sat there watching over people who were faceless contacts on an email list a week before, I realized a few things. Examining what drives me is important, as is looking at the direction we go as a community and a society as a whole. I've been told in those very same messages that I make some readers feel doubt about some of the hard choices we all have to make. That I make them hesitate.
If that means I've made them think, then I say that's a great thing. In the world as it is now, being decisive is very important. But being aware that your actions may be a matter of choosing a lesser of two evils is equally vital, if not more so. Like ships on the open sea, our lives need course correction and feedback or we risk losing our way completely. If that means I take time now and then to dissect and analyze my actions (and usually feel bad about them) then that's what I'm going to do.
I've said recently that the time to worry about the awful choices we make and actions that follow is when we no longer question them. It wasn't very far into The Fall that I started to lose perspective on what the stakes are. Survival is paramount, but I lost sight on what the limits of my behavior should be.
How is this relevant to sitting in a room lit by a single lumpy homemade candle, keeping watch over sick people? Because I believe that if I hadn't been set straight by the people who care about me, I'd have turned into the kind of person that would have ignored the Louisville crew when they asked for help with their sick. Even now, a small voice whispers that we could be using the food, water, and medicine they're allotted for our own people. That caring for them weakens us ever so slightly.
A small voice, but persistent. The rest of me recognizes the inherent truth in the situation: the Louisville team sacrificed some of their number to help us in the fight against the New Breed. They didn't shy away from danger, and that kind of friendship must be repaid.
I talk about the Exiles sometimes as if they're almost a different kind of being than the rest of us. But those few hours alone in the quiet of the night were enough to remind me that it's not at all hard to slide into that kind of selfish barbarism. It's the same tribe mentality we have here, but on a smaller scale and without compassion for outsiders.
Human beings are animals. That's not a judgment, simply fact. It's our nature to defend our close group and to be suspicious and violent toward others. Compassion, cooperation, gratitude, mutual aid...these things require effort of will. They are choices. And if we fail to assess our choices, to see the awful things as awful even as the need to do them is clear, then eventually we'll stop making the choice to work together. To trust.
If I bore you or miss some piece of errata to make sure we're still questioning our motives, then I apologize. It's necessary and I have no plans to stop.