The idea behind “Following Blind” came to me one day while reading a student’s homework about Old Man and the Sea. I read this book in high school like many others, as well as had several years of teaching it to other people. For many years I held a great deal of contempt for Santiago’s story. I felt that he should have found another less stressful way of making ends meet.
This was, of course, the ideals of a teenager and man in his early 20s. I had not grown up in a fishing community, and thus did not truly understand the position Santiago found himself. Aside from being older than I believed a fisherman should be, he also was dealing with many social pressures that my Canadian privilege did not understand. Had Santiago been a real person, he would have lived through extraordinary changes in the world.
The Old Man and the Sea was first published in 1952, a period where indigenous peoples and their way of life was under attack across the world. These days, I see Santiago as a snapshot of someone trying to live a traditional lifestyle during a period in which industrialization had begun to deplete all the resources that sustained a traditional lifestyle. When I was working as a teacher I had a student from the Caribbean that gave me some insight into this issue. He told me that there is a stereotype involving Caribbeans that states they love to eat small fish. My student informed me that they do eat a lot of small fish, but this was due to the fact that all the large fish had been fished out long ago.
For a Canadian context on Santiago’s world versus the war on indigenous peoples, Old Man and the Sea was published before the Sixties Scoop and during the systematic slaughter of Nunavik’s sled dogs. It was a time wherein authorities and governing bodies decided that they had the truth of how people should live. This author has decided that only one can decide this for themselves.
“Following Blind.” Jade Buddha. 2007.