Saturday, July 03, 2010

Once Upon a Time a British Company Got Too Big For its Britches

About mid May, after two or three weeks of obsessive following of the oil spill story online and via news pod downloads, I burned out or something and couldn't bear to see one more image or learn one more stat or listen to one more bobble head on the news burble on about what might have happened, what must have happened, what must happen now, what should have happened, what so and such isn't doing, what will probably happen, who won't get out of the way so such and so can happen.... yabayabayubadruba.

My mind filled with the images which I took into my dreams. By early May I was already extrapolating from the images and info I had gleaned, a likely scenario that looked very much like what has come about. That was back when both BP and the Government were assuring us daily that the oil would never come ashore; that there would be minimal impact on the environment; that BP and the Government would not rest until every drop of oil was removed from ocean and beach and marsh and every creature, business, community and family were made whole and the estimates on how long that would take ranged from three to nine months tho some spoke of two or three years.

I knew better even then. I remember the Exxon Valdez and how they never did get all the oil out of that bay and off the beaches; how compensating businesses and communities and families and workers was drug out over decades so that many had died before they saw a check; how thousands fell ill from mysterious immunological and neurological symptoms and if they still live today are still ill.

My frustration overflowed and I stopped visiting my news blogs and sites and let the pods download and sit on my netbook unwatched. Until last week. In the last ten days I've watched six weeks worth of three 30-40 minute news pods. From day 20 of the crisis to day 75. I'm only a couple days behind now and by Monday I will be caught up and have to start following the story one day at a time like normal people do.

My mind is once more filled with images I carry into my dreams and my eyes are constantly tearing up and my face flushing with rage. And I don't even live in the Gulf nor have I ever visited except in the many novels or movies I've encountered that were set there.

Suddenly I have a visceral understanding of what makes humans resort to violence against one another. Something I have never comprehended before. I was reminded of the scene in the HBO John Adams mini-series in which the British East India Company man was tarred and feathered by a Boston mob.

I find echos of the arrogance, hubris, and cluelessness of that corporate flack and empire drone of 230 years ago in the faces, actions and rhetoric of the BP officials explaining, apologizing and obfuscating in photo ops and press conferences and the many politicians and elected officials who defer to them, shill for them, and protect them from accountability.

My blood boils and I almost understand...

But no. As angry and grief-stricken as I am I still couldn't countenance such a thing. Besides it isn't any one man or woman responsible. It is the system they have created and sustained. The system that glorifies profit for a few at the expense of the many and gives corporate entities the legal status of living sentient beings and more rights and protections and less accountability than the citizens. A system that has allowed single corporations to become bigger and more powerful than the most powerful of nations with budgets that dwarf the GDP of most nations. A system that subsidizes such corporations with one hand while taking safety nets out from under those whose 'misfortunes' can be directly traced to the corporation's malfeasance, profiteering, and callousness. A system that puts the viability and profitability of the corporations over the welfare of the citizens, the cohesion of the communities and the livability of the environment.

Once upon a time a British company got too big for its britches and America was born.

I would like to hope that the current corporate spawned crisis will engender something as new, visionary and citizen driven as that (though bloodless) and similarly shift the balance of power back to the people. But I fear we will not shake off our apathy, ignorance and despair in time.

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