Jack and BP
Every day we are bombarded with images of the horrific damage the BP oil spill is doing to the Gulf Coast region. When we see these pictures, we love to express our hatred of BP and demand that they pay for what they’ve done. We’re so mad that we get mad when the President doesn’t get mad enough. For the next decade or so, we’ll be demanding justice be served for BP’s sins.
And yet, I think our views about the oil and gas industry are not unlike what Jack Nicholson’s character expresses in the movie A Few Good Men. If only the government hearing on BP could have gone like this:
The CEO of BP should have just said:
You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall — you need me on that wall … I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather that you just said “thank you” and went on your way.
If we’ve ever complained about rising gas prices or the cost of air travel, we are participating in the world that drives companies like BP to cut costs. We want them to. We need them to. We don’t really want to know what BP is doing as long as it keeps our vehicles fueled and our computers powered. Not unlike Al Gore, who talks about the environment from the comfort of his personal jet, we love to talk about BP’s problems while consuming the product they provide at every opportunity.
In reality, more oil is spilled every year in Nigeria than what BP has spilled into the Gulf. We just don’t care because it doesn’t affect us. The BP oil spill, then, is not just about the individual sins of a single, evil corporation bent on squeezing every last dollar out of the earth’s core. It is also about the corporate sin of humanity bent toward selfishness at every turn.
Though BP as a corporation should certainly accept responsibility for what they’ve done, it seems to me that we – as humanity incorporate – also ought to acknowledge our participation in the system.