By Thomas Crowe • Guest Columnist
With the recent rash of mining disasters, oil and gas spills here in the U.S. and worldwide, and the apocalyptic timing of all of these, things have changed. These are not just mere rare random accidents, but coming in such a wave, they are, instead, a kind of ironic epiphany. This is a wake-up call for what has passed for the past two generations or more as the status quo, as “business as usual.”
During the past several years since Bush’s invasion of Iraq, practically all we’ve heard from our government officials and news sources has been “the War on Terror.” Like psychic loudspeakers, this phrase has invaded our sleep. “Terror.” “Terrorists.” “Terrorism.” “Territory.” One would think that there was a terrorist under every bed. Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago when it used to be a communist under every bed. All our focus these days seems to be on a few gypsy bands of renegade insurgents somewhere in the Middle East who have the imagined miraculous ability to show up at any given moment on our doorsteps with incendiary and even nuclear bombs — a threat to our inflated American lifestyle if not our very lives.
But all of a sudden, with the enormous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Massey Energy-Upper Big Branch mining explosions in West Virginia and other similar incidents world-wide, it’s beginning to look like our government’s focus on terrorism is terribly misplaced.
Aside from the one-off major terrorist event of the New York Twin Towers, the vast majority of “terrorist” events have come in-house — from the economic infrastructure of the American capitalistic establishment itself. Most recently from Big Coal and Big Oil, incidents have cost considerable human and non-human life and untold environmental destruction with monumental social and economic repercussions.
Since 9/11, terrorist plots and actual attacks on American soil pale in comparison to these Big Energy incidents. Which begs the question: Who are the real terrorists? Who is the real enemy, here? Who is the real threat to our national stability and security?
It seems to me that the billions of dollars we are spending in Iraq and Afghanistan to combat small, dispersed enclaves of Taliban and Al Qaida fundamentalists, as well as, specifically, the man-power invested there of our National Guard troops, are not only being misappropriated but misplaced, when the real war that we should be waging should be right here on American soil and against American corporate terrorism in the form of Big Oil and Big Coal. Instead of aiming Predator drones at nameless Afghan jihadists hiding in the hills on the Pakistani border, shouldn’t we be “bombing” BP with a trillion dollar fine and mandatory clean up and compensations for their failed offshore drilling enterprises? Shouldn’t we be ferreting out the mining company corporate generals hiding in their mansions in the hills of West Virginia and slapping lawsuits on them for their neglect and hitting them with uncompromising regulations?
But even these efforts, in my opinion, don’t go far enough. The U.S. government needs to step in (like they’re trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan) and shut down these companies — until such a time as they can do their job right and do right by all the people they employ and/or are affected by their erroneous errors and accidents.
As we speak, there are at least 900 offshore wells operating in the Gulf of Mexico. How many more “accidents” like the current BP spill are we going to have to endure before BP is held accountable for its profit-driven and indifferent practices? How many more mining disasters are we going to have to endure before Massey and other companies like them are called on the carpet, in just the same fashion as would any small company or business would be who was responsible for similar kinds of destruction and on a lesser scale?
The U.S. Labor Department or some government agency should shut down all Massey mines and make them install all the safety and pollution precautions that they have obviously ignored (in order to cut costs). Big Energy and Big Energy business are the true terrorists. Where is the “War on Big Oil?” Where is the “War on Coal and CO2?” This needs to be our focus and priority, as Big Business has run its course.
If this sounds like socialism to some folks, then so be it. Peak oil is a thing of the past, and big isn’t working anymore. Something has got to give lest we find ourselves on a wasted and desert planet such as are being portrayed in much of our fiction books and film-scripts these days. These Big Energy moguls want their cake and to eat it too — in the name of free-trade capitalism. They can’t have it both ways. Free-trade means you are also free to fail as well as succeed. If a business fails due to its own bad behavior, then, like any small business, it should be allowed to fail. I’m not convinced that the big corporations are “too big to fail.” (Including, and maybe especially, the big banks.)
Yes, a lot of people would lose jobs, but a lot of people are losing jobs anyway. If the government would get focused and get to work on ramping up a campaign to get green energy businesses up and running and affordable (like FDR did with WPA), then a lot of those people would be able to find work in these new “green” industries. And with the big businesses gone, there would be ample room and need for new small business to start up and prosper.
Meanwhile, and in the interim, we can begin helping each other in our own communities to weather the storm of our failing infrastructure and the rebuilding of a new and more sustaining infrastructure. With the country in the midst of an economic crisis, the government in Washington is spending our money in the wrong place. The money they are wasting on two bogus and very expensive wars overseas against invisible “enemies” needs to be being spent right here at home on our own problems and on much more pressing battles with much more dangerous foes.
These battles with Mr. Big are not only being played out in Washington or in corporate boardrooms in large urban cities, but big business bombs are being directed at civilian targets right here in Western North Carolina. We, right here, have our own corporate “terrorists” wreaking economic and environmental havoc in the name of “free enterprise” and “no regulation free-trade capitalism.” Duke Power is a perfect case in point, with its recent attempt to blackmail the people on the Cherokee Reservation over a proposed substation on sacred land. And then there’s the travesty of the new coal-fired power plant over in Rutherford County, which is going to come at the expense of local taxpayers and their health.
So, it’s time to bring Big Business back down to earth. And if the government isn’t going to do it, then the people must. And the first step is callin’ the bad boys out and to speak up and tell it like it is. If I can do it, anyone can. There are a lot of us who are thinking this way and talking in private, expressing our disgust and anger about our country’s current priorities and what’s being done and not being done to get this country back on its feet. In a crowd, when someone falls, a good citizen stops and helps them up. Our country has fallen, and, as good neighbors and concerned citizens, we need to stop and help our flagging country to its feet.