Pronunciation: \ˈä-lə-ˌgär-kē, ˈō-\
1 : government by the few
2 : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes; also : a group exercising such control (from Merriam Webster Online)
Not many folks are paying much attention to this latest “crisis” of the BP rig explosion and month-long oil spillage of millions upon millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s actually not so much a crisis as it is a cataclysmic event. But we call it a crisis because, you know how good we all are at crisis management. So call it a crisis and most folks will connect the dots to the “crises” in their own lives, like, Missy just got busted for doing meth, so she’s not going to get into that illustrious private college we’d hoped she would attend. Gasp! We may be talking Community College!
Or, Bubba just got a call from the garage –his truck needs a new transmission! We maxed out the card paying for Bubba Jr.’s summer football camp, so he can go to college on a football scholarship.
But, hey, this is America, where somehow, someway, we manage to get ourselves through all manner of crises.
This is different. This isn’t going to go away any time soon and the damage this spill will eventually cause has world-wide implications. Satellite images show a long arm of oil already drifting away from the Gulf and out toward the wider ocean currents. Get ready, Eastern Seaboard. Get ready, anybody in the world living on some beach. It may take a while, but when you’re looking at up to 4 million gallons of oil and gas shooting out daily for over a month–with no end in sight–well, if I were living somewhere near the western beaches of Europe, I’d be getting a bit nervous, since it seems that ever so often a letter in a bottle will wash ashore with some message from someone in the good ol’ U.S. of A. This ain’t no flotilla of bottles headed your way, ol’ chap in Brighton. So sound the alarm now and get someone’s butt into gear to prepare for what is likely coming.
Then of course there’s the Gulf, and all the life dependent on the Gulf’s ecosystem; life that is in almost certain peril of being entombed in an oil sludge sarcophagus. Fish, oysters, shrimp, birds, plants, insects, humans–nothing appears likely to find a habitable place on the Louisiana coast for untold years to come. And let’s not get too smug, all y’all who live from Galveston on over to Gulfport and even on over to the Atlantic in Key Largo. Sludge is headed your way. Folks intent on taking a Miami Beach vacation should go this year, ’cause you really don’t know if next year will be much of an option.
Meanwhile, corporate shills at places like Fox News play down the catastrophe. Politicians are part of this group as well, since they well know from whence comes the butter for their bread, not to mention the mortgage payments on their summer beach homes (oh, the irony).
Even the White House and President react in ways that suggest the spill is no more a concern than say, Cousin Eddy pulling his oil-leaking RV into the Griswolds’ nice, clean driveway.
But it’s not Cousin Eddy that is the problem here. To continue the movie analogy theme a bit, it’s as if Mr. Potter and his cronies have indeed taken over Bedford Falls, with no George Bailey around to stop them.
Mr. Potter would have agreed whole-heartedly with the BP decision not to replace the critical pressure gasket on the oil rig, the gasket that had failed and the pieces of which were coming up out of the pipe before the explosion. Mr. Potter would love the notion of buying up all the media outlets he could, so that the message could be shaped to his benefit. Mr. Potter would buy as many politicians as he could, so that he could turn beautiful Bedford Falls into a more profitable, yet dreary Potterville. And for the moment, it doesn’t look like there’s anyone with the moral fiber and tenacity of George Bailey around to stop him.
The BP-induced ocean oil gusher catastrophe shows us once again who is and has been calling the shots for a long, long time. They have no sense of moral decency, only the dedication to their own obscene profit margin as somehow serving the common good. They’re actually more dangerous than this guy. The lyric from Woody Guthrie’s “Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd” pretty well sums it up:
Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men
Some will rob you with a six-gun
And some with a fountain pen.
They’ve been robbing most of us for some time. This time they have dealt the U.S., and perhaps a larger part of the world, a crippling blow. Yet no one seems to be paying much attention, other than to worry how this disaster might drive up shrimp and oyster prices in the local seafood emporium.
Bob Herbert, writing in the New York Times, captures our scene depressingly well:
The response of the Obama administration and the general public to this latest outrage at the hands of a giant, politically connected corporation has been embarrassingly tepid. We take our whippings in stride in this country. We behave as though there is nothing we can do about it.
This is the bitter reality of the American present, a period in which big business has cemented an unholy alliance with big government against the interests of ordinary Americans, who, of course, are the great majority of Americans. The great majority of Americans no longer matter.
No one knows how much of BP’s runaway oil will contaminate the gulf coast’s marshes and lakes and bayous and canals, destroying wildlife and fauna — and ruining the hopes and dreams of countless human families. What is known is that whatever oil gets in will be next to impossible to get out. It gets into the soil and the water and the plant life and can’t be scraped off the way you might be able to scrape the oil off of a beach.
It permeates and undermines the ecosystem in much the same way that big corporations have permeated and undermined our political system, with similarly devastating results.
It’s going to take a lot of George Baileys to get us out of this international Potterville. It’s going to require that you and I become George Bailey. And it’s going to require that Missy’s family and Bubba’s family join your family and my family in moving beyond the myopic Teabagger movement and the equally myopic howl from the nihilistic left, while taking as many Teabaggers and nihilists with us as we possibly can. Because it’ll take all of us together to clean up the boundless toxicity the oligarchy continues to spill into every aspect of our lives. Over 200 years ago we were given the tools to do all this cleanup work. Will we have the will or the fortitude, or will we spend more energy clipping coupons for Red Lobster while bitching that the world is going to hell in a handbasket?
The temptation is to say that time will tell, but I don’t know that we really have all that much time.