We Are to Blame

July 8, 2010

If corporations claim they are trying to  maximize profits for shareholders then we are to blame for 1) the banking crisis, 2) the Massey mine explosion in WV, and 3) the Gulf oil spill. 

That being said, people run corporations.  People make decisions.  Corporations do not.  People are putting money before safety, money before the environment, money before human health.

Furthermore, people are choosing to work in the coal mines and for the oil companies because the money is good.  And, if you say, the reason we mine for coal and drill for oil is because there is demand for it, that people do these things based on our demand for energy, then you clearly don’t know the power of the word no.

No one is forcing them to put profit before safety or to work in risky careers.  People can say no and we will find a way to adapt.  It is greed on all our parts that feeds this vicious cycle.

I find the current bitching by the inhabitants of the affected Gulf Coast — and almost every American — nearly intolerable.  They want it both ways.  They want to be able to fish if they are fisherman and drill if they are working in the oil industry and they don’t want to lose money doing it or assume risk in their endeavors.  They aren’t looking past their noses.  Each person is blaming the government, but I don’t think the government can be solely responsible for their woes.

With respect to the oil spill, the lack of oversight and regulation is clearly an issue.  The Minerals Management Service (MMS) obviously did not do its job, but I also don’t think they were given the power to do their job effectively due to the emphasis on deregulation.  Even if they had tried to fine BP, the oil company would’ve fought back against the fine using lawyers because fighting the citation is cheaper than fixing the problem.  The same happened with Massey.  It was cheaper for them to fight the citations than it was for them to upgrade their technology so they could operate more safely.

If we accept that we are greedy, that we are driven by base human desires and needs, then we will either have the ability to change our outcome.  We can take responsibility for our choices.  You assume risk in choosing profit over safety or a dangerous job over a lesser paying job.  If you don’t like the terms of that risk, do something about it.  Blaming others will not change anything.  Action will.  If enough people stand up and take action, change can happen. 

It requires you to work, though.  It requires you to have faith in something greater.  It requires that you to face fears.  That, I believe, is something humans are terrible at doing.  We are more comfortable with the same-o, same-o.  We’d rather just complain about it and point our fingers at how we were wronged, as if we came into this world with an inherent right to a silver platter and a staff of hundreds to serve us.  We don’t want to hear that this is our lot, that this is as good as it gets.  We’ve bought into the idea that we can always have more, that we have a right to more.  I’m pretty sure that when we came into this world that wasn’t part of the agreement, though.

I am a spoiled American.  Admitting that I am is the first step toward changing my life so that I can live in more peace and with greater purpose.  It will be hard to change my ways and my beliefs, to accept that I might never make it to that next economic level, but I believe that for my children’s sake and for the sake of future generations that I must start down this path, that I must curb my whining and blaming, that I must take responsibility for my actions and for my human existence.

That is the only way change will occur.  Truthfully, maybe the only change that will occur is my outlook.  And that’s okay.  That kind of change has to be enough, too.

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