Thursday, 17 June 2010

Oil slicks and oily, slick operators

Isn’t it wonderful to see BP being crucified? It’s about time these huge corporations which behave with complete contempt towards the rights and wellbeing of the rest of us were brought to book. And with the level of compensation now being debated for the damage to the US Gulf Coast, BP is being brought to book with a vengeance. Literally, I suspect, but no less deservedly for all that.

Strangely enough, in certain quarters it seems to be supposed that I shouldn’t be feeling this way. The ‘B’ in BP stands for ‘British’, and I have a British passport, so some on both sides of the Atlantic, seem to want to suggest that I should show some kind of solidarity with the company. Out of patriotism, perhaps.

The truth is that the word ‘British’ is the only thing that I have in common with BP. If they could drill for oil down the road from me, they would, and if that happened to lead to my house being drowned in crude, they’d try to get away with offering nothing more than an apology and minimal compensation.

The only respect in which nationality is relevant in this whole business is the fact that the victims of the oil spill are American and the US packs real economic punch. That’s why the company is being pursued with such determination. There are other oil spill cases in various countries, but they’re in places like Africa where the victims don’t have the same leverage, so we barely hear of them.

And the case that I feel offers the starkest, and most shameful contrast with the Gulf oil spill, is that of Union Carbide in Bhopal. After all, thousands of people there were killed - some say 20,000 or more - while many others were blinded or crippled. In the Gulf so far the damage has been principally to the environment. Those slick operators at Union Carbide ducked and dodged and the cases are still dragging on.

I’d love to see the US administration taking as tough a line on Bhopal as it now is on the Gulf spill. Twenty-six years on, it’s very late, but after all it's taken 38 years for the British government to come clean on the Bloody Sunday massacre. A quarter of a century is pretty much par for the course, and any action even now would be welcome.

It's great to see Obama going after BP. Now he's on a roll. Let's get those guys from Bhopal too now. At last.


Ian said...

Here's a comment that really cuts to the heart of the matter...

Officially, the 'B' - and this is something it shares in common with the 'P' - doesn't stand for anything any more.

David Beeson said...

Wow - I should have known that but didn't. What a perfect metaphor for soullessness...