Lots of folks are dissecting Obama's Oval Office speech and delivering diatribes on what's right and wrong with him and the oil world. So I figured I might as well join the fracas since it's the thing to do. Although I gotta warn you, my take is a little, well, different.
Of all the farcically crafted copy that POTUS ghostwriters wielded for the BP address, there's one slice that stuck with me more than the rest. It's this one:
It's a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now. Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region's fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It's called "The Blessing of the Fleet," and today it's a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea -- some for weeks at a time. The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago -- at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced. And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, "The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always," a blessing that's granted "even in the midst of the storm."
Really? Tell you what, that whole point about God not promising to remove obstacles and dangers? Horseshit. Because if there were a God, she'd have plugged the fucking gusher by now. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, we're hairline-deep in a shoulda-would-coulda news cycle which does nothing but help cable networks sell the latest painkiller pills. Like the brand new one called Godicillin - the ubiquitous cure-all for socio-political ills.
God Bless America? I'm sick and tired of political kin ushering this upon us like some universal salve. What's with this weary political sign-off anyway? How about Shame On America? We're a fat, out-of-shape, toothless, smelly piece of rotting turf whose appetite for devouring everything in our path has come full circle. Our mother just bitch-slapped us because we geniuses dropped a gigantic drill a mile deep into her belly and sliced right through. And yet all we can think of is "God Bless America?"
Obama is fast becoming yet another one of "those guys". The ones who occupy a large desk in an oval office within a white house where the whole lot of them have extolled the same heavenly virtues we've heard since the dawn of time... We're the best... Obstacles only make us stronger... When all's said and done our renewed Faith will help us leap tall buildings in a single bound...
And will God meet us on the other side of that building when we splatter headfirst to our miserable, oily death?
Remember when your mom jammed your tiny finger in the light socket to teach you that rather dreadful childhood lesson? Or maybe that was just my mom. Well anyway, the point is it's simply staggering to watch these oily crooks make the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of our nation out to be some... "accident". Accident? Babies have accidents. This, however, was nothing short of another seismic mental midget misadventure authored by adults who have charted our current course under the auspices of what should be considered criminal under-regulation.
Of the Top 20 moneyed mega-corps on our beloved blue marble, seven are oil and gas, 5 are banks and financial institutions and three are telecom. Amidst the balance, you have the mightily ethical triumvirate of General Electric, involved in over 85 Superfund sites and one of America's mightiest polluters, Walmart whose physical footprint has ravaged a billion square feet of terra firma, and Toyota, need we say more.
Collective '09 profits from the 6 oil ops totaled just under $200 billion. Collective assets, about $2 trillion. God bless 'em. And how do we forget that the supply chain demands of G.E., Walmart and Toyota have infinite influence upon the whoppingly fat and happy oil folks? Truth is, the whole Forbes Global 200 is just one big, bouncing bundle of nepotistic blubber.
Ah hell, who cares if Walmart's average wage keeps its weary workers below poverty level when you and I can buy Spam at a fraction of suggested retail. And who cares if Toyota's sticky accelerators and tricky brakes flat out kill people. Anything that clears out the passing lane is fine by me. And if G.E. wants to send 590 tons of highly toxic PCBs into a 200-mile stretch of sediment embedded in the historic Hudson River, I can live with that as long as they keep making those nifty wine fridges with the digital temperature displays. Now that's truly "imagination at work".
But these oil guys... man, they fly in rarefied air. We can spew out all the hyperbole we want to imbue their spills and thrills, but it will never measure up. Because they're beyond explanation and calculation. They own us. They own the stuff that greases the gears that make the things that we refuse to live without. The only reason the Earth spins is because it's well-oiled. And because God has some mean b-ball skills.
OK, so forget the stats for now. I'm no different than most. Sure, I don't eat beef or poultry or keep the lights on for too long or ever lift a pump at Exxon since the Valdez bashed into the Bligh Reef. But I also don't drive a Chevy Volt yet or spend enough time rallying against the ways and means of Charles Koch, George Kaiser or Len Blavatnik, America's top crude dudes. I'm as guilty as many of us who aren't driving to the mouth of the Mississippi to use our bare bones to blockade the slick from Louisiana's already deathly sick wetlands.
But even that's not the pivotal point. A few weeks back, Arianna (Lady Huff) penned a brilliant piece about living in the age of "much worse than we thought it would be", as if these same disasters are just so perennially surprising to our political crew and to us. But as right on as Arianna's observations might be, I wonder if she's still giving us humans too much credit. I'm willing to wage that most Americans don't usually think at all. They just show up because stuff is there for them when they arrive. And that certainly includes me.
I spent well over 20 years marketing things to people. Still do to a degree. All I can tell you is that we marketers still adore the simple theory of availability. If consumers (you and I) are available, if the time is ripe and if we have some well-branded widgets ready to rock, chances are a fair sum are gonna check 'em out. However, for corporations to make this availability work like a charm they have to overcome what we call PEST (Political, Economical, Social and Technological) Factors - external forces over which, as the traditional theory goes, sellers (corporations) generally do not have control.
Well, here's the thing. Sellers actually DO have control over those pesky PEST factors. They're called lobbyists, and they are the disciples of our nation's true God, oil. Energy lobbyists contribute tens of millions of bucks during election cycles. No surprise there. The U.S. is the biggest abuser and one of the littlest suppliers of oil reserves. Maybe a surprise. But many folks don't connect the dots to the fact that the most influential members of the energy lobby are also the top polluters in the nation. SURPRISE! Eh, but who has time to think about that when TMZ has a special on Lindsay Lohan getting popped up at her local gym.
So one week Obama talks tough to the Today Show, saying "I've been spending time with experts so I know whose ass to kick." Then the next week he says, "Tonight we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America."
Are you fucking kidding me, dude? That guiding hand better be big enough to quell that goddamn well. Otherwise, stop praying and start packing. And this from a guy who campaigned for you.
This was your moment, O. And you missed it. Terribly. Unforgivably. Sure there were some vague plans and commands to ratchet up the pace, and a demand for BP to buck up $20 billion for victim support. But considering that's just one year of BP profit, it's like grounding Johnny for an hour because he beat up a group of little girls.
Why not firmly and finally hold the influencers to task, the long line of lobbyists and energy stakeholders who are at the bar waiting for happy hour to start again as soon as this asinine drilling moratorium goes away. What's next? We wait until the image of Mother Mary emerges in the slick so we know it's safe to drop the fishing nets?
Listen, if we keep waiting for God to rescue us from ourselves, I'm pretty sure by 2020 our banks will be exclusively located in aisle three of Walmart where we can arrange an interest-only loan to buy a Toyota in aisle five and fill it up at the BP station in aisle six right next to those sweet G.E. wine fridges. God, I love those things.
Follow Douglas Forbes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dougwashere