Believe me, I’ve jumped on the “we hate corporations” bandwagon just as much as anyone else. They drove our economy into the ground, they’re fighting our wars for us, and now they are determining our elections. But really, I’d like to throw my hat in on the Nathan Martin side of this little Patrol Magazine debate (even contra some of my most respected friends’ rebuttals). I’m tiring of the daily “how else can we make BP pay for this? How much farther can we shove the rod up their you-know-whats?” comments. I really do feel like we are unleashing our pent-up collective anger on this one corporation. This isn’t about BP. It’s not about the environment. It’s about the empowerment of the common man. We want to feel like our frustrations can give rise to action at the highest levels of power. And we’ve chosen BP as our catharsis, it seems.

Honestly (I know I’m going to get so much crap for this), since day one, I’ve actually been shocked at the honesty, responsibility, and yes, even humility that BP and its executives have displayed. Granted, this is humility relative to the brazenness of other corporate executives we’ve watched as of late: the Wall Street executives with their flagrant displays of arrogance and disdain for the customers who made them as wealthy as they are.

First, let’s talk post-spill. I honestly can’t tell you what BP could have done differently. They immediately took responsibility and began the cleanup effort. They said they would pay all legitimate claims of those affected by the spill. They have bowed to every whim and inclination of the President. Yes, there have been some exhibitions of their own humanity with a few ill-chosen words during press conferences, but nothing egregious if not taken out of context. 

Further, we really can’t blame them for those failed attempts at plugging this thing. It was the nature of the beast, and no one had any experience with this type of issue prior to this event. No amount of money, resources, government pressure, or “feeling of moral culpability” could have plugged it faster. Really–all you who are so angry with them–what would you have them do differently? What on earth do you think a “moral” oil company (or “moral” oil disaster response) is supposed to look like? All this “moral” outrage talk just seems a bit over-the-top to me.

Pre-spill. Now I’m entirely open to be proven wrong about this, but my intuition–my hunch–is that BP is no more reckless than any other oil company. They basically follow the rules that are in place, try to skim as much of a margin off their product, and lower their costs wherever they can. Welcome to capitalism. Statistically speaking, we’ve been really lucky with our lack of disasters like this. Our dependence on oil means that we have countless opportunities for accidents to happen all over the world everyday, and their relative infrequency should be seen as a blessing. This type of disaster was going to happen one way or another. BP just happened to pull that straw. If we don’t want this kind of thing to happen, the answer is not to destroy one of the biggest oil companies in the world, it’s to get off of oil dependence. It is our culture and consumption that creates these disasters–not the “reckless and evil” oil company. It is not in their interest to allow this kind of thing to happen, so to act as if they just couldn’t wait to rape the Gulf is naive at best.

On to Obama. I’ve actually lost more and more respect for him as he’s been tougher and tougher on BP. He started on the right tack with the situation by expressing sorrow about the spill and dedication to looking over BP’s shoulder to make sure they didn’t screw the little guy in all of this. But other than that, hands off. BP really does have more resources and knowledge to clean this up than the federal government. It looks like Obama’s entire position  has been based on popularity polls. Just because people are angry and want more done doesn’t mean that their anger is right, justified, geared towards the proper ends, or deserves to be acted upon. Obama is losing my confidence in this, not gaining it.

Lastly, the environment. I think next week I’ll start some sort of series on my personal blog outlining a balanced theology of Creation (with ideas like postmodernity and evolution in mind), but here’s the basic gist: yes, we as humans need to feel a greater responsibility for this planet. But, at the same time, we should see Creation itself as far more resilient than we give it credit for. This means that our posture should not be one of sympathy– the poor, old Earth needs our help to keep spinning–but one of respect. The Gulf will bounce back from this. It may become a different ecosystem entirely, which yes, will probably hurt human businesses, but they too will adjust. It’s called evolution: adaptation in response to change. The world was built and is sustained by it. This does not diminish our responsibility, nor the imperative for us to respect it; rather, it gives us perspective and helps us be reasoned.

So, in short, let’s just get this job done and recover from it. Please let BP do what it has the resources and commitment to do and stop trying to destroy them. Doing that doesn’t get the mess cleaned up any faster, nor does it help anyone’s economy recover. All it does is attempt to manipulate numbers in political polls, and that should be a point of moral outrage if I ever saw one.

What are your thoughts?

About The Author

Paul Burkhart

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