Deepwater Horizon as global tipping point: our readers write
Three months have now passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher began in the Gulf of Mexico. The "spill" (as it is generally called, not quite accurately) was only last week brought under tentative and temporary control. Politicians exploit the disaster, while some environmentalists warn (hyperbolically, we hope) of a potential "Earth extinction event" if it isn't contained. Our June Exit Poll (extended into July for lack of responses) was: "Will future generations note April 20, 2010 as a greater turning point than Sept. 11, 2001?" We finally received the following responses:
From J. Everden, in Penticton, British Columbia:
This exit poll question demands an essay. I'm cynical about future generations being able to conceive of their past.
From Dennis Watts, in Anaheim, California:
I don't think any generation will remember 4/20/10. The only way they will is if a President of the United States demands the country, as a whole, end their dependence on oil. This would require a visionary leader like Roosevelt or Kennedy. I voted for Obama thinking he was a visionary. I was wrong. He's accomplished some great things against much opposition, but it's going to take someone dynamic to get this country on a new energy track. Let's be upfront.
I work at a community college. Most of the students don’t know which came first, Vietnam or WWII. If they can't remember that, how are they going to remember 9/11 or even April 20, 2010. If I believed in a God; I'd say everyone needs to pray.
From Tom Burghardt of the Antifascist Calling website, in the San Francisco Bay Area:
It depends on what you mean by "turning point." Both 9/11 and 4/20 represent the triumph of corporatist dictatorship over any notion of democracy. In the case of 9/11, the capitalist state leveraged an attack on the "heimat" (by their "renegade" proxies, no less) into a pretext to extend the Empire's global reach, enriching their cronies in the defense and security industries in a systematic program of endless wars for control of vital resources owned by other people. 4/20 on the other hand, represents the utter decadence of a system in thrall to their energy corp "friends." A silver lining? Only if the onrushing freight train of the current economic meltdown leads to the Empire's collapse.
World War 4 Report responds: The Empire's collapse could be pretty ugly. We no longer share the nihilist faith that it will lead to humanity's liberation. It could look more like A Canticle for Liebowitz... On a lesser point, you are using the word "corporatist" incorrectly—ironically, to refer to the opposite of what you really mean. The corporatist (centralist, clientelist) elements of the US system, instated in the New Deal era, have today been largely dismantled in favor of a corporate (free-trade or "neoliberal") state—that is, one dominated by the big corporations, which is what you are referring to.
From Peter N. Jones of the Bauu Institute in Boulder, Colorado:
Sorry to have missed it the first time. No, I don't think so. The environment sadly takes a distant second or third in the minds of most Americans, while "war" or "terror" seem to capture our attention and hold it for some time. I envision the Gulf Spill ending up like the Exxon Valdez spill, or even worse, the Chevron/Texaco one in Ecuador—as a quaint memory that we had to deal with but ultimately solved through technology and "better" regulations. The Gulf Spill is almost not even covered by the media anymore—we've moved on to the more "important" issues of stopping "terrorism" (such a quaint idea), "securing" our borders, and preventing "evil" in the world. Got to love the media—oh, but that is why I read the World War 4 Report!
Keep it up. When I get some extra funds, I'll pass it along.
World War 4 Report responds: Thanks. But if the Gulf disaster turns into an "Earth extinction event," it isn't going to be so easy to ignore...
From Michael Laird, somewhere in cyberspace:
April 20, 2010 can be seen as a result of 911, so I'll stick to the earlier date. Would the BP disaster have happened anyway? Perhaps, but 911 reaffirmed the one-(corporate)-party state the is the United States, in which events like this are inevitable. In any event, burning buildings and exploding oil wells may become an increasingly familiar site in the years to come. Both represent missed opportunities for real (and vital) change.
From Margery Coffey in Rosalie, Nebraska:
No. 9/11 was an instantly graphically explosive event that burned itself into the brain. This generation remembers where they were when they heard the news. Just as older generations remember where they were when Kennedy was shot in Dallas. April 20th was a creeping disaster. It slowly grew until it came to the attention of the whole world. By the time it became apparent that BP had no clue as to what to do and had badly mishandled the world's greatest environmental disaster April 20th was long gone. Even now with the disaster continuing so long it has lost the emergency shock value to multiple generations that are keyed to following the crisis of the moment not the enduring tragedy. How else could we block out the ongoing hells we have created in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our instant society cannot handle a long term tragedy. New Orleans' problems are not over and neither are Haiti's but people, by and large, are not paying attention to them any more. They have been relegated to the relief organizations that dun you for dollars on a regular basis. Coupled with the fact that 9/11 was the emergency call number for the police and 4/20 is the traditional time for pot smokers to get high, you don't even have the date working for remembrance going for it.
World War 4 Report responds: We've noted some more ominous implications of the date 4-20...
From Kim Sky in San Diego:
NO — the date has already been obscured in my mind — perhaps this is because Sept. 11, 2001 took place on one day and received ultimate media coverage. We [the media leading the charge] refer to the Oil-gusher as an "oil-spill". Yes this tragedy is still getting worse by the day.
We need no terrorists to take down the system — the system is taking itself down at quite a clip these days. The war on Iran seems to be progressing well, the economic war-on-the-world seems to be progressing rapidly too! My prognosis is: What we remember about this period in history will be something that has not yet taken place — but will be more apocalyptic than the "oil-spill".
World War 4 Report responds: Gee, thanks...
From John Hughes, somewhere in cyberspace:
No, the Earthday oil volcano wasn't the big one. We lookin for that in November.
Check out predictive linguistics at Halfpasthuman.com. Really gettin ugly, EH!
World War 4 Report responds: Once again—Gee, thanks...
From John Edley, somewhere in cyberspace:
I absolutely think that the 9/11 event will be the best remembered, although I feel that the oil spill will affect a lot of Americans, too.
From Gwendolyn Albert in Prague:
ok that will depend on how deeply 20 April impacts civil liberties, foreign policy, and travel (so far it has impacted none of these as far as I can tell?)
if it means a permanent moratorium on all underwater drilling forever and the development of genuinely clean energy, then it has the potential to be an even bigger turning point, but that does not look likely to happen
From David Mandl of the Brooklyn Psychogeographical Association:
No, they probably won't. But it is much much worse. 3000 deaths is a terrible thing, but this spill has the potential to cause vastly more harm.
From Coskun Musluk in Ankara:
Well, in fact, they should, but I don't believe they are going to. This has several reasons: First of all, the two circumstances and the context, especially the political, of the two incidents are pretty much different; secondly, we know how the "consent" is "being manufactured", thanks to Chomsky and how the media and mass-communication tools are being controlled and directed by the grand capital and their vassals, thanks to Robert Cox and many others, and we again know the way and for what goals they do use them. 9/11 began the great fear, which served as a motor for the new global regime based on the eternal power of the global monopolies, and fired the fuze of the global war bomb, under the name of "global war on terror", which is desired by the same global oligarchy, in expanse to the wealth and even lives of the world peoples. However, this event is something demonstrating directly how they destroy all our lives and our world; that's a sufficient reason for their media apparatus to conceal this incident as long as they can. Therefore, I'm pessimistic about this, but I still want to keep alive my hopes that the Humanity is going to note the great responsibility and crimes of these global criminals.
From Columbe in New York City:
No, although I personally believe that April 20 2010 is a much, MUCH GREATER turning point, I do not believe as a whole, people will acknowledge that... sadly enough
From Brian Tokar of the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vermont:
Not in the near to medium term, but perhaps for future generations. Today, the interests that have the most to gain by continuing to inflate the importance of 9-11 still control the propaganda system. If that changes, the oil disaster will be widely seen as the beginning of a decisive shift.
On the other hand, the oil mess is ongoing. The date it began has yet to imprint itself on people's consciousness. The Exxon Valdez was a huge story, but few can recall the year, much less the date it happened. For now, the militarists are a lot better at shaping perceptions of history to fit their mythology than anyone else. Perhaps that will change.
World War 4 Report responds: We wouldn't say the importance of 9-11 has been "inflated" exactly, and if you lived in New York City you might not either. That it has been exploited for the most sinister of agendas is practically superfluous to mention. We do fear that the global implications of 4-20 could end up being far greater...
From Albert Wahrhaftig, somewhere in cyberspace:
I haven't responded to the poll beause I think the question is stupid. Talk about comparing apples to orangs [sic]. Do we really want to compare an event that was wholly intentional with one that, however much it was the result of negligence, was accidental?
World War 4 Report responds: Two responses. First, we aren't talking about moral culpability—just whether the Gulf disaster will have greater long-term social impact than 9-11. That said, we do not buy this "accident" talk. When they (BP and the government "regulators") know the inevitable risks and how high the stakes are, and continue with criminally irresponsible behavior anyway, they cannot plead off that it was only an "accident." It is willful destruction of the planet. Tony Hayward and the rest should be brought before an international tribunal on ecological crimes.
From JG in New York City:
Too soon to tell. The scope of the BP disaster won't be known until next year when the well is hopefully capped and the environmental damage can start to be assessed. Ixtoc was a big disaster but not as catastrophic as initially appeared possible but the Gulf is probably more fragile now. I say "probably" because there is much we don't know about ecosystems. While humans will just muddle through the ocean itself may have a plan. That plan may not include the restoration of this "way of life" that keeps getting talked about, and as our current "way of life" also includes agribiz run off, extreme car culture and "safe" off shore drilling a better gauge might be how much the BP disaster effects the American psyche. Bush and co. used 9/11 to push their brutal incompetent agenda, Obama doesn't have an agenda so there will be no concerted push from the top. My current guess is: Baring a catastrophic ecological tipping point, which may be in the cards, the BP disaster will be replaced in the zeitgeist by a changing of the channel in the numb 24 hour spectacle to... the mid term elections, jobsjobsjobs, the extreme right wing electoral split, Russian spies ... etc ... though the fouled beaches and depressed property values will make the news on and off for years to come.
World War 4 Report responds: The ocean has a "plan"? Shades of Solaris...