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May-31-2010 14:59printcomments

American Uprising?

If the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t wake up the American people, then nothing will.

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(CALGARY, Alberta) - At mid-morning on a Saturday, November 1, 1755, an estimated magnitude 9 earthquake destroyed Lisbon, Portugal.

There were between 10,000 and 100,000 people killed. The quake, subsequent fires and tsunami (the epicentre was 120 miles WSW of Cape St. Vincent) killed indiscriminately—young and old, rich and poor, men, women and children—no matter their station in life.

The people of Europe asked a collective “Why?” and the Church could not stop itself from giving the routine answer—God was punishing sinners.

The people knew this answer to be absurd on its face. Lisbon wasn’t much of a sinning town; not compared to London, Paris or Madrid. But more to the point, thousands of the women and children were poor. Who could imagine them being sinners on a scale sufficient to justify the alleged “punishment”?

This was a defining moment in the history of Europe. People found themselves loosened from obligations to believe whatever the religious and secular authorities handed out. The Church, in particular, lost much of its power to give or withhold moral sanction on the way people lived their lives.

Fast forward

On April 20, 2010 an explosion on a BP drilling platform killed 11 workers—a horrendous tragedy in itself, and not to belittle those deaths, the subsequent flow of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil in the Gulf, with no end in sight, may well turn out to be the an ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions.

The ripple effect will be immense. Compare it to the rabbits of Australia.

It started in 1859 when Thomas Astin released 24 wild rabbits onto his property—rabbits that were not native to Australia and had been imported from England. He released them so he could hunt and said at the time: "The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting."

Within ten years, the rabbits had become so numerous that two million could be shot or trapped each year without having a noticeable effect on the overall rabbit population. It was the fastest spread ever recorded of any mammal anywhere in the world. Today rabbits are entrenched in the southern and central areas of the country, with scattered populations in the northern deserts.

The rabbits are not a comparison, but rather an example of how little things can be unpredictably magnified into previously unimaginable results. Ecosystems—both local and global, are incredibly fragile balances and no one knows how small things can turn into major disasters. We can’t even imagine what is happening to the Gulf water and the seabed; the coastline and all the millions of people who are going to be affected both directly and indirectly in unpredictable and unimaginable ways.

We can make one comparison to the rabbits: We may soon arrive at the point before long when no matter how many thousands of barrels of oil are scooped up, nullified or recovered, it will have no noticeable effect on the overall devastation.

Who’s to blame?

Barack Obama blames BP (which appears to have cut corners to save time and costs). BP blames Transocean, the rig operator, for mishandling the rig's blow-out preventer. Transocean blames the well's cementing team, which in turn implicates Halliburton. If BP were a Japanese company, the top executives would already have publicly apologized before resigning. (And I wouldn’t be surprised at a few suicides among them, as well. The shame would be overwhelming.)

A defining moment for the American people?

Just as the Lisbon earthquake opened the eyes of so many Europeans to how they were being ruled by illegitimate forces, so it’s possible in this case that the American people may wake up and realize that their governments and the corporations, are delivering to them a bill of goods and not serving the public interest.

There are elections in November and a roused electorate may actually take their country and their government back from the illegitimate money forces that have already brought the country to its economic knees. (Tea Party activists need not apply as they are just another version of the current illegitimate corporate overseers).

But this is also a wake-up call to the American people to do something about their addiction to oil. It’s too expensive.

Here in Alberta we have the Tar Sands; equally vulnerable, just in different ways. The Alberta government has also handed the environment over to the private sector—BP among them.


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place

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UrKiddingRight June 4, 2010 9:45 am (Pacific time)

Daniel Johnson is a master at condemning everyone and everything, but without proposing anything in the affirmative. It keeps him above criticism.

This series of articles by Mr. Johnson is becoming pretty predictable. Whatever the selected subject matter, other people are stupid and outrageous, and/or situations are obviously catastrophic and history making but only recognizable as such by Mr. Johnson.

My goodness, if only we, the people of the entire planet, or at least the United States, had the wisdom to designate Daniel Johnson as dictator. All would then be right and good.

Thanks for calling me a master. I appreciate your support. 

Vic June 4, 2010 8:05 am (Pacific time)

Daniel...I like your idea, but if I were Canadian, Id fight it with every ounce of my being.

Vic: Not sure what idea you're referring to. Can you clarify, please? 

Mr. Cadabra June 1, 2010 10:34 pm (Pacific time)

Please don't delete this for being non-relative to the article, but... People are a manifestation of the natural order(evolution[nix mystics])of the world and it is impossible for us to act in an unnatural way. Is this oil spill not just another affect of the human cause? Sure, it is dangerous and an issue and something to talk about and something to debate; but what is wrong with it(historically)? Is it not the product of an organism striving for survival and well-being and dominance in conflict with its own species and the rest of the total ecosystem? Why are we the stewards of the planet? Ants(Formicidae) not only outnumber us, but outweigh us. Are we the only planet? What if OUR nature has run it's course? I admire how we are so concerned about and able to change ourselves and our surroundings. However, we have to ask ourselves, are we not just acting out our part in the Cosmos? We should stop this spill, it hurts the hill.

Vic June 1, 2010 6:53 am (Pacific time)

It would be great if something...ANYTHING..would wake the American people up enough to realize that things have to change...big time, and it isnt going to happen at the ballot box as long as we have the two-party farce.. Real significant change will be resisted by all the powers of the state, and that is where everyone loses interest.Thankfully our ancestors had the balls to fight back or we'd all still be subjects of the crown...

Vic: Considering the state of American politics and the extreme polarization, I wonder if you wouldn't be better off or at least no worse off, if the U.S. had instead become a Dominion like Canada. We have our problems and limitations, for sure, but perhaps the American problem is that it became a "republic" with a whole different set off issues that obviously have not been adequately addressed. 

Think about it. The entire territory north of Mexico would be one "nation". The territory of Canada is resource rich. But with a parliamentary democracy, there would be no Democrat/Republican polarization. We have two main parties here in Canada, but over the last half century, sometimes they don't achieve majorities so that minor parties, like the NDP, (the socialist party), exists to keep them honest. 

Henry Clay Ruark May 31, 2010 8:12 pm (Pacific time)

Friend D.J.: IF technology created this debacle, then technology can --and will-- ultimately solve it, probably with even more technology. BUT it is man-made arrogance and denial of known governance principle and essentials that have, as consequence of that arrogance, allowed this to occur. There's simply no possible question that regulation gave way to complicity, via illicit gifts/sex/bribes in various forms, found acceptable by those chosen by former foolish administration now known for progressive denigration of any governance via lax or no force behind regulation where it was still in place and not already removed --as prime/potent act by direct predecessor several terms earlier, with hold-over deeply responsible for these attitudes, on record per PNAC. Denial is as deadly as we now know arrogance re natural force to be...and we chose to allow both to happen. BUT Americans are ALREADY AWAKE, ALREADY AWARE of malign corporate money-force and misbegotten incompetence via political foolish-choice --as already demonstrated. Longterm results will be as you say "unpredictable" BUT even a Canadian far North of American realities should see that consequences are ALREADY WORLDWIDE,will become more-so, and worldwide governance on such shattering issues become inevitable by stronger actions via either the UN OR something new, different, inevitable.

Brad Johanson May 31, 2010 6:22 pm (Pacific time)

As a Canadian I find it amusing that another Canadian is telling our neighbors to the south what they should do, when it is we who are about to run over an economic cliff. If you Americans learn one thing from this BP oil spill, it is that you are capable of overcoming this catastrophe, whereas you are the only nation in the world that will actually come out of it stronger. You need no advice from foreigners, none. Good luck and Godspeed, and please ignore those who question your incredible capacity to overcome adversity.
Brad: I've deleted the balance of your comment because it has exactly zero to with my article. I appreciate your taking the time to comment. I made no reference in my piece as to what Americans should do. Your comments were not censored. they would be appropriate for an article on health care.

As for Americans having an incredible capacity to overcome adversity, what is happening in the Gulf is beyond technology to solve. I fear it may be one of those unprecedented events caused by hubris--the belief that whatever technology can create it can also uncreate. That's why I put in the lesson of the Australian rabbits. If Astin were to do today, what he did in 1859, I don't think the rabbit explosion could even now be prevented. The long term results of the BP accident are unpredictable and, I suspect, they will be dire, adversely affecting the lives of virtually all Americans. My point is simple: This may wake them up to the fact that their governments and their corporations act for their own limited interests and not for the public good, even tangentially.

If you wish to comment further on this theme, please do so and carry on the discussion. 

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