Why We Can’t expect BP to Care

As if we needed another reason to hate BP.  Now it seems that the British Petroleum Corporation might have applied its considerable corporate pressure in assuring the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison last year.   If that name doesn’t exactly ring a bell, here’s some help — PanAm bombing, Lockerbie Scotland, 1988, 270 people dead, Libya, terrorism.  Add those all together and you get Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was released a year ago (to the astonishment of many Scots, Brits, and Americans) based on a doctor’s statement that he had advanced pancreatic cancer and three months to live.  He received a hero’s welcome in Libya where, by the way, he is still very much alive, and now doctors are saying he can live at least another 10 years.

Why would BP do this?  For one reason only: a 900 million dollar oil deal with Libya.

A while back, my Tea Party friend (yes, I do have one) asked me, after a rather heated exchange, “Just what do you have against big business?”

What I WANTED to say was, “Where would you like me to start?”  But, instead, in order to keep peace, I said, “I have nothing against big business, per se, but . . .” and then I’m sure I went into some watered-down attempt at civility which didn’t really make my point at all.

So, better late than never, here is what I have against big business.  Capitalism in its pure form, the form so blindly adherred to by the Tea Party Crowd, the form that follows only the god of the bottom line, the form that would see the devastation in the Gulf as primarily an image problem, that form of capitalism simply has no heart.

As I understand it, the IRS views a corporation as an individual.  I can’t speak to the validity of that on a corporate finance level, but on a human level it’s just plain wrong.  An individual takes her choices to bed at night, turns them over and over in the old noggin, has difficulty sleeping if those choices negatively impact others.  An individual watches a commercial for an organization feeding hungry children or rescuing unwanted dogs and reaches for his debit card.  An individual feels something akin to nausea when an oil-covered bird or a beached dolphin makes the evening news.

A corporation is a group of people consciously agreeing to a mob mentality and taking the unbreakable vow, “My company, right or wrong.”   It inherently has no heart.  The closest it can come is by having leaders of integrity, a board that values compassion, and stockholders who openly admit that money isn’t everything.

Perhaps Alan Greenspan is shocked that corporations won’t regulate themselves, but I’m certainly not.  Saddened, but not shocked.  Because capitalism has no heart.  You can’t really expect a purely capitalistic society to actually act human, can you?

My Tea Party friend loves to reduce things to the lowest common denominator.  If I blast BP, then I must be against big business.  (It’s apparently a contagious illness in politics; this same don’t-make-me-think-too-much-please-keep-things-simple reduction is the red meat of the Limbaugh-Beck-Palin crowd.)  But it’s just flat-out wrong.  I’m not against big business.  I just don’t want to make it king.

Make money.  Hell, get filthy rich.  But here are the rules, and here is the corner of our society in which we’ll let you play them.  You don’t get to trample over the whole of who we are just to get what you want.  We can’t rely on you to have a heart, corporate world; we know you don’t.  That’s okay.  But we want a society ruled by compassion, and that’s why we have to keep you in your place.   Don’t take it personally.

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