Month 5, Day 11: Righteous Anger!

I heard BP CEO Tony Hayward’s little interview on CNN. So I wrote him a letter. I’m going to email it to BP’s press office, mail it to BP’s home office, and send another copy into outer space: Hayward is described as living “near Sevenoaks, Kent, United Kingdom.” So I’m going to address an envelope just that way and send it. It’s too bad that the very rich and powerful (see Cheney, Richard) cannot be located by the people whose lives they influence.

Dear Mr. Hayward —

I was distressed to listen to your brief interview on CNN in which you brushed aside questions about British Petroleum’s willingness to assume greater liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Senator Ben Nelson, commenting on your appearance, said that he had no confidence that your corporation would waive the $75,000,000 limit of damage liability — that is to say, he had no confidence that British Petroleum would do the right thing.

Because, Mr Hayward, abdicating your corporate responsibility for a disaster you caused is the wrong thing to do. To be sure, such a selfish and irresponsible action will no doubt be viewed favorably by BP’s stockholders, whose losses will thereby be mitigated.

And that, sir, is why, more than politicians, corporations are feared and reviled by the great majority of the world’s population. Because a group of shareholders dispersed in multiple locations around the planet can influence corporate behavior in ways that will condemn entire communities and ecosystems to an oil-soaked oblivion. Because the profit imperative drives corporate behavior; because corporations don’t have to eat petroleum-poisoned fish; because corporations have no consciences; because while British Petroleum may pump oil from the Gulf of Mexico it does not mean that British Petroleum “feels” any responsibility for the damage it’s done — because corporations don’t feel anything.

And because you have elected to surrender your humanity to the profit motive and become the nominal leader of a corporation, it means that the image of an oil-soaked seabird gasping its last breath is not a grotesque and horrifying atrocity, but a Public Relations problem. The public must be distracted from the dead birds, from the poisoned fish, from the devastated ecosystems, from the crippled industries, from the blighted bays.

Let me tell you something, Mr Hayward. This time, the public won’t be distracted. British Petroleum created one of the greatest environmental catastrophes our planet has yet experienced. It is obvious in retrospect that your corporation was ill-prepared for any eventuality other than the optimal one; it is increasingly obvious that your corporation’s record of compliance with even the weakest safety and environmental regulations is abysmal. This is your disaster, and there are thousands of people throughout the world who will not rest until everyone knows that British Petroleum refused to pay to clean up the mess it created.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and your corporation will act decisively in the public interest. I hope so; demonstrating that BP takes its responsibilities seriously would give the citizens of the world an example of corporate good citizenship. But if I were a betting man, my money would be on “irresponsible, avaricious sociopathy.”

Are you going to prove me wrong?

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *