I just finished watching the Deepwater Horizon movie and as someone who grew up in the East Texas Oilfield, I felt a lot of sympathy for those men. I myself have worked for companies in the oilfield and still have friends who continue to work on the rigs, platforms, and trailers digging for black gold. So, I can speak from the heart when I say this quote. “Soldiers fight an enemy they can touch, see and kill, but oilmen fight Mother Nature, and she is one crazy bitch.”
While the movie intentionally puts the emphasis on the BP corporate people, what strikes me as being worse is it isn’t the corporations who are destroying the environment. It isn’t the men who do the drilling, who are just trying to feed and care for their families. It isn’t the accountants, middle managers, receptionists or those in the corporate mailroom who are killing us. In fact, it isn’t even the CEO or the CFO’s who are destroying the environment. Everyone is missing the point. It is the shareholders, the trust funds, hedge funds, market accounts, pension plans, these are the people who are destroying the future.
When a corporation makes a new product or has an innovation to market, it is put on the market, not to benefit the consumer or the corporation. It is to and I quote; “Add shareholder value.” When a corporation lays off hundreds of workers, what is the excuse? “To add shareholder value.” When a corporation moves operations offshore, what is the excuse then? Again, it is “To add shareholder value.”
There was a time in the past where corporations were beholden to themselves and by extension their consumers. However, if you look back at the past and when companies sold large shares of stock to raise capital, the dynamic changed. One only has to look at the railroads in the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s to see the effect. Automobile manufacturer’s, oil companies, construction firms, and more are not here for themselves, they are here for the benefit of the few that hold the shares. Corporations are judged on their share price. Google, Apple, Exxon are just a few. Remember Enron?
Yes, the system is broken and yes, it is the only system that works some of the time. However, there has to be a better way. Make corporations serve the consumers they court with their products. Allow the companies to produce value for the companies and for the consumers and not for the shareholders. No, we don’t have to resort to Communism or Socialism, but we can look for ways to make capitalism work better.
Those men on the Deepwater Horizon gave their lives for corporate and ultimately shareholder greed but they weren’t doing it for the company, they were just trying to survive in a world that is against them.