Friday, November 14, 2003
This is another post that was prompted by my sister's experiences in Uganda. She returned to the states decrying Shell Oil and their practices. When I asked her why, she told me to research Ken Saro-Wiwa.
"WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY IS THIS?"
These were the last words spoken by a Nigerian writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, before he was hanged by the Nigerian government. Ken Saro-Wiwa led peaceful protests against Shell and their exploitation of the Ogoni land and people, his people. Trumped up charges were filed, and alongside 8 other people, he was hanged. Civil charges were filed against Shell, but I have been unable to find any results of that trial. To me this is another example of a large, wealthy corporation doing business in a small country and taking advantage of them simply because they are poor and have no real means to fight back. Yes, some jobs are provided and more money is brought into that country. And those people at first will welcome the work, now matter how squalid the conditions, because then they will have at least some income. A nice excuse is, "a bad job is better than no job". In my mind, this does not justify the abuse that is levied against these poor people. This large corporation could make a little less profit while conforming to standards accepted in developed countries and treating their new employees like real people.
Similar to sweat shops, moving jobs to third world countries leads to horrible working conditions. When they are caught, these companies like to swear they didn't know what was going on and that they never would have done business with them if they had known. And then they immediately cease their operations there. First of all, I have my doubts that no one knows the true working conditions of these jobs. Secondly, I would think a company like Shell Oil or Nike would have enough profit to make an attempt to IMPROVE a situation they were exploiting instead of ceasing all connections. Wouldn't that prove that they care about the people, like they claim, instead of just their profits, like they swear is not the case?
It's a very weak response to a terrible situation. And in the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa, it's a disgusting display of the greed and single-mindedness of these corporations and their execs. Killing men, simply because they disagreed with their treatment.
Let me put it another way. Let's say oil is found off the coast of Florida. Oil is constantly spilled into the ocean. Beaches are unusable because of the pollution that results from negligence and apathy towards the local residents. People become sick and some die from the pollution. Livelihoods are destroyed from the inaccessibility of the ocean. Protests begin forming. A charismatic leader emerges to unify the movement. He is charged for crimes it is well known he didn't commit, and is executed or hauled off to prison to never be heard from again.
Would the American people stand for this? No. It would never happen.
Why spread this story? So people know what is going on outside of this little bubble most of the people in our country live inside. To use an excuse such as, "I'm just one person. Nothing I do will make a difference." That, also, is a weak excuse. It is another way of saying "I'm lazy, and don't feel like making any change that might cause me to exert myself at all." One person can make a difference. Change has to start somewhere. What am I trying to say? Don't by Shell Oil. Don't buy big unnecessary SUVs and other fuel inefficient vehicles. Become more informed on what is going on in the rest of the world, and for God's sake stop insulating yourself!! This country is way too good at being selectively ignorant-a good way to not "know the truth" (or at least specific details) and therefore not elicit any changes from yourself. But that is a rant for another day.