This is the fifteenth installment in Peter’s “Bum Logic” series, about his investigation into our inadvertent complicity in climate change, continued from his last post, Outlive the Bastards.
The Lenzes, my mother’s side of the bloodline, are particularly reverent when it comes to hot dogs. They steam poppyseed buns, so they are not damp but moist, tender. They boil the wieners and pluck them when they become visibly hot from the cauldron, using calipers that at one time may very well have been used in some turn-of-the-century, pseudo-scientist’s eugenic experiments. Then they add raw white onion, dill relish, hot peppers, and yellow mustard. Ketchup is verboten. But what is perhaps most remarkable about the Lenz hot dog habits is that they see fit to serve the tubular pride of the Chicago meatpacking district for breakfast on Christmas Day.
It was with a belly loaded with such a fodder that I sat before a computer attempting, as I had been for well over a month, to digest the term eco-terrorism. The chemistry must have been right, because it precipitated a cathartic Christmas miracle! I metabolized the problematic semantics, thanks in no small part to another esteemed institution of the Windy City’s Southside, Al Capone. You see, prior to slouching into a syphilitic delirium, Al announced, “Capitalism is the legitimate racket of the ruling class.” What Al was saying there was in the same vein as another thinker from his region, Aldo Leopold, author of “The Land Ethic,” which contains the quote, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Al was calling capitalism wrong; he was calling it a racket, a crime worthy of condemnation. He was being ironic by calling it legitimate. What he hoped to have understood was the dissonance between written legality and intrinsic, biotic legitimacy.
All that led me to learn of Corporate Socialism, a system that privatizes profits and socializes costs, a system which nowadays is routinely referred to as Capitalism.
A case study: It’s well known that things that announce themselves as patriotic are usually bad (the Patriot Act <cough>; the Jeep Patriot <choke/backfire>), and Patriot Coal are no exception. Patriot Coal was founded on Oct. 31, 2007. Its initial holdings were all unionized mines. Previously all those mines were owned by Peabody Energy Corp. Soon Patriot Coal acquired all the unionized mines of Arch Coal. And ker-plop—a company less than one year old had over 10,000 retirees and their health-care benefits on its books! Then, abracadabra—on July 9, 2012, Patriot Coal filed for bankruptcy. In the ensuing court proceedings those blessed patriots have made it clear that they intend to seek to reduce or eliminate their benefit obligations, which they estimate to have a total present value of $1.3 billion. Should that come to pass, the well being of those mineworkers, who sacrificed their bodies to support their families and keep coal king, will test the tensile strength of the social safety net.
For another study in Corporate Socialism, consider the perps who transport diluted bitumen (aka syn-crude, a result of tar sands extraction immediately preceding refining), through America via pipeline. They seek to define that liquid as crude oil so as to gain status as common-carriers and wield the power of eminent domain. But it isn’t crude. Crude is a liquid under normal atmospheric conditions. Diluted bitumen, if it is to flow, must be heated to a temperature of over 150°F and cut with a cocktail of thinning chemicals. When exposed to air, the liquid cools, the chemicals evaporate, and what is left sinks to below the surface of the water table. Take for example the extreme destruction and still-growing cost of the 2010 Enbridge Kalamazoo River Disaster, a spill that involved diluted bitumen. Those booms you’ve seen skimming oil from spills such as the Deepwater Horizon Fuck Up, or the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, well they don’t do diddly when the hazardous material doesn’t behave like crude, because it isn’t crude, and doesn’t float. Yet the energy industry claims they’re similar. But yet again,when filling out paperwork with the IRS, the industry defines diluted bitumen as something other than crude oil, because if it does that it is off the hook for footing the bill for the cleanup of any, inevitable, spill. Thus the commons is plunked yet again into a state of tragedy.
So another way of phrasing Corporate Socialism is Corporate Terrorism. These companies systematically use violence, or the fear of it, as a means of coercion. And the labeling of groups resisting Corporate Terrorism as “eco-terrorists” is in its own right an act of terrorism. That labeling asserts that anyone hindering the profits or kicking the gonads of brute industrialism is committing an act as reprehensible as rape, or murder, or theft, and as such deserves to be tried in a court of law on charges carrying potential sentences as severe as those levied against suspected rapists, murderers, or thieves. And if convicted they face incarceration in Communication Management Units, alongside would be shoe-bombers. The message is clear: “Resistance is futile.”
Yet that message more and more is falling on deaf ears, or is being willfully misinterpreted, as “resistance is fertile.” The alternative—inaction, apathy—is horrific. No hot dogs on a dead planet!
With that in mind, I bade my kith and kin farewell, and headed to the front-line of the struggle: Winnsboro Texas.
To be continued…
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.