Posted by: martinworster | June 21, 2010

92. BRITISH PETROLEUM DRILLED

…the special relationship turns sticky…

I think the advantages accorded to being a Brit living in the US are coming to an end. It used to be that when American’s knew where you were from there was always that – apart from the obvious boon of a shared language – sense of understanding kinship. ‘My great aunt is from Bedford..I love London.. Your accent is sooo cuute!’ Now the special relationship is going through a very sticky patch. And then BP decides to unleash an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico to really screw things up.

BP used to be called British Petroleum until they rebranded to BP in 1997. It’s funny, whenever I hear them referred to in conversations, in the media, even by Obama – it’s now British Petroleum, as if indirectly underlining where this spill originated from. As if somehow the country is to blame. To be fair, I haven’t felt any directly anti-British or English sentiments, but it does feel like there is an undercurrent of something brewing. Whilst I’m not quite fearing of a public lynching, I don’t think the whole Hugh Grant affable Brit schtick many of us perform out here holds quite the same cachet.

I wonder what the reaction would be if an oil company with the word ‘America’ in the title caused the same damage to the Cornish coastline – wrecking livelihoods, marine life, birds, plants, the whole ecosystem for many years? It would cause a groundswell of animosity and public vitriol. Then the worst aspects of nationalism would probably appear as people confuse the actions of a company for being somehow connected to those of the country’s citizens. I think America and American’s are constantly subjected to this kind of ignorance from the rest of the world – although it has improved tenfold since Bush left office. The notion that all American’s are gas guzzling, war mongering, gun toting bozos with no culture or history.

Then Tony Hayward, the BP Chief Executive is grilled by a Senate Special Committee panel and comes out of it looking less than salubrious. I think a lot of people here found his whole manner patronising and unhelpful. He acted like a reluctant school boy dragged in front of the headmaster to explain some foible. The heavy eyelids, monotonal answers, blank expressions – the overall air of reluctant co-operation. As the CEO of BP he is of course the man necessarily called to task for this monumental fuck up – but then the chain of command is manifold removed. It’s not directly his fault but he’s still the sacrificial lamb. You have to feel slightly sorry for him as being currently the most hated man in America. Maybe we should have got Hugh Grant to apologise, like he did after getting his knob sucked by a tranny down some Hollywood boulevard? His apology seemed to work for that sticky mess, what about this stickier one?

Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of this might be a – forgive the pun – sea change in public opinion. A weaning off from the addiction to gas (not just the American’s addiction, although they are most addicted). Stopping further drilling for oil off the coastlines. An improved awareness of all environmental issues, particularly global warming – this is the only planet we have, it is beautiful and we are fast fucking it up to beyond the point of no return.

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