I Wonder What the Small People Are Doing!


I’ll never forget the history professor who was a former Marine and almost certainly shaved with a hunting knife. Equally fluent in Latin and rifles, a class never went by without some outrageous bon mot, leaving us stunned, angry…and often delighted. There were the wildly inappropriate comments about women, women’s gams, whiskey, American cars, and vegans, but the finest insults were reserved for what he called “boys in the big club”: the super-rich or, the people who tell our Congress what to do.

One strikingly sober evening in class, he pitched his cowboy boot on the seat of an empty desk, stroked his jaw thoughtfully, and said, “Let me tell you something. If you want to break the law and avoid jail, break the law big. The more you cost, the more they want to keep you out of there. The lesson is: Go big, really big!”

Darth Madoff notwithstanding, this theory looks to be true. For here, today, we have elected representatives like Joe Barton of Texas outraged, positively seething with impotent fury by the oil spill destroying the economic and environmental viability of millions of…er, scratch that. They’re outraged by President Obama’s “shakedown” of British Petroleum (BP) for a $20B escrow account to begin to address the horrific damage to the Gulf. Nevermind that Team Oil hasn’t even stopped the leak yet or that criminal charges would surely be many times that sum. This nervy move is Chicago-style politics, whatever that is, and did you hear Obama wears fancy pants called khakis? Oh. Em. Gee. We are so not texting him anymore. And you just know he’s personally going to buy even more fancy pants with that undeserved largess.

Mr. Barton: Truly, farts are more useful.

As far as I can tell, “shakedown” in this case appears to mean “being held accountable for your actions,” and if corporations are persons as our Supreme Court holds, why shouldn’t they be? Please to enlighten, Mr. Barton. What you mean?

Perhaps it’s because they aren’t small enough. After all, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said, as quoted in The New York Times, “I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care. But that is not the case with BP. We care about the small people.”

Welcome to press conferences with Carl. How charitable of him, right? It got me thinking about small people and frankly, feeling kind of embarrassed, especially for all those pajama-pants bloggers freaking out. Facepalm! Small people just don’t get it. We don’t understand that oil is a natural thing. Because it’s from the earth! Also, accountability is mean and gross.

Carl must wonder what the small people are doing these days. Obviously not much, or they’d be big.

The main problem with the small people is that they are kind of ungrateful. All they do is take, take, take. They take the bus because gas is too darn expensive, they take being fired because they took six hours off to take their hormonally-imbalanced plastic-gumming toddler to the emergency room because their HMO doesn’t take these kinds of cases…see the theme here? Taking. Versus HMOs, which don’t take. Which makes sense, because HMOs are corporations!

It’s an intelligence gap. We small folk don’t understand that corporations are the best thing for us, and therefore should not have to take actual responsibility for bad things that happen as a direct result of their existence, unlike me and the tickets that were a direct result of some adventurous parking choices this spring. You could say I need heavy regulation. And you know what? It works!

But it’s different for the big people because corporations give us arrrrr jobbbbbs! Super awesome jobs with health insurance and vacations to keep us off Prozac and out of drive-throughs but most of all, the jobs from corporations that give us clear water and clean air and edible shrimp. Because this spill? It is a fluke! In the perfect world we don’t actually live in at all, this just doesn’t happen. The corporations and the rules are totally great just the way they are because, again, in the world we don’t live in, they work perfectly! And anyone who says differently is a Rush Limbaugh parody song.

Oh, me. If only my small-people brain were a big-people brain, it could comprehend these multiple universes and find the one where the Gulf is still clean.

Today, after initially complaining that he just wants his life back and subsequently being heavily shushed so Small People Svanberg could handle company communications, BP CEO Tony Hayward expressed his devastation live before Congress. That is terrific. As a small person, I could only feel more satisfied if it came with an order of fries. Give me empty words, or give me American Idol!

Not surprisingly, this whole mess is the fault of the engineers or something, and Hayward didn’t have any dealings with those people. Wait a minute. Engineers are small people! It’s just too easy.

Per his usual, Jon Stewart does the media’s job this week, with his team digging up archived footage of not one, not two, not three but eight U.S. Presidents – going back to Nixon – thundering on camera that energy independence is a priority and will be achieved by 1980 1985 1995 2004 2025…

It’s painful.

“Fool me once, shame on you,” Stewart said. “Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me eight times — Am I a f–king idiot?”


There’s a wonderful line in the song “Backwards Walk” by the Scottish band, Frightened Rabbit, that goes: “You’re the sh*t and I’m knee deep in it.”


EcoSalon will be publishing a picture a day of the Gulf oil spill, every day, until the leak is fixed.

Submit pictures to us: spill at ecosalon dot com

Image: AOL News

UPDATE 2:21 PST: That was fast. Joe Barton formally retracts his apology to BP.

UPDATE 1:33 PST 6/21/10: Hayward spent the weekend on a yacht. Racing it.