Dan has (for reasons that only he and god know) given me the ability to guest-blog in his absence. And what better temp could there be for Dan than a heterosexual, libertarian-ish, atheist… Might I add that I’m not a doctor... that I merely diddle around in the ivory tower?
Our local BP station is a nice shop. The mechanics seem really to know their stuff and it has the warm feel of a “mom and pop” shop (as much as any automotive garage can). It’s a small business run by real people from “Main Street.” Ultimately, though, the masterminds of the current catastrophe in the gulf are behind it, collecting revenue, enjoying profits. In a recent fit of anger directed, not at my local shop, but at BP the corporation (or at least some fuzzy idea of the gargantuan entity responsible for the current catastrophe) I was tempted to “boycott” BP, i.e., stop filling my tank and getting my cars repaired there. But I wondered, what did the local owner do to deserve that, or the hard workers in the garage barely eking out a living? Assuming that BP acted negligently, weren’t these workers participating in the BP franchise mislead too? Didn’t they trust BP to conduct their practices safely and responsibly? If so, should they be punished for the misdeeds of their ultimate owners?
On the one hand, we certainly don’t want to punish these folks. They’ve done nothing wrong but might well suffer from a boycott, or at least a boycott with any significant impact (whether or not boycotts actually wind up effecting any change in the first place is a different issue -- it’s a matter of “principle”). On the other hand, those responsible need to be held accountable, and perhaps we shouldn’t continue to support the BP Corporation, even if it means that some innocent folks would suffer by losing jobs.
In that regard, I don’t think a boycott of BP is as insensitive to the worker as it might seem at first glance. Consider: if you work for an employer who, unbeknownst to you, engages in criminal activity, would you really want people to continue to support the employer just so you can retain your employment (think Enron or Bernard Madoff)? Even if BP’s actions aren’t accurately characterized as criminal, BP erred royally. And erring royally even with with the best of intentions shouldn't allow you to keep your job, especially when public safety is at stake on a large, perhaps even global, scale. It might be difficult for the innocent workers who participate in the BP franchise to restructure their lives, however, that does not seem like an adequate excuse for not taking action against the BP corporation.