Tony Hayward, BP executive, famously said, “I want my life back,” after 11 workers died and the huge oil leak disaster was unfolding. He also mentioned that the size of the oil spill was tiny compared to the size of the ocean. True, but meaningless in this context. Remind you of anyone?

Reminds me of President Bush’s FEMA chief, Michael Brown. “Can I quit now? Can I come home?” That’s part of an e-mail he wrote to Cindy Taylor, FEMA’s deputy director of public affairs, the morning Hurricane Katrina made landfall. A few days later, Brown wrote, “I’m trapped now, please rescue me.” His press secretary suggested that he roll up his shirt sleeves to give the impression that he’s hard at work.

I’m not sure what conclusions to draw here except to note the incredible lack of empathy in both cases. Death and destruction seem to be annoyances more than anything else. Both men seemed indignant that their PR departments couldn’t handle the problem and they were forced to pay attention to it. Human beings; what are we going to do with them? What are our chances are of getting through the next century when the twin demons of global climate change and population growth require unprecedented co-operation and empathy? Sorry about that.


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