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writing for godot

Macondo: Requiem for BP a.k.a. British Petroleum

Written by George C. Glasser   
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 21:12
(“One hundred years of refusing to acknowledge the world outside of their village had destroyed them; and races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on Earth.” Gabriel García Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude).

In many ways, BP’s rise and impending fall metaphorically mirror the rambling, fatalistic plot of Marquez’s classic novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

BP named the ill-fated oil well “Macondo,” which was simply a code name chosen at random for the project that no one ever thought about much. However, retrospectively, it is as if the name was attained by consulting an oracle, and at that instant, the oil well and BP’s destinies were inextricably linked.

Macondo was not just any innocuous name randomly plucked out of a hat filled with different names. Macondo contained an ominous message - an intrinsic message of an apocalyptic nature that would come to pass if unheeded or unrecognised.

Macondo was the name of the cursed village in Marquez’s novel, which in the end, every last trace of the village and its inhabitants were swept away by a violent storm.

“It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay.”*

From the onset, people working on the drilling platform said the Macondo well was troublesome, unpredictable, and one concerned worker even told his wife that it was a “cursed well.”

The project was running over budget and behind schedule because of numerous problems and unforeseen setbacks. However, despite the many bad omens, BP choose to ignore the risks, pushed onwards, and took even more risks to cut costs until 20 April 2010 – the apocalyptic day of reckoning for BP - the fiery beginning of the end.

“It was the last that remained of a past whose annihilation had not taken place because it was still in a process of annihilation, consuming itself from within, ending at every moment but never ending its ending.”*

The strange, almost prophetic parallel to Marquez’s novel is that BP as an entity is 100 years old and is the last intact vestige of the once great British Empire. And like Macondo in the novel, BP incestuously isolated itself from reality in a nationalistic cocoon – British tradition – safely tucked in the folds of Benjamin Disraeli and the Marquess of Salisbury’s policy of “Splendid Isolation.”

BP was born 14 April 1909 during the British Empire heyday and was originally named Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Today, BP is the fourth largest corporation in the world. They produce over one-tenth of the global oil supply.

In 1923, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company secretly gave Winston Churchill £5,000 to lobby the British government to allow them to monopolize Persian oil resources.

Shortly after that, the British government and the Bank of England were the controlling shareholders with 75% of the action.

In 1935, it became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC).

Essentially, the British government controlled the whole moneymaking show with aid of puppet regimes it installed by subterfuge or instigated coups d'état.

After WW 2, things began to go south for the British control of Iranian oil and the Empire was falling apart.

In 1951, the Iranian government nationalized the oil industry and gave the Brit imperialists the boot. Subsequently, the British government which owned the AIOC contested the nationalization at The Hague (International court), but the case was dismissed.

Desperate to regain control of the oil money, the almost bankrupt British (post WW2) government conspired with the American government and instigated a coup d'état known as “Operation Ajax” in 1953. They overthrew the Iranian government and installed in a pro-western regime. However, part of the deal was that AIOC had to divide spoils between the coconspirators thus loosing their Iranian oil monopoly.

In 1954, British government owned AIOC rebranded itself as British Petroleum, and in 1959, British Petroleum began to reestablishing the British Economic Empire by exploiting Alaska’s vast oil reserves and drilling in the North Sea.

To make a long story short, British Petroleum went through a number of changes including privatization by Maggie Thatcher and downsizing process in the 1980s, but they never lost the taste for expansion, and made aggressive acquisitions of other oil companies and expanded, but in reality, BP was in financial trouble.

In 2001, British Petroleum decided to do a major ‘greenwashing job and rebranded with an iconic green flower logo and became BP whose slogan was “Beyond Petroleum.” However, like any criminally inclined organization, BP set up divisions that were legitimately Green, but their list of criminal, safety, environmental, and international human rights violations on the oil side of business continued to pile up unabatedly.

In spite of cost cutting, greenwashing, sacking employees, and even with BP’s aggressive market approach, in the early twenty-first century, BP was still in financial trouble.

By 2007, BP was still in financial trouble and Tony Hayward came to the forefront – Hayward was essentially a hatchet man. Between 2007 and 2010, he cut BP’s operating costs by 40% and sacked thousands of employees. But under his reign, BP was now making record profits, and like the Phoenix, BP rose from the ashes and seemed invincible until the day of reckoning.

20 April 2010, not only did the Macondo curse come to pass, but also BP’s wretched history uncontrollably belched forth like the oil gushing from deep within Mother Earth’s punctured belly.

In the US, aside from the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, BP is best known for the Texas City blast in 2005, but the actual list of violations and criminal charges go on and on – too numerous to mention.

BP was a company driven to succeed and become the world’s largest corporation at any cost; and the fines and criminal charges were just the cost of achieving that goal – the cost of building the new British Empire. Their insatiable drive was not only about the money; the underlying psychological mindset was that the UK would once again become the most influential country in the world by controlling the global oil supply.

BP is last powerful vestige of the old British Empire still operating today; however, like with the village of Macondo; all good things must come to an end.

BP will never regain any of its former glory or reputation, and only exist relentlessly haunted by the specter of the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe for which no amount of greenwashing will ever cover - it is BP’s black legacy.

From the very beginning, 100 years ago, BP’s fate was predetermined by its own incestuous, nationalistic nature, much the same as with the cursed village of Macondo in Marquez’s novel. Its annihilation began with its inception, and the Macondo well is the storm that will wipe BP from the earth.

Epitaph for BP:

“Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirages would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men…”*

(Quotes from “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”) your social media marketing partner
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