A little more than twenty years ago, Phil Collins (no relation) released the first song from his …But Seriously album, “Another Day In Paradise.” In the context of the times, it was part of a series of pop music songs that sought to arouse a social justice consciousness in the late-’80s, to stem the “Greed is good” culture that had evolved during the Reagan Years. Though overwrought and a bit like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer, “Another Day In Paradise” — a song about homelessness in America — was the final #1 hit of the ’80s, and the first one of the ’90s as well.
That song has as much relevance today as it did twenty and a half years ago, and not just with the issue of homelessness. The current BP oil deluge crisis, the manipulation of the housing market, our growing personal and national debt, even the tampering with our food by corporate giants like Tyson, Monsanto, and Con-Agra. All fall into the paradigm of a society faced with ills of its own making yet in nearly complete ignorance of its own participation in these disasters. Our addiction to oil is stronger than any individual’s addiction to crack cocaine or crystal meth. The housing market and our net debtor status reflects greed run amok and nearing the speed of light. And the food crisis — with the obesity and health crisis it has created — is an indication that our narcissism and greed knows no bounds.
Progressives and others on the left — people even more left than me — tend to act as if these corporations aren’t affected by their own evil decisions and policies, that the ills that they have created will only affect our adult children and grandchildren. In fact, that’s how our representatives in government talk as well. But, as we are seeing with the pictures of oil and mud-soaked pelicans and turtles, that’s simply not true. What’s been happening to our environment, energy, food and economy affects all of us, rich and poor, now, not in twenty or fifty years, but now.
The rich can and do clean up the crap that affects us all better than we can because they have the money to do so. But they still breathe the same polluted air, eat the same GMO foodstuffs — especially if they run Monsanto and Con-Agra — and drink the same contaminated water that we drink. They’re just too rich and ignorant to realize that we’re all in the same rickety boat, and that with each windfall profit, their putting the nails in their own coffins too.
The lyrics to Phil Collins’ song go something like this at the end:
You can tell from the lines on her face
You see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
Cause she didn’t fit in there
Except the “she” in the way I see these lyrics today isn’t a homeless woman. It’s the riches of our planet, as we rape and torture it into what we hope is submission, ignoring the signs that the consequences for our greed are already too high for us to pay. Our paradise world has already been turned into a living hell for millions all over the world — from half-century-long oil spills in Nigeria (see In Nigeria, Oil Spills Are a Longtime Scourge – NYTimes.com ) to the half a million victims of the Union Carbide toxic gas leak in Bhopal, India in ’84. With Katrina in ’05 and this BP disaster this year, maybe this is only our procrastination, incompetence, narcissism and greed chickens coming home to roost.