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Sometimes we are presented with ideas that sound so bloody compartmentalized that it is hard to assess their overall impact and what we can expect for the future.

Recently, I have been thinking a great deal about science and how science today is used to further inequalities and to further alienate women and children from themselves. It is not a new thought but I am glad that I even realized this. After taking a women's study class my whole life seemed to change and my thoughts to gradually deepen and deepen. I am grateful for this class because it returned me to my roots of feminism.

I want to attempt to explain many observations that I have. They are not well lab rat dissected kind of scientific tallies. They are just the stories that echo at the peripherals of CNN newscasts and NBC slander sessions. They are the stories that were not told to little American children before they slept. They were stories scarier than slasher films and more real than Disney going pg13.

First, Before, I tell you about Rejoice Naidu I want to tell you that doing the right thing will always cost us less. This is not debatable. This is not a discussion. Solar power, equality, medicine, preventative health care all cost less that fixing things later. This is the truth. But that is not a truth I learned in elementary school or high school. I was taught the opposite. I was taught the political of the science and not true egalitarian science.

I have never met Rejoice so it very difficult to tell her story. I can only tell it from what I know and so I must start with the land. Rejoice was born in the Lagos, Nigeria after the first guerilla wars that sectioned off the country for oil expansion. When a company, a company with a budget larger than the country they plan to do business with is presented a contract it is difficult to analyze the impact of poor business contracts. After all, after awhile, if the company stays they begin to be the country, and even longer they begin to suffer with the country they arrived to steal from. I am not trying to be vague. The companies I am naming are Chevron and Shell who are large players in the political strife that rocks this ancient Eden which they are destroying. At first when Shell and Chevron arrived on this foreign soil, the first company explorers, the Columbus's if you will, of the 1900's, they arrived on the peripherals of history. They arrived men, all dressed in uniforms. They had tags on their outfits defitting their name and rank. In order to peacefully secure their contracts they received American military assistance in building oil fields. Building oil tankers and the like was a powerful new science then and many could not manage it very well. The employed cheap labor that was mostly uneducated about what they did. They DID NOT BUDGET IN EDUCATION. They relied on the help of those who were already educated ELSEWHERE. Because of this they did not understand the land or the ocean or why the land and the ocean worked together to create mangrove swamp in the region.

White people like to talk about living in Africa and invariably the story ends somewhat like this, "It was heartbreaking to leave. They begged me to stay, to help, but I had to leave. I could not stay any longer." I guess the stories for Nigeria will end the same. They came, they farmed oil, they left. They were begged for food, for education, for technology, for land, and it was heartbreaking. And they pitied them. And they helped them to be buried. They helped them to get aspirin for their painful deaths; they helped them to get aid for their starvation. A starvation that never went away. And eventually, after a great charity drive was put forward they were educated.

They were educated in Catholic schools. They learned agriculture. Tree crop production, obedience, Farm Power and Machinery, Crop improvement. These were the classes that they were taught. These are good classes to learn. They learned Obedience and Sense of Responsibility. Every term they were graded on their obedience and sense of responsibility.

I wonder what Rejoice thought when she got average marks in Obedience. Did she feel like a failure? Had she strived for excellence in obedience? It is hard to know.

Officially our report of the situation was that we had to have some stability in the country to do business. When we spoke of the uprising of the women and men, we spoke of them as gangsters, cheap feudal warlords whose self image could not rise above the shaking of gourds and bones on dirt paths lined in the blood of arrows, spears, and bullets. We showed pictures of fat military generals meeting with half naked tribesmen trying to restore peace to an ignorant populace.

Let me take you back farther, to when the ocean gathered back from the shore. The story should remind you of a famous Greek story about Persephone and Demeter. Kidnapped Persephone ate from the palm-i-granites in the under-world. Her mother, having failed in her compromise, only got to see Persephone 6 months of the year, and the rest she lived with her husband, Hades. Hence we have seasons. In Nigeria, the rains come up long and furious for several consistent months in the year. The ocean pounds up to the shores, stripping away the waste and saturating the strong mangrove swamps with deep buried nutrients from the ocean. This is a cyclical event, one that is vital to the relationship between the land and the ocean. The land is laid out like a giant pumpkin garden. Tall plateaus are enroded in by seasonal rivers that saturate the roots with important ocean nutrients. Traditionally, the people would leave the ocean shores during this season and when they returned a rich garden had been replenished with seeds and life. One would simply encourage the harvest. A farmer's life was easy, always. The land was made for growing rooted yams, and sweet fruits. The land only existed between rains and waves between 6-8 months of the year. The rest of the time, the storms and oceans claimed her back again so that she could purify herself again.

When the oil fields went in, they didn't bother to educate people. As is the way with American life, the engineers soon found replacements to do the work for them, but without giving them the answers for why or wherefore? For that reason, their uneducated workers always did what they were taught. They were taught to be cost effective, to save money for the company- a company whose budget for the region was larger than the entire country. They were taught that with costing lives they got promotions. They were taught to produce oil at the cheapest cost. THEY DID NOT TEACH WORKERS RIGHTS OR PROPER HEALTH AND SAFETY CODES. There were frequent oil spills. When the oil spills on the land, into the sky, into the air, into the waves, into every orifice of the earth, when it shoots from the vein of it's nutrients like blood from an artery it sprays indiscriminate. Let me explain something. Oil does help to make fertilizers but oil itself will kill everything. When the oil first was mined, it burnt down all the trees. It left a hot barren scar of land. Every year it went deeper into the land and every year the land grew back less. When it flew down the grassy plains it killed everything it touched. Bald spots upon the green Eden. It did not stop at shooting fire into the sky, or stripping earth of greenery, but it reached down into the sea and released big burps of molten Black Death. The plants, the animals, the fish all died. There was nothing to fish. When the burps below burst up into the land, the gasses filled the sky and that it was also toxic. Many fell coughing and died. The bodies piled up and bugs feasted. All that was left to resaturate the natural garden where the bodies of the villagers nearby the plants. The workers had to have vehicles to drive to work. They also had to live far enough away to survive the atrocities of daily living. The bodies of the rotting would saturate the earth and would soon replenish some of the garden for the next year. Many constitutions would not stand this, and many existences were forever extinguished. Global extinction was now a debatable scientific hypothesis.

Rejoice was born after the debate started. She learned agriculture from a western point of view. She learned to work. To use pesticides which were oil based. She learned to spray DDT to stop the bugs. She learned the proper way to handle poison, to apply poison, to be poisoned. She watched them die. They received medicine at the end, and for this she was grateful. She was happy to see them suffer less. The aid came from America. The Aid workers came from America. The teachers who taught her obedience came from America. They taught that she was lucky to receive this education, and that it she did well, she may one day be permitted a visa to leave and never return. Foreign aid became paramount for this country. Mass loans of federally mandated tax dollars were offered out. Millions upon millions to ease an exasperated preventable situation. Since the remedy was to provide food grown elsewhere, handouts of money, clothing, and medicine there became problems with the distributions of these items. There was never enough food, clothing or health care for everyone. Fertility had always been abundant in this rich paradise but now it was hell. The temperature rose steadily as the sea heated and remained heated from frequent spills. The air temperature heated, the ground heated, and everything became unbearable. Everyone sought a cool release but there was nothing. Divisions grew between Catholics and Muslims, these new obedient religions. The Aid Workers sighed at these backward uneducated people who were so greedy. They took to telling amusing stories in their houses built by these people to house them on Tins of Foreign food that had relief worker logos on it. The malnutrition was almost impossible in its growing numbers. The food had little variety and was often cooked to almost no nutrient level left. There was never any raw food delivered though technology would have allowed it, like your grocery stores packed full of lettuce from Chile and the like. Like Eli Wiesel fighting his dad for the bread of life in aushwitz, Nigerians died everywhere fighting each other for the scaps left from Shell and Chevron. All of this was preventable. Texans are not ruined from drilling for oil, technology improved, scientific wisdom improved, life expectancy increased, medicine increased, and transportation increased all due to the life saving oil coming from Nigeria. But no one ever said to Chevron that they had to follow workers safety and health regulations and keep a global standard of conduct for all American Businesses. No one ever said that any company that allowed American workers or investors had to have a certain guaranteed rubber stamped workers and safety health codes. This was all preventable. If Chevron hadn't awarded the fastest unsafe workers then the spills would not have wasted oil. Peak oil wouldn't be an issue. The land would not be polluted. Starvation might have been avoided. Disease would have been kept to a minimal and would have decreased as it has in America. Global Warming would not be a debatable subject because frequent blasts of furnaced oil to the earth, fire, water and air would not have heated an entire region of the globe. Global extinction could have been averted by proper egalitarian science studies. Chevron could have adapted by building dismantable oil fields to be in production 8 months of the year. Yes, we could have saved ourselves so much money.

Rejoice does not know that when you fill up at the tank that you are not given many options for who to get your oil from. When 3 years ago Nigerian women chained themselves naked to an oil tanker demanding schools, electricity, roads, and money grants to start business instead of fake relief aid programs, Americans did not have a choice on whether they could vote for these improvements. Congress did not pass a bill asking for loan programs for small villages in Nigeria to obtain electricity. Americans did not get to vote on whether or not Shell and Chevron should be given military aid. But Chevron did say that they would build schools.

Is it too late for Rejoice? She has gone to a technology school where she learned from our old cast off computers. She studied agriculture from our old school books using methods that further create future dustbowls. She studies an old colonialist science that doesn't believe it is safe for a white person to marry anyone of color. She studies the science of pre-loving vs. Virginia. She studies obedience and dreams of America.

Science is not bad. Science could have created a way to harvest the oil without the spills, without the greed of a junky main-lining his last fix. We could have created new building materials that allowed us to be nomadic, as we had always been in this region. Science could have allowed us to figure out a way to make everyone richer not poorer. Science did not have to be built on the backs of race wars but on principals of fraternity, maternity, and happiness.

I just celebrated the Unitarian Universalist holiday of the declaration of Independence. And as I considered the life of the great Unitarian who passionately wrote of independence from all rules of thought brought about by tyrants and despair I dream of everyone celebrating the holiday of Independence. I dream of happiness of all people. I dream of Nigeria and Ecuador, and Iraq. I dream of a system of science awakened by true observation of what is the cheapest cost. Life or profit? The truth was, and is, that it was not just Nigerians whose lives it is costing, it is all of us...

Even today the people live without schools, electricity, or roads. This is the system of science that Chevron and Shell fills your tank with.
luddism 08.Jul.2006 04:34


Thank you for that. I'm reminded of the irony inherent in the origins of the epithet "Luddite." For although today the word is used as a general term of abuse to denote anyone who is vaguely irrational and superstitious towards "science" or "progress," the original Luddites were nothing of the sort.

The original Luddites were the cotton spinners of England who worked hard to earn a decent living, only to see their trade ruined by the advent of capitalist industrialization that made their labor redundant. The mechanization of the textile industry under the terms of modern capitalism meant slow starvation and misery for countless workers. They responded by organizing in mobs to smash the machines. When apprehended and forced to identify themselves they called themselves "Ned Ludd," after a legendary character whose origins are speculative.

In all truth, the original Luddism to which we owe the current (and so unfairly used) epithet was a rebellion against the alienation and tyranny of capitalist social relations -- a system of production in which every advance in "labor saving machinery" does nothing to actually mitigate the toil or increase the leisure of any worker anywhere. Instead, because of a perverse system of social relations, every advance in the productivity of the working class brought about by innovation is appropriated by capitalists to make workers redundant.

It is the great irony of capitalism that the very productivity of the workers is a weapon of the capitalist class against them. For every increase in productivity brings with it an increase in the redundancy of the workers who produce it. "Labor saving machinery" only throws more out of work and into the "reserve army of labor," while making the lot of the remaining workers all the more desperate. They now have to toil ever harder to stay in place, since there are always more unemployed workers beating down the gates ready to take their jobs. This is the meaning of "structural unemployment," a basic feature of capitalism everywhere since its inception.

The essential truth that the original Luddites teach us is the same one that you allude to here: "Science and technology" are not merely independent, completely neutral "forces for good." Rather, their intent and application is always conditioned by the society and the people who employ them. The Luddites were no more "anti-technology" than someone who objects to having a loaded gun aimed at his head is "anti-metallurgy."

We have to decide very intentionally to make science and technology an instrument for social equity. We have to continually strive to live by the immortal watchwords of the Enlightenment: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Pretending that an "Invisible Hand" can guide our political economy in a way that somehow will serve the common good, while it is the foundational principle of the political rightwing worldwide, is also a recipe for total amorality and human catastrophe. Witness the countless disasters unfolding in our times. Or just talk to anyone who got stuck in New Orleans after Katrina struck.

About Rejoice. 08.Jul.2006 14:33

Migratory Bird

Thank you for your exchange of knowledge. I loved the term "anti-metallurgy." It is indeed an irony.

I should let you know that Rejoice is a real person, whose transcripts I really looked at and who may really be coming to america.

This is your average immigrant, screwed by colonialist racist sciences that are destroying our economy and the ecological balance of the earth.

An irony indeed that the real Luddites are the ones unwilling to explore new sciences, becuase they are too expensive. No one ever says animal testing is too expensive, but solar power is! We must re-examine clearly what we want as the basis of science. Blind faith in an old dogmatic system or the ability to shake off the old methods of science and declare aknew, I believe in these principals. I believe in democracy, myself, and in our community- the world. I am a communist, socialist, democratic, and capitalist person, and mostly anarchist. I can not see clear divisions. I have no faith in terms. I simply believe that it would cost less to do the right thing, yesterday, today and tommorrow. There is no justification for the way Chevron is conducting itself today. None. Neither does this go for Shell. If I haven't a choice in gas, if this is a monopoly which is military sanctioned then it should have to conduct itself under the codes in American law and not international laws as it is backed by the power of the American government which falls under the rule of the people.

Rejoice deserved better. We deserved better. It could have cost less.