It seems that everyone and their dog is donating their hair clippings to help soak up the oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico by last month’s leak at a British Petroleum-operated oil drilling platform. The hair from these philanthropic folks will help to make booms that help to absorb oil currently floating in the Gulf, taking it out of the water and out of the aquatic ecosystem.
As great as this may seem, and it certainly gives every newscaster I’ve heard talk about it warm-fuzzies, it says something about us.
This spill is quite obviously the fault of BP and its associates – the regular citizenry of the world (though complicit through their ethic of consumption) have no responsibility to clean up a mess caused by little more than the greed of those who already profit greatly from the exploitation of those resources which are the earth’s common wealth. Those donating their hair are lessening the burden on BP to take responsibility for its misguided efforts in the Gulf, though this has been disguised nicely behind the veil of altruism.
What’s more is that these people are giving parts of their body to help pay for the sins of a multinational corporation. Ringing of Christ, this action also shows us how we have been conditioned to take responsibility for the misdemeanors of those who gamble with our common trust fund. The fundamental responsibility that we feel to clean up this mess is tied in to our bodies. A gut pang of guilt, and parts of our bodies (one which in western culture is highly tied to our identities as individuals) are used as penance for wrongdoings not our own, floating in foreign waters, absorbing oil developed by money that will never trickle down.
If control of bodies isn’t oppression, then the control of our minds is. This psychological (social, cultural, and political, too) control, in this case has also levied (I should perhaps rethink that word choice) a tax on those that stand to suffer from misdeed. Power has been internalized and embodied.
Foucault would appreciate the irony.