‘The Shark Within Us’
An early satellite image, when scrutinized carefully, revealed a shark. Partially curled in on itself, as if suddenly caught in a diving turn, emergent in a vast plume of oil gushing up from the murky depths of the Gulf of Mexico.
Ah, I thought, prowler, predator, hunter and always with a glint in the eye – for gain.
The dark oil, depicted as a shark, relentlessly devouring the ocean’s wealth of a million sparkling, twisting, gliding sea-born forms. Some even not yet named, like plants in still unchartered jungles,
expunged by dark oil that feeds the crushing boot of “progress”. A polished boot, that clomps its brainless path through once enchanted lands and leaves behind a wasteland of broken dreams.
Deep Horizon is the name they gave this fated rig. One of thousands, no doubt, drilling away at the ocean floor, puncturing her mantle and peppering her brittle skull with corkscrew holes. The Deep Horizon had a dubious destiny; to unleash upon the world images that just could break a spell. A spell that has for so long held man in a chloroform thrall to the oil fuelled march of our upwardly mobile consumer driven ‘civilisation’.
Suddenly, there it was on the computer screen, twenty four hours a day, for instant consumption. Not even any advert interruptions to lessen the brutal truth. There it was, a broken seabed pipe relentlessly spewing out its toxic brew, a black funnel of virgin oil rising to the once limpid surface , spreading its tentacles, smoothing the flecked advance of crested waves. Could this be the earth’s dark blood we were witnessing? The punctured artery of a living being? Could there be some subterranean heart beat pushing up through this open seabed wound?
Poor old Gulf, a sea already partially suffocated by thousands of tons of pig shit and cow slurry dumped every day from the vast animal concentration camps of middle America. Oh dear God, the multiplicated horror of these death camps that fuel every obese American’s lust for more … always more, more. The stunned carcasses of once sentient animals rolling off the conveyor belts of criminal corporations ever hungry for more, more, always more. The detritus of The American Dream, trucked, dumped and dispersed in these warm salty and fecund waters; birth place of the mighty Gulf Stream, warmer of our western European shores and mediator of extremes.
Are we not complicit in this foul act? Even as the vomiting broken well is capped and another disaster has sprung-up to take its place, we will not be able to completely expunge these dark images. We will not be able to turn away from a sense of lost innocence. The oil is still flowing, isn’t it? Trashing some other shore in some other land; blackening the wings of other gulls. But the cameras are not focussed there. Its easier ‘not to know’ about the arrogant disdain of corporate competitors each outdoing the other in the race for greater profits, greater power, greater control.
Its easier not to know, but we have seen – and we can’t now ‘not know’ that we are complicit.
We are all the unconscious sponsors of an oil well somewhere on this planet. The horror and sadness experienced through witnessing the day-in day-out destruction of a beautiful sea is not without cathartic response , but ours .. is mostly pasteurised. We are still on an umbilical chord to the filling station, the cling film rapped cucumbers, nitrate enriched foods, lap top computers, mobile phones, cheap children’s toys, TV sets … oil, oil, everywhere oil.
So when we witness the naked raw materials that fuel our plastic dependent worlds gushing from the bowels of the earth, we are witnessing a largish fragment of our own complicity in this disaster and, indeed, many other disasters that continue to overtake our planet Earth.
We are seeing into our own souls and finding, to our horror, that there’s a shark swimming around in there, covertly lusting after the ‘special bargain’ of the age of consumerism, a gleam in its slanting eye and a dead spot in its heart.
As the clouded Gulf Stream waters snake their way towards the British Isles and continent of Europe, they carry back to us the shattered legacy of our very own industrial revolution. It is, is it not, an inescapeable karmik retribution. Through the warm waters of the Gulf we are now taking delivery of past deeds and mighty misdemeanours. Our gang-rape of nature and the spoils of wealth are returning to haunt us and to leave their shadow on our shores.
We know we were there – as we know we are here. It was us all along who plundered the waving fields of corn to build the factories and the shopping malls of our bloated civilisation. It was we who hacked the coal face and perfected the tools of mass production and mass destruction.
And it is we who now look-on, aghast, at the results of our great work. Yes, even our climate has now succumbed. But let us not try to step aside from such truths. Let us turn full- around and confront this shark – within and without. Once we truly recognise that it is the shadow of our own hands that fall upon the face of this Earth, the shark will start to loose his power. The menace in his eye will start to dim. The flashing of his tail will cease to incite our fear.
Once upon a time, you see, it was out of these same deep waters that we were slowly taking form. Do you remember? We too were creatures of the sea and our ancient memories are still coated with a thin layer of salty water, you can smell it in our sweat. Water and memory became melded by time. So we, who are mostly water, cannot forget. We cannot forget! Are we now awakening to the recognition that our destinies are deeply entwined with the veins of this, our wounded planet? Do we not share each others pains and pleasures? Is it not right to now make a gesture of love to help heal this wounded being whom we have tortured long enough? Can we continue to avert our eyes and close our minds from our common fate?
This world is still our garden however sullied are its beds. Will you not apprehend the thief who would steal your roses? So how to turn away when the greater gardens’ fruits are pillaged?
It is time to admit to consciousness. To free the shark that binds our spirit to the old road of ‘progress’. The hypermarket highway to desolation row. Let him swim free. He cannot tear our limbs or crush our dreams once we know his game. Now that we see the face of our disease, we can act to throw off the mantle of attachment that renders us complicit to its spread.
No longer victims of this cruel pandemic, we can turn once more – this time more boldly – to heal those wounds so callously wrought on nature’s generous breast. To fiercely defend that which still offers up fresh nourishing fruits for body and soul. And yes, at the same time, to build anew ‘the arks.’ Arks which will, one day, carry us through the vortex of fire and into the Universe to Come.
Julian Rose, July 21st 2010