Honestly, What Would a Child Say?

My friend John reminded me today of something I wrote on May 18, 2009.  With the Bayer plant’s production of MIC in the news again this week, it seems fitting to revisit the issue (MIC is the acronym for methyl isocyanate – the chemical that killed thousands in the 1984 Union carbide disaster at Bhopal).

This link connects to a recent legal order blocking the MIC unit start-up again.  There is something poetic about concluding a week of writing about fear with thoughts on something global, not personal.  I can find myself thinking surely people will just do the sane and rational thing that seems so obvious, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

From May 2009, Esse Diem: And the Procession Continues:

An emperor hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who is either stupid or unfit for his or her position.

The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can out of fear; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they dress him in mime. The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capitol showing off his new “clothes”.

During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth.  The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession. (adapted fromWikipedia)

I loved this story as a child, mostly because a grown up was prancing around naked and didn’t know it (hilarious), and because a kid schooled the grown ups (naturally). But good God, I had no idea back then how real this story was.

I’m still reeling from the Bayer explosion denouement. The New York Times editorial this weekend further pricked my feelings of WTH. (See “Chemical Plant Safety,”http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/opinion/17sun2.html?_r=1) I think it’s that bizarre phenomenon of thinking there is no way this many people are just going along with this, that would be insane, it must be me so I’ll try to keep my freak out to a dull roar. Then this editorial comes along, and I’m reminded all over again that YES, this very situation killed thousands of people; that YES, chemical plants are well known terrorist targets; that YES, the chemical industry is focused on profits above all else; and YES, the procession continues.

What good are jobs is we’re all dead, or in such bad shape that we wish we were dead?

Like the Andersen story, try this litmus test. It’s never let me down. Explain any given situation to a four year old and ask their opinion. They’ll tell you the truth.

Image credit: Bnet.com

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