Tuesday, January 29, 2008


A few days ago I wrote about a man suing a defense company for endangering his life and the lives of his colleagues (many of whom are dead) from exposure to toxic waste. Today I cam across a somewhat similar article -- only the workers were scuba divers, and the accused is the Norwegian government.

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- A group of deep sea divers sued the government Monday, saying that working at extreme depths in the early years of Norway's offshore oil boom ruined their health and violated their human rights.

The so-called pioneer divers were sent to extreme, sometimes experimental depths while working on offshore oil installations in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a government commission that studied the case.

It's dark and quiet and lacking of sleep on the couch in my living room this early morning. I'm thinking about responsibility... how responsible are we to each other -- how responsible are we to ourselves... are we responsible for what we do to each other? Gown ups -- employers -- lovers -- cohabitants of earth...

The divers have often been called the forgotten victims of an industry that has made Norway a major oil exporter and one of the world's richest countries.

In his opening remarks, attorney Marius Reikeraas said some of the divers were sent to depths of 1,300 feet as recently as 2002. The safe limit is now set at 590 feet.

Is responsibility really addressed by punitive damages? By shame? When the Exxon case comes to the supreme court the question will be whether or not the court should clear all damages awarded against the company. Does this help or hurt anyone? I think it may simply all live in the realm of the dollar -- the realm through which nothing of real value is addressed.

These are lives. This is the earth. We are pushing ourselves to extremes intolerable to human life.

Maybe these cases are what we need to cripple the industry -- like the smoking industry -- come to think of it, has the smoking industry been crippled at all? Maybe it's a "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." The profits are the spoils and the cause of the danger and the use of people and the land -- so all that we can do is take away profits.

Still, it seems like there must be some other way to deal with ourselves and the land and the place we find ourselves in.

At the risk of sounding entirely heartless and cruel, wouldn't experienced divers know that what they were doing was entirely unsafe? Why did they do it, then? Was it money or excitement? Are we really children to our paternal bosses? Are we really incapable of extricating ourselves from anything we find ourselves in -- a situation by which we are endangered? Not to say that a family crippled by the loss of a father in a job which found oil should not be supported by the company/government which benefited -- certainly they should be. But it feels like something else is being requested -- some implication of blame it really seems to me like we all share...

What are the tools of manipulation? Lies, Bribes, Bullying... Information is withheld. Riches are offered -- be them monetary, physical or psychic...

Months ago I went on a Buddhist retreat based around the prayers and principles of loving kindness meditation. My 5-year-old son says the prayer every night. There are monks in the mountains of Tibet doing the same -- praying for the peace of the world.

May all beings everywhere be safe. May all beings everywhere be happy. May all beings everywhere be healthy. May all beings everywhere live in ease.

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