This famous quote, from cartoonist Walt Kelly’s Pogo the Possum, originally appeared on a poster created for the first Earth Day, in 1970. Kelly was surely on to something, but the scope of the implied environment extends well beyond our natural setting and traditional ecology.
Consider, for example, the tragic mining accident that occurred on January 2, 2006, at the Sago Mine in Tallmansville, West Virgina. Sole survivor Randal McCloy Jr. contends that at least four of their emergency air packs did not work, forcing the trapped men to share their oxygen. Of course, this charge has been denied by the mine operators and federal inspectors, although it is not clear how proper operation of a device recovered after the disaster proves that it worked when actually needed—under far more severe conditions.
Adding to the drama was the rather inopportune suggestion that the miners—all quite experienced—did not know how to operate the units. And, we should not forget that since it took 41 hours for rescuers to reach the miners, there is some doubt that they would have all survived even if everything had worked perfectly.
Still, given the less than stellar safety record of Sago, and the revelation that high levels of methane were detected several days before the explosion, speculation is fueled.
It would not surprise me if both the faulty air packs and methane were reported to supervision, but the informants were either blown off on the spot, or remediation postponed to a more convenient time. After all, we’ve got a mine to run, and all these complaints are just sucking up resources. Anyone who has been in any organization or bureaucracy knows that the key to success is inaction not action, since most of the time nothing important really happens, but rocking the boat can get you into trouble. Besides, if anything bad DOES happen, there are always ways to shift the blame, or just plain deny everything.
If you don’t believe me, note that no senior government heads rolled as a result of 9/11. Indeed, it was the whistle blowers who got into trouble.
Then, there’s the sexual abuse scandals plaguing the Boston and Los Angeles Catholic archdioceses, among others. In the Boston case, at least one very high profile priest warned about this as early as the late 1940’s. His name was Leonard Feeney, once regarded as one of the top Jesuit theologians in the world.
Feeney’s problem was that he was already in conflict with the historically incompetent chancery (archdiocesan hierarchy), calling it to account on other matters. It is difficult to say whether they failed to act because they simply hated Feeney, had other agendas, or just thought that it would all go away. My guess would be a combination of the three.
The point is that Feeney got into all sorts of trouble, with his reputation essentially ruined, despite a feeble attempt by officials to return some of his dignity shortly before he died. Meanwhile, Bernard Law, the incumbent cardinal archbishop when all Hell broke loose, who finally did resign his position over the affair, presently has a cushy job at the Vatican.
As to the execrable Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, he doesn’t even have the decency to resign, and seems to care little over the massive settlements that are still being paid out. There are few better contemporary examples of one who has played the system to his sole advantage, caring not a fig for those supposedly under his care.
Yet, support within a bureaucracy is a fickle thing. Your “friends” will keep propping you up only as long as they benefit, and winning favor with the masses is based far more on perception than reality. My hunch is that the fall of Mahony is coming, concurrent with the reparation of the scandalously maligned Pius XII.
I suspect that our human tendency for self-destruction will change for the better as the antique mainstream media fades, and the alternative media increases. We can only hope.