A LUMP OF LEAD

 

A LUMP OF LEAD

I was watching an amusing expose the other evening, by the esteemed Media Watch (Australian televisions foremost paragon of Investigative Journalism) as they revealed the vested interests financing the dubiously named Australian Environmental Foundation. This supposedly “independent” Environmental think-tank and lobby group has been muddying the scientific waters in various public debates on a number of environmental issues over recent years, from Climate Change to genetic crops.

Small wonder then, that we learn its major sponsors include an American climate-change sceptic group and Monsanto.

To me the “science” of such “scientists” working for groups like the AEF, is about as valid as the “science” of those Chinese scientists who came out during the Cultural Revolution with the Little Red Book in one hand and swore with a straight face that Mao-Tse Tung thought was responsible for their stunning advances in Nuclear physics. (It’s true! I still have the clippings somewhere).

As I was watching this expose, I noticed that by curious coincidence, this dodgy “environmental” lobby group was located on the very same street in Melbourne’s busy commercial district as the environment-hating, land-raping Multi-National Mining Company that I myself once worked for. And as I made this astounding connection, I found myself once again remembering the Man with the Lump of Lead on his desk.

Our story takes place many years ago, back at the beginning of the Eighties. I was working at night as a humble cleaner, deep in the guts of a mighty skyscraper that was owned by the afore-mentioned Multi-National Mining Company (who shall remain nameless. {I’m not launching a class action after all, I’m just telling a story}).

We cleaners would fan out through the building, each of us allotted several floors to clean by ourselves, so that I rarely saw anyone else except at “smoko” down in the basement. Unless of course the executives were getting drunk again on the top floor, but usually the building was empty. I soon had my own work routine established for maximum efficiency, which allowed me plenty of time to investigate what people actually did there during the day. I was mainly curious and bored I guess, but as a good Anarchist I also felt I should always keep my eyes open whenever dealing with the Enemy.

For whatever reason, I soon found my attention drawn irresistibly to one desk in particular.

Now one of my tasks was to dust the desks, and a difficult task it was too, because most of the desks were pretty cluttered. There’d be files everywhere, and papers and pens and people would personalise their desks with plants & photos and toys and doodads and nick nacks all collecting dust & crumbs.

But on one floor there was this one desk that was always spotless. And empty. Aside from the phone in the middle, there were only ever two objects on that desk. On the left hand side he had a big lump of lead, the size of my fist.

On the right hand side he had a picture of his family, all smiling like they were the happiest family in the world.

The Lump of Lead and the Family Photo.

That was it.

Intrigued I resolved to look into the matter. Oh but he was careful! He always put his files away at night and did a lot of shredding, but a man shall have no Secrets from his God or his Cleaner!

My first clue came from the articles that he regularly cut out of all those magazines and papers that he tossed into the bin. Checking back issues of said magazines later at the local Library soon informed me where his interests lay. Other clues soon followed. No-one shreds everything.

It seems that this particular floor was a subsection of the Mighty Mining Company’s many interests, and it dealt specifically with Lead, that heavy, malleable and quite toxic metal. So this office is the hub organising the digging, selling and promotion of this heavy metal.

Now at this particular time the public campaign to have Lead removed from petrol was moving inexorably to a successful conclusion. It had originally been added to help engines run smoother, but the result was an ominous build up of this toxic element in our urban environments. Scientists and environmental campaigners united to have Lead removed from petrol and by this time it was clear that it was going to happen. Everyone knew it. The petrol companies knew it, these people digging up Lead knew it, it was just a matter of time.

Nonetheless, Company policy, I discovered, was to draw out the public debate, indeed the whole legislative process for as long as possible in order to continue making profits while giving kids in inner-city areas brain damage.

To reiterate: The company knew about the health effects of putting lead in petrol, they knew it was going to be phased out soon, but they were still fighting a rear-guard holding action to maximise profits for as long as possible.

The sole task, I learned, of the executive who sat at that desk, was to read through the various media publications. Then whenever anyone said anything unfavourable about Lead in petrol, his job was to write a counter letter extolling its virtues. Sometimes he wrote as an Expert. Sometimes he wrote as a “private citizen”.

I never actually met him but I’ve often thought about that man and his job and his empty desk, with the photo of his family on one side and the lump of lead on the other. Did he never make the Connection, I wondered, between his Life and his Work? Did he never put the two in the scales and weigh that lump of Lead against his Family? Personal Wealth against Societal Health?

Or perhaps this desktop tableau represented some sort of symbolic compromise in his mind. Something like: “For my family’s future (holds up photo) I will keep doing this horrible thing!” (holds up lump of Lead, breaks down weeping).

But however you look at it, there was something terribly Ironic about that lump of Lead. 

Well, time moves on. I left that job and drifted off to another city. The battle to remove Lead from petrol was won long ago, and as the years go by the contamination levels of this toxic metal in our urban environment are slowly receding. The Company, of course, survived this financial setback. There are still many other uses for Lead, after all.

But the struggle to remove Lead from Petrol is Ancient History now, and largely forgotten. The Environmental issue of the moment that grips the Public Discourse is the great Climate Change Debate.

That there is debate at all may appear strange. The science, after all, seems clear. You dump millions of years of stored carbon into the atmosphere all at once then of course your going to have a resulting effect. The question is merely, how much of an effect?

Yet the Climate Change “Sceptics” remain firm in their strident Denial. What’s more, they trumpet that they have “Scientists” too. The Public, peering into the muddied waters, are confused; Which Frankenstein-in-a-white-labcoat should they believe? A “Scientist” wouldn’t lie would they? Meanwhile the coal keeps burning and the stacks keep pouring smoke into the sky..

As for me, I know what I believe.

I believe that somewhere in an office in a skyscraper in the busy commercial part of town, there’s a man sitting at a desk cutting articles out of the newspapers, and writing long, authoritative “Letters to the Editor.”

And perhaps he has a lump of Coal on his desk,

and maybe a picture of his family.

***

***

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe.

You can’t just buy that sort of credibility, you know.

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on March 25, 2012.

6 Responses to “A LUMP OF LEAD”

  1. “but a man shall have no Secrets from his God or his Cleaner!” beautiful line… I loved it man… I don’t see a like button though..

    • no secrets indeed! I think specifically of the time the CIA shredded all their documents before the US Embassy in Tehran was over-run. They thought their secrets safe but a couple of hundred of Iranian students armed with sticky tape thought otherwise!
      A Like button? er, think there’s one somewhere (damned technology!)

      • haha…. sticky tape.. as if there is a tape that isn’t? sometimes I feel like the CIA acts stupid on purpose so people won’t take them serious, and then I think there is no way they could pull something so intricate off they are too stupid

  2. Monsatan has people checking up on what is said on blogs too…..
    I vote for the word ‘scientist’ to be deemed redundant. It is mis-used far too many times for it to have any validity left.
    ( Love your ranting 🙂 )

    • yes, any fool who’s put on a white labcoat and dissects a few monkeys thinks they’re a “scientest”. I say bring back alchemy! At least the alchemists cared about the spiritual implications of their manipulation of matter. “monsatan”-its funny cos its true
      thanks for the re-blog

  3. Reblogged this on Eremophila’s Musings.

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