Bearing Witness to Tar Sands Resistance: Dispatch #4
capitalism doesn’t make it easy, it makes it almost (or sometimes entirely) impossible to survive. our perfectly flawed system has constructed a persistent pattern: exploitation begets exploitation. as we are exploited by our bosses and by the state, we are also tools for exploitation.
many of the people i’ve met here- in Fort McMurray, in Hardisty, in Amisk, in Edmonton- are, have been or know someone who work in the oil industry. even those who are actively resisting it have family members in it. it’s the biggest, if not the only, industry in these areas. oil jobs are not hard to come by and there are plenty of them that will pay you plenty of money to work there. workers entering into the industry on $70,000 to $100,000 a year, working 7 days on and 7 days off the job, getting comprehensive insurance, so companies don’t have to incur the liability of sickness, injury and death that are all too common in the industry, are just some of its perks. a job like this in an economy such as this would be a catch for most folks.
and it is. people from all over canada and the world come to work these jobs. if you were to ask high school students in western canada what their plans were for after graduation, most of them would answer oil.
as dirty as it is, as earth and soul damaging as it is, as much as we want the tar sands, the keystone xl pipeline and the greater oil industry to be shut down, here’s our reality: the oil industry is what exists and people’s lives are depending on it. it’s not about doing the right thing, it’s about what your options are. this is most people’s best option.
i’ve been sitting here, staring at these words for 2 hours trying to figure out what to write next. what can come to conclude the complicated experiences and intersections of people and our world. what can i possibly give as solutions, as inspiration, as movings to those reading this that would hold both the need to be in solidarity with workers and to be in solidarity with those resisting these industries that harm. none of this is simple.
and maybe that’s my point. if we have an overarching analysis and approach to the resistance against oil, that it’s bad and anything that supports the industry is just as bad, then workers who are forced into the industry will be alienated from the movement.
how then can this movement further facilitate the growth of worker power and resistance so that in their inclusion our movement will only grow wider, stronger and evermore resilient?
On behalf of Buddhist Peace Fellowship and thanks to support from readers like you, photographer and writer aneeta mitha is traveling for nine days to Alberta, Canada to join the indigenous-led Tar Sands Healing Walk, Buddhist-led Compassionate Earth Walk, and other organizing to stop tar sands extraction and the Keystone XL Pipeline.