As the globe gets smaller and national economies become more and more intertwined into the global market, I find myself daily pondering all the effects of my country’s greed-driven, self actualizing society and our global impact. Just how are we using our influence, money, technology and leadership? Often hidden to us, whether out of ignorance or our desire to blindfold our selves, our American luxuries and comforts are creating catastrophe all over the world.
The “American Dream” is helping to create the world’s nightmare.
The desire for bigger, better, faster and more comfortable has fueled our nation for a long time, but has raked and ravished other nations and people groups as a result.
Some of the world’s most promising oil and gas fields are found beneath tropical rain-forests. Even though the extraction of these fuels can be done in an environmental and communal-friendly way, oil companies have a propensity to advantageous means over the well-being of the local people and ecosystems.
A prime example of this is when U.S. based oil company Texaco (in 2001 merged with Chevron) deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil, and left hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits dug out of the forest floor of Ecuador. To limit cost, Texaco chose discarded clean-up procedures that did not meet industry standards and were actually illegal there as well as the United States. Devastating results followed with one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet. Contamination of soil, groundwater, and surface streams have caused local indigenous and campesino people to suffer a wave of mouth, stomach and uterine cancer, birth defects, and spontaneous miscarriages (data from Chevron Toxico campaign).
America is often termed ‘The Great Satan’ by the Islamic world in the Middle East. Rallies of hundreds of thousands of impassioned radical Muslims chanting “Death to America” is not uncommon. Though I believe much of the proclamation of this is a product of propaganda and religious ideologies, there is still much to the story behind the passion. The long arm of American media touches all corners, nooks and crannies of the globe, far more than we might think.
I will never forget the shock of this realization I felt when ministering in a shanty village in Mozambique, Africa. We ministered in a cluster of living quarters in which there was no running water, electricity or sewage system, and the ‘houses’ had no doors with nothing but dirt floors. The inhabitants mostly spoke the local dialect with a minority speaking the governmental language of Portuguese, but none spoke English. But lo and behold, on the wall was a poster of the American rap icon “50 Cent” with his hard-nosed, gun-toting figure staring back at me. How does it make a young Muslim man, unemployed, with 10 siblings feel when he sees figures like 50 Cent with a million dollars worth of jewelry being glamorized in the American media? I believe the corruption of materialism may lead more astray than sexual immorality. Many hopeless youth become gangs of thieves and drug pushers in order to afford the materialistic bliss that they see pushed by the smiling American actors in the commercials. Muslim parents are distraught over this intense interest of materialism and the disregard of a devout Islamic religious life. They blame America for this push to own ever greater amount of goods because of our global marketing and aggressive capitalism.
What we find in the DR Congo is the same old song and dance. Minerals like gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten are essential for our wired lifestyle. Our entertaining and easily accessible luxuries like iphones and laptops are fueling a genocide of the Congolese people. The vast mineral riches of the DRC are exploited by armed groups and transnational corporations in order to meet the demand of the latest and greatest electronic trinkets. Below is a video by the Enough Project explaining the connection of our consumerism and the greatest conflict on earth.