Energy Suppliers and Their Brutal Violations of Human Rights: It’s Time to Wake Up

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    As the Nigerian protesters’ case against Shell and the brutal treatment of peaceful protesters in Texas via TransCanada’s encouragement highlight all too well, the planet’s biggest energy providers are more than willing to work outside of the law to meet their interests. In Nigeria, peaceful protesters were subjected to violence by the Nigerian government with the alleged encouragement of Royal Dutch Shell PLC. With the eyes of the free world watching in Texas, the police response to peaceful protesters allegedly encouraged by TransCanada was less brutal but no less audacious.

    In the latter case, two protesters who handcuffed themselves together on TransCanada’s construction equipment “were subjected to choke holds, stress positions in which their free arms were handcuffed, contorted, and then pepper sprayed, burning their skin. They were then tased…” In Nigeria, where much of the world has turned their attention away from, one can only imagine the heightened brutality that peaceful protesters suffered.

    The message these companies, and their respective puppet governments, are sending is clear: opposition of any kind will be severely punished. And the weak response by Americans and the international community to these violations of human rights and, in the case of America, some of our basic underlying principles as a country seems to confirm the fact that engaged environmental advocates are seen more as individuals to blame for the violence perpetrated against them, and not the victims of ruthless business and government practices.

    Or maybe Americans and the international community simply do not care about issues of human rights violations anymore unless they are on a massive or extremely local scale. The irony of our interconnected world is that our proximity to one another in terms of information and news has forged a disconnect among many here in the United States, in particular. That is, the constant news stories about human rights violations across the world, and here in our own country, has appeared to create a cognitive screen that individuals use to tune out the worst aspects of our contemporary world.  After all, who wants to be bothered with such serious issues like human rights when our favorite football teams will be playing this weekend?

    The hard fact is that we are all in this ship together, fellow Americans and fellow citizens of the world alike. We cannot ignore the abuse of rights in one area of the world or one state in our country without also implicitly condoning these types of abuses. It’s not what most people want to hear on a Saturday morning but in the words of Samuel  L. Jackson, it’s time to wake the f*%k up.[4] One of the smallest steps we can take to do that is to vote this November for President Obama.