While I love irony and comedy in equal measures, I take no pleasure in this little story even though it’s full of both. Well maybe a tiny bit. But certainly a tempered amount, like when reading the Darwin Awards – for example, when you read about some guy accidentally drinking gasoline, spitting it up, then lighting a cigarette to calm down, with some unsurprising results – at some point you feel for the guy’s family. But that comes in due course, after the uncontrolled laughter has subsided.
In a similar vein, an item appeared in the news recently, a gem I could not have come up with in 50 years. The article is about the futile efforts of the South Dakota Standing Rock tribe to get all the protestors to leave. As with Darwin Awards, I do feel some sympathy for the band, some of whom presumably and legitimately fear for the safety of their local lake. But the predicament they find themselves in produces a scenario so funny it is almost poignant.
For those who missed it, the whole story is a multi-level ironic wonder. The Standing Rock tribe has ordered protestors to go home, giving them 30 days to clear off the land for (first whiff of irony) fear of “environmental damage” and (smell getting stronger) because the protestors were blocking access to a road deemed important for native business. And last but not least (hold your nose) the road being blocked leads to a native-run casino up the road.
Oh, where to begin…At its most obvious, the casino access situation is a karmic echo of the blockade of the pipeline – protestors causing economic disruptions to advance their own causes. It goes beyond that though; even if one despises pipelines they would have to concede that the oil being transported provides a tangible benefit to a lot of people somewhere down the road. The casino is…somewhat less helpful. It’s hard, if not impossible, to take the moral high ground in telling the protestors to get the hell off the highway so the gamblers can get through.
The ridiculous situation unfolds in layers, each of which generates disbelief upon inspection. A second order disharmonic vibration emanates from the remaining protestors themselves, and their dwindling nest egg of goodwill. The throngs originally swarmed in to voice their support for a beleaguered native band under threat from the big bad corporate world. Fair enough, if it were true, but regardless of that point the protest is over and the band has asked them to leave. And they won’t. Which means they are no longer there for the support of the band, and most likely never were in the first place – or they would respect their wishes now. It is fairly safe to assume that the external protestors have been using the band as promotional material. It’s always smelled a bit that way, but now it seems obvious.
The whole thing is madness. The original protest was hijacked by organized environmental gangsters who knew a good thing when they saw it – side with a native band and you can’t lose. Side with a native band and throw a potential drinking water threat into the mix, and the ethical street cred is off the charts. The only thing that could have made it holier would have been a few babies laying around.
There is therefore a slight sense of justice in seeing the whole mess turn in on itself. The timing however is like the next chapter in a soap opera – with Trump poised to approve the pipeline, the circus will likely start again. With Trump at the helm on one side and heavily invested protestors on the other, an irresistible force is about to meet an immovable object. Stay tuned for more fun.
Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here