BY MARK Y.A. DAVIES
Oklahoma is a sick state. When one industry wields the kind of economic and political hegemony that the oil and gas industry possesses in Oklahoma, it creates an unhealthy state that lacks the robust economic and political diversity that is required for a truly flourishing human community. In this economic and political monoculture, there are few checks on the spread of greed and corruption, and those politicians [Republicans and Democrats] who do the bidding of oil and gas executives are rewarded for their “loyalty” rather than held accountable for their conflict of interest and corruption.
Oklahoma is a sick state. We see the symptoms of our illness in Oklahoma business, politics, journalism, churches, and higher education. Businesses that compete against the oil and gas industry are punished. Politicians who stand up to the oil and gas industry are ostracized. The major papers and local news stations act as fossil fuel company cheerleaders rather than investigating their corrupt actions. Preachers remain silent while their salaries, pensions, buildings, and budgets are fossil fueled. Colleges and universities create programs and provide research for the benefit of oil and gas companies while their presidents are highly paid directors of the very same companies their programs and research are benefiting.
Oklahoma is a sick state. Pruitt is just one of the most notable symptoms of this underlying illness because his corruption is under the spotlight on the national stage, but the corruption and conflict of interest permeate the life of our state and keep us from becoming anything close to a great state or anything like the Oklahoma Standard to which we say we aspire.
Oklahoma is a sick state, and we always will be unless we finally treat the underlying illness of the oil and gas domination of our economic, political, and social processes – a domination that has decimated our schools, healthcare, and infrastructure and shaken and damaged the very homes we live in.
We don’t have to live in the fear and sense of inferiority our oil and gas overlords have cultivated within us. We can be free. We can have a diverse economy. We can have good public education, good healthcare, and a strong infrastructure – but this will never happen under the hegemony of the fossil fuel industry. We can never get better until we fully realize why we are so sick.
– Mark Y.A. Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. Click here for more of his essays.