Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Union Carbide's Hand of God

The first time I saw this image -- as a poster in my graduate advisor's office -- I assumed that it was some sort of elaborate political cartoon, drawn up following the Bhopal disaster as a dark parody of corporate arrogance. I was mistaken, however. This was actual corporate arrogance. It predates the death of thousands -- nobody knows for certain how many -- during a 1984 overnight gas leak in Bhopal, Madya Pradesh, in Central India.

I recently learned that this trumpeting of the needed "technical knowledge of the western world" was replicated in a series of ads that the "Today's Inspiration" blog describes as the "Hand o' God" series -- ads of breath-taking arrogance that could only have been made in the 1950s: an age of paternalism and confidence in technology that came after the Second World War (victory through technology) and before Silent Spring and Love Canal (extinctions and death through technology).

Protests against Union Carbide have now gone on longer than most of my university students have been alive, and the company continues to defend its response.
Gripping imagery of Bhopal.net

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