Sunday, 21 November 2010

Bitch | Mini Essay | A Cog In The Wheel by Thomas Sullivan

The greedy man never knows what he’s done.” Neil Young (from the song Natural Beauty)

You open the email and see a photo of two young women. Dark skinned and smiling, dressed in vibrant yellow and orange shirts. Colorful handmade beads ring their necks while their ears support heavy turquoise rings. They are beautiful and pastoral, standing gaily in a dry African forest under a clear blue sky, the setting devoid of modern structures. They are not trying to appear happy, they just are happy.

But they are threatened by a global company that wants to mine for some metal hidden under their land. Buried metals needed (or, more accurately, desired) to build modern things. The mining will destroy the quality of the water which they use to farm.

You visit the website of the mining company and hunt around for an official photo of the CEO. You find it at the bottom of the “About Us” section. All blemishes have been powdered away and the man is attempting to appear cool, calm, and content. But he has two chins under a deeply creased face and, despite the Yeun Lui tricks, his tired and vacant eyes suggest a person living under the crushing weight of a massive to-do list -- year end reports, stock prices, tax avoidance schemes, meetings, annual retreats with strategy sessions and team building exercises. His personal life is no doubt similarly complex – houses, wives, ex-wives, cars, vacation plans, private schools, ever-expanding retirement funds. His world is a responsible one structured around satisfying requirements.

Except, of course, the requirements of the people in the African forest who need only clean water and clean air to grow their food and be happy.

You sit back and realize that the simple people in the world always get swallowed by the complex ones to satisfy a bevy of endless needs that can never be fully met. The greedy man, it seems, never knows what he’s done. Then you shut off your metal-laden computer and think about all the things you need to get done today.

by Thomas Sullivan

Thomas Sullivan’s writing has appeared in Word Riot and 3AM Magazine, among others. He is the author of Life In The Slow Lane, a comic memoir about teaching drivers education. For information on this title, please visit his author website at

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