Over the last couple of weeks, I have compulsively (and relentlessly) shared bits of Andrew Nikiforuk’s The Energy of Slaves on this site, as well as on Twitter.
Nikiforuk’s thesis – that the deadly indignity of human slavery exists along the same capital-accumilation-excuses-everything trajectory as the egregious exploitation of natural resources – is hugely, hugely problematic in terms of humanism and racism. But it is also a weighty damnation of neoliberalism and consumer culture.
Thanks to Nikiforuk’s research, my future reading plans include: Terry Lynn Karl, Vaclav Smil, Charles Hall, Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen, Jacques Ellul, Frederick Soddy, John Ruskin, Fred Cottrell, Jonathan Watts, and – years overdue – Vandana Shiva.
One last startling quotation before I move on:
I summon my blue-eyed slaves anytime it pleases me. I command the Americans to send me their bravest soldiers to die for me. Anytime I clap my hands a stupid genie called the American ambassador appears to do my bidding. When the Americans die in my service their bodies are frozen in metal boxes by the U.S. Embassy and American airplanes carry them away, as if they never existed. Truly, America is my favourite slave. (168)
King Fahid bin Abdul Aziz, describing Saudi-American relations in 1993, qtd. in Nikiforuk, Andrew. The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude. Madeira Park, BC: Douglas & McIntyre, 2012. EPUB file.