Valley of the Kings

When will BP walk through the Valley of the Kings?

Photo by Charlie Phillips via Flickr

On the West side of the Nile in Egypt, across from the ancient city of Thebes, lies a sacred burial ground of Pharaohs. Known as the "Valley of the Kings," the dozens of tombs here contain the remains of the powerful elite who ruled civilization 3,000 years ago. Descending into one of the Pharaonic chambers that has been carved into the earth, one is struck by the still-vibrant colors of the intricate hieroglyphics that cover the walls and ceiling.

The Pharaohs believed that they would be questioned about their temporal existence by death. The hieroglyphs were therefore dictated by the high priests to teach the King what he would be asked. Of the questions the Pharaoh was prepared for, one is particularly relevant today. As one Egyptologist translated it to me, the question is: "Did you ever defecate in a river?"

As a civilization that thrived downstream, the Egyptian elite were acutely aware of the need to prevent pollution of the Nile. That they elevated it to the level of a question death would ask a king is telling as it suggests that even the most powerful ruler, men who were considered gods by the people, were taught throughout their life of their moral obligation to protect the natural environment. One could be a god in antiquity, but to defecate in the river was still an outage and a crime judged in the afterlife.

In our modern-era, a judicial fiat has granted the corporation, a legal fiction, personhood. And with their tremendous wealth and transnational reach, these corporations believe themselves to be Pharaohs and gods but act like Moloch and Mammon. Without an ethical principle, their religion is unrestrained greed and the worship of money.

BP is shitting in the Gulf of Mexico but it sees no need to apologize and commit suicide, because BP doesn't believe it will be punished -- in this life or the next -- for its transgression. It laughs at the citizens who wish to revoke its charter and gives lavishly, and unlimitedly, to the politicians on its dole.

But in the face of the greatest ecological catastrophe in human history, a runaway oil gusher that is already several times worse than Exxon-Valdez, BP is about to become the first corporation to be tried in the court of people's justice. All the evidence we need is plain: our ocean is destroyed, a genocide of sea life is ongoing.

BP is guilty of ecocide and their punishment will be death.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is currently writing a book about the future of activism. or micah (at)