Bucket-head nation

Guest post by Emmanuela Mujica
I have new vision of the United States. I call it “Bucket-head Nation.” My inspiration came from a humorous scene in Werner Herzog’s latest film, Encounters at the End of the World. The scene portrays students in an Antarctic survival class wearing buckets on their heads to simulate the zero-visibility, white-noise conditions of the Antarctic tundra. The leader of the bucket-heads had the objective of leading the other bucket-heads to a location specified by the instructor. They failed this task twice because the leader of the bucket-heads misguided them. The scene ends with a shot of the disgruntled bucket-heads in a confused, clustered entanglement. Sound familiar?


Lately I’ve been having recurring conversations about the bucket-head nation. I had a conversation the other day with a good friend, who admitted that he wasn’t registered to vote because the United States government and everything that spawns from it does not affect him. This is the bucket-head dilemma. People tune out of what’s really going on in their neighborhood, in their community, in their city, in their state, in the United States, and in the world. The mentality is this: “What goes on doesn’t affect me, and I can’t affect anything as an individual.” I am devastated to realize the bucket-head mentality is ubiquitous. The bucket-heads are my peers, my friends, my professors, and my family. I am a bucket-head, and you are a bucket-head.
When you deny the homeless man down the street of your spare change, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.
When you drive your car a distance you could ride a bicycle, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.
When you buy cheap products, regardless of their sources or their manufacturers, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.
When you relinquish the right to vote or to become an activist, because you think you can’t change anything, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.
When you continue to support corporations and governmental leaders that have created our devastating economic crisis, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.
When you support a war, declared with falsehoods, that has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.
Why are there so many bucket-heads in this nation? To quote Guy’s latest blog entry: “the truth is damned inconvenient.” The truth that the United States funds and perpetuates a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo for control of metal and mineral resources is inconvenient. Freeport McMoran needs those resources for the 2.6 billion cell phone batteries the American public demands by the end of 2009. Our cell phones are a convenient mode of communication and we need them. Would you still need your cell phone if I told you that high demand for cell phones and other electronic “goods” is responsible for the death of 6 million Congolese people since the resource war started in 1996? You would probably shrug and admit that you won’t give up your cell phone; it’s just too inconvenient. What if I told you life is a hell of a lot more inconvenient for the Congolese women being raped and assaulted every day than it is for the average American? I haven’t given up my cell phone yet. The blood of the Congolese people is on my hands, and it’s on your hands. If this information has hit you in the gut, lift your bucket off and become a friend of the Congo. Chances are, your bucket is steadfast on your head and you won’t take it off for 6 million men and women you’ve never even met. The truth is that the citizens of our country are not willing to give up their convenient, inexpensive lifestyles to relieve people around the world of their hardships and suffering. We have the power to make conscientious choices when we take off our buckets and fully realize that our individual actions do create ripples around the world. When more people become bucket-less, attuned to their potential to affect change, the travesties of greed, violence, and selfishness may be more difficult to sustain.

Comments 9

  • They are not getting killed because we need the resources. They are getting killed because THEY have failed to set up a political system that allows the 6 million to share in the spoils. If we stop buying their resources they simply vanish from the news and go back to killing each other for some other reason out of our sight and mind. We could use your argument to justify stopping trade with just about anybody in the third world which is most of the planet and population.

  • Actually in 1960 THEY democratically elected a prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, by free and fair elections. This, however, was not what the Belgians had wanted to happen, since Lumumba rose above ethnic lines and had an inclusive party that had the capability of uniting the country. This would have been bad for the Belgians since SG, the huge Belgian owned Mining company, was in threat of being slowly dismantled since Lumumba wanted to diversify who was in the Congo. Eisenhower had several people in his cabinet that had major investments in SG, not like that would have any weight on his decisions…, and actively used the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo to stop Lumumba from being able to unite his country. I’d be happy to give you a more fleshed out version of how we royally fucked up the Congo, including looking the other way as Lumumba was tortured and murdered, if you’d like. Greg, why do you think some countries are the “third world?” I don’t share all of Emma’s opinions, but your ignorance in the part we’ve played deeply disturbs me. So remember kids. If something seems too inconvenient fuckit and just put back on your bucket.
    -Nick

  • Thank you both for your comments to my post. I admit I may have been biased and injudicious to say that our demand for resources is responsible for the crisis in the Congo. So I amend my statement to say that the presence of major British and U.S. corporations has perpetuated the conflict. Taking into consideration the history of our involvement in the Congo, which Nick has graciously pointed out, can you understand why the political institutions of African nations are so failed? Could it be because these cultures and people have been tremendously exploited for thousands of years by well-to-do nations such as our own? I think so. It is quite possible that what is now called “trade” was once called “colonization” and “slavery”. Moreover, African nations have never had a fair chance to “trade” their resources because their lands, resources, and people have always been controlled by the powerful, violent civilizations. We only see what we want to see, Greg. I’m not suggesting we stop trading, I’m suggesting that we, as Americans, understand the effect of our lifestyles and demands on other nations. So, I amend my statement further to say: If you believe it is correct to call resource extraction practices of American corporations “sharing” and “trading”, as though these practices are judicious and fair, then you are a bucket-head.

  • I find your comparison of the United States of America to a stumbling, sightless group of students both humorous and tragic. The most important part of your vision is the presence of the leader who is given the task of guiding the group to a specified objective. We could argue that only the leader is a bucket-head; he is ultimately the one who gets lost and thereby causes the failure of the entire group. However this type of thinking is dangerous and problematic.
    All around the world citizens heap their faith, expectations, and dreams on their government. If the government fails citizens disassociate themselves from their representatives, placing the blame squarely on the governmental identity. While convenient, this process creates and facilitates apathy. In turn apathy breeds ignorance and laziness, leaving the cycle primed to continue perpetually.
    In conclusion, I am a bucket-head because I follow a blind leader. I am content to blame another instead of removing the bucket from my own head and finding my own way.

  • On my way through the suburbs to tutor the spoiled progeny of overconsumptive industrial humans, I pass by a road, a cul-de-sac like many others, lined with McMansions. Making this one unique, however, is its name: it is actually called Reagan Drive. Think any bucket-heads dwell there? Or is the bucket more of a requirement in such locales?
    It’s street signs like that one that make me doubt there will be mass-death in the wake of peak oil. How could there be that much justice in the world?

  • Being ignorant of the full scope of the situation in the Congo, I will refrain from commenting other than to say: if there’s anything I understand about much of Africa, it is that the place is a royal mess. My heart goes out to the good people stuck in bad, if not intractable situations. Whether or not we are a cause, every person on this earth has a duty to the other. The call to reevaluate our consumption is never a bad thing. It is time for a major paradigm shift in humanity. An end to “us” vs. “them” and taking instead of giving.
    If we avoid wasteful behavior or hording behavior, there is more to go around and more room for all living things to breathe.
    I took the bucket off my own head today for a moment…to steal your metaphor for a bit. I was planning to teach some community center classes to kids–fun projects, art mostly. The classes were closed for low enrollment (mine weren’t the only ones).
    I thought, how sad it was that families didn’t have the extra money for extra curricular activities, but then, I realized, kids get run ragged with activities/classes/etc. Maybe being home isn’t such a bad thing. I was looking forward to some extra money, to pay down bills, but really, what we need to do most is learn to conserve more. The wiring is out in half of the house right now. No power for the most part. I’m actually enjoying using candles. But I’m not sad the internet is still working 🙂
    At any rate, the economic slow down, the dropped classes, all of it pushed me to do something I’d been thinking about doing for a while. So, I’ve signed on to do tutoring/caregiving for handicapped children in the community/in home–teaching them life skills, self-care, etc. That’s actually a far better job than trying to teach kids who’ve been shuttled from soccer to band to cheer to the art class.
    I know most here are secular/non-religious, so please take this in the spirit it is intended…
    I was reading some literature from my Church about being grateful vs. feelings of entitlement. Basically, the idea is that it is hard to feel grateful when you think you are owed something–even if you receive that something.
    To that end, my family and I have put together a box. Each day we write down what we’re thankful for and why we’re lucky just to BE. I told them we’re not entitled to anything. We are not owed anything. Everything we have, including another day to be alive is NOT something we’re entitled to have. We’re fortunate to have it.
    I’ve been trying to meditate on that thought. I feel a lot calmer with that in mind. The world is a different place when you’re busy saying “Wow, look what I have…” rather than “Hey, I should have that…”
    I really think the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is very poetic, so, if you don’t believe, please don’t be offended. Take it as a well-meaning person sharing a poem they enjoy. I take it as more than that, but that is my personal choice:
    Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
    Where there is injury, pardon
    Where there is doubt, faith
    Where there is despair, love
    Where there is darkness, light
    and where there is sadness, joy
    Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled,
    as to console;
    To be understood, as to understand;
    To be loved, as to love;
    For it is in giving that we receive–
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
    What a different world it would be if the so-called “Christian” Right had thought this way eight years ago. What a different world it would be if we all, atheist, theist, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, etc. put this into practice body and mind.
    Life is important: human, animal, plant. The self, entitlement–never were important but merely a distraction.
    That’s the only realization that will ever heal the world.

  • Am I a bucket-head?
    What is antonym for bucket-head then?
    waiting for answer

  • I never knew that about cell phones it sounds like Blood Diamonds that I was also oblivious to until the movie.
    Thank you Guy McPherson for your comment