There Will Be Blood
By Mike Callicrate
“I’m finished,” said Daniel Plainview, as he sat flat on the floor, drunk, blood oozing from the head of the young man whose skull he had just crushed.
Plainview loved money. He loved power. He had plenty of both. As a man who admittedly hated people, he would do anything — anything — to get more money and more power.
In 1927, Upton Sinclair published the novel, Oil! At the time, Sinclair was already well known for writing what has become one of our country’s great literary works, The Jungle, which exposed the abusive and sickening meatpacking monopoly of the day. Now Eric Schlosser has brought Sinclair’s story of oil industry greed back to life in a cinematic version called “There Will Be Blood.”
While viewing this prospect for “Best Picture of the Year,” you may find yourself thinking about where we are today in a society driven by big oil, big meatpacking, big retail, big banking, etc. It’s been nearly one hundred years since Sinclair exposed the meatpacking jungle, the oil cartel, and the greed and ruthlessness of unregulated big business. And it has been nearly one hundred years since our government broke up the monopolistic business trusts.
After viewing the film and experiencing its troubling and vivid display of the worst tendencies of human nature, you might feel — like I do — that we are fully back to the days when profit and power were valued at all costs over people. How far will today’s big business go to increase its own wealth and how far will an independent businessman be pushed in order to compete in a no-holds-barred arena with such dominating and perverse power?
I can say from my perspective in the cattle and meat business that we are certainly back to The Jungle in the meat processing industry. As we fill up our cars and pay our winter heating bills, surely we can’t help noticing the parallels to the old monopoly of Standard Oil.
Today, an unhealthy obsession with money and power has bloodied farmers, ranchers and working people. Like Daniel Plainview, the darkly demented protagonist of Schlosser’s film, our ruthless big business/government partnership will not rest until it finishes wrecking our country.