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October 19, 2009 3:34 PM   Subscribe

"We only went into Iraq because of oil, you know." "We only appease Saudi Arabia because of oil, you know." To hear people talk sometimes, you'd think they never used oil. - David Mitchell on hypocrisy and politics, and how we blame our leaders for making decisions based on what we want, not on what we say.
posted by Artw (74 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It just goes to show you can't be too careful.

REMAIN INDOORS!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:38 PM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Really though, I'm loving Mitchell's Guardian pieces. A remarkably intelligent fellow and quite prescient. I'm tempted to say he should move into politics but a) He's British so I don't really give a shit and b) He probably shouldn't.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:40 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I say I want a pony I mean it.
posted by ...possums at 3:42 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is from a Brittish publication and thus does apply to politics in the U.S. at all.
posted by longsleeves at 3:45 PM on October 19, 2009


Why the hell does David Mitchell have a flatmate? You'd think by now he'd be earning enough to have a place to himself. London's not *that* expensive.
posted by Flashman at 3:45 PM on October 19, 2009


But re his column: yes, we need oil, but that doesn't necessarily mean we condone invading countries to steal it.
posted by Flashman at 3:47 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is from a Brittish publication and thus does apply to politics in the U.S. at all.

Do you think?
posted by Artw at 3:52 PM on October 19, 2009


Another example of British realpolitik emerged last week: it seems that MI5 paid Benito Mussolini £100 a week
That seems staggeringly cheap. How could you not buy off Italy at that rate?
posted by boo_radley at 3:52 PM on October 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


Flashman:

"I'd be very surprised if there can be another living room in this country that features two Baftas beside a television set most people's grandparents would have discarded as obsolete at least a decade ago."
posted by hnnrs at 3:53 PM on October 19, 2009


That seems staggeringly cheap. How could you not buy off Italy at that rate?

It was £100 a week to get a rabble-rouser to write "rah-rah kill the Germans" articles. Probably got it out of the petty cash fund.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:54 PM on October 19, 2009


And, to Mussolini, getting the equivalent of six grand a week to warmonger and tyrannise must have felt like Winnie-the-Pooh being paid in honey to eat condensed milk and trap heffalumps.

It wouldn't matter how closely his politics aligned with mine. After reading this, I only wanted him to go away as quickly and permanently as possible.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:56 PM on October 19, 2009


The problem is that a lot of the politicians aren't out for their country and it's people, they are out for themselves. The moneyed interests pressing for the Iraq war weren't all about oil--the defense industry wanting to line their pockets seem in retrospect to be one of the fe on the winning side of the whole thing.

With the money and effort put into the Iraq war, the Western world could be well on its way to not having to give much of a damn about the price of oil anymore.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


...hypocrisy and politics, and how we blame our leaders for making decisions based on what we want, not on what we say.

My politics are completely free of hypocrisy, just like everyone else on MetaFilter.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why the hell does David Mitchell have a flatmate? You'd think by now he'd be earning enough to have a place to himself. London's not *that* expensive.

How would he have anything to write about if he didn't share a flat with Robert Webb?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:02 PM on October 19, 2009


Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but what I want is for the automotive industry to have invented electric cars twenty years ago, for the solar and wind power industries to not have been gutted by the Reagan administration and to now be the source of the vast majority of energy in America, and for significant amounts of research to have been put into creating biodegradable plastics and other other environmentally friendly consumer product materials out of easily grown vegetation that doesn't take up land that could be used to grow food. (For instance, if someone could figure out how to make biodegradable plastic and fuel from scrub grass, tansy ragwort, scotch broom, and thistle, that would be pretty great, and someone should get on that.) Unfortunately, my wants can't change the past, but if it's all the same, spare me the accusations of hypocrisy by a gen x British comedian.
posted by Caduceus at 4:03 PM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, yes, the "we" probably doesn't include hippies, since politicians generally don't give a fuck what they think.
posted by Artw at 4:11 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


An excellent article, brilliantly navigating the grey area between satire, sincere political comment and full-on trolling of Guardian readers. Don't miss this response, which I increasingly suspect Mitchell wrote himself (note the last sentence).
posted by motty at 4:12 PM on October 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is from a Brittish publication and thus does apply to politics in the U.S. at all.

Presumably you mean "doesn't". To which I say: British politics pretty much mirrors American politics and Britain is more or less a patsy to American global whims and those saying "it doesn't mean we condone invading foreign countries", well, obviously it does, because you either want oil or you don't. Since we're all now pretty well aware of where our oil is coming from - just as we're all pretty well aware of where our chicken burgers come from - you either make a moral decision to cut way the fuck back on your personal oil and chicken consumption, or you keep going as usual but don't feel like you're helping anything by beeping your Suburban's horn at the anti-war protest with your mouth around a McFillet.

Probably a few of us here know a couple of girls (and I'm generalising so shut up) who really like diamonds. Like, they coo at all the lovely rings in the jeweller's window and when they get engaged they flash their rock around. Diamonds are fucking amazing! Look at how they refract the sunlight! Just like urinal cakes! But you tell them where diamonds come from and why we care about them at all and either their faces fall flat (you can actually see their eyes glaze over) or they make noises about the plight of the poor black man and say they don't condone such things but that's where the diamonds come from so you either want the diamonds or you don't. Bouncing to the general sentiment of another thread, and not to lower the tone, but it's like mouthing off about being anti-rape while you've got a knife to somebody's throat and are struggling to get your pants down with your free hand.

Diamonds come from misery, chicken comes from suffering, and oil comes from war. It's just how it is. Speak out of only one side of your mouth.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:13 PM on October 19, 2009 [18 favorites]


I have really started to like the articles by Mitchell as well, there are some harsh truths in this article. I loved his/their (Mitchell and Webb) sketch show, That Mitchell and Webb Look as well.
posted by amil at 4:15 PM on October 19, 2009


How would he have anything to write about if he didn't share a flat with Robert Webb?

A useless digression, but Mitchell doesn't live with Webb, he lives with an old buddy from college. And whenever you can, check out Mitchell's various rants on various UK quiz shows (YouTube has a handful) - he's a ruddy genius.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:17 PM on October 19, 2009


In the U.S., we don't need need Saudi oil (or Iraqi oil) to power our S.U.V.s. We have homegrown, Venezualan, and Nigerian oil for that. We wantIraqi and Saudi oil because (a) it's incredibly profitable for the oil companies and (b) controlling it means we control the countries who do depend on it. It's great to have the military might necessary to crush any country that tries to challenge our world domination, but it's even better to have the power to prevent them from rising up in the first place. One of the ways we do that is by controlling the oil they need to survive or, at the very least, mount a viable military defense.
posted by Clay201 at 4:18 PM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fantastic article, hnnrs, thanks! Everybody with even a remote, passing interest in Mr David Mitchell should read it.

Something like Curb Your Enthusiasm, great though it is, it's like their first faltering steps into that world of self-loathing
that we, as a post-imperial power, have been in for the best part of a century.

posted by Flashman at 4:24 PM on October 19, 2009


Turgid Dahlia: Diamonds come from misery

That is true for most of them and I would never buy a regular diamond because of it. However I did get one for my wife from Brilliant Earth. Blood diamonds are not the only diamonds available.

Though, admittedly, plenty could be said about the impact of mining for anything on the local environment, even if it's done under socially acceptable conditions.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:24 PM on October 19, 2009


...oil comes from war
Is that so? I had no idea.
posted by Flashman at 4:31 PM on October 19, 2009


I'm with the slightly chubby guy on this one.
posted by Sova at 4:33 PM on October 19, 2009


oil comes from war

As an Ontarian, I'm not supposed to like Alberta much, but to say it comes from war is a bit much. Oil comes from environmental rape - always has, always will.
posted by GuyZero at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Didn't go to war in Iraq because of the oil. We did it because we're the baddies. Duh.
posted by The World Famous at 4:51 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Uhuh, GuyZero. It's war. And if you so much as ride the bus from time to time, or own anything made of plastic then the blood of countless innocents is on your hands too. Unclean! Unclean!
posted by Flashman at 4:53 PM on October 19, 2009


No. What I wanted since I was old enough to know about oil was for our elected representatives to use the enormous levers of American power for the long term good of its people (and all people)--by investing in technologies and programs that reduced and someday eliminated our need for oil.

But hey, some British dude thinks I'm a hypocrite because I could not, for all the power of my one ballot/letter writing/sign-carrying and protesting self, make that happen. Oh well. Guess I've been schooled.
posted by emjaybee at 4:55 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unclean! Unclean!

Yes, I feel that way about the Alberta Conservatives too.
posted by GuyZero at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


That said, if there was a REAL initiative to abandon oil for renewable replacements that had hard funding and backing then I imagine the solution to oil dependence would be found. I can't imagine why there isn't a hard push for a successor for oil now amongst the private R&D firms, especially in light of the somewhat lax standards at the patent office for new inventions.

"Here we have Oil 2.0, it's made of liquid Belgians. This document describes the means by which we liquefy, process and emulsify the Belgian people into a canny replacement for petroleum. Of course, it is the high butter content in the Belgians that lead to their excellent placement on the Oil Replacement scale. The Scottish are a close second"

It's a license to print money when you have a well worded and broad patent.

*This is only half as horrifying as some of the horrible things we read are done in the name of mineral and petroleum exploitation and exploration. Let's push for some realistic non-genocidal solutions before someone discovers the rich buttery deposits closer to home.
posted by NiteMayr at 5:01 PM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is that flatmate the guy that invented the WWW?
posted by Postroad at 5:02 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if you so much as ride the bus from time to time, or own anything made of plastic then the blood of countless innocents is on your hands too.

Ah, you're one of those.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:14 PM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Shenanigans. The DH rule sucks, but if I own an American League team, I'm sure-as-shit going to field one. It doesn't make one a hypocrite to refuse to disadvantage oneself whilst advocating change.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:18 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


True that. When it comes to oil, I get the feeling that as a whole, people are like the heroin junkie who rationally knows he needs to quit if he ever wants a better life, but who will beat up the nurse at rehab if it gives him a shot at getting another hit. When gas was $4 a gallon, a lot of articles tried to point out the silver linings (people were walking more, cutting back on oil usage, buying more fuel efficient cars), but the fact was that people were pissed. If that price were to keep rising, chances are we'd end up supporting even the most unethical war if it meant it could reduce the price of gas by a quarter.

And the hardest part to admit is that we are that junkie. I'm all for getting off oil, but I still want to drive my car and keep commuting to college and work. I don't act like that's my birthright as an American and that I should never be taxed for that driving like some lobbying firms claim, but I would be upset if I had to cut back elsewhere to make up for that cost.

Of course, when it comes to the environment, I'd say the real hard drug we need to get off of is coal. It may be in abundant domestic reserves in America and Canada, but it screws up the environment something awful. It's the prescription painkiller of fossil fuels, in that it's readily available and a quick fix.

Meanwhile, nuclear is like pot. Widely demonized, but in practice, it's gentler on the environment than most other options with similar output.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:22 PM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


But hey, some British dude thinks I'm a hypocrite because I could not, for all the power of my one ballot/letter writing/sign-carrying and protesting self, make that happen.

I thought he made it pretty clear that there are actual genuine people out there trying to make a difference, but they are few and far between. You see more cars than you see pushbikes and buses, each of those cars containing a single individual, ergo the demand for oil is massive because everyone likes a nice car all to themselves because buses, poor me, don't go directly to my doorstop. Each of those cars has a combustion engine which chews up petrol to make it go. From 2006 DOT figures, 250,851,833 registered cars on American roads; 2008 DFT figures put 34.2 million licensed cars on British roads; 2008 ABS stats put 15,296,542 registered vehicles on Australian roads. That's a fucking lot of cars and each of them drinks petrol. So while individually we might not be demanding oil, and may in fact be against it, collectively we can't get enough of the stuff.

The US Census Bureau puts the population of the US at 304,059,724 in July 2008. So more people have cars than don't which means that more people demand oil than don't. In a democracy they have the winning vote. Ditto with Australia (pop 21,007,310) and Britain (pop 60,943,912). In fact Australia is the worst of the lot, per caput. I don't even know what my point is any more.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:31 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's great to have the military might necessary to crush any country that tries to challenge our world domination

Based on how things have gone against minnows like Afghanistan & Iraq, I wouldn't really rate America's chances against, say, Russia or China very highly.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:38 PM on October 19, 2009


oil comes from war

Dinosaur war.
posted by qvantamon at 5:41 PM on October 19, 2009 [17 favorites]


In fact Australia is the worst of the lot, per caput. I don't even know what my point is any more.

That you need to brush up on your arithmetic?

Your figures give:

USA - 1 car for every 1.21 people
UK - 1 car for every 1.78 people
AUS - 1 car for every 1.37 people

And that's not even taking into account that your stated figures for the USA & UK are apparently counting "cars" whereas the Australian "vehicles" count would presumably include scooters, motorbikes, buses, trucks and possibly hovercraft.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:46 PM on October 19, 2009



In the U.S., we don't need need Saudi oil (or Iraqi oil) to power our S.U.V.s. We have homegrown, Venezualan, and Nigerian oil for that. We wantIraqi and Saudi oil because (a) it's incredibly profitable for the oil companies and (b) controlling it means we control the countries who do depend on it.

Oil is a fungible commodity. The United States does not buy oil from Iran, but if Iran were to stop exporting oil for some reason, the price of oil in the US would rise sharply. Saudi Arabia and Iraq are among the few places on earth that have excess production capacity, and so they can exert control over price. Much less so than was the case in the past --- Saudi Arabia was able to single handedly bring the global price down during the escalation to Gulf War I --- but more so than, say, Mexico which pretty much produces and sells all the oil it is capable of producing every day.

Saudi Oil is produced by the Saudi national Oil company, Saudi Aramco. At one time Western companies did play a large role in Saudi production, but the Saudi government has wholly owned the company since 1980. The Iraqi oil industry is at present wholly nationalized pending the passage of a new Iraqi oil law proposed in 2007 and currently stalled in the Iraqi parliament. It is presumed that when and if the law passes, contracts to run production and split profits with the Iraqi governement will be signed with a broad consortium of private companies.
posted by Diablevert at 6:00 PM on October 19, 2009


everyone likes a nice car all to themselves because buses, poor me, don't go directly to my doorstop.

Or because the bus stops service at 7:30pm. What the hell?!

Despite the crappy bus service and cold climate, we're keeping our car off the road this winter. Just bought studded bike tires. Wish us luck!

The tires were brought here on a TRUCK which uses OIL!
posted by ODiV at 6:15 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread where I can talk about how much I miss QI?

No? Damn.
posted by flaterik at 6:16 PM on October 19, 2009


> Yes, I feel that way about the Alberta Conservatives too

Don't worry, the Wild Rose Party is waiting in the wings.
posted by Decimask at 6:17 PM on October 19, 2009


That you need to brush up on your arithmetic?

Arith-muhh?
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:29 PM on October 19, 2009


Re the junkie metaphor, I think it was either William Burroughs or his son who asked a elderly resident of the Lexington, KY, Narcotics Hospital, "Pops, is there any way to really cure an addict?"

"Just one," said Pops. "Put in a new brain."
posted by Forrest Greene at 7:02 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like David Mitchell's comedy but he's got a whole vein of this sort of commentary that can be a fun read but is fairly useless as analysis - as if 'the British people' or people pretty much anywhere actively chose the commodity economy as it stands or the particular mix of resources it requires uncontested.
History is of course a complex beast but for two centuries at least (in Britain) there have been popular reactions to the consequences of the emerging capitalist world economy that rejected its logic. That no-one ever really had the full picture doesn't discount the evidence that in fact many if not most people would have preferred to have lived more justly with less and acted to show it on numerous occasions.
Plus the recent series of Peep Show is a more of a parody of itself and hasn't got the bite or bile of the earlier efforts, so piss off David. That's told 'im.
posted by Abiezer at 7:03 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Based on how things have gone against minnows like Afghanistan & Iraq, I wouldn't really rate America's chances against, say, Russia or China very highly.

To be fair, Russia itself didn't do that well in Afghanistan, and Iraq is probably an example of things going really really well compared with Chechnia.
posted by Artw at 7:15 PM on October 19, 2009


The UK went to war in Iraq because the USofA wanted them to, and did not have a good reason to say no. The USofA went to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein embarrassed W's daddy by politically surviving after losing Gulf War I. Saddam was threatening to commit the economic terrorist act of unlinking his country's oil from the U.S. dollar, but any benefits to American oil companies by his government's destruction was just gravy. We went to war in Afghanistan because its government-in-place was providing safe harbor to the organization behind that act of semi-massive destruction and killing on 09/11/01 (and only going after Al Queda would've been so inadequate as a justice/revenge catharsis). So much of our history (some of it damned recent) is forgotten and/or ignored by people on all sides of the issues in order to fit into a category of their own choosing. But I can't make an entertaining article based on that premise, and I suspect neither can David Mitchell.
posted by wendell at 7:18 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wendell: You forgot to mention the part where the US invaded Saudi Arabia after it was revealed that 15 Saudis participated in 9/11.

What?

Nevermind.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:32 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oil comes from war.

Oil comes from environmental rape

Nuh-uh. Olive Oil comes from olives. Which grow on trees.

I know. I read it in a book.
posted by tkchrist at 7:36 PM on October 19, 2009


The UK went to war in Iraq because the USofA wanted them to, and did not have a good reason to say no.

I hope that isn't so. It's just so pathetic. I really hope Blair thought the UK was at least gonna score a bunch of sweet oil leases or something. Get some good pillaging in. 'Cause otherwise that's just plain sad that a drooling retard like Bush had that much Charisma in the UK establishment.
posted by tkchrist at 7:38 PM on October 19, 2009


To be fair, Russia itself didn't do that well in Afghanistan, and Iraq is probably an example of things going really really well compared with Chechnia.

What that says to me, more than anything else, is that the old paradigm of marching into a country, kicking arse, and thereby winning a war is history.

People fighting on their own soil, for their own freedom against a foreign aggressor (whose personnel are to some extent disinterested in the conflict in any deep ideological sense) seem to have the long-term upper hand these days, and I'd guess that communications technologies (including the web) have a lot to do with that.

Imagine how the French Resistance - for example - might have fared had they simply been able to text London, chat over encrypted connections, or easily take videos of German movements & tactics for analysis or for passing on to allies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:42 PM on October 19, 2009


I thought he made it pretty clear that there are actual genuine people out there trying to make a difference, but they are few and far between. You see more cars than you see pushbikes and buses, each of those cars containing a single individual, ergo the demand for oil is massive because everyone likes a nice car all to themselves because buses, poor me, don't go directly to my doorstop.

Hello, massive overgeneralization. Nevermind how many people don't even have buses in their towns, or for whom carpooling would actually entail driving further, since coworkers often live on opposite sides of town.

This whole "Admit your oil-lust, oil junkies!" meme is tired and frankly, stupid. Most people simply want to be able to get to work, to go to the grocery store, to live as good a life as they can while still surviving. Very few actually laugh manically while littering, or think that dumping radioactive waste in the town lake is a Great Idea. Very few aren't made anxious by the idea that oil will run out. The fallacy here is that individual citizens can make this change all on their own; they can't. They are not in charge of deciding their country's energy policies, and their levers of power (voting, protesting) are small and weak. Even collective action is difficult, although thousands of people still attempt it via many many environmental and political organizations. Contra Mitchell's assertions that we really, secretly, want to continue our oil dependence, many hard-working people do write letters and agitate, and fundraise, and vote, and despair over the situation because the people in power own the media and make it much harder for their ideas to get traction. But they keep trying anyway.

They deserve better than cynical dismissal and a cheap joke.
posted by emjaybee at 7:44 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


What that says to me, more than anything else, is that the old paradigm of marching into a country, kicking arse, and thereby winning a war is history.

I dunno, I think the land war in Asia thing stretches back a bit...
posted by Artw at 7:52 PM on October 19, 2009


Based on how things have gone against minnows like Afghanistan & Iraq, I wouldn't really rate America's chances against, say, Russia or China very highly.

Wait. We, from thousands of miles away, brought each those as states to their knees and ended their sovereignty in less than a week with almost no American casualties. Read that sentence again. Let it sink in for a second.

No power in world history has ever been capable of that.

If you mean occupation? Well. yeah. When you don't do what the old timers like Alexander, or Caesar, or Napoleon, or the Spanish did and kill about 1/3 of the population, anoint a brutal oppressive minority in charge that will kill anybody that even blinks twice and then bribe the shit out of everybody else you tend to get bogged down with those angry locals.

But make no mistake if we actually did commit total war— had the stomach for it—the insurgency would not be a problem. Finding shade would be a problem.
posted by tkchrist at 7:53 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not at all - the whole world would be in shade.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2009



People fighting on their own soil, for their own freedom against a foreign aggressor (whose personnel are to some extent disinterested in the conflict in any deep ideological sense) seem to have the long-term upper hand these days, and I'd guess that communications technologies (including the web) have a lot to do with that.

That's not why. Communications matters. But it's only because modern states care what other modern states think of them. Or they pretend to care what other states pretend to think of them. Becuase of globalized economics. I don't think people appreciate the restraint shown in most large sate modern warfare. Look at Vietnam. We, and the French, killed 2.5 million people over about 10 years.

By comparison the casualty rate in Iraq was, what, around 100K to 200K direct casualties (not including indirect which was probably double that) over four years with VASTLY superior, more powerful and accurate weapons used than in Vietnam.

Note I am not making moral claims here. The war was immoral. Both wars were immoral. However states just haven't been waging "total" war anymore. Mostly due to the fear of nuclear states becoming involved and due to economic interdependency.

It used to be if you had any sort of military superiority you could rape the shit out of the natural resources and logistics base of another country. Anybody on the other side with any vested interested in keeping power and with half brain switched sides pretty quick or died. There were insurgent movements but most occupiers just wiped out everybody once the insurgencies reached a certain pain threshold.
posted by tkchrist at 8:08 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Agh! Too many David Mitchells. I thought this was going to be the Cloud Atlas guy.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 8:29 PM on October 19, 2009


Unclean!
Yes, I feel that way about the Alberta Conservatives too.


The last time I stuck my nose up there, I couldn't help but notice that the "Alberta" conservatives are the ones running the whole country right now.
posted by rokusan at 9:10 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I meant the provincial Conservative party of Alberta, not the federal politicians who represent Alberta as seemingly indistinguishable as those two groups are.

Oil comes from environmental rape

Nuh-uh. Olive Oil comes from olives. Which grow on trees.


Let me repeat: oil comes from rape.
posted by GuyZero at 10:21 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should clarify that I mean the Alberta PCs - I can't keep provincial party names straight from federal ones nor amongst provinces, much to the detriment of my Social Credit.
posted by GuyZero at 10:22 PM on October 19, 2009


So I've noticed there's a new kind of ad campaign forming, one that's quite brilliant if utterly invisible to those who would be its erstwhile detractors.

Exhibit A: Chevron's "Will you join us" campaign.

The campaign is filled with happy looking people, looking rightat the camera, with handwriting over them saying things like:

"I will leave the car at home more."
"I will reuse things more."
"I will use less energy."

The campaign is brilliant, because to any true believer, it's totally honest.

To the rest of us, the hidden subtext is great:

"No you won't."

It's fascinating, like one of those magic eye paintings. But it's plain as day once you see it, and once you do, the rest basically goes "You know it, and I know it. Lets not kid ourselves. So. Will you join us?"
posted by effugas at 12:35 AM on October 20, 2009


Very few actually laugh manically while littering,

I've seen them smirk, shrug, or glare and/or say "what's your fucking problem" at anyone who they think might criticize them as they dump their litter on the ground, but no, you're right, I haven't seen anyone actually laugh maniacally.

or think that dumping radioactive waste in the town lake is a Great Idea.

They deny that it's happening and demonize anyone who says it is until it's their own kid with leukemia. Then they turn around and start writing to the newspapers and petitioning congress themselves, at which point all the people who are exactly like them except for the visitation of tragedy start treating them the way they treated others like them. Repeat ad infinitum or until the world turns to shit, whichever comes first.

Very few aren't made anxious by the idea that oil will run out.

They don't admit that the oil will run out. Anyone who says it will is a liberal freak who wants to cripple America.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:48 AM on October 20, 2009


Had they Saudi's raw materials, would apartheid South Africa still be prospering with our queasy blessing?

huh?

Anyway, if you're interested in how oil fits into the larger (American) picture of energy use, how that's changed, and where it might be going, there's a good book called Energy in America, A Tour of Our Fossil Fuel Culture and Beyond (full disclosure: I know the author). I suspect that the author would argue with Mitchell that the energy sector in any "first" nation is too complex to really justify a take-a-car-endorce-the-war sort of analysis.
posted by carmen at 5:41 AM on October 20, 2009


and their levers of power (voting, protesting) are small and weak

When there's a controversial war, some nice, middle-class people go on an organised weekend stroll


As one of the commenters on the Guardian site pointed out this was the largest demonstration in the UK's history - and it achieved nothing (very worrying state of affairs on its own, but that is another debate). How can this be reconciled with Micthel's statement that in fact the government was carrying out a democratic wish ?

At what point does a failed attempt to hold your govenment to account obligate you to abandon the comfort in your life in order to be 'morally' pure when complaining about the butchery that goes on in our names ?
posted by Boslowski at 6:12 AM on October 20, 2009


oil comes from war

Dinosaur war.


Everytime someone offers me a plastic bag in a store and I don't really need it because I only have one item (or two small items, or whatever), I always say "No thanks, I'm trying to save a dinosaur."

Oh the blank stares. Oh, the many, many blank stares.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh the blank stares. Oh, the many, many blank stares.

Dude, I'd high-five you. Like a way enthusiastic high-five. High-five the shit out of you.
posted by tkchrist at 12:36 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you worked at the checkout, you could also ask "Paper or Pleistocene?"
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:43 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, I'd high-five you. Like a way enthusiastic high-five. High-five the shit out of you.

But you won't favorite me? *cries*
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2009


“It just goes to show you can't be too careful.
REMAIN INDOORS!”

I know more about this subject than you can possibly imagine.

“I'm all for getting off oil, but I still want to drive my car and keep commuting to college and work.”

S’why his argument works in the aggregate. You really don’t want to drive your car to places per se (I assume), you want to be able to learn and feed yourself and meet your needs within the systemic needs of transportation. It’s the ‘systemic’ that’s the problem.

And there’s no percentage in being a politician that says “no, you need this” because systemic change, even while good, is painful.
If it were easy to have ‘rock hard abs’ everyone would have the six pack. But there’s no end to folks who will sell and re-sell you the way to get that on the cheap.
And that’s what we have now.

“Based on how things have gone against minnows like Afghanistan & Iraq, I wouldn't really rate America's chances against, say, Russia or China very highly.”

Yeah, remember when Vietnam took over the U.S. after the U.S. lost that war?

“But make no mistake if we actually did commit total war— had the stomach for it—the insurgency would not be a problem.”

That’s not war anymore. And even were it fully true, having the stomach for it isn’t the problem. The problem is achieving the objective. If I’m a bouncer, some guy won’t leave and he swings at me and I kill him, intentionally and methodically, ok, I ‘won’?
Richard Pryor does a good bit on this. Security guard tells a wino to clean up some vomit he just spewed. The wino refuses. The security guard says “If you don’t clean it up, I’m going to shoot you.” Wino says “Then who’s going to clean up the blood?”

Same deal. Force application has become a more complex issue. Far more dependant on acquiescence.
Mongol tactics, et.al. are simply outmoded, in part because of technology, but mostly because other abstract methods and sciences - people systems - have advanced as well.
Not really a question of morality or sensibilities.
(Folks talk about going back in time, being some sort of uber-commando because what they know of modern warfare. Sorta, but not so much. But give me Bodacia's Britons and a modern supply chain management plan, forecasting, all that, and the Romans never succeed in invading.)

On the other hand, your later point on taking natural resources still holds. It’s what IS occurring still. It’s just a bit more abstract than literally holding the land.
But that’s the same point really. Having a hand holding sing along isn’t going to get people to use less energy. It’s not a bad idea for a catalyst for systemic change in some cases. But what is needed is systemic change.

And if we held a lot of fat asses in charge accountable for lining their pockets and demanded it, I think we could get it done. Right now though it’s kind of a complex thing that, yeah, a lot of people don’t want to think about.
In part maybe because they’ve been convinced they can maybe someday be one of those fat asses. Seems part of the plan though.

"No thanks, I'm trying to save a dinosaur."
Dude, let ‘em go. The tyrant lizard King is dead.

Actually, paper is bad too I understand.
What’s infuriating is - we use canvas bags, the store sells them, I see next to no one else using them. And yet – they’re much much better. Oh, yeah, the environment and all, that’s swell and I do enjoy that part of it, and I’d make and effort anyway, but if I’m lugging some really heavy stuff, the canvas holds up, has good straps which don’t cut my hand, etc. Just better all around. And still – it’s the Smedleyman’s and maybe two or three other families using them, almost no one else.
If it were just the environment thing, I’d try, probably get fed up if the bags kept breaking and our groceries spilled out in the parking lot, etc.
But it’s actually better, as a bag.
In cases like that, where it doesn't rest on the morality or integrity of the individual, but on simple personal resistance to change, there’s no real excuse.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:29 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


What’s infuriating is - we use canvas bags, the store sells them, I see next to no one else using them.

I use 'em as much as I can. Which is to say, the thing about them is you have to REMEMBER them. I'm really, really bad with short term memory. But yeah, I have a bunch of them and use them as much as possible.

Wait, what was I talking about?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:45 PM on October 20, 2009


Saudi Oil is produced by the Saudi national Oil company, Saudi Aramco... the Iraqi oil industry is at present wholly nationalized...

You're telling me that there are no western companies getting fat off of Saudi and Iraqi oil? Seriously? You're making that claim?

Sure, on paper, The Saudi and Iraqi governments own their oil, but those governments are, in turn, owned by the U.S.
posted by Clay201 at 7:58 PM on October 20, 2009


The Saudi and Iraqi governments own their oil, but those governments are, in turn, owned by the U.S.

Okay, you're half right there... but I think you have the other "ownership" situation backwards.

(If I ever see Saudi princes tripping over themselves to fondle US politicians, maybe I'll change my mind.)
posted by rokusan at 2:48 AM on October 21, 2009


You're telling me that there are no western companies getting fat off of Saudi and Iraqi oil? Seriously? You're making that claim?

Sure, on paper, The Saudi and Iraqi governments own their oil, but those governments are, in turn, owned by the U.S.


The article you link to is from December 2006. The Oil Law it discusses and suggests will pave the way for the Big Four Western Oil companies to seize control of Iraq's oil has not passed. It is at present stalled in the Iraqi parliament. In the absence of a new law that would override Saddam's nationalization of the industry, the Iraqi government attempted to award new contracts on cabinet authority this summer; one bid was accepted, by a consortium of BP and Chinese Petroleum. Due to the overall failure of the round, however, the contract has not yet gone into effect and it was instead decided that a second round would be conducted this December. The major stumbling block for the contract bidding was that the Western oil companies wanted about $4 a barrel; the Iraqi government was only willing to go as high as $2. Some people think the oil companies may want more now because the region where the biggest fields are have seen increasing violence and that will increase the costs for security and repairs. It should be noted that the $4 bucks is a flat fee; the Iraqi government has been adamant that the contracts will not include profit sharing. Yesterday the price of oil was about $80 a barrel on the NYSE.

Which Western oil companies do you think are getting fat off Saudi and Iraqi oil? I mean, the Saudi government owns Aramco lock, stock, and barrel. It is the only oil company operating in the country and all its profits go to the Saudi government. As it has since 1980. It's believed to be the most profitable company in the world.

When you say the US owns the Saudi government, what do you mean by that? I'll tell you my own take --- I think there's a relationship of mutual dependence and exploitation between them, one riven by mistrust and disparate interests. Militarily, they certainly depend on us to a large extent. But I don't think that we have unlimited influence over their culture or government. In some ways, the Saudis would have an easier time shaking us off than the Chinese.
posted by Diablevert at 3:51 AM on October 21, 2009


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