Volume 75, Number 25 | November 09 -15, 2005

Talking Point

Americans are sheep

By Andrei Codrescu

The Gas Riots of 2005… not. When the price of gas went over $3 per gallon you’d have expected mobs to burn down a few cars. True, there was some talk of alternative energy and a lot of furious e-mail forwarding, which is America’s most radical activity these days, but there was hardly a peep from the populace. And just when there may have been, the price of gas dropped just enough to stop the grumbling. And Exxon, miraculously, reported its highest quarter profit in history, enough billions to rebuild New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

It must be obvious to all, from the oligarchs to the poorest trash hauler, that the oil companies run this country. And how: cynically, for profit, and with the best interests of their Saudi friends at heart. The highest aspirations of our democracy are to be found bound and gagged between Riyadh and Bahrain. Oil companies do not promote U.S. interests: they are multinationals, they have no borders, national loyalties or sympathy for humans. They destroy the environment and the future without compunction. They are gigantic octopi of sheer power that squat on earth like happy cancers.

The talk from oil companies about hybrid cars and hydrogen fuel cells is eerie and chilling. These are the guys who destroyed public transportation in the United States by buying up municipal streetcar lines and then tearing them up. If Americans really started getting pissed off, the Oil Boys would deep-six those alternative technologies quicker than you can say “Slick.” Everybody knows that alternative technologies are fully viable now, but they are being deliberately suppressed. Other countries, including huge ones, like Brazil, have switched to ethanol completely. That’s alcohol; it burns clean, there is an endless supply, and your leaders don’t have to hold hands with Saudi royals in public, and kiss their ass in private.

We could have had cars running on ethanol or other fuels since the first gas scare of the ’70s. At that time, Americans were tougher: still scarred by the ’60s, they weren’t scared to make their feelings known. The OPEC cartel backed out fast when faced by real resolve. The prices dropped vertiginously and the revolt was quelled. We were puritanical for a while, turning down our heaters and air conditioners and buying smaller cars. Since then, we’ve become softer, pudgier, more hypnotized by endless consumption, more docile and more afraid.

What are we afraid of? Debt, for one thing. Everyone is up to their necks in debt and fearing for life. Secondly, news that impacts our pocketbooks is obscured by deliberate diversions, such as the war in Iraq. In real crises, like Hurricane Katrina, the government is as useless as the puppets that run it. My friend, Joe Cardarelli, a poet, used to say, “The government in Washington is a play that Texas puts on every four years.” Boy, was he right.

And we are just stupid spectators who don’t even boo and hiss or throw things the way real spectators used to when they knew who they were. We don’t even know that we are at a play and that we paid a lot for the tickets! So much so, in fact, our kids and grandkids will still be paying for them.

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