29 April 2006


It sure seems that every human being has at least one opinion on every conceivable subject ... No kidding, say the legions of fashionably jaded bloggers out there, with the smarmy know-it-all smirk that’s practically obligatory in this business. Fair enough -- I’ve never in my life made any claim whatsoever to originality, pithy witticism, or wide-ranging and/or in-depth knowledge about anything in particular, and that’s especially true as far as this blog stuff is concerned. All I’m doing here is mournfully, hopelessly opining into the virtual ether, same as everybody else. And my “opine” at the moment just happens to be: it sure seems that every human being has at least one opinion on every conceivable subject ...

Among many other matters, the price of gasoline has been on the vituperative tip of many a blogger’s tongue lately. From the liberal-minded, computer-addicted troglodytes who don’t get enough sun or fresh air; to the radical wing-nut freepers who, nightly, kneel in rapturous self-debasement before their plastic Karl Rove party dolls -- everybody out in the ’sphere seems to be chucking in their two cents and opinionating non-stop about the oil companies and the deadly product they peddle. Under the circumstances, there’s little to lose by joining in the general gnashing of teeth over $3 gasoline and rapacious corporate profiteering. Being a resident of Sacramento, the capital of California, makes me somewhat of a reluctant pseudo-expert on these kinds of subjects.

Making a more-than-handsome profit off the behavior of others is an old American tradition, especially when it comes to so-called “lifestyle choices” at the core of this nation’s social-cultural apparatus. In the United States, the “choice” of over-reliance on automobiles, and the crude-oil-based fuels that power them, is a perfect case in point -- particularly so here in the state of California, what with its 25 million cars and trucks (which combine for nearly 300 billion “vehicle miles” traveled annually, according to the state Air Resources Board). With such an appallingly comprehensive stranglehold on the transportation infrastructure, which applies generally across the country as a whole, it would be utterly astonishing if the oil barons didn’t do everything possible to squeeze every last dollar out of all of us. They’re doing only what they know how to do, within the narrow, predatory capitalist scheme of things, to the complete exclusion of anything else: that is, maximize profits, while having no concern at all for the consequences to the wider society. Like I said, this is a fundamental corporate attitude that’s about as all-American as anything. To believe that oil companies would act any differently, perhaps showing at least a modicum of fairness or responsibility towards the citizenry they so ruthlessly exploit for their own advantage, is absurd in the extreme.

So, if the corporate sector -- as represented, in this case, by multinational oil companies -- aided and abetted by the politicians and public institutions they own and manipulate, is hell-bent on raping the earth and milking us poor dumb chumps until there’s literally nothing left, what’s the answer then? If the mystical chimera of profit is allowed to trump all other concerns, both in the human realm and the natural world, what’s the proper response? Plainly, the answer lies in not participating, in not playing the role of passive complicity in a system of ravenous exploitation. In this case, it’s the willful acceptance of a consumerist model of existence -- a dead-end, nowhere mode of living if there ever was one. Specifically, why don’t we just opt out of the fossil-fuel based automobile culture altogether? It’s our panting eagerness to play along with this dangerous fiction, this brutal disaster of an energy source that’s only going to destroy us in the long run, that is itself the foundation of all the violence and destruction being meted out by our so-called political “leaders” upon huge portions of the earth and its sorry inhabitants. Who gives a shit if gasoline costs three dollars a gallon, or ten, or fifty cents? Stop consuming it, for crying out loud; stop providing the ownership class an incentive to continue their mindless rampage of greed -- join the struggle to establish a new, sustainable paradigm of human existence. The alternative is, well, pretty ugly and foul. And terminal.

Yeah, I know, it all sounds so trite, and far more easily said and done. But what hope is there, if we simply succumb to the despair and lurch and stagger onward, in our fog of denial, headlong toward the precipice of oblivion? Not much, actually. The only serious question then, at this very late moment, is: have we already waited too long to save ourselves? My pickled sensibilities very nearly can’t face the answer to that.

In any event, later this evening I’m planning to attend the impeachment forum being presented by the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, which is being moderated by Mike Malloy. Perhaps we’ll uncover a new, untapped vein of energized optimism somewhere in the proceedings -- we can only hope.

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