Obey the Thirsty Oil Gods!
Dana Williams
Pop quiz: what's the fastest way to get an entire nation of Americans to start whining? Answer? Raise the price of oil. Well, don't raise it to the level of Europe or Asia, or most anywhere else in the world, but raise it a few cents on the gallon, and you'll have an entire nation of obese, lazy, over-indulgent, luxury car-drivin' Americans whining as if you'd threatened to smother them with a pillow.

Every year when the price of oil increases just a bit, I get email after email about a “gas out” or “oil boycott” or “consumer strike against the oil companies”. And every year I get sicker and sicker at the self-indulgence of it all. I have never, repeat NEVER received a call for an oil boycott when the US is about to bomb or invade an oil producing nation for us SUV-owners to stand in solidarity with the brown-skinned about the perish underneath Tomahawk cruise missiles. Nor, have I ever received an email that details the moral reasons for not stealing another people's resources for colonialist profit. I haven't even seen a “boycott” email that argues that it'd be better for the environment for at least one day to stop consuming crude.

No, nothing like that at all.

The US government heavily subsidizes the gasoline sold in the US, more than any other nation. It doesn't do it because it loves “freedom” or bullshit like that. It does it for two simple reasons, well maybe just one reason with two parts: the US military needs it and the US economy needs it (in order to expand, Expand, EXPAND!!!) Thus, we pay gasoline prices that are the lowest in the world, prices which are completely divorced from economic, free-market reality. We're as socialist as you get when it comes to gassing up our mini-vans and pick-up trucks. I can just imagine the jokes at our expense overseas, when we belly-ache over paying under $2.00 a gallon. Cry me a river, they pay twice that everywhere else!

Most of these email “boycotts” talk romantically about teaching the Big Oil Companies a lesson. Hey, I'm all about teaching them a lesson! Except the lesson I want to teach them is a different one. Most email forwards bemoan oil companies profiting at the suffering of the surplus-laden American consumer. I, on the other hand, would like to teach Big Oil that getting the US military to invade and bomb Bolivia, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Indochina, etc. killing millions in the process is more than just an inconvenience to my transportation desires, it's monstrous.

To quote a humorous yet sadly accurate sign I recently saw at an anti-war protest, “How did our oil get under their sand?” What gives us the right to think that foreign oil resources should be used for our needs only? What makes us arrogant enough to assume that American oil companies (or Dutch or British companies) should profit instead of the people whose land is destroyed in the process of retrieving that oil (from underneath their land)? Being the 600 pound gorilla who steals other people's resources isn't noble, and it doesn't deserve the efforts of an “gas out”. Five percent of the world's population consuming 40 percent of the world's resources and boring holes into the ozone layer doesn't make me patriotic, it makes me want to vomit.

These “oil free” days are usually so disorganized, circulated with differing dates, year after year. They resemble urban legends more than true boycott campaigns. In fact, they are quintessential modern American political actions – abstract and empty consumeristic demands that have no possibility of purpose or follow-through. They are, to put it bluntly, a waste of electrons. The whines and sorrows of the American consumer – who has for years now been buying larger and less gasoline efficient automobiles, while moving further and further into suburbs away from schools, commerce, work, and family – do not move me.

Indeed, if the price of gas is the only thing that enrages the average American, we surely will receive future terrorist attacks. People around the world see the US government and military and corporate power structure brutalizing their environment, landscape, economy, societies, and own bodies, but don't see Americans raising a finger in protest. In the eyes of most of the world, the American people will deserve it. How else can they rationalize the apathy of an entire nation to the atrocities done in its name, but shriek with horror over their own stupid consumer choices (which are intimately linked to those very same atrocities)? A rational non-American might say that the American people's violent ignorance and apathy deserves the whirlwind it reaps.

So, instead of silly, meaningless gestures one-day oil “boycotts”, how about we make real change? Send oil companies a message by conserving gasoline everyday. Carpool, drive slower, don't drive as often, make fewer trips, don't drive as far. Send auto companies a message by buying more fuel efficient automobiles, by investing in solar hybrid cars, by buying a bike instead. Send the US government a message by living closer to work and school, by not buying into the real-estate/sprawl craze most cities are infected with, by walking, biking, and riding the bus more often. Protest against aggressive foreign policy (whether done by Republicans or Democrats), stand in solidarity with people who die for our cheap gasoline, and give up the idea that pointless one-day boycotts only last one day, while we are killing the planet and its people EVERY day of the year.

Do all that, and if it still doesn't work (which I very much doubt) then I'll support an oil boycott. Until then: No blood for oil! Critical Mass not greenhouse gas!