Let's Be Honest...Why is oil so important?

Sitting in a little cafe in Memphis called the Caritas Village is a good place to reflect on the realities of American life. There is a kind of honesty in the air in this place. Rich and poor , black and white, young and old, gather here in this place dedicated to social justice.

A question: Why is oil so important to us here in the United States? Many will respond to this question with the truism that it is the consumption of oil in everything from automobiles, house heating, airplane travel, plastics, etc... that sustains our affluent way of life. All true. But in this conversation there is something missing. The elephant in the room is the U.S. military- industrial complex. That multi-trillion dollar web of people and machine that former President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address in 1961. This " misplaced power...of vast proportion" has grown ever since the second world war until now. With the Pentagon as its sacred temple the military-industrial complex dominates every aspect of American life from education to media to church to grocery shopping. War has become a very profitable business in the United States and a lion's share of our federal budget every year goes to maintain and develop the United States military and its related industries.

So, what about oil? Imagine... the U.S. military without oil. Can you? Our war making ability is absolutely dependent on extremely high consumption of oil. All the bombs, planes, missiles, tanks, ships, subs, guns, etc... could not function without it. Is it any wonder that our government is desperately trying to control the vast oil reserves in the middle east and elsewhere? So desperate in fact that we are willing to destroy countries, murder leaders, and kill and harm thousands upon thousands of men, women and children.

And why so desperate? It seems clear now that our government is determined to deepen its present domination of the globe. Keep in mind that there are now over 725 known U.S. military bases in countries around the world. Many of these were built against the country's wishes.This is the cold fact of empire. Control... domination...record high profits by companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Haliburton...all industries deeply involved in supplying our military and profiting immensely from their transactions. And all of this is fundamentaly dependent upon the diminishing natural resource - oil.

Most scholars say that we are now or soon will be at peak oil production. What then?
Do we grasp in desperation at the declining supply of oil? If so, for how long? And at what consequence? Are we really willing to wage more and more wars with more and more death and destruction, there and here, for the sake of our narrow definition of affluence, domination and profit?

Earlier an entry read " Can a song save the world?" If by a song we mean a metaphor for true beauty, simplicity, and openness of heart then I think we need to do a lot of singing. We need to sing of a future not dependent on oil but truly interdependent in the deepest human way. In the past few years I have heard of more and more local economies that sing of sustainable living, experiments in economic sharing, creativity, and courage. I believe the hope of the future is here. We dare not wait for our political leaders to save the day. We must look to ourselves. I remember the founder of the Taize Community once spoke of a " fine human hope". I believe in this. This hope for a new future resides within us. This Hope is calling us to live out a new way of life not tied to former prejudices and preconceptions. Certainly not tied to the politics of oil. A future that is truly free of these illusions. May we say our " yes for a lifetime" to this hope of a new way of living.
Looking together to a future struggling to be born...

Stefan Andre

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

:) very interesting article. I often wonder why there are no effective substitutes