Saw Syriana today. Pretty good (non) fictional movie. I didn't have much trouble tying the different segments and plots together so I had a good time watching it. I agree with Digby's take
on it, that oil is king and everyone is scrambling to get it at no matter the cost. Of course this hit home for me, which in a large part got me thinking about America's role as the world superpower and its influence.
I think a great deal of the failings we've had on the world playing field since WWII, or at least since Vietnam, have been due to our own arrogance. We've been willing to subvert democratic ideals and popular wills to suit our own purposes, which to a large extent have been about cheap goods and energy. I'm not saying that there aren't fundamentalists out there who would have passed on the opportunity to see us dead if even if we hadn't tried to assume pseudo-control of their governments and economies, but I think a large part of the problem is us and our hubris.
Just as we live our daily lives conscious - if you're not a sociopath - of not humiliating other people in our dealings with them and violating their wills, it should be the same thing on the world stage. I'm not ruling out the necessity of reprisal and self defense on our part, but I think we need to be a little more clear cut about what that is. I've spoken to otherwise rational people who believe that if other countries have oil that we need to survive, and they are unwilling to give it to us, then we are justified in slaughtering every last one of them to get that oil.
Such a manic obsession with anything to the point of destroying other people is a sign of psycopathy, and it overlooks basic human interactions. We all learned as kids that you do not beat little Timmy senseless if he doesn't want to give you some of his candy. (Of course little Timmy's a tool, but that's besides the point :P) If you have trouble understanding that basic behavioral principle on an internal level, and either 1. don't believe it, or 2. only follow it out of fear of reprisal, you need help. Now.
In the case of oil, it overlooks that basic respect for someone else's will. The natural response to this is what if it becomes a question of self defense, i.e. if you don't have oil you will die. The problem with that line of reasoning is that it overlooks a lot of basic solutions, such as: 1. don't use as much oil 2. switch to alternative energy 3. life existed without oil and will continue to exist without oil. If your only answer is that you need to consume oil like now and like you've never consumed it before, you're a twit.
That brings us back to the earlier problem. If you can't obtain what you want under normal social interaction terms, then something's gotta give. The problem is that we've transferred the causes for that problem onto other countries and abused them when it's really our problem. If we want to fix this problem we have to start owning it. Heretofore all we have done is run away and blame others for our problems. The solution is to own up for what we've done and start doing things differently by respecting other people and countries. I think it means being more isolationist in military terms, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Trade will continue to flourish, but maybe it will be closer to actual free trade and not what neocons and supply siders like to call free trade.
This solution carries its own problems with it, most notably, how do we affect this? Well, the obvious answer is to elect people with these beliefs, but that only begs the question of how in hell do we do that? We need a government full of white knights, and that isn't going to be easy to pull off. The major obstacle is that the correct solution requires owning up for our actions and taking responsibilty - something which the American people abhor doing. The will vote for Mr. Sunshine (they literally did 25 years ago) over Mr. Raincloud, even if they are living in a drought and are dying of thirst. One of the classic conservative complaints is that progressives are too negative. It's easier to vote for the guy who tells you we're alright and things will be fine than to vote for the guy who lays it out as is. Easier to dodge reality and live an escapist fantasy.
However, this provides the perfect opportunity to grab the easy moral high ground. It's something that politicians and the grass roots should not shy away from. It's about economic and social responsibility. It's an issue that people with convictions will easily come together on, unless they believe that it's all caused by homosexuality and letting women vote. If people want to deny the consequences of their actions, we should hit them full on with "sinners." Even for those of us who are not god fearing it still carries the same meaning, for it is an abomination to humiliate and subvert people in the way we have been doing in our arrogance. Using the word "sinner" in particular speaks to what the problem is and also communicates with a large part of the population we are trying to speak to. George Bush is a sinner. Even after he found Jesus at the bottom of a pile of coke, he continues to sin. Bribery is a sin. Murder is a sin. The list goes on and on.
Syriana gave us a glimmer of hope at the end, even as it was marred by yet another defeat, by showing that we can make progress, even if it is at a brutally slow and painful pace. Let's own this problem and get to it.