The Bullroarer  

Posted by Big Gav

I seem to be running ever shorter of time lately, so tonight is mostly just links...

It seems to be heretics week this week so I'll start with Bill Moyers' declaration that this is a time for heresy. As usual, he has all sorts of good stuff in there, including bullroarers and an Economist article I've quoted occasionally here over the past yar or so.

Pain comes with freedom – it’s just the deal. The little gods don’t want you to grow, learn, think for yourself. But you have to test their truth claims against your own life’s experience – against your own faith and reason. To cross over to freedom you have to show the bogus gods at the border that you have a mind of your own.

It’s fascinating what is revealed to you. Joseph Campbell told me a story (also recently recounted by Davidson Loehr) about the Australian tribe that used the bullroarer to keep people in awe of the gods. The bullroarer is a long flat board with notches, or slits, at one end, and a rope at the other. When you swing it around your head, the action produces a musical humming. The sound struck the primitive tribes as other-worldly, causing them to tremble in fear that the gods were angry. So the elders would go into the forest and come back with word of what it would take to placate the gods. And the people would oblige.

Now when a young boy in the tribe was ready to become a man, a ritual took place. Wearing masks, the elders would kidnap him and take him into the woods, tie him down, and with a flint knife slice the underside of his penis. It was painful, but the medicine man said this is how you became a man.

It meant shedding one’s innocence. At the end of the ritual one of the masked men dipped the bullroarer in the boy’s blood and thrust it in his face, simultaneously removing his mask so the boy could see it’s not a god at all – it’s just one of the old guys. And the medicine man would whisper, “We make the noises.”

Ah, yes – it’s not the gods after all. It’s just the old guys – Uncle George, Uncle Dick, Uncle Don. The "noise" in the woods is the work of the old guys playing gods, wanting you to live in fear and trembling so that you will look to them to protect you against the wrath to come. It takes courage to put their truth-claims to the test of reality, to call their bluff.

We need such courage today. This is a time for heresy. American democracy is threatened by perversions of money, power, and religion. Money has bought our elections right out from under us. Power has turned government “of, by, and for the people” into the patron of privilege. And Christianity and Islam have been hijacked by fundamentalists who have made religion the language of power, the excuse for violence, and the alibi for empire. We must answer the principalities and powers that would force on America a stifling conformity. Either we make the heretical choices that will inspire us to renew our commitment to America’s deepest values and ideals, or the day will come when we will no longer recognize the country we love.

Here’s what I mean.

Two years ago, the American Political Science Association produced a study entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality . The report said people with wealth – privileged Americans – are “roaring with a clarity and consistency that public officials readily hear and routinely follow” while citizens “with lower or moderate incomes are speaking with a whisper.” The study concluded that “progress toward realizing American ideals of democracy may have stalled, and even, in some places, reversed.”

The following year – 2005 – the editors of The Economist, one of the world’s most pro-capitalist publications, produced their own sobering analysis of what is happening in America. They found great and growing income disparities. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was 30 times the pay of the average worker; today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.

They found an education system “increasingly stratified by social class” in which poor children “attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries.” They found our celebrated universities increasingly “reinforcing rather that reducing” these educational inequalities.

They found American corporations no longer successful agents of upward mobility. It is now harder for people to start at the bottom and rise up the company hierarchy by dint of hard work and self-improvement.

The editors of The Economist studied all this evidence and concluded – and I am quoting a pro-business magazine, remember – that the United States “risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society.”

TomDispatch has a pair of interviews with Chalmers Johnson on "Our Military Empire" and "Our Fading Republic".
From George Bush's point of view, his administration has achieved everything ideologically that he wanted to achieve. Militarism has been advanced powerfully. In the minds of a great many people, the military is now the only American institution that appears to work. He's enriched the ruling classes. He's destroyed the separation of powers as thoroughly as was possible. These are the problems that face us right now. The only way you could begin to rebuild the separation of powers would be to reinvigorate the Congress and I don't know what could shock the American public into doing that. They're the only ones who could do it. The courts can't. The President obviously won't.

The only thing I can think of that might do it would be bankruptcy. Like what happened to Argentina in 2001. The richest country in Latin America became one of the poorest. It collapsed. It lost the ability to borrow money and lost control of its affairs, but a great many Argentines did think about what corrupt presidents had listened to what corrupt advice and done what stupid things during the 1990s. And right now, the country is on its way back.

The Oil Drum (which just turned one - happy birthday guys) has a good roundup of military related peak oil matters, following on from Energy Bulletin's recent collection of this sort of article. They also have a post asking "Can sustainable farming feed the world?".

Jeff Vail has a look at the oil markets and wonders if the phenomenon of backwardation in futures prices is significant in terms of market acceptance of peak oil.

The opening of Iran's oil bourse has apparently been delayed with Qatar now talking about opening a gulf state energy bazaar instead.

There is some speculation the US may be considering the old Ottoman and British empires tactic's in Iraq, and making the Sunnis their local surrogates instead - prompting cynical speculation that Saddam may be wheeled out as president again (I think he may have been demonised a little too much for that to be feasible).

Salon has a good roundup of the peak oil world for those new to the idea.

Democracy Now has an interview with Kevin Phillips on his book "American Theocracy".

Past Peak has a look at the "twin peaks" - the other being the little considered peak in net oil production, which may be behind us...

Mobjectivist comments on Greg Palast's latest rant, which praised Bush for actually completely his (real) mission. The idea that the peak could be 10 years away still but the oil companies have repeated their 1970's bonanza through deft political maneouvrings is one which I'm often inclined to give a lot of credence to.
There you have it. Yes, Bush went in for the oil -- not to get more of Iraq's oil, but to prevent Iraq producing too much of it.

You must keep in mind who paid for George's ranch and Dick's bunker: Big Oil. And Big Oil -- and their buck-buddies, the Saudis -- don't make money from pumping more oil, but from pumping less of it. The lower the supply, the higher the price.

It's Economics 101. The oil industry is run by a cartel, OPEC, and what economists call an "oligopoly" -- a tiny handful of operators who make more money when there's less oil, not more of it. So, every time the "insurgents" blow up a pipeline in Basra, every time Mad Mahmoud in Tehran threatens to cut supply, the price of oil leaps. And Dick and George just love it.

Dick and George didn't want more oil from Iraq, they wanted less. I know some of you, no matter what I write, insist that our President and his Veep are on the hunt for more crude so you can cheaply fill your family Hummer; that somehow, these two oil-patch babies are concerned that the price of gas in the USA is bumping up to $3 a gallon.

Not so, gentle souls. Three bucks a gallon in the States (and a quid a litre in Britain) means colossal profits for Big Oil, and that makes Dick's ticker go pitty-pat with joy. The top oily-gopolists, the five largest oil companies, pulled in $113 billion in profit in 2005 -- compared to a piddly $34 billion in 2002 before Operation Iraqi Liberation. In other words, it's been a good war for Big Oil.

As per Plan Bush, Bahr Al-Ulum became Iraq's occupation oil minister; the conquered nation "enhanced its relationship with OPEC;" and the price of oil, from Clinton peace-time to Bush war-time, shot up 317%.

Australian Resources Minister Ian McFarlane thinks Australia is well prepared for peak oil (cough !).

Sir David Manning from the British Embassy in the US has declared that energy is the "burning issue for foreign policy". No kidding.

The Saudis have announced a new 300,000 barrel per day project.

China is rapidly ramping up solar panel production.

The renewable energy indusrty is becoming a big job generator in Germany, while Spanish solar projects are booming.

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