Thursday, June 2, 2011
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Earlier this week, a Saudi prince called for lower oil prices. Some of you might be surprised at what his statement revealed about how the Middle East views us, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
There are two stories upon which we often reflect in thinking about “group dynamics,” one involving relatively large groups and the other about small groups.
The first involves black folks. During the early 1970s, the top R&B/urban music station in Atlanta had a very popular black DJ, who used a large number of recorded exchanges between fictional characters to send messages to his listeners.
The one which struck us most forcefully was the purported conversation between 2 Ku Klux Klan members saying that to accomplish their goals, they need not waste their time, energy and bullets, since they could simply “place their guns on the shelves; because those _____ are going to kill themselves.” The DJ was trying to get his fans to appreciate the damage to the black community brought on by, what sociologists and urban specialists refer to as, “black on black crime.”
The second story reveals how in some instances, members of a group may have good intentions and the same ultimate goal, but disagree about how to go about achieving that goal. A well-educated, sharp, upper middle class couple we know had a child who suffered from a congenital condition which caused the child to self-inflict injury.
When the child was young, the parents disagreed about the course of treatment to address the condition. The disagreements continued over the years as the child grew older, and the child’s self-destructive behavior became more intense.
Once the child approached puberty, and grew stronger physically, the parents could no longer handle the child themselves, and were forced to have the child restrained initially, and ultimately confined to an institution. Shortly thereafter, the parents divorced (significantly because of the disagreements regarding the treatment), and the child no longer had the benefit, if any there were, of a parental support team to battle his unfortunate condition.
To this day, the parents argue about the “correct” approach to treatment.
Getting back to the Saudi prince, whose grandfather was the founding king of modern day Saudi Arabia, Al-Waleed bin Talal said Sunday that he prefers that oil prices decline so that western industrialized nations do not accelerate efforts to become energy independent. According to an article on CNN.com:
"’We don't want the West to go and find alternatives, because, clearly, the higher the price of oil goes, the more they have incentives to go and find alternatives,’ said Talal, who is listed by Forbes as the 26th richest man in the world.”
Actually, it seems like a smart approach on the part of OPEC, if you're in the catbird seat.
We don’t know about you, but that a foreign nation or some other entity has us by the balls, and does not mince words while clearly expressing it to the world, should be disturbing to us all. What’s more interesting is the paucity of outrage on our part that someone would characterize our internal “group dynamics” in such a manner.
The reason that we really can’t complain is because it is the "truth," (which unfortunately, despite the claims of many Baby Boomers, shall not "set us free" from this addiction).
We have no one to blame but our collective selves.
And yet like the couple with the child, we argue and debate the manner in which we should “wean” ourselves off of foreign oil. And while debate is always good, at some point there has to be resolution, followed by action.
Imagine a team of doctors treating a heroin addicted patient, debating the treatment approach and trying their various, conflicting approaches as the rehab facility administration changes from time to time, while the patient continues to use heroin for 40 years.
Is the current state of affairs a function of our governance model? Payments by Big Oil to our politicians? The American consumer’s love affair with driving and the individual freedom which goes along with driving one’s own vehicle? Is there a class issue associated with urban mass transit?
We don’t know. We doubt that anyone really knows. But we do know that we can’t keep delaying finding solutions to problems while engaged in doctrinal debates for very much longer.
It will be the death of us, by more forces than just oil.
Perhaps the Common Sense and Compassion Party formed this year by one of regular followers, the Independent Cuss, has the “right idea.” According to their Party Platform:
“We believe that neither should one kill the goose which lays the golden eggs out of spite (the ideological left), nor should one kill his neighbor and feed him to the goose as an artificial growth hormone for increased egg production (the ideological right).
Where does it all end?
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