High Gas Prices - The Roll of the Dice
During coffee on the smoking patio of my local 'Blenz' last week, I eavesdropped on a conversation. Not tough to do, either, given the volume of what turned out to be a lecture along the lines of: "When I was a lad....". Among the butts, discarded cups and peeling steel tables, this guy began with the history of gasoline prices, and the exact and only reason why we have fuel prices that very soon will have to be mortgaged, to be afforded. This caffeine-guru's answer isn't the point for this Post (But, in case you are interested, it was Oil Futures traders -Bastards!), but rather how odd that there has to be one answer. Ever since I have lived in North America, I have been disturbed by this logical way of looking at life. In sports, the MVP (Or Man of the Match, as we used to call it in the UK) in any sporting occasion, is simply the guy that throws the winning ball, or makes the winning score. I am used to unsung heroes being MOTM: The plucky midfielder whose runs into the other half of the field were undefendable, or the hard-as-rock defender that held up the opposing strikers enough to put the opposition out of position on every possession. Over here, though, there has to be one reason why your team won, and this is it. Likewise, Elections are called way before the final ballot is cast, so that everyone can see the result in Prime Time, instead of waiting until tomorrow morning. It is instant gratification that, therefore, can be pegged to one reason, one moment, one state, that someone won and someone lost. I miss my British all night, overnight parties that we held to see who was going to be called winner around breakfast next day. They were exciting to see the tides turn gradually, then sweep back again in a vast organic tide, like a pile of autumn leaves blowing over your driveway. Made up of thousands of individuals, it sweeps back and forth as one, fawn, wave. I often have fun looking at the build up of soccer goals, to see where the 'killer touch' occurred in the move - the clever fake, the short pass, the misplaced defender, looking at the scorer as a part of a team effort, not an individual - still, that's the Socialist in me, I guess. Oil prices are this high for many reasons and, while I blame the society that let Futures traders get so out of control, we aren't also counting in the rise of the middle-class in developing countries, the loss of the ozone layer, greenhouse gases, the inability to make and sell a car in the US that does all the right things, rather than one that sells only on gut reactions of shape, colour, and speed. In fact, it's almost like rolling a hand of poker dice. You are only going to count three out of five, but it is the array of all five that you are
looking at, and the decision process becomes way more complex very quickly. I have thought for the longest time that coincidence is much more of a primary mover of human affairs than anyone thinks. When I look at the string of situations that led to me flying to Los Angeles 20 years ago, it makes my heart beat faster to think that one change somewhere along the way, and I wouldn't have got a look in. Recently, my wife and I were shown 'The Secret', and it says mostly the same thing: It's all going to hit the fan, no matter what you do - just get out of the way and keep your head down. For an outlandish and entertaining look at this subject, Leonard Mlodinow's book on the illogical turning of our World and universe: "The Drunkard's Walk" . It is a revealing, and very entertaining look at how we cannot look at one answer for every single situation in out daily lives. Just as molecules fly through space with all the wayward grace of well-oiled drunk, so too, do we stagger through our uncertain world mistakenly believing in cause-and-effect, purpose and direction. There are lots of reasons for every situation in life that we can now look back on and unravel like a troublesome knot in a skein of wool. The trick is to learn from these disparate strings of chaos to ensure that they don't happen again. It's a pity that our own need for transportation highs over the last 150 years in Europe and North America have trumped the sensible voices for restraint that would have helped us get out of this knotty oil situation long before this.