Sunday, August 27, 2006
SLAVES WERE ENERGY, ONCE
Slaves used to be energy. Just ask the South. That's why it fought so hard to keep them in the Civil War. Their economy was based on the energy of slaves; without slaves, there would've been no big cheap cotton crops to build up humming textile mills in the North and in Europe. And there are few old Romans around anymore to ask, but if you look it up you'll find Rome may as well of had a "Slaves Inside" brand-stickie on it. Here's how many slaves Rome had: Romans knew about the water wheel and used lots of them, only they didn't use the gravity of falling water to freely propel them: rather, they used slaves like gerbils to pump the water upwards. I know that doesn't make sense, but it doesn't make sense that a gallon of gasoline costs less than a gallon of milk, either. Oil inverts everyone's thinking like slavery did. Oil is dying, like slavery did.
Still, it's not going easy, and there's this quaint little old German emigrant, heavy accent, rich, charming, and still around; he's myopic and sits on all sorts of boards that steer big companies and the world. You might've heard of him. Here's what he had to say about energy:
"Control energy and you control the nations."
I'd ask Mr. Kissinger about slavery in the post-oil age but am scared at what he might say. Whether it be oil or slaves, coal or trees or whales, at some point controlling (dominating) the energy gets to be a bitch. Nations and peoples are often jealous, protective of their own persons and their families, and the task of maintaining control on into times of increasing scarcity starts to be the source of much anxiety and expense. Ask the South. Read about the Romans. Ask Dick Cheney, if you can find him by the scent of his fear. The American Empire is now the proverbial chimp trapped in the cookie jar's implacable vise, the chimp's hand on the delicious cookie inside, unable to let go. We're going bankrupt, but tighten our grip on the oil anyway. Control of oil by the US is over.
Our society isn't thinking right yet, because it's like a very rich man with Alzheimer's, old and mean and addled, but our society is staring down a barrel. As my friend Valeo remarked to me more than 15 years ago, "You know why we're not investing in solar energy? Because nobody owns the sun." That's right. No one owns the wind, no one owns the tides, and no one owns the sun, and reigning economic theory is based on the philosophical concept of the Tragedy of the Commons. There's a new trade wind blowing, and it will bring a Triumph of the Commons. It's not about idealism, far be it from us...it's about new technology and the spirit of Free Ride. The same Bilderberg Group which Henry Kissinger so dutifully attends might be calling the next system of investment "Better Energy," and coincidentally that same elite can make scads and scads and scads of money off of it. Whether they choose to or not, it's now become much cheaper for my government to give me and my restless countrymen solar panels, solar windows, wind turbines, and books on gardening (with some Archer Daniels Midland GMO seeds) than it is to try to maintain control over the world's oil. There's not much to wait for but the default notice on US bonds.
So cough up, ye elite! Let go of the cookie, and keep us in your program for once, just once. Raise high the roofbeams, carpenters, to bring back your Eagle Scouts before we leave this place. Look to photosynthesis and for that matter to sprouts, because your old-fashioned trench-warfare games are done. Today, as for me and my house, we want to serve the wind, the waves, and the sun.
(Graphic is supposedly of an Orion Slave Auction, courtesy of Star Trek. But I bet it's a candid shot from an Apple product release party.)