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1861—The first major oil well in the world started pumping. Christened “Empire,” it stood on Funk Farm in Pennsylvania.
1908—The Anglo-Persian Oil Company discovered oil in Iran. This was the first major oil field in the Middle East. APOC would become the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, then British Petroleum, in 1954.
1913—Inspired by disassembly lines inside Chicago slaughterhouses, the Ford Motor Company perfected the assembly line. From this point on, a man must strive to become as efficient and mechanical as a machine.
1927—The Turkish Petroleum Company struck oil in Iraq. Despite its name, TPC was a conglomerate of European companies, with the biggest shareholder the Anglo-Persian Company, i.e., British Petroleum.
1933—In New Jersey, the first drive-in theater opened. Thanks to the car, even a lumpen could have his private carriage. Now, he also had a private box in a theater.
1944—The G.I. Bill helped returning veterans to buy homes, with stipulations that these were detached and in homogenous neighborhoods, i.e., the white suburbs. Like many American laws, this was designed to enrich real estate, car and oil interests.
1953—The C.I.A. orchestrated a coup against the democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, after he had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, i.e., British Petroleum.
1956—President Eisenhower began the largest public works project in history, the Interstate. What it is is a generous and continuous system of multi-laned highways. It is never intersected, not even once, by a lesser road. One needs not pause on one’s life’s journey as long as one’s traveling on the Interstate. It is eternity made real and proven, a diagram of heaven (or hell) for the wordless masses.
1962—The Beverly Hillbillies debuted, to become one of the most popular television series of all time. Resonating deeply within the American psyche, its premise might as well be our national myth: a family of hicks struck it rich through oil.
1963—The C.I.A. orchestrated a coup against Abdul Karim Kassem of Iraq. Kassem had begun nationalizing foreign oil companies, most prominently the Iraq Petroleum Company, formerly known as Turkish Petroleum, i.e., British Petroleum.
1967—In “The Graduate,” Mr. McGuire advised Ben, “I just want to say one word to you—just one word.”
“Are you listening?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Exactly how do you mean?”
“There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”
“Yes, I will.”
Plastic is oil, hardened. By 2010, there would be plastic patches the size of Texas to choke both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Thanks to the chemical phthalate in plastic, male genitals are shrinking worldwide, and sperm counts are way down, though not low enough, unfortunately, to slow down this full-throttle-ahead “love” boat. World population is approaching seven billion, with about 30,000 people starving to death each day.
1990—The Gulf War ignited. Eyeing Kuwait’s rich oil fields, Iraq attacked its tiny neighbor. Iraq was bankrupt after its eight-year-long war with Iran. During this previous conflict, the U.S. openly backed Iraq even as it sold weapons to Iran in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair.
2000—Saddam Hussein announced that Iraq would now only accept euros, and not dollars, for its oil exports. This prompted the U.S. to invade 18 months later.
2001—Dick Cheney, “The American way of life is not negotiable.” Before becoming vice president, Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, an oil services company.
Ari Fleisher, Press Secretary to President Bush, was asked, “Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?”
He answered, “That’s a big no. The President believes that it’s an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one.”
With 1/21 of the world’s population and less than 3% of its oil reserve, the U.S. uses 25% of the world’s oil .
Draped in cheap oil and sweating oil, under an increasingly hot sun, we steer oil cars, on oil, towards oil jobs. Before meals, we pray and take oil pills. To feel upper or downer, we chug a lug oil.
2003—Using various pretexts, none convincingly and long since discarded, the U.S. invaded Iraq. The invading force was mostly Anglo. Augmenting 248,000 Americans, the United Kingdom contributed 45,000 troops, Australia 2,000 and Poland 194.
2008—During a debate between Vice Presidential candidates, Joe Biden said, “The only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must,” only to be corrected by Sarah Palin, “The chant is drill, baby, drill! And that’s what we hear all across this country in our rallies, because people are so hungry for domestic sources of energy to be tapped into.”
2009—Thanks to the U.S. invasion, British Petroleum could do business again in Iraq after 37 years.
2010—Floating 5,000 feet above the ocean floor, a British Petroleum rig was drilling 30,000 feet into the earth’s crust when it exploded, then sank over its drill hole. 210,000 gallons a day are spilling as I’m writing this, and they won’t be capped any time soon. This is no tanker breaking up, my friends, but the raped earth spewing what we’ve been demanding so relentlessly for over a century now. A monstrous ecocide, this is too fitting an end to our reckless oil ride.
LINH DINH is the author of two books of stories and five of poems, with a novel, Love Like Hate, scheduled for July. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.