Interesting things happen when you stop thinking of oil as a resource and start seeing it as a religion. How else explain the non-rational, all-encompassing human devotion to the stuff?
Charles Mudede brings a gently sardonic brilliance to bear on this on Slog, the blog of Seattle’s alt-hip weekly The Stranger. On offshore drilling platforms:
They are magnificent, they are the descendants of Our Lady of Chartres, they are the cathedrals of the oil industry. Indeed, recognition of this connection will add to our understanding of why it is that Christians on the right side of politics so deeply admire offshore drilling—they can’t help but be impressed by the almost Gothic severity of an offshore platform, out there in the sea like a cathedral on a mountain.
Face to face with the industrial sublime — the energy-producing, distance-defeating, plasticizing miracle of oil, as essential to modern society as the sun was to ancient ones — what can a mere human do but submit and worship? Simply by living as we do, we are all followers of the cult of oil, all members of a church that far surpasses any other in size and wealth. Helplessly dependent on it in every aspect of our daily lives — give us this day our daily oil — we abjectly acknowledge its power to sustain us. And panic as we realize the other side of its power, which is to destroy us.
It all gets very biblical: like ancient Israelites who had the temerity to worship other gods than Yahweh, we tremble as the divine wrath turns on us, and with such sublime irony: the current Flood is not just oil instead of water, but oil into water.
See Charles Mudede’s full post here. And lest anyone accuse me of losing perspective, check out this earlier Slog post by Dominic Holden, superimposing the current outline of the Gulf oil spill on a map of western Washington state. Do the same superimposition over a 400-mile-long swathe of your area, and experience awe.
I like the perspective, although I’m not sure it’s the oil itself that is worshiped, but what it affords us. As Bernadette Peters whines in “The Jerk”, “it’s not the money I’m gonna miss… it’s all the stuff.”
I am immensely tempted by the idea of physically prostrating ourselves before a gulf-full of viscous, oozing, stinking, black gunk, then immersing ourselves in it until we “become one” with it. But yes, you’re right: Bernadette Peters nails it. .