How I learned to stop worrying and love oil

There’s no avoiding it, there’s no getting around it. Lately, it appears that a whole lot of people have been dealing with that Howard Beale feeling.

You remember Howard? He was the news anchorman (played by Peter Finch) in the movie Network who finally, in an age of high-powered stress and bizarre political madness, snapped under the strain of trying to remain “objective” and morphed into a raving looneyman, ranting against corporate oppression every week on the air and becoming wildly popular in the process. His most memorable catchphrase from the movie was when he advised listeners at home to go to their windows and scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Well, in the last couple of months, it’s been easy to notice that a very Beale-like Buzz has been moving through a significant segment of America, picking up in intensity with every grim piece of news coming out of Iraq. A lot of folks seem to have crossed over into that “mad as hell” zone.

But we who are feeling fed up would probably do well to remember what happened to Mr. Beale later on in Network, before he got blown away. I’m referring to the scene where he is summoned to the Big Boardroom to get a quick overview of the Big Picture, courtesy of the quintessential corporate executive as portrayed by actor Ned Beatty. It’s a terrific scene, pulled off nicely by both actors, but more importantly, given great weight by the dialogue itself, which is dead-solid perfect.

So let’s say you get picked for a similar briefing. You’re summoned to a Big Boardroom in San Francisco, greeted there by a sharply dressed businessman who invites you to sit down and make yourself comfortable. As soon as you do, he turns the lights off, save for one shining on his podium, and thunders, “You have been meddling with the forces of nature!” And when he says nature, he really means the international forces of inter-global geopolitics, focused as they are on war.

What would be the details of Mr. Suit’s “schooling session”? What would be the key points of his Big Picture? What kind of Iraq would he foresee in the year 2007? 2009? Why did Saddam Hussein have to be cleared out? Who are the international power brokers who decided that Saddam must go? Would the forgotten word “oil” be a key player in his pitch? Would he say the strong are justified in doing what they do, simply because they are the strong, and that, as always, the ends still justifies the means?

Would Mr. Suit paint a picture of “no blood for oil” as, ultimately, a minority viewpoint? That “some blood for oil,” in the macrocosmic game of power and money, turned out to be an acceptable proposition to a surprisingly large number of people.