Posts Tagged ‘fuel shortage’

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The Automobile Association reports there is no actual shortage of petrol. They say it is panic buying that has created a local shortage, here in the UK. But we could also say it was yesterday, or the day before’s media headlines, urging people not to panic buy petrol, that caused the panic buying, which has caused the emptying and subsequent closure of petrol stations, up and down the country. That’s a very different story. Then, we could also say it is a shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers that has caused the disruptions in supply that we should not have panicked about, and the reason for that,… well,… there, opinions diverge, become political, and I leave others to pick apart that side of things.

I’ve lived through enough fuel crises over the past half century to understand people’s anxiety over shortages. I’ve been in a hard place more than once, commuting, the car running on vapours, and with a decidedly obtuse line-management offering no support whatsoever, when I told them it was less than certain I would be there in the morning. But now I’m in the position where I don’t need petrol for anything other than travelling for pleasure, and we can easily curtail that until this particular moment passes.

What’s more interesting are the media headlines themselves, not so much what they say, but why certain stories are chosen to be told, while others are cold-shouldered. It’s interesting also to ponder just how much of our reality we construct upon a landscape shaped by the well-connected writers of this mass media. So we should perhaps be more concerned with asking ourselves who they are, and with whom they are connected, rather than with what they say.

My local petrol station ran out of fuel last night. It’s inconvenient, but I’m fine with it. I’m not tied to the car any more. Covid has taught me I can stay local for months on end without actually losing my mind. But that’s not the only thing going on in the UK at the moment. I’ve had emails from my energy supplier warning of a serious hike in prices this winter. That’s galling, but I calculate I can cover it. Then the weekly food bill has spiked, and stuff I used to see on supermarket shelves, I don’t see any more – or rather its presence is no longer to be relied upon. That’s irksome, but not exactly worth a letter to the Times. My local builder reports a sudden 40% hike in the price of wood, and do I still want that job doing? I’ll have to think about that one. Meanwhile, there may also be actual food shortages ahead, in particular meat, but I don’t eat much meat anyway, now, and I don’t give a stuff about turkey for Christmas.

All in all these are just ongoing shots in a barrage that seems woven into the fabric of British life, now, and I don’t see the future being any different, and certainly no better. In general, the message is: the future is not so big as it used to be. One might think the causes of such a collapse in a nation’s mojo would be the subject of heated debate, but it appears to be a mystery to almost the entire UK media, including the BBC.

I wager we all know the reason, but there is an omertà on that word, so I shall not speak it. But again, the word doesn’t really matter any more. What’s done is done. It’s more important to note that its presence in the landscape of our reality is so firmly resisted by the media. It is deemed no longer part of the official socio-economic history of the British Isles. That we did this to ourselves runs against the grain of British exceptionalism, and is therefore unthinkable – so we’d better make a mystery of it, or better still blame the Johnny Foreigner any which-way we can, than face the truth of our own stupidity.

Stories are important. They are vital to life. Those who stormed the US Capitol building inhabited a reality shaped largely by the right-wing conspiracist regions of social media. The stories they believed in seemed absolutely barking to me, but the issue is that they did wholly and sincerely believe in them. For a time, I inhabited a polar opposite region, one that spoke of the imminent birth of a socialist Shangri-La, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbin. There were many who felt that was equally barking. Reality, then, is a fluid concept, and even, to a degree, personal. I wonder what my own reality would be like if I lived a life isolated from all record of human thought, contemporary and historical. Would I even be able to think at all?

The big British media is so appallingly manipulative, I wonder how anyone can expect to be reliably informed by it, other than by developing the insight to read above the headlines, and to ask: what is it I am being led to think and believe here? There are alternative sources of media, of course, both right and left leaning. On the left we have the likes of Novara Media, and Byline Times. I find them telling stories that suit my own biases better. But I also feel I can trust their analyses, if only because their influence is as yet quite small and poorly connected with the corridors of power. Small in the influence to be pedalled, determination of facts, critical reasoning: whatever our bias, these are valuable touchstones, ones we should cleave to, but rarely do, in such polarised times as these.

Ongoing crises, populist but otherwise incompetent leaders, a drift to the nastier fringes of the bonkers right, the spectre of authoritarianism, appalling cruelty to others deemed not British, or not British enough. These are not the headlines we read, not the story that is written for us. But they are all of them facets of the reality that is indeed coalescing around the cold hard slag of a spent materialism, and an economic model we really need to ditch, but which ossified and unimaginably wealthy interests are keen to perpetuate. Thus, a story is spun which tells us there is nothing to see here. Or rather, what we are led to believe is entirely at odds with the increasingly uncomfortable truths of life in Britain, at least for the ninety-nine percent of us who still live here.

I have sworn never to utter that word again in the annals of this blog. Still, I cannot help but predict the outlook to be stormy on account of it [that word]. I shall, however, continue to marvel at the circumlocutions of the media, as they studiously avoid the elephant in the room, even as it defecates daily, and copiously all over their nice, shiny shoes.

Take care what you read, and what you choose to shape your reality.

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Resistance is futile (the Daleks)

Around this time last year, I was writing about the rising price of fuel, and about it being a proxy for a general feeling of unease regarding the future. I don’t know if it was my own personal future I was talking about, or if I was picking up on the zeitgeist of the western fuel-driven world – in other words picking up on what the news-media were telling me to get upset about.

My alarm was not unjustified, I thought – the price of petrol having hit a record high, at around £1.38 per litre, and it seemed incredible to me that it was costing more to fill up my car than I was paying for the mortgage on my house. Last weekend though, the price of fuel reached a new high of £1.42 per litre.The difference now however, is I’m finding it harder to get upset about it. Even the sight of long queues of panic buyers on the petrol station forecourts this afternoon – result of government “advice” to top-up just in case the proposed strike of fuel-tanker drivers goes ahead – leaves me unmoved.

I don’t think this is a sign of world-weary fatalism on my part. Fatalism implies a resignation to one’s fate, while retaining the awareness of an ongoing menace, like sitting with an unstable bomb in your basement. You know it’s going to off at some point, and though you tell yourself you can take it – that life is but vale of tears, and then you die – subliminally, we still resist and resent the presence of that bomb. It still gets under our skin, and eventually it makes us angry and ugly, and ill. No. Fatalism isn’t an attractive way to view the world; it’s more of a last resort, I think, when the way we see the world refuses to shift out of bottom gear.

What I think I’m feeling now is more of a letting go of those things I cannot control. To stick with the motoring metaphor, we’ll call it getting into second gear. We accept the world changes, that fuel, like fine single malt whiskies, become prohibitively expensive and occasionally scarce, that rich nations become poor, that the healthy fall ill, and those we love are taken from us.

But second gear is still a long way from cruise control, and we might worry that in becoming so passive and withdrawn from life’s events we also risk losing our essential passion for life. We no longer rant, we no longer cry, but equally such passivity can insulate us from all the things that remain in the world to be joyful about; we no longer laugh at jokes, we no longer take the time to stand and stare at the beauty of things, we become dead from the neck up, we become impotent, incapable of a bone-hard arousal, let alone making love to the world with the all the spirited abandon of our youth. And who wants to live like that? It’s inhuman.

It’s not about being passive then – not entirely. It’s more about not resisting what happens – which isn’t the same thing. We hold an image in our minds that defines what we think is good for us, what we think we want for ourselves, and if we’re not careful anything that doesn’t fit that narrow minded model, we try to protect ourselves from. We resist it. We reject it. We throw up the shield of our ego in an attempt to deflect it, but it breaks through with a force equal and opposite to the strength of our imagined defences. So, we take the blow and absorb it as a dark energy, which transforms into an imagined injury. But imagined or not, we take it deep into our bones where it make us weary and sad.

So, rather than remain in passive second gear, we need to snick our mind quickly into third gear. Rather than being simply passive, we must redefine our state of mind as being one of no longer offering resistance to those aspects of life that don’t fit in with our narrow view. We open our arms and welcome the whole of life, the good and the bad of it. And in not resisting life, we find there are more things to be joyful about, rather than less. And the bad things? We no longer label them as bad, but more as object lessons on the road to a growing awareness of the nature of life and how we can best relate to it.

When the wind blows, the meadow does not stand firm; the grasses part and sway, and the wind passes safely through, leaving the grasses upright. I’m sure Lao Tzu has a better aphorism for the same thing, but you know what I mean.

Getting into third gear is difficult of course, because – to stretch that motoring metaphor possibly to destruction – there’s no syncromesh on the box we were born with and we have to spend a while grinding those gears before we can find it. But when we do find it, we get a kick, and a sense of movement like no other. Of course third gear’s still a long way from the fabled luxury of cruise control, but at least it comes with a sense we’re finally heading in the right direction.

If you resist what happens, then you will always be at the mercy of what happens, and your happiness or unhappiness will be determined by the world.

Ekhart Tolle. (A New Earth)

Michael Graeme

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