Monday, May 26, 2008

How Will Gas Prices affect the Blue Collar/Poor

There is a lot of talk about how gas prices affect stock brokers, middle-class homeowners, corporations, and people who can afford Hummers. But how much can the blue collar/poor take? Where do they stand in all this? What are their views on the gas prices? Will they eventually start rioting? What will make them riot?

Now we must not take into consideration the science, the geology of Peak Oil nor take into account the price of a barrel of oil when discussing blue collar/poor people's view on oil. The only thing that affects them is price. They have been trained to be consumers, they view themselves as consumers. They view this problem in terms of consumption. All they see and feel with their hands empirically is that they are having less money to spend on things they want like vacations, four-wheelers, new car stereos, and intoxicants. They see that their raises have stopped coming or not being as large. They can see that their employers are trying to get by with less employees.

They do not concern themselves with stocks or geology. This is not because of America's education system or even because of apathy particular to the American character. There is no point in history where the workers and peasants were intellectual geniuses. The fact that they know how to read is a first in human history. If we had a limitless supply of resources perhaps in two hundred years they could have advanced to the point of being rational, empirical and logical. (Probably not though, if there were limitless or alternative resources for 200 years the world would probably end up being completely owned by Wal-Mart.) This is only the second generation of workers that know how to read on a large scale. And also at the same time 20 percent of American adults do not know how to read above a fifth grade level.

The Blue Collar/Poor View: There are three main views.

1.Gas prices are so high because corporations are doing it to make a profit. They do not understand economics and that the ways to make a profit are through cheaper machinery, cheaper labor, advertising, and coupons. It is absurd to raise the price of a product by 100 percent in one year. That will only cause a decrease in sales. Most blue collar/poor have no idea how capitalism works.

2.There is oil in Alaska and in the gulf and “tree-huggers” will not let us use it. Even though the science shows that there isn't that much oil there and it is expensive to get it out and refine.

3.I have heard many white males say that it is because of the blacks in Nigeria and the Arabs who hate American freedom. (The racist theory of oil prices.)

Blue collar/poor people have no interest in alternative energy sources. I have never heard the phrase “alternative energy source” come out of a blue collar/poor person's mouth. That phrase is used by upper class people who have an invested interest in our current way of life. They have thirty year plans and think life is awesome, they take vacations, have newer cars, nice houses, etc. A blue collar/poor person goes to work, deals with their kids, either in a stale marriage or divorced and sleeping alone. Or on craiglist looking for a casual encounter. They get treated like children by their bosses. They feel small and lonely and the leaders of the churches, politicians and unions have left them. They now turn to the television which has tons of great people, looking beautiful, getting paid a lot of money, doing great things, etc. They sit in their home sad, lonely, and emotionally isolated imagining they are as great, beautiful, and rich as the people on television.

This “small” feeling of the lower-classes is what led them to being Republican. For them voting is not a way of creating the direction of one's nation. But of “feeling” powerful. When a government no longer bothers to consider one's needs, a person has three choices: take up action, become apathetic (intoxicants), or escape into an imaginary land of power. The Republicans and racism offers this sense of power, the Republicans say to the blue collar/poor person, “You might not have any real power. But by aligning yourself with us, we will grant you the illusion.” Because if you align yourself with the Republican party you have those with money on your side and even God himself.

The Blue collar/poor will get hurt bad: The trucking industry employs 9 million people. 3.3 million of them are truckers. When you include the families of those 9 million people it adds up to thirty, perhaps forty million people using income from the trucking world. That is no joke. The destruction of the trucking industry led by The Brotherhood of The Teamsters will not be taken lightly. We know that without semi-trucks food and other supplies will not arrive to locations. But we must factor in what that 30 million people, who are hard tough people, will do. No alternative energy source could help that, unless it was possible to close down on a Wednesday, replace all the vehicles and open back up on a Thursday. Which is impossible.

We can also factor in if the semi-trucks stop moving on such a large scale that warehouses and factories in remote locations will not be able to operate also. What I mean by “remote locations” are factories that ended up in country towns and in the middle of nowhere because a town gave a good tax abatement to the business. There are many factories located in rural areas without a highway or river in sight. Also the factories were moved to these country areas because rural people commonly come from farming families and do not know about the union and would not pressure the business into giving them one.

The construction business will be hurt. There is obviously no need to build any new houses. We have so many houses we don't even know what to do with them. There are so many empty houses in the Youngstown area you can buy a two story house for $10,000. You can buy a mansion for $60,000. Many of the tools, parts, and machines used for construction jobs contain and run off of oil. There are a total of 7.7 million jobs related to construction in America. If you add in their families that is another 20 million people involved.

So between trucking and construction there are at least 50 million people doomed. If we added in auto-workers there is another 20 million probably. (Mechanics are included with auto-workers.) Which adds up to 70 million.

And should we even dare to add in all the gas station workers? Should we add the 11,278,850 restaurant employees and their families dependent upon semi-trucks?

Obviously from some simple googling of statistics the blue collar/poor will be in bad shape if gas hits $12 to $15 dollars a gallon. They might not all lose their jobs. But their disposable income will disappear. Their lives will be reduced to working and sleeping, that is all.

How will they react?: This is the thing I'm trying to get at. What will they do? What will the blue collar/poor do when this happens? Will they riot, revolt, will they resort to some form of racism? Will they be strong and try to adapt? Because how they react affects the chain of events also. If they choose violence they could disrupt any attempt at making our way of life different but still okay. If they riot and kill they could cause foreign investors to take even more money out of our country. It could cause a pull-out of troops from the middle-east. Or will the government persist in foreign wars, and create an even more horrible reaction. If anyone wants to understand what a foreign war can do to the choices of a population when everyone is hungry and starving read And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov. The Cossacks that were Russia's version of our redneck turned on their government.

No one is factoring this in.

Here are possible contingencies that must be factored in:

Now we have to understand this first: The blue collar/poor do not “care” why the gas prices are so high. What I mean by “care” is, when someone “cares” about something they learn about it. When a person “cares” about football, they learn who the players are, they watch the games, they read about it in papers and magazines. When a person “cares” about their spouse they learn about them, they ask them where they were, where they are going, what their favorite color is, what bands they like, etc. “Caring” involves the behavior of seeking evidence, of seeking facts.

Why gas prices are so high is abstract, too distant. Blue collar/poor people live small lives, very empirical lives. They are trained since they are little by their blue collar/poor parents to only care about what is around them. It must be noted that that the blue collar/poor way of life does not require thought or truth. They grow up in public school getting told what to do, their parents tell them what to do, then they get a job where they are told what to do. It is not a necessity to read above a fifth grade reading level. If there is any reading at the blue collar job it is usually in one or two word phrases. A trucker looks at the address, the cook looks at the food ordered. There are no paragraphs to be understood, no three page memos to be read. We have to recognize that reading a single word is different than reading a sentence. A single word is an object. A sentence is a thought. Their jobs do not require thought. Why they are not a thinking/analyzing people comes directly from their environment.

Even though they do not “care” about why gas prices are so high, when things get really bad they will want an answer. The answer that is given will create the result of how they will behave.

If there are food shortages there will be rioting no matter what. When people do not have food for themselves and their families they will act insanely to get it. But there are bigger problems than just riots. And concerning riots.

In random locations in America where racial tensions are high, a scared lunatic who assumes the role of leader could blame it on race. And start a small racial war in their little area. But I see problems with this: it is definitely possible. But I think it would be very hard to blame the rise of gas prices on black people or Hispanics. Unless Barack Obama is president at the time, then the racist mentality will blame it on all black people. You must never underestimate the leaps of logic the racist mind can do. I heard a man screaming that the people in Nigeria were the cause of ALL the gas problems. Concerning the Arab population I have heard black people and white people sit together and say endless racist comments about Arabs.

The only way Barack Obama could possibly help this is if he could really help, very quickly, and in very efficiently in ways I don't think are possible in terms of our economic and political context. We must realize that our president protects the ruling class first. That has been their job since the beginning, if Barack Obama did not make that deal he wouldn't have gotten this far.

There are two possibilities though: Perhaps Obama with his sense of positivity could make some good choices and divert a massive amount of chaos. But I cannot think of any declining civilizations that produced such an ubermensch type of character. When civilizations fall they usually star the likes of Nero, Caligula, King Louis the 16th, and Czar Nicolas. Declines often do not produce great men of vision. But maybe Barack Obama could take on the role of Theodore Roosevelt and galvanize the population.

The other possibility is that John McCain becomes president. This will be bad and good. It will be bad because John McCain lives in a spaceship of war and does not mind fascism. He seems to have no problems with detaining people without Habeas Corpus and shooting scuds at innocent civilians. He will always choose to protect the ruling class by any means necessary. But I think he would not induce a race riot. If his old rich white face was the cause of all the problems. Then the blue collar/poor would blame it on the old rich white faces. The ability to blame it on a certain race would be very hard. If the ability to blame it on a certain race is gone then other more hopeful chances open up. The teamsters, union workers, and the families involved might use that previous unity to funnel their needs and emotions through that.

This is a question of articulation of one's needs and the emotions generated by them. Hopefully some leaders would arise then and be able to lead them. But that is in the realm of “who-knows.”

There is one final thing to be noted. What if the television is turned off? Blue collar/poor rely on television like 1250 A.D. Europeans relied on the church. The television tells them what to do, what to think, what to purchase. They go to the television seeking answers on love, relationships, family, work, what kind of hand soap to use, what shoes to wear, where to buy lumber, what outfits look the best, how to cut their hair. We have to view the television's influence on blue collar/poor people's lives like Islam is to the Arab. The television completely engulfs their existence. We know from Communist countries that people do not react well when their religion is taken away. But unlike religion television can't be practiced in secret locations. We have to recognize that blue collar/poor view marketers and television show producers as the philosophical and literary geniuses of our time. We know also that the average American spends four hours in front of the television everyday, the middle-ages Catholics only went to church once a week on a Sunday. The question is who and what will give them their new miracle, mystery and authority?

I will not dare to predict what the outcome of not having television would be: but I do think it is as important to consider as the lack of jobs and food.

Concerning the question will the blue collar/poor be able to adapt. There are many poor who do not have cars now. Many of the blue collar/poor know how to garden, hunt, carpentry, they are used to hard work and suffering. But I will not say there is an American or blue collar “spirit” involved that could help them. I think those who will adapt to a new world, will come from every class and ethnic group and the important factor will be if they make the personal choice to change. It is a strange choice though, our modern oil-age life-choices are usually a person making a change. But this will be the world is changing, and you submit to change and flow with it. The world dictates your change and you go along for the ride finding your new niche in it. Which is very different than picking a major in college or choosing to move to a new city.

There are a lot of peak-oil articles that like to say something positive at the ending. To give some glimmer of hope. I could say with a few good voices the blue collar/poor could be galvanized and do some good things. But we know how our government with the use of the military extinguishes insurgents and voices in Iraq and Afghanistan (Shock and Awe, illegal search and seizure, suspension of habeas corpus and broomsticks). We know they are making a huge surveillance system. Youngstown craiglist government jobs first listing is for jobs in Homeland security in which it says, “America Department of Labor predicted by the year 2010 there will be more than a 30% increase in need for Security Agents.” The exact year the price of a barrel of oil is supposed to explode. And now there is discussion of a draft. I don't see any help wanted adds for windmill builders or local farmers. Or a new draft to get kids into agriculture and engineers to stop thinking about oil based machines and maybe machines that run on animal manure and solar power. But instead it looks like they are trying to find people to hold guns and attempt to make 1997 last for eternity. .


adam said...

Your method of expression looks somewhat different, more like what a teacher would expect. The content made me want to quit my job and move into the forest in northern California.

Miles Newbold Clark said...

A conservative political scientist I took a class with in college said that, in the 1960's, the minimum wage and the literacy rate (measured in hours reading per day) were both the highest in history. It was also arguably the most turbulent decade in the 20th century in America.

The consdervative position is, I think, that once Brazil really starts slashing the rainforest, and Canada begins converting its tar pits, things will, aside from the pesky problem of rising temperatures, go back to normal. But those transformations are still 10 years away at the earliest, and no one knows how to deal with the issues at hand.

Were oil-rich countries like Equatorial Guinea more egalitarian in spreading around their oil wealth, maybe the U.S. would see a boom in tourism.

Dark days ahead, I suppose.

brian salchert said...

Some of what you say seems a bit
hard on blue collar workers, but
capitalism as we know it is
based on buying; and the choices
the general populace makes are

Transitions away from dependency
on oil are occurring, even in those
nations providing most of the oil.
However, if the right changes do
not occur quickly enough, it might
be horses-and-carriages time again,
and maybe trains will replace
trucks and planes. Certainly the
small community will rise.

I hope and pray the hell of a
decades-long planetary depression
can be avoided, but no matter what,
the next four or so years are
likely to be traumatic.

christopher cunningham said...

when the television is turned off, suddenly people are faced with a surplus of time and often, after the initial withdrawal (tv IS after all a "dream machine," literally putting folks into a dream like any good drug does), that newfound time translates into thinking.

so maybe brains will activate, the rust will drop away, people will make moderately wise decisions and anarchy can be avoided without the full implementation of the police state and martial law...

or they might just go berserk...

traxus4420 said...

thanks for writing this: informative

"Your method of expression looks somewhat different, more like what a teacher would expect."


Noah Cicero said...

i wrote for charles hugh's site.

He posted it today.

TeleFrank said...

For many of these people living on tight budgets, their televisions WILL be turned off when their analog signal goes away next February and they can't afford a converter box because all of their spare money goes to buy gas.

Anonymous said...

Smith. Charles Hugh Smith.

dentuso said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dentuso said...

I think you step into some generalities about the blue collar segment. I come from what I consider to be a blue collar background (fishing, farming) and yet I don't identify with the things you say about awareness and education levels. My family are empowered producers of natural resources, commodities that will be in high demand if the economy does what you purport. You seem to overlook this and lump the blue collar (i.e., the people who get their hands dirty) with the poor, ignorant and disenfranchised. The producers, that is, the responsible, stewards of resources have been the backbone of society for ages. I agree with most of your assertions, but don't lump me together with the redneck right wingers you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

lump the democrats in with your racist views and i might just come back to read it. until then you will forever be an anal orifice.

John Andersen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Andersen said...

Your "three views" that blue collar workers supposedly hold, are more what I've observed "educated" corporate teamplayers say than blue collar workers.

The other day at the gym, I listened to a few corporate teamplayers mention the first two (not the racist argument though). One of the guys has a degree from MIT. They said the reason the USA relies so much on foreign oil is because the environmentalists won't allow us to drill at home.

"1.Gas prices are so high because corporations are doing it to make a profit....

2.There is oil in Alaska and in the gulf and “tree-huggers” will not let us use it....

3.I have heard many white males say that it is because of the blacks in Nigeria and the Arabs who hate American freedom...."

Anonymous said...


You should know that during 1900, average
household spent 50% of their income on food.
Oil was discovered in 1859. So basically Coal and Oil is the reason bankers shifted from Slave to industrial revolution. Women stayed home prior to oil. It takes 50 years to find an alternative. WWI was about oil.
No history book talks about it. Germany was building
railroad to Iraq where oil was discovered.

So from this you can deduce your future.

knightrd said...

My family includes truckers, mechanics, and various types of blue collar workers. Blue collar doesn't lump together with poor, although there is a struggle going on to maintain the lifestyle. Before my grandfather retired as an independent trucker he was making $90k or above per year. There are plenty of mechanics who bill over $90/hour and get enough of a cut to make some incredible money.

So many points of what you say seem to reflect your own lack of experience with blue collar workers. At least I hope it is that rather than outright snobbery... I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on this one.

I'll concede that TV has a negative effect on useful knowledge in our society. That is a matter of personal choice. However, to say that they have the equivalent of a 5th grade reading level is too much of a generalization. I've seen people that you classify as "blue collar/poor" that probably can accomplish things you can just learn in college (or a trade school). Be careful about your generalizations because they take away from the credibility of your argument.

I do think you have some good points about society. If you want to consider what could happen in a collapse or crisis, you should perhaps consider it from the perspectives of how quickly the onset takes place. The situation in New Orleans is a good example of what quick onset could be like and you could even theorize about what it would look like on a larger scale. A slow onset would arguably be much different because the white collared people or people with money might not be so quick to get out. Instead there could be a polar difference in the outcome. Just some food for thought and some ideas for other ways of looking at the same thing.

The blue collar workers are probably in a better position to be leaders than many so called white collared workers, especially in a crisis or die off situation.

The poor and destitute, which may include blue collar or white collar in the future, are the ones to worry about most. What will happen in highly concentrated urban zones? Will the richest try to contain them within the cities and pick them off slowly as they start roaming out of the inner cities looking for food and water?

Anonymous said...

The preacher man says it’s the end of time
And the Mississippi River she’s a goin’ dry
The interest is up and the Stock Markets down
And you only get mugged
If you go down town

I live back in the woods, you see
A woman and the kids, and the dogs and me
I got a shotgun rifle and a 4-wheel drive
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke too
Ain’t too many things these ole boys can’t do
We grow good ole tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Because you can’t starve us out
And you cant makes us run
Cause one-of- ‘em old boys raisin ole shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn

We came from the West Virginia coalmines
And the Rocky Mountains and the and the western skies
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trot-line
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I had a good friend in New York City
He never called me by my name, just hillbilly
My grandpa taught me how to live off the land
And his taught him to be a businessman
He used to send me pictures of the Broadway nights
And I’d send him some homemade wine

But he was killed by a man with a switchblade knife
For 43 dollars my friend lost his life
Id love to spit some beechnut in that dudes eyes
And shoot him with my old 45
Cause a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Cause you can’t starve us out and you can’t make us run
Cause one-of- ‘em old boys raisin ole shotgun
And we say grace and we say Ma’am
And if you ain’t into that we don’t give a damn

We’re from North California and south Alabam
And little towns all around this land
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trot-line
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Anonymous said...

right on anonymous! right on

Anonymous said...


I come from a long line of white trash working poor. Unfortunately, you are, for the most part, spot on.

Many of the comments seem to take umbrage of your keen powers of observation. Telling people the uncomfortable truth about themselves, even when using sweeping generalities that the politically correct HATE, is sure to win you some enemies.

Keep at it, young man. Though it might not do a bit of good, venting is good for the soul!

Tapiwanashe said...

Noah, thanks for this eye opening perspective. Its a real possibility for all to consider. What could all this mean for Africa however?

Anonymous said...

Noah, when you build your ark will you charge admission? This is one of the most condescending posts I have ever read. There are many handy, self-sufficient "blue collar/poor" that will be happy to see you freeze in the dark if the worst comes to pass...

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