Sunday, March 30, 2008


Syriana was a mental exercise, but I'm glad I watched it. I liked the fast pace jumping from storyline to storyline although it took conscious effort to remind myself who the characters were and they were involved with each other. Be forewarned that I am slightly cynical about the business practices of major American oil companies, but I could easily see this movie as a documentary describing how such large deals are made between Big Oil and foreign governments (aside from some of the gratuitous violence).

The storyline in which Matt Damon's character interacts with Prince Nasir at the oasis/hideout thing and when they discuss the mareva injunction really peaked my interest. Basically, Damon's character tells Prince Nasir that Big Oil is just taking advantage of the Middle Eastern people by offering them small percentages of the billions they earn for the rights to control the natural resources that really belong to the Middle Eastern people. When the oil is dried up, the rulers will have their toys, and Big Oil will have moved on, investing their profits in other technologies where they will propagate. Prince Nasir says "Tell me something I don't know," and for the first time I can remember in American media, a Saudi is presented as a progressive thinker. Later on, he talks about having the best interest of his people in mind when he awarded a bid to the higher-bidding Chinese rather than the corrupt American companies. Prince Nasir wants to pass on Big Oil's money to the people, and invest in his country's future. But we step in and wipe him out so that no such thing can happen for the sake of national security.

This really got me thinking. There's so much Eastern anger focused on America based on the huge amount of influence these large oil companies have over Middle Eastern governments, but it takes two to tango. The rulers of these countries we're exploiting have no excuse to have refrained from investing all of this money back into their countries. When the oil money dries up, these oil producing countries will be right back where they were 100 years ago, but it's not the fault of Big Oil: most of the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of their leaders. However, we don't help the situation by complaining about the lack of social progress in these countries while handing their leaders millions of dollars so that we can get our fix. It seems like the only concern we have with the Middle East is a constant supply of cheap oil. And when that runs out, we could care less about what happens. What sucks for the Middle East is that it seems as though their leaders haven't even contemplated that possibility. And I hadn't thought about the leaders not thinking about that until I watched Syriana. Good flick.

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