Bill Thanis of the Toronto Linux Users Group invited me to the
pay-what-you-can improv comedy show at Bad Dog Theatre. It was fun!
The actors were really creative, and the long-form improvised comedy
I received a forwarded e-mail exhorting Filipinos to boycott Shell and
Caltex in order to force the two companies to lower their gas prices,
and thus affect gas prices everywhere.
Something about that approach strikes me as wrong.
First, it ignores the law of supply and demand. If all the faithful
boycotters get their gas from independent gasoline stations (of which
there aren’t that many, especially along the highways), what’s to
prevent those gas stations from raising _their_ prices?
Second, it feels like a solution from the wrong side of consumerism.
Let me quote a segment from the e-mail:
With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need
to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come
down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their
And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How?
Since we all rely on our cars, we can’t just stop buying gas. But we
CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a
There are two ways to reduce your gas expenses. Hold your breath and
wait for the company to lower its prices, or look for ways to use less
gas. Which do you think would be better for you in the long run?
Many people don’t like being responsible consumers because it HURTS.
It requires sacrifices. It requires change. They’d rather complain
about rising gas prices and traffic and a lot of other things than
take action to help solve the problems themselves.
What’s missing from that forwarded e-mail?
By boycotting Caltex and Shell, all these consumers would be doing is
passing the responsibility off to the gasoline companies to lower the
prices. Gas companies charge too high, they say. It’s the gas
But we are responsible for this crisis. We with our SUV-choked streets
and our gimmick addiction, with our overcrowded cities and
underdeveloped provinces; WE bear some responsibility for this mess.
We should accept that responsibility. Instead of asking gas companies
to give us lower gas prices, we should look for ways to minimize our
dependence on gasoline.
Here are a few concrete, common-sense ideas for reducing dependence on
gasoline. You know this already. You just have to LIVE it.
- Walk instead of taking the tricycle.
- Take public transportation instead of your car.
- Take fewer trips. Spend more time in your neighborhood. Spend more
time at home.
You are NOT powerless. You are NOT dependent on your car. You are NOT
dependent on the gas companies. You are the lucky few who actually
have a choice. The people who are going to get hit hardest by rising
gas prices aren’t the ones with SUVs. They’re the ones who can’t
afford a peso increase in the cost of food, the jeepney drivers whose
margins are devastated by the increase in costs, the low-paid workers
whose raises will lag behind any increase in the cost of
You are NOT just a consumer. You are a CITIZEN. You bear a
responsibility not only to yourself but also to the people around you,
to the people who are tied to their long commutes and low wages. Help
create local opportunities! You bear a responsibility to the children
who will live in this world long after you have passed away. Help
preserve the environment!
Are you going to be a consumer and just wait for lower gas prices to
be given to you, or will you reduce your gas consumption and work on
making a difference to your community?
ARGH. And yes, you can forward this to whomever you want.
Note: This rant is about the content of the forwarded e-mail, not the
writer. The writer and the people who forwarded this acted in good
faith, but it’s easy to overlook things in the knee-jerk response of
consumerism. One of the things I do is point out uncomfortable truths
from time to time. I’m not right all the time and I do miss some
things, but I like helping us stay human.