On that Hardship

The recent sharp increase in global oil and commodity prices have affected the life of many people, in both positive and negative ways. As for Indonesians, after days of uncertainties, the government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had finally announced the increase of fuel prices by an average of 28.7%, effective May 24. University Students and various elements of the society hit the streets to voice out their oppositions and disagreements. Some turned ugly. Opportunist politicians and analysts got free rides.

The government decision was based on realities in the oil market, as well as other reasons as a consequence of those realities that have been publicly known and discussed in various media and occasions. Like it or not, the price increase is needed. Whoever governs the country will do the same; maybe they will even do it earlier, as other heroic options were only good on papers and will probably do more harm than good to the country in the long run.

The increase in standard of living in China, India and other developing countries have been blamed by leaders in developed countries for the significant increase in the demand for oil and food commodities that pushed the prices upwards. On the other hand the developed countries have been blamed for years for their wasteful and excessive consumption of energy and resources that contributed severely to the global warming.

Improvement of people's welfare, however, should be seen as a blessing instead of a curse. Furthermore, persons in developed or developing countries have the same rights to use energy and resources and to consume foods as they deem necessary to make them enjoy better lives.

Powerful global oil companies and cartel such as the Seven Sisters and OPEC were also blamed for the fuel price hike. The Seven Sisters refers to giant oil companies that once dominated global oil production, refining, and distribution. They are Exxon, Shell, BP, Gulf, Texaco, Mobil and Chevron. After mergers, the remaining are ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell. Whilst Financial Times has named the New Seven Sisters in 2007, the four oil giants remain powerful in determining global oil market.

The absurd Iraq war and the threat by US military forces to attack Iran and destabilize Venezuela are also blamed for the oil price volatility. These are some of the signals used by future market traders in places such as New York Mercantile Exchange to determine the fluctuation of global oil prices.

Future market traders are probably the major culprits behind the increase in global oil prices. The soaring prices of other basic commodities were partly also results of their activities. While what they are doing in the future markets are probably perfectly legal, it's a question whether they are ethical as the wealth they accumulate have to be compensated with hardships and sufferings by millions of unfortunate people all over the world.

Traders are traders, and they are always looking for more profit, the higher - the faster - the better. Only conscience will limit their damaging activities towards poor countries and societies. Unfortunately, only greediness and egos are the accepted currencies in the dealing rooms. Those who are inside the circle can possibly make changes for them to act more responsibly. The governments where they operate may as well issue regulations that will provide more protection to people's interests.

To me, it's a zero sum game: the happiness because of the fulfilled greediness and the joy because of the fulfilled egos by the more fortunate and smarter people are equal to the hardships and sufferings because of the decrease in the purchasing power and the lack of access to food as well as other basic commodities and services by those poor and less educated people.

How people act during difficult times, however, will determine the path of the road they travel, either towards the betterment or destruction. Instead of hitting the streets and playing dirty politics that make life even worse and more stressful, people shall focus their energy and brains to formulate steps to deal with the hardship in a more dignified and innovative ways.

What seems to be negative at the beginning, can turn to be positive later, and what seems to be a curse can potentially be a bless. It's a mindset game. As a final note, any imbalance opposing forces in universe will eventually find its new point of equilibrium, albeit only for a short while.
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