The only reason anyone works to pump oil out of the earth is greed. Greed only spawns more greed which eventually creates (or perhaps is a catalyst for) a downward spiral of human vice that passes through selfishness, hate, betrayal, and ultimately murder. Or at least that’s what Paul Thomas Anderson’s award-winning There Will Be Blood wants us to believe. As much as false-prophets–con-men–deserve to be hated, it is impossible not to hate Daniel Day-Lewis’s remarkable portrayal of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview more. And in hating Plainview, it’s difficult not to hate oil.
People hate oil.
Funny to read, isn’t it? It rings true, but it really isn’t. It’s no more true than if we said people hate dirt or people hate wood. It is foolish to make these inanimate, naturally occurring objects the object of our hate, just as it would be to make them the object of our love. They merely are. But we can certainly hate people. We can certainly hate ideas.
Maybe people hate oil men. Maybe people hate their own ignorance of geology. Maybe people hate what they don’t understand. Surely people hate greed.
It seems wherever oil is under the earth American troops are over it, and service members who deploy to the middle-east are bombarded by activist’s propaganda filled with facts and figures which encourage hating Texas Oil Men George W. and Dick Cheney. And Halliburton and KBR and Lockheed Martin and every other group of people that could be lumped into the war-for-profit-is-clearly-a-bad-idea category. Tightening the frame dramatically, I needed no encouragement to hate my aircraft commander on my last deployment. I astonished even myself with how little prompting it took for me to heap some hate on my sister and her small group.
Finding myself in the oilfield here in Colorado, I occasionally hated living in the man-camps. I hated being away from my daughter. I hated her mom for wanting to see her for more than her half during my days-off.
Similar to all men, hate and I have had a long and storied history. Luckily, I have a friend named Kirk. One day, years ago, I told my friend that I was floored to discover that a Kelly Clarkson pop song included the sage lyric, “For hating you I blame myself.” Being the good-natured midwesterner that he is Kirk didn’t miss a beat and replied, “That’s right Pete. Hate comes from within.” Doesn’t it though?
And that begs the question, “Will there be blood?”
Anderson made an excellent film. It is an excellent portrayal of greed from both ends of the spectrum. But in making the film relevant for the masses, in using oil as the backdrop, he, perhaps unintentionally, allowed the oil to obscure a greater truth. Hate, greed, everything comes from within.