It looks like the forces of evil are converging once again. Big Brother has returned for its fifth go at pulverising our summer, and it's more hateful than ever. I watched the opening show with rising disbelief as a parade of freaks took their place in the giant Petri dish.

But something was different. The inmates appeared unusually keen on fomenting a mischievous mood. A muscular Scotsman entered wearing a protest thong. And a po-faced young woman with only a rudimentary grasp of radical politics made a big fool of herself. To quote Gil Scott-Heron, "the revolution will not be televised".

Yet hope springs eternal. Surging oil prices have once again become a potentially explosive political problem for the Government, and the masses are preparing to trade their remote controls and ready meals for crudely daubed placards and the insurgent language of the protest march. We've had enough. Again. Thank God for that. For a while there, I was beginning to worry.

"It is not for the Prime Minister to indulge in TV reality shows and judge the price of the oil market," a Downing Street spokesman said last week, neatly linking the two most pressing issues the country faces.

Where can I fill up my car most cheaply? (At the supermarket down the road from me, judging by the hordes queuing the other day, engines idling all the while. I'm not divulging its location - find your own.)

As a nation, it seems we like nothing more than a good old-fashioned panic, and few things galvanise us quite as effectively as a stabbing pain in the pocket. "How much? I'm not bloody paying that! Oh all right then..."

Part of me is actually enjoying the strife. Good things - culturally, politically and historically - usually come when we can be bothered to stir ourselves from our state-sponsored indolence (this week's local and European elections probably won't be enough). At the very least, it's a sharp reminder that our over-reliance on oil is an issue that's simply not going to go away.

I love cars, I love driving them, I love the freedom they provide, and I recognise that for some people they're a lifeline rather than a luxury. But if it's costing me an extra seven or eight quid to fuel my car, rest assured I'll be giving the alternatives some serious thought. Public transport, for example. Or perhaps something more fuel efficient. You should be too. We'll all benefit in the long run. Consider this a wake-up call.

And what of Gordon Brown, with his 60p haul on every 84p we hand over per litre? It's a bit steep, I admit. And there will be hell to pay if he presses on with his planned near-2p-a-litre increase in September (even though the rise is supposedly designed to keep prices unchanged, once you've allowed for inflation).

But if you end up protesting - keep an eye out for opportunistic Tory politicians if you do - remember that this isn't just about how much it's costing you to drive to work and back. Or even how it's affecting your business. It's not really about you and me at all.

This is about chronic instability in the Middle East. About the 22 people who died in the recent terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. And about why China's consumerist makeover is about to rouse a sleeping giant whose energy consumption will swiftly kick-start the mother of all hangovers.

Pretty soon, in fact, we really will have something worth complaining about. Better downgrade Big Brother to cuddly uncle status.

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