King of Saudi Arabia
King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud

Cherie A. Thurlby. / DoD

I spend a lot of time whiling away the hours, playing online poker in my bathrobe, thinking about the role of luck and chance in life. Do we make our own way in the world through hard work and skill, with success going to those who earn it? Or is Deuteronomy right that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, [blah blah blah,] but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Obviously, the bible is right. If you don’t believe me, and you don’t believe God, then maybe you’ll believe the man whose jowly visage is currently peering at you through the ether. This, of course, is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Like a lot of people, Abdullah had advantages in life purely because his father had been pretty successful. But some advantages are greater than others, because some fathers are more successful than others. Abdullah’s father, unlike my (lazy) father, rounded up a band of horsemen and conquered a landmass the size of Western Europe. My father, in stark and embarrassing contrast, tried and failed to conquer Western Europe during an awkward midlife crisis that resulted in his arrest and deportation.

Abdullah’s father’s gumption and sticktoitiveness mean that Abdullah has had a lot of luck in life. For one thing, he was born in a country that is—literally—named after his family. As in “no, officer, I don’t know how fast I was driving, but did I mention that my last name is al-Saud? You know, like our country?” Also, he inherited personal control of about a quarter of the world’s oil. This makes him extremely powerful now, but not as powerful as he is going to be in twenty years or so when the world has (presumably) descended into a Mad Max-style leather-clad battle for survival between highway gangs over dwindling supplies of precious, precious gasoline.

To be fair, it hasn’t all been wine and roses for Abdullah. First, medieval social structures being what they are, he had 37 (!) brothers with whom to fight over the regal succession. Second, he apparently suffers from the delusion that anyone is buying that facial hair dye-job. Third…well, actually, that’s it. That’s all the bad luck he’s had.