The teleprompters seemed to be climate science deniers. It was as if the political class at the microphones of Philadelphia and Cleveland suffered from a deep racial fear or even sexual fear – of the Earth.
Directly addressing the crisis of our lives was impossible. For Earth activists the conventions were an unnatural but familiar disaster. Hillary’s single sentence for the climate pushed it into the laundry list of progressive issues. I was slowly slumping in paralysis like everyone else.
Then I remembered a piece by Czeslaw Milosz, the world poet. I dredged it out and re-read it. He instructs us to get through the succession of liars to a great moment of truth, which he describes as a spring day’s return by the Earth. The name of the poem is “Slow River” and it ends with these words:
Three times will the liars have conquered
before the great truth appears alive
and in the splendor of one moment
stand spring and the sky, the seas, the lands.
Doesn’t this tell activists to stay in motion? Isn’t this an invitation to look out across the future from the bright moments of Bernie and Black Lives and Occupy?
The deletion of the Earth’s crisis from the hundreds of thousands of words that streamed from the conventions—and the debates and the months on the stump—is hard to figure out. There seems to be a morbid attraction to an ultimate kind of nervousness. You might say that this silence betrays a love of the fear of death. This late in the game, 2016, we fetishize our fear of death if we fail to speak up for life.
There is something at work here that is more basic than the usual explanation, which is that the Earth is not a vote-swaying topic. The root cause of this censorship is exactly the same sort of fear that causes climate change, perma-war, and species extinction. The separation from the Earth is hard-wired into each of us personally, and it manifests in our most public rituals. We need to know more about this deadly phenomenon.
Anne and Paul Ehrlich, authors of The Population Bomb, explored what it would take for us to save ourselves in this time of the Earth’s crisis. They wrote:
Scientific analysis points, curiously, toward the need for a quasi-religious transformation of contemporary cultures.
That’s pretty extreme for elite academics—to say that science is pointing us back toward religion. The Ehrlichs believe that we are stuck in the essential inaction of right-thinking, spinning speeches, wonkyness, clicktavism, lobbying and marketing, i. e. modern politics—as the Earth heats up. In the Church of Stop Shopping we agree, we need to break out of these repetitions. And cut out the patriarch and invite in the Earth. Amen?
The Ehrlichs bold move reminds me of Dr. Cornel West’s stop-everything sermons at the last months’ Democrat platform hearings. He froze the Clinton professionals with dread. Dr. West spoke openly of the soul, prophecy, the agony of Gaza, and what it means to hesitate with your morals, as if to warn the Clinton professionals that they would be depressed by their hack work.
The video footage of that panel is fascinating. I felt like the Earth was to about crush the room in the triangle between the preacher and Deborah “water is sacred to my people” Parker and Bill “we need bicycles in the suburbs” McKibben. Debbie Wasserman retired to a back room behind her staring eyes as Gaia’s wind and waves and wildfires seemed to sing to her from multiple faces. And then she voted for fracking, Monsanto, and TPP.
The unknown is overtaking us now, like a new kind of climate that Accuweather doesn’t recognize. Last month is always the hottest month. The civil wars, sixty million refugees, predations by governments and corporations are accelerating. Where’s our quasi-religious transformation? We must trespass everywhere and do what evolution teaches us: be unprecedented.
The trespassing into Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s speeches by Black Lives Matter is looking better and better. That streak of hot pink up through bleachers of Republicans in Cleveland was Medea Benjamin. We need the artistic revolts of Neil Young and Anohni and the Squamish singers at the kayaktivist rallies in Seattle. A transformation of contemporary cultures starts with desperate and faithful citizens on the edges, ready to fly to the center. Oh Nina Simone, don’t leave us now.
If we feel trapped by Trump and Clinton, imagine the faith of Czeslaw Milosz when he wrote “Slow River,” in the late thirties, in Wilno, Poland. I believe his promise to us. We will outlast the liars and the Earth will flood us, as radical as a spring day.
The great truth appears alive
and in the splendor of one moment
stand spring and the sky, the seas, the lands.
The days when we still wore robes. Now the singers (featuring left to right, Gina (Grammy award winner for co-writing "Really Love" with D'Angelo), and Adetola Abiades & Jessica Wiscovitch in their crouch. We have emerged from the old Christian-like drapings to reveal the shoulders and hips and the rest of the Earth's gifts. And that is as it should be, as we evolved into into a kind of urban sex-positive paganism, and came to specialize in driving Monsanto's glyphosates from parks and schools, which is an invitation for sex to thrive and a disinvitation for premature death in the greenery around us. So, no green robes, thanks, we'll take the actual Earthalujah. Amen?
Stop rushing for a moment. Stand there on the corner. The pavement and dead luxury condos and a crowd of lonely iPhone addicts. You might feel hopeless. They were deposited here by real estate billionaires and by the car-and-highway lobby. The weeds in the cracks in the cement are sprayed with hormone-hacking poisons. You would be right to think that corrupt regulators are the problem. And you can muse on the mindless momentum of money…
But say that one or two persons walk up to you and stand there with you. Now you are a citizen in a jurisdiction of friends. Look into their eyes and hands and already an ecosystem flickers to life. You are alive. The sounds of breath rise to words which rise to laughter. Whether you are moving or not you are dancing now. This is a radical community. It is like standing in a wave of living ocean.
For once you don’t go to the edge of this hellhole of your city, to the computer, to the escapist media – to shout outward at the overwhelming forces that make you a victim. Why do that when you have this hyper-local media made of the bodies and souls of friends, with the natural democracy of talking and listening, the non-careerist arts of a good story, this theater of giving…
The off-shore lawyer leaves the village bigot who leaves the Davos suit in the private jet who leaves the best liar in the pub who leaves the hipster with the latest app who leaves the Brussels administrator who thinks its all bizarre who leaves the auntie with the walker in the forgotten city who leaves the tweedy prof with history books who leaves the goth punk and drugged sad one and happy ecstasy dancer and bored telemarketer who leaves the expensive killer who soars high over Europe where the sky goes black who leaves the ten year old with dead parents who begins a long walk from the desert to the center of all this. Each of us sees all the rest of us and we know we can’t leave.
We're spinning through a dizzy history. Bowie, Prince and Ali die in dizzying succession and we see the best of what came from us, our teachers of Peace. Their life stories are technicolor reviews of how far we have come. They leave us privately preparing our own courage, getting ready to surprise ourselves with a better future. And then this parallel escalation of horror in Orlando, with this executioner who hated love, is a shocking demonstration of how far we have yet to go.
We've been through this before. Malcolm X's murder 1965 began a series of sudden deaths and we received the revelatory life stories of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy. And while these lives showed us our own milestones, the Viet Nam slaughter was building, raining down bombs. We were unable to stop the fire-bombings of civilians that marked the triumph of the "Good War." And yet back here in the states we were discovering peace and love on our way to the Women's Movement. We were going in two directions at once with no way to make sense of the accelerating good and bad.
Year in and year we pay and pay for "defense". It has increased to nearly a trillion dollars annually. This is so outrageous and huge, it has grown to become a completely separate world that synthesizes its own fear to sustain its absurdity. We create ISIS after ISIS and we don't even need real patriotism, only masculine fear. The NRA is just a primitive backdraft from a larger fire that can only be contained by a much more radical Peace than we have attempted so far. The heroism that we feel stirring in each of us from the great ones who are dying; this sensation we have of appreciation can't be a pleasant purge that passes through us. We need to make Peace.
Central Park, where I was preaching about the disturbing report today, is the richest park in the country. The fortunes that finance the Central Park Conservancy, a destination for socialites and stars and famous parties, are the Wall Street titans who depress the city budget so that the borough parks are understaffed and over-poisoned. Call this vicious cycle "local neo-liberalism." This report may well become a scandal, because the racism is so obvious.
The legal people, the electeds, the press - all the sectors of public professionals should be engaged, if we sound the alarm loud enough. But Monsanto is very powerful. Even in the face of studies linking their herbicide to birth defects, fertiility and immunity and endocrine system disruption, and so many cancers - they could continue to spray New York for years. Even with 60 countries banning the stuff, Monsanto could lawyer up and hold on.
Drs. Anne and Paul Ehrlich wrote that if we are to save ourselves "the evidence points to the need for a quasi-religious transformation of human values..." We agree. More than a response of these subcultures of professionals, each of us needs to be capable of courageous acts for the Earth. We will be called upon to do strange counter-intuitive things, for the life of the Earth. We must interrupt, embarrass, trespass.... And we will develop a common sense that intuits the needs of the Earth, a modern urban take on the indigenous Spirit worshippers of ancient days.
Our glyphosate spraying maps for Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, Philadelphia, New York (but 2014 only, new report not yet inputted) and San Francisco can be viewed at Revbilly.com. Earthalujah!
The Bernalujah faithful will feel the Bern a year from now, and ten years from now. This most unlikely candidate was the one that would break through, the revolutionary in the election, the right one. Bernie Sanders is conceivably the form an American Revolution could take. He is the breach of the corporate wall.
Eugene Debs, Eugene McCarthy, Shirley Chisholm, George McGovern, Norman Thomas, Dennis Kucinich, Jesse Jackson – these also-rans are the compost that slowly built the ideal of the true outsider. Bernie is the bridge between these idealists and the corrupt mainstream, and oh we need him.
And the Bernie legions have nothing to feel bad about. This infrastructure is now in place. And whoever is in that Oval partition will FEEL THE BERN for years. Bernie will be there, a living moral presence, no matter what the corruption serves up.
There will someday be a President who is that moral presence in the flesh, standing there looking across the White House lawn, and that person will owe so much to this remarkable campaign in 2016, and that President could be Bernie himself.
The $500 lunches must have wreaked hell with the budget, what? The bribes must have taken many forms. Monsanto must have helped many lawmakers with their personal finances. THIS - THIS, children, is a WATERSHED VICTORY. It will put toxin-free wind at the back of activists around the world.
Monsanto and "Big Chem" wanted this vote badly, and last year it looked as if they would get it. Monsanto executives infiltrated the European Union government, the con was on! Reports that the toxins were safe came from renta-lab-coat scientists, paid for by the industry, of course. But nearly one hundred scientists and advocacy groups signed up to testify against extending permission to use glyphosates for 15 years. The pressure swept across Europe, from beekeepers to moms to oh, the real actual scientists.
Recall of Monsanto's Roundup is very likely now, as EU elected turned down even a compromise extension of a year and a half. They went for that when they knew they were in trouble. Slow down the process. Rope-a-dope the bored public. And increase the fine wine anointed bribery-meals and that advertising-like "science." The Earth is speaking through the disappearing butterflys and frogs and songbirds, and the Earth is speaking even through the predators who let this happen, you and me. Earthalujah!
Ali, Prince, Daniel Berrigan, Berta Caceres, Oliver Sacks, David Bowie.
These lives that are breaking over us. I don't remember a time like this. This is a super storm. The fantastic chapters of their lives come down on us like a living color wave.
I'm moving in slow motion, wondering what the hell. All around me babies are being born to thrilled parents. The Earth is ready to cash us in. The fabulous cemetery of 2016 - is a generation of dead so astounding in life - they had to die for us to organize our respect.
And now their lives bear witness to this accelerating thuggery of big institutions and public figures, and the arctic liquifies and the wildfires feel more personal than celebrities and the air we breathe and the water we drink is a scandal of toxins. These teachers watch us from thousands of photographs. Their personalities make a landscape of unselfied life. They are daring us to figure this out.
We fired Him. The old male god is gone. We gave Him the pink slip. And so we are on our own, trying to find the meaning of our lives. Now what?
We are starting over; as more and more people deny to the pollsters that they have any particular god. The percentage in the United States is approaching a third of the population. "No God Please" - is our number one religious belief. Many of us, then, are looking for the meaning of life from this zero-sum position.
This is the Great Returning. If we find what our life is given meaning by our intimate relationships, by the mysterious complexity of neighborhoods and extended families, by giving service and to non-careerist arts - then we are discovering the natural world in our midst. A healthy community is a lot like a wild eco-system.
Photo by John Quilty