RE: THE 15 MINUTES OF SAVE-THE-EARTH PERFORMANCE, WITH DANCING EXTINCT FROGS AND AN ELVIS IMPERSONATOR PREACHER THAT GOT US A YEAR IN JAIL.... It is fashionable to say that Social Justice and Earth Justice must be one and the same thing. However that is easier to shout than to persuasively explain. I've heard it said - from my own mouth - that when the day comes that we all inhale our last breath, then all issues become one: Life! That's the moment that - no doubt about it - all the 700 issues in our email archives become one incandescent issue: Life. Life-a-lujah. And when a company is making profits that bring death to beings are living things in the biosphere, humans among them. This is the point we were trying to make which the District Attorney's office called a "criminal stunt." We arrived at the bank in the guise of extinct Golden Toads, killed by climate change 30 years ago, and we were hopping into the wealth management part of an uptown Manhattan JPMorgan Chase. At the moment that we interrupted the conversations of the bankers and their rich clients, we protested (and slowed down, at least) the deadly results of fossil fuel investments - which Chase specializes in and leads the world's banks in. The bank that bundles fraudulent mortgages, helps Bernie Madoff, scams students with debts (holding kids and their parents hostage by using the American dream of advancement thru eduction as a weapon..) - all these social crimes, while also putting billions into tar sands, mountaintop removal, fracking & drilling... and putting the physical life of the earth in danger - and isn't that the ultimate social injustice, when we die because we've killed everything else? Oh life-a-lujah! Let us be life serving life. Let us do what evolution directs us to do, which is not to be predators, but to be lovers...
And by Earth Radical I mean simply the kind of person who might do something radical enough to make a difference in this apocalyptic crisis we all face. The Earth Radical is a person who senses that the climate is not OVER THERE. This is a person who knows that the extinction wave is not OVER THERE. Now we Americans founded our country on the notion that the Promised Land was OVER THERE, and we fought in the nonsensical First World War a century ago and we sang that "We'll be over, we're coming over, And we won't come back till it's over OVER THERE." We disrespect - have a low regard - for the IN HERE. We project our desires onto the screen of a distant place. That's why we Americans never met a horizon we didn't love to crawl under, fly over, stop and wall in. OVER THERE is never safe with us. But we Americans have met our match. God Bless America - OVER THERE. But Earth Bless America IN HERE. The Earth Radical knows that the climate crisis is IN HERE. The 150 mile an hour wind, the tornado and derecho and tsunami and earthquake, the drought and floods - none of this is OVER THERE. The climate is here in our bodies. The drought and floods are here in our blood and breath. Earth Radicals sense the eco-system in their human body, and so they are impatient with policies, lawsuits, petitions... the eventual things of the professional. An Earth Radical is Radical Earth. The climate is IN HERE.
SURFING ON WARM, RISING OCEAN WAVES WITH THE UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT. This morning I'm up at 3:30, listening to the BBC talk about the Australian fires, then turn that off. Prefer this silence. The loudest thing is the ringing in my ears, from my day in the city. After the climate report's release two weeks ago, overwhelmed by the twerking of John Boehner, there is an ominous silence settling over things. Sometimes the lack of leadership in the world - ABOUT the world - makes me do a slow double take. Really? Are we really set adrift? Are you politicians really in the pay of the fossil cartel and the banks? Is it really that simple? And all the thousands of earth scientists saying how bad things are in unison, like a big international choir with towering harmonies - that unprecedented message and years of taking the Earth's pulse - is it lost in the din of discussion about Miley Cyrus' ass? The report could have been drowned out by any kind of white noise. We won't let the Earth speak to us unless we are terrified by fire bursting from the sky or from the ground beneath us. And though that happens more and more, somehow we capture these disasters, as the BBC did just now in my kitchen, in sentimental tones of a farce. The news reduces extreme weather events to a kind of twerking, just as the politicians reduce it all to wonkish policy. Then we end up sitting in the pre-dawn silence. How can we possibly re-up this report to families, to communities, to culture-makers? Our little group - we will go back into a New York bank on Thursday, probably Chase, with our Golden Toad masks, worn like strange big hats by our singing activists. Hand out the information about the banks investments in coal, gas and oil. Engage the bank workers personally if we can. It is this kind of micro-gesture that we have to believe in now, this hand to hand cultural combat. Earthalujah!
The sea level rises in the middle of the sermon about sea level rise. The preacher gets a wave on his backside. I had a copy of the United Nations Climate Change Report on my soaked pulpit - one that was issued a couple weeks ago by thousands of natural scientists, THE GREAT WARNING OF THE GREAT WARMING - but remember the report was drowned out by Miley Cyrus and the Washington DC ship of fools. The trouble is the scientists can't speak English or any other language people use, as in talking and listening and MAKING SENSE. The scientists are the planet criers but their report is UNREADABLE. On the other hand, there is a larger silencing, the consumerizing of our heads, our eye ears nose and throat can't grok the going-south of the biosphere, the human-caused catastrophe vanishes behind a wall of dazzling products, featuring special-effect apocalypses, big video games that give us the chills. We log on to the scary ride, and our real-world world-ending crime disappears. We have a moat of corporatized violence around our senses. So, The Church of Stop Shopping - in our terror - we decided to embrace the surf. We followed the Pillar of Fire across the sands of Coney Island and let the Atlantic get in the way of our Promised Land. God said he would save us from the wilderness but the wilderness chased that simple bully away. (The ocean was destructive here Coney, a year ago. Sandy's surge rose up till she was waist deep on the second floor, and it chased our friends the freaks out of the sideshow on Surf Avenue.) Oh what a great Saturday afternoon. We preached as the acidifying heating-up sea kept rising. We had to stop our shoot and move our stuff higher up on the beach. Playing with the edge of the briny apocalypse, shouting, shouting for that phrase that will ring out to our drowning city. EARTHALUJAH!
In our song "Revolution" - we have a line "There is something the Information Age cannot say / Climate Change kills the poor every day." We treat the Information Age as a single entity, a meta-personality, and we give Climate Change the same personhood - as if that big gassy being has murderous intentions. This device comes to us as a perspective-gift from First Peoples, who turn apparently inanimate objects into beings. And it comes to us from poets. By giving a motive to something inanimate, conscious thought to the jet streams - we can see things in a very different way. God knows we need a new lens to look through. At this point, something is so wrong with the way humans see - that we cannot give witness to ourselves as a species. We are incapable of pointing out that the physical life of the Earth is shifting under our influence, veering off apocalyptically, and that millions will die. In fact, Climate change and the economy based on carbon dioxide emission is directly related to five million deaths a year, mostly the poor in the global south, according to a study from DARA's "Climate Vulnerability Study." The emergency was most powerfully described in the new climate report released by UN last week. But its release was squeezed by Syria on the early end and later by the Washington shutdown. But a pre-industrial native would look at the warming wind and say something like "The sky is angry with us." Then the report is free of the news cycle. And then suddenly, our personal response is possible. We can take an action in a grand story where we are still players, and maybe it isn't too late, and we can argue with the sleek and powerful Information Age, and we can stop adding fire to the Earth's warming, and not out of policy but out of love we can cool the angry sky.
For those of sinners who still fly - we know the bad puns of the HSBC. The advertising campaign that traps travelers in the "jetway" - the hallway on wheels, wheeled up between the gate and the jet, where we stand in our last line before sitting in the airplane itself.
Let me get this straight: the Earth must kill off a lot of us. Flood, fire, starvation and disease, superstorms... Meanwhile the poor are dying and the rich are obscene. In the Church of Stop Shopping we watch the world crisis through the kaleidoscope of bio-diversity. So - the death wave, the extinction spike - is our Devil's sign. Oh but we're think-tanking, praying, shouting and drinking at Coney Island, trying to come up with a PLACE TO BE BRAVE. Tiananmen Sq, Syntagma of Athens, the Indignada of Madrid, Tahrir and Zuccotti and Gezi... these revolutions may be stillborn but they started us down the road. Any resistance now - and any response to climate change - without the gift of those communities, is nonsense. Now the commons is surrounded by Darth Vaders.
We need new bravery places, Amen? Our new gambit: Preach and sing in every JPMorgan Chase in New York. At each stop, offer the news about a threatened or extinct life form. As security and loan officers and tellers gape, we offer the dismal facts about, say, the Mexican Gray Wolf. And we designate this animal as the sister species of their particular bank. We give them a big color photo, some good howls, and we're out the door. But not until after those bankers get good and wolf-spooked. (Maybe certain banks could receive special return visits by by their new wild relatives in the form of hard-to-find howling speaker systems... planted in the ficus plants...)
We have about a Chase banks in NYC, so there will be lots of dead and dying species left over. We'll have to move on to Bank of America... One measure: Getting arrested and carted off to our local jail, which is called "The Tombs," would sort of make sense, wouldn't it? Given our theme? Tell me faithful church, tell us what you think.
"THERE'S FROG SEX IN THE LOBBY!" Meetings of senior officials in the Church of Stop Shopping are asking the question - what will it take to break through? The decades of bamboozling our higher brain function with celebrity eye contact, the psychic Ponzi schemes of products and plastic, and Disney's flying pink mind-killing elephants - all this leaves us in suspended animation called Consumer Consensual Hypnosis. We are uniquely qualified to kill the planet and pretend it isn't happening. Face it. We are the sleeping meat of history. It is over for us as of now.
I just walked through my neighborhood in outer Brooklyn at 4 AM, walking on the dark sidewalks of the sleepers, and it felt the same as broad daylight. We're asleep. We're dreaming in bed and we're dreaming walking in revolving doors in suits. WE ARE ALL DREAMING THE SAME DREAM.
We stand reverently in the banks to finance our slow nightmare. We hand over our money to people who actively promote our death. Forget "Where's the outrage." Let's go to "Where's the FROG SEX." Forget "We need to wake up." More like: "Extinct amphibians need to block the cash machines." What was Hurricane Sandy trying to say if not "Concentrate less on credit derivative swaps and more on the RESURRECTION OF A WET FLUORESCENT MONSTER. Earthalujah!
1) True smiling, like the delight we are born with. 2) Smiling-for-power, as with brand mascots, fashion models, online avatars, and employees working in customer service jobs. 3) The Smiling-of-Power. The dangerous smile of the ego’s self-satisfaction when its power is increased. Think Jamie Dimon. 4) The Smiling-of-Denial. Smiling endlessly for cheap cameras, hiding the fact that you bored in the middle of the Disneyland.
Those are the four types of smiles identified by my friend Dr. James Freund from Lancaster University. I wonder if my own smile has some elements of all four of your categories, Jim, or maybe I go from type to type as I go through my day. I don't want to feel bad that I smile. I like to smile. I smile when there's no reason sometimes - to feel better? To cheer up the people around me. Sometimes it's all I've got to give others. Or I might try to smile after sadness passes, and smiling-while-sad can be good, too. I would like to have that child's true smile always there, inside, nearby - even if I'm standing on a bull-dozer, or in a bank lobby with a radical amphibian, or in a jail cell. That smile is an original creation gift. Don't want to grow out of it. I know that feeling happiness can be a vanishing promised land when you try to live the moral life, especially an activist moral life. That's why activists should work in loving groups. An activist shouldn't isolate - with the state of the world so depressing. Amen?
Of course I have a true smile offered to me from Lena's 3 year old face. It's a powerful burst of sunlight. Although Lena can darken on a dime into a storm of true crying! Watch out! Earthalujah!
I am on the F Train. The intercom says that we have an important announcement from the New York police. “Keep careful watch over your belongings. Protect yourself.” I look down at my backpack between my feet. The intercom starts talking again. “Backpacks are subject to random search by the New York police.”
I’m coming from visiting my friend. She’s in the hospital, in the burn center, not conscious. She’s bravely surviving, surrounded by loved ones and hooked up to sophisticated machines. The man sitting next to me in the subway car interrupts. He’s struggling to stand up as the train slows down. He’s pulling on his leg. We stop at Jay Borough Hall and the doors open. The man can’t get up. He won’t make it to the door in time.
The man is limping toward the opening. What’s wrong with his leg? The door remains open for him. The intercom says “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been held momentarily by the train’s dispatcher. Please be patient.” He made it. I watch him struggling across the concrete platform, toward the steps up to the daylight.
It seems like everything must be a cliff-hanger today. Just now, in the famous season of hope – all the pain and suffering is real. Real and nearby. Pain is making its choices. I can’t filter out how fragile we all are. And I wonder what my friend is feeling, in her motionless coma, dreaming beneath the surface of the painful fire.
She has taken my senses like swooning special effects in a film. I’m drifting with her under the casually violent city. Will this tunnel be ripped open and my loved ones smile brightly in at me? I’m down here sitting in this haunted subway as it disappears into the side of Brooklyn.
My backpack is on my lap. A Christmas gift is inside. So, as I shoot through this hole to Coney Island – what if I take out this little box and hold it in my hand. I know even before I open it that it is the perfect gift. The gift we all want. That’s right, it’s the cure to pain and suffering. It isn’t a drug. It is the complete cure to death and all the pain that precedes it. It is life. Life in a box. I don’t even have to open it. I know what it is. I can take it to my friend