I was on the phone with a Huffpo writer named Kathleen Kiley who wanted to ask about our relationship to Jerry - the news vendor of Astor Place, a 27 year veteran of this 5 street intersection. The instinctive politics of our singers is that a healthy neighborhood needs lots of different people, who mingle with their rhythms, fashions, language, hips and hair.
Astor Place was such a place, at the center of the East and West Villages in downtown New York, but then fell on monocultural times as yuppies and logos proliferated. The small shops, flea market and all and any neighborhood eccentrics were pushed into shelters, hospitals or jail. Just as the young college kids that are everywhere now are smoothed and simplified down into the corporate choices of status, youth, power and money. Those are the garments of much of the Astor Place traffic nowadays, except the humble Greek-American Jerry at the news kiosk, the last person that is allowed to stand on the sidewalk and converse in an unhurried way with passersby.
Jerry is a throwback to the old days of immigrants in the street down in the village, and in his ordinariness he's become a controversy. Jerry has a pace, vantage on life, and his own wisdom. He is like a highly evolved species, a life form, holding forth in a forest that was leveled for cars and careers.
As Astor became homogeneous, there was no human comedy left to talk serious politics. Am I making sense? And it suddenly dawns on us: the more monocultural we get, the more difficult it is to know instinctively how diversity is also crucial in the natural world.
The honey bee hive is more like a neighborhood, but to Monsanto the bees are pests, free, uncontrolled, making crazy spiraling designs in the air, in constant communication - they need to be replaced by pesticides and fertilizer, to maintain that single monoculture, that industrial crop, one plant, row upon row, as far as the eye can see.
Astor Place will die without diversity. Without diversity, that larger intersection, the Earth, will hold silent extinction on its rocks.
Our Golden Toads will keep hopping in memory. But we're ready to follow Monsanto's money back to Vanguard, Blackrock and the other reservoirs of cash for industrial ag, cash for GMO seeds and the poisons that surround them, killing every ecosystem downwind. Down in New Orleans resting last week, I researched the Bee-killing Neonicotinoids Nazi past... The Bayer Company must be cast into the LAKE OF HELLFIRE! The Honey Bee's Devils have some fresh blood on their hands. Last year's extinction-creating Jamie Dimon from Chase Bank is a charming sort of Al Capone, you can see him across a room at the Met, smiley smiley quipy quipy about his $20 Billion in penalties and not a cent comes to us for the cost of fossil fuel billions. But the Monsanto and the Bayer people or killing right now as I type, bees and people both. They are faceless and brutal, although Monsanto place a VP (is the name Michael Taylor?) in the White House next to Obama's ear - maybe his face will become better known, god help us. I envision some renewable/sustainable earth-friendly JUSTICE for this man, from the African people who will throw off his deadly "green revolution." It's the Year of the Honey Bee, and thank you to... OH! A MIRACLE HAS TAKEN PLACE! - we genuflect before the Earth in hearing that our friend Jerry Delakas of 40 year old Astor Place newstand, our favorite singing spot, walked right up to the new mayor and asked for a stay on his eviction and got it. Jerry will persevere, we sense it. We'll pray hard at the kiosk after the Public show on Sunday, the show's at 2:30 we'll be on the street by 3:45 and we'll make that little box levitate over the Village. Amen.
They tell the judge that by examining the surveillance tapes they determined that our action of Sept 12 did not constitute "Riot" and "Menace" and "Unlawful Assembly" but rather a "Musical Presentation," and so the penalty they request for the plaintiffs Nehemiah and myself zooms from one year in jail down to a single day raking leaves in front of City Hall. Goes from 2nd and 3rd degree misdemeanors and criminal record down to a couple violations and community service. So, I'm sitting in a local cafe with Savi feeling much relief. We presented the 13,500 petitions to the judge and refused to accept even the much reduced charges. It was over in ten minutes. We thank our community of singing anti-consumerists and we are very grateful to our supporters from far and wide, and our neighbors and fellow activists here in NY, and also the press people who rallied to our cause. Something obviously happened in the last several weeks over at the District Attorney's office. At a minimum - the surveillance tapes the prosecutors looked at (finally) don't have us hopping on desks, don't record us threatening people. The riot and the menace didn't show up there. Who knows, maybe earth-lovers in the DA's office, people with kids who know that the banks have to stop the fossil fuel investments... maybe they hummed along with our toad-song. Earthalujah!
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.