It is the darkest of times; it is the brightest of times. A mentally ill President slouches toward the nuclear suitcase to mistake a Twitter feed for the big one. But he can see in the windows of the Oval Office, out in streets, the 99% and the Black Lives and the Kayaktivists and the Pussy Power and the Dreamers and the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.
This succession of startling movements are the seeds of our revolution. The pattern over the five plus years since Occupy Wall Street is one of peaks and valleys. Up in the visionary light of a life-saving rebellion and then down into the aftermath of months and months of organizing, meetings and marches and rallies… We’re entering that valley again now, headed for a hangover, as the daily rallies slow down.
Senior officials in the Church of Stop Shopping believe that a miracle is hiding in plain sight. What these uprisings all have in common is something we need to know by heart. They all share a quality of vigorous generosity.
We’ve been to all of these American revolutions, and they really date back to the taking of the Wisconsin state house in March of 2011. When the pizzas were delivered to the Madison rotunda and the delivery guy said that people in Tahrir Square paid for them long distance – that set the tone. These were real communities with gift economies, instant practical traditions, and lots of music.
Remember the peaks of these revolutions and we can solve the let-down and slow-down. Here’s our idea. Put the spirit of these uprisings into a small container. We call it Naïve Activism. Our activism is tailor-made for this long walk through the shadow of death. We use the blueprint of the big protests: 1) take the space 2) pop the hypnosis 3) and for god’s sake be kind. Let’s call it “rapid deployment love.”
Here is our under-10- minutes ritual for banks that finance fossil fuel extraction. We (5 or 8 of us) enter the lobby of Citi, TD or Wells Fargo—each is heavily invested in Dakota Access and other pipelines. We lay down newspapers. One of us dressed in white lies down on the papers clutching a symbol of the Earth, a rock, a branch, a wing… We pour an oily concoction (safflower oil and graphite) upon this prostrate person while we sing and preach and film. We hand out flyers about good banks and bad banks. Then we clean up and, help the human Jackson Pollock to the door, and disappear down the subway steps.
These are meant to be “spiritual trespassings”. We’ve gone banking this oily way three times in the last month—it’s quick and dirty. We’re making a simple point. We’re a small overture to the Earth’s invasions of the institutions that are want to kill Her. Yes, bankers —there is another movement about to move. The Earth is coming! The Earth is coming!
If there is a look of dismay and horror on the face of the bank manager who watches the splattering oil hit the body and the piece of nature—that manager is seeing over Trump’s wall! Just when she or he is wide-eyed, be gentle. We want to help. We have the laughter and the music. We are the stranger at a protest that accidentally bumps into you. We both share that moment of mutual forgiveness. Radical!
I can hear someone lamenting that it is naïve to think that a trillion dollar bank would change its policy because of such small-scale protests. Of course, nothing impacts banks. Not the marches arriving from 500 years of struggle through the Middle Passage and the Trail of Tears. Not judges or juries or federal agencies or Presidents. Not even the threat of the end of life on Earth. Nothing touches banks except the people who walk right through the front door.
Zuccotti Park, Ferguson and Standing Rock. Each began on a modest scale and each was called naïve, at the beginning. An urban pocket park, a stretch of sidewalk in front of a police station, tipis by a river in North Dakota. People came from great distances to go to these spots, and they immediately pitched in. How can I help?
Something about that community-making, without the supervision of corporations, was key to why when people heard about it, they wanted to join up. This was called naïve, illegal, selfish, violent, divisive… but it was just love working hard and refusing to leave.
Here’s our small gesture. We accept the oil on our body. We offer you the information. We clean up. Does that feel familiar somehow? Have a deju vu quality? In these dark times, we remember the light on the high ground. It’s just people saving each other’s lives. Radical!
Why is the stain of the oil giving us such a jolt? We all notice it. Today when Amadeus lay back on the floor of the bank and the crude oil stains her, the security guard shouts into his walkie-talkie like she's a new species of vampire.
Al is rumbling in his low voice, “Take your money out of TD. They put 360 million into the Dakota Access Pipeline…” David pours the anointing oil, the blood of the Earth on the vampiress…
An investor at a desk in the corner sat there with his head in his hands like he’s going to be sick. Police cars drive by on 14th Street; no-one gets out. The bank manager accuses us of defacing her bank with our flyers. But the tellers - they are smiling. And we are harmonizing, “Earthalujah!
This is our fourth Oily Banking action, and we invite you to try it. We leave in under ten minutes, cleaning up after, throwing a coat over our walking drip painting. The action is a sticky gash in hushed altar of banking. That blind gap between us and the fatal crimes that our money becomes is religiously maintained. It is an information gap but it is also a deadening of our feelings. It is a virulent form of fundamentalism.
To collapse that gap, to make the oil run and stain our spotless reclining body; Oh! this is our promise to the Earth to mind our money. This is our invitation to the Earth to speak to us.
We'd been working on "Widening Gyre" for a couple weeks and came out sweet and haunting. Then came our update of the The Beatitudes, with the first one "Blessed are those who confuse Consumerism with Freedom, you'll be delighted to discover the difference." The last Beatitude was "Blessed are those who see the Earth shining in an act of justice."
My sermon followed, with the 750 people quite still. I tried to get them to shout along as in "Somebody give me an Earthalujah!" or "Somebody give me a Pussylujah!" But the cathedral has a quality of stillness and after all, it is an Anglican cathedral, the largest gothic cathedral in the world. Eventually the discussion of immigration and the proposal for a fierce kind of Gandhi-esque dramatic activism, did win them over. We take this song-song-sermon ritual back now to the next fossil fuel bank lobby.
THE EARTH ENCOURAGES THE STOP SHOPPING CHOIR TO KEEP RITUALIZING IN BIG OIL BANKS: Barbara is our preacher in this Citibank lobby anointing. Sylver is the man in white splattered with oil and carrying wild branches and leaves. Anointing Sylver is Christopher.
Citibank is our Devil's bank branch this week, as the activists-who-sing continue their role as holy clowns of the divestment movement. Citibank has more money than any other bank invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Citibank raised most of the $3.75 Billion by gathering the 17 banks who joined in the venture.
The silent evil of the bank was palpable to us, but the innocence of the customers watching us, and even the innocence of the manager and tellers - we don't blame them. We also felt the water protectors of Standing Rock in the bank with us, which gave us courage. We handed out our info-sheets to the customers and bank tellers. And Barbara preached with the fire of the Earth-spirit. Earthalujah!
CITIBANK JESUS CLUTCHING A BUSH COVERED WITH OIL Action Number 2 in the Citibank campaign, in which the Church of Stop Shopping accompanies the Earth in overwhelming the evil banks. Citibank organized the 17 banks that put up the $3.75 billion for the Dakota Access pipeline, about as Evil as Evil gets.
Sylver is laid out on a plastic tarp, with his leafy bouquet, with an oily substance anointed upon him by Christopher as Barbara (in red scarf below) preaches on the evils of fossil fuel banking in the climate change and extinction era. This is choir situationist harmonizing... yeah!
Total time: 15 minutes. No arrests just threats from a very righteous Citi bank manager. A white male teller pushed the robbery-in-progress button behind his plexi-glas - and did it like with a swagger. We handed out flyers to about 20 customers and employees. We hope that others will join us in making bank lobby Earth performances.
Revolution needs its plaza, places for songs and shouts. Public space is more and more controlled by the wealthy. Our parks are now “Conservancies” and “Authorities” with their own police forces. As the wealthy take over, our 1st Amendment rights keep shrinking. In Union Square in NYC, a birthplace of labor in the United States, you can’t sing a song anymore. You can play a Woody Guthrie song on your computer that has a line in it about “singing on a grassy spot in Union Square,” but you can’t go do it yourself.
In this Trump time, it is so important that Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter, the Women’s Marches and the Let-Them-In rallies at airports took place. They give us some breathing space, by which I mean shouting and singing space. Every revolt has its iconic gathering places, its pressure points. The Civil Rights Movement had its Pettis Bridge, the highway to Selma, the Lincoln Memorial and the bus-stops of Birmingham. You can think of these places as stages. ACT UP had its Stonewall and Castro. ACT UP had unexpected stages in the offices of bureaucratic buildings, plays in theaters and cabarets, in the White House itself and on the congressional lawn with the AIDS Quilt, a portable space that took control with a quiet shouting imagery and its scale.
In the Church of Stop Shopping we are specializing in banks that finance the Dakota Access pipeline. In New York that means Citi, TD and Wells Fargo. These three killers have thousands of bank branches in the tri-state area and are just begging for our spiritual trespassing.
We will all have to discover our gathering places. Our cities and towns are riddled with “dead space,” – spots where we can gather and talk in that embodied way, with the passion that is beyond computers. We need to be ready to re-emerge and surround the hater. This is his Custer’s Last Stand.
Why? Because we're wide open. At the airports at the borders anyone can come in and go out. The United States invented this. Long ago we discovered that there is safety for us in offering safety to others. I love my country. Why? The 1st Nations and the Africans rose up and created the Land of the Free. I love my country. The Women fly up through the glass ceilings. Women have the power! The Other is our President. The Earth is our Mother. I love my country! I love my country! I love my country!
MATT HOPARD IS STOP MOTION SOLO AND HE IS AN IMPORTANT JOURNALIST ARRESTED. Our friend Matt Hopard AKA Stop Motion Solo, our favorite streamer, has been charged with felony riot while covering the black bloc protests of J20. He is an accredited journalist who’s work has appeared in major international news outlets like Democracy Now! and The Guardian. Wasn't Matt also in the NYTimes? He was part of the reason many of us started streaming with Occupy. Matt where are you now? Please Matt's friends chime in here with next steps.
stopmotionsolo.tv Tardigrade CERN (@StopMotionsolo)