It was harrowing to hear David Brooks of the NY Times ho-hum the bombing of schools and refugee camps on American national radio (NPR) last Friday. Ten years ago, he gave the thumbs up to an Iraqi War that would inevitably take a heavy civilian toll, with the human cost so obvious from the first moments of "Shock and Awe." Brooks and war-fever buddy Tom Friedman are opinion-makers who brought many traditional liberals to accept their gruesome idea of necessary violence.
Last winter our New York Public Library trustees, 1%ers all, investment bankers and realtors, trucked at least 2,000,000 books from the 42nd Street Library to a storage facility in New Jersey under cover of darkness. The famous "stacks" below the Rose Reading Room were suddenly emptied of physical books.
Our last remaining bit of shame is being dot-commed, with a young girl's pixilated eyes looking back at us from her murder.
I'm watching this atrocity with up to date technology, as I sit here typing. I remember a time when some techno-utopians thought that the global village would tilt us toward peace, as the violence became so vividly fore-grounded, the bleeding too painfully bright red, the searching for loved ones too real, and the eyes. Her eyes are more piercing than ever.
IF WE WANT REAL CHANGE WE HAVE TO REALLY TOUCH. I know that I need to touch and be touched, for lots of personal reasons, including my sanity; I know that I have to touch and be touched to take my activism across the line, to preach and sing in the Stop Shopping performances, and to keep me telling the truth.
Organic farmers hear recipes from the Earth every time they put their fingers in the soil and come up with ten thousand beyond-the-naked-eye animals on their callouses. It's also true that there are secret nature mystics everywhere, from janitors to life coaches. You don't have to be on speaking terms with Druids or the Hopi or Gaia scientists. Lots of folks have their own nature thing figured out, even on painful 3rd Avenue in New York City.
We can bring a tragic Andalusian song to the trucker who loads up the pesticides. We can funky chicken around the limo of the lobbyist as he tries to park. We have very distracting circus arts for the supervisors who vote for the frackers. We also deliver climate research by way of Mongolian throat-singing, although we're only beginning to learn... but already we sense that this will be good for interrupting fossil fuel investors at JPMorgan Chase. We have still-fresh operettas from Zuccotti park to calm the souls of cops.
The same performance arts that are useless products in the museums and Broadway and rock festivals, can be effective in saving the Earth. Only thing is - you have to let the Earth sponsor you instead of a corporation, which is a very different feeling.
These Honey Bee before us, in their hive, surround their queen, and are to move to another garden. They swarmed earlier, breaking from their larger hive, swarming in such a way that they signaled that they want to move, their beekeepers believe, and so as the darkness descends upon us – Azore and Christian will drive the hive to another garden while the bees sleep.
So we are here to pray to the supreme bee-ing for the safe passage of these sleeping buzzy souls. Although we know that we are an imperfect messenger, with our predation on this animal over the years, nearly half gone now in our poisons, still we wish them a good move. In doing so we make a promise that we will struggle to clean up the air and water and soil, to re-wild the farms and invite the Earth back into the lives of both bees and humans.
After all, we bees and humans are an ecosystem of two, partnering these 40,000 years. Tonight, the Stop Shopping Choir put its ears gently on the wall of your hive and we heard your low hum. Tens of thousands of you in this elegant box, restless in your sleep. Do you know you are moving? We know that we also have a restless sleep now, as we face what we have done. What will future Earth give us after what we have forced on the present? If we save the bees we save ourselves. If we manage to save ourselves it is because the bees saved us. We are a good wildness together.
Well - how many miles on public transportation for me yesterday?
Start out early from Hudson, NY, Amtrak two hours down the river to Penn Station, then take the A Train then the F Train to my house in Brooklyn. My Leg hurting - my knee turned it somehow - wondering how hurt I am. Then noon, stiffening up, can't walk, take a cab to meeting with press rep Blake Z, at cafe called The Hungry Ghost at Atlantic and Flatbush. Talk about this fall's run of shows and talk about going to jail with Monsanto as the devil jailer.
After meeting, I take 2-train to upper west side 76th and Broadway, now its 3:30 PM, for my spanish class at El Taller Latino Americano. Stagger out of there feeling loco, now 6 PM. So then I take the 1-Train down the west side to Varick Street in West Village. So now I'm near Film Forum, consider sitting in air-conditioned darkness watching a Hard Day's Night - dropping out of time for awhile, but no - I limp and hobble on worsening leg - but I'm in my hippie cowboy jeans and boots so the pain and suffering is just right, the injured alcoholic rodeo journeyman, Monty Clift in "The Misfits." Monty is dead near my house in the Quaker Cemetery in Prospect Park.
Anyway the bus pulls up I go crosstown straight east to Ave B and visit Steve M in his new apartment. We talk to his cartoonist personal trainer Chris who did Reverend Billy comic book for Green Party mayor campaign in 2009.
Now 9:30 PM take part in a surreal memorial for a recently deceased mother named Jennifer, staged by her sons in the LGBTQ performance fest called "Fresh Fruit Fest." The "Eason Brothers" are a cross-dressing over-ernest folk act but extremely slow, understated, with big gaps of silence. They stand there forgetting what to say while the audience waits. Its a cross between Butoh and Beckett and an Appalachian comedy act. One of the brothers, Felix, he's the ringleader but his two modes are acerbic and awe.... spends much of the show tuning his guitar.
Gradually their faith in this haunted stage act has a huge comic pay-off. The audience suddenly laughs to the point of tears, gasping and rocking back and forth like trees in a stormy wind. There is an over-ernest tap-dancer, very insecure but suddenly brave too - and improv-stomping all over the stage. A father (a young woman in with a Sharpie mustache) who fights to the death with one of the sons over penis size, claiming "I have the smallest penis!" "No I do!" I'm in the front row waiting for my cameo as a death row comedy dance by "Cuckoo-bird the Convict" is crashing among the tourquoise vinyl furniture. The second brother, Dinky, is slouching in a Whistler's Mother black dress, but gorging on deep-fried chicken, and Felix gives me the slightly raised eyebrow that I need to walk up on stage to heal Dinky's upset stomach.
Where do I fit in here? They want a cameo from me. I did the polyester and hair in a little bathroom. (I'd been carrying the garment bag all over Brooklyn and Manhattan.) But now I'm looking back at the audience with disbelief, studying their writhing contorted faces. I'm confused. The dramatic approach is so sophisticated and out there I'm wondering - did their mother Jennifer actually die two weeks ago like they said? Because I took this gig because my mother June also died when she was young and I thought I could lead a prayer, be a good pastor to these young people. Now I'm caught upriver in this ultra futuristic performance art.
Is this the way young people communicate now, in long injured silences? Because this destroys the snarky box of most comedies... I mean its exciting to me, but am I being played for a fool? Or is it perfect for this audience to be taken, out of nowhere, by a televangelist, into a serious funeral?
After the memorial to - possibly - memorial to Jennifer - I'm in a cab back home under a pale yellow moon over the East River. Beautiful. I'm home by 1 AM. Leg throbbing, but fell asleep forgetting to 1) wrap affected area in ice for 20 minutes twice, 2) take Advil and 3) lift my knee above my heart. Though of course my heart could not have been very far below my leg as I slid into the dreams of sleep. Which were probably conservative dreams compared to the day I had.
The word INDEPENDENCE is a Mt. Rushmore word in the American language, up on the mountain with FREEDOM and RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI). Look at all the enemies climbing up our mountain: tornadoes, penicillin-resistant bacteria, Honduran children, dying Honey Bees. But I’m safe up here with my new app and Beyonce.
In the 50 years since Viet Nam, after we bombed, strafed and defoliated independence movements worldwide, INDEPENDENCE - the founding psychological profile of our citizenry, turned into its opposite. We take the lie into our bodies. We don’t have fire-works. We have extreme karmic unction: strokes, cancer, and malodorous gastric disaster.
The violence against independence movements of non-Americans is now inseparable from the war on the natural world. The powerless at the edges are harvested for the 1% at the center, whether its people or animals or ancient trees. Or Honey Bees.
July 4th isn’t a celebration for most people. It’s a warning that there are still many of us who are so insecure in our own independence that we see the independence of others as a deadly threat.
The Peoples Climate March planning meeting at Tishman Auditorium last night was a good step forward. What a big march opposite the United Nations climate summit on Sept. 21st would accomplish isn't clear, because big marches haven't worked for a long time, but the coalition in the room included electricians and janitors and train conductors, urban farmers and scientists and puppeteers. The possibility that we have here a reprise of the gathering in Seattle in November of '99, or the Wisconsin capital rotunda in February of 2011 or the first weeks of the Occupy movement – very tantalizing. We live for the human bee-hive, the whirling community, the moment of creativity in this age of corporate darkness.
And yesterday our hometown newspaper the New York Times seemed to finally catch on to the insecticide companies, with stern words for the bee-killing Neonicotinoids. The gray lady says it straight until it can't quite mention Monsanto, which suggests a struggle there behind the scenes, but at least there IS a struggle. It may be that the elites are ready to turn on the GMO-plus-poison companies the way they once subdued the tobacco cartel and are trying to reign in the big banks. Sometimes you wake up in the morning and get a picture of your daughter in the forest and you just want to go for the good version, you know? Like the old Johnny Nash song, “It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day!”
In our work we have noticed: This is the narrative that people quickly make sense of, much faster than the larger apocalypses, like climate change, species extinction, the population and consumption and war spirals. For years we have lacked the earth-shaking thriller that explains everything else. That is why Hollywood has been able to sell us a blockbuster apocalypse everything month or so, with some Captain Americas or Supermen flying in at the last minute to save us. Somehow that isn't a realistic preparation for what is actually happening to us. But THIS story: The villainy of Monsanto, the instrument of death that is the seed-soaking Neonicotinoid insecticides, the struggle of the Honey Bees to touch a thousand flowers and touch us all... Here we have the STAR WARS that the environmental struggle hasn't had since Rachel Carson. My vote is for pushing against Monsanto and Bayer and Syngenta and the whole neo-liberal factory farming GMO regime. Let's be too outlandish to be called mere "protesters." That part of ourselves that we've held quietly in reserve, that collection of courage? Anybody hear me? Unpack that now and plan a nonviolent direct action. Not a march and rally. Not protesting. A nonviolent direct action that is so dramatic that the first thing people think of is: How will the bees get back to their hive? And how will I survive? (THOSE TWO QUESTIONS ARE THE SAME QUESTION.) HoneyBeeLujah!
WE HAVE A SHOW-DOWN THAT WILL DEFINE WHAT WE ARE. The profitable poison versus the people. (This is a very hands-on version of climate change vs. the people, and that is part of this fight's importance.) For almost a decade the EPA has not moved on Neonicotinoids, but of course the EPA is rendered goofy by the pressure of so many Monsanto people in its offices. Out in the world we have beekeepers, flowers and bees. In the capital we have millionaire masturbators. The trick is to draw them into battle. How do we draw a line between us? The corporate marketers are brilliant cultural analysts. They fuzz the border between us. Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto hold "Bee Health Summits." They offer themselves as our benign leaders with images of bees, flowers and huggy children. Their conscience policy is - kill the bees while pretending to love them, and while financing RoboBees to replace them. We keep thinking, "Can they be that evil?" Yes, they are.
EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT NEONICS IS AWFULhttp://grist.org/news/everything-we-know-about-neonic-pesticides-is-awful/
Stop Shopping Choir members and friends at the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island. -- Well we've been discussing gender switching and species-switching by activists. This parade is dedicated to ocean life, the romantic gene-splicing that makes the Mermaid. The Honey Bees are all over this picture, a bit hard to see. I see undersea life, cabaret coral, fish kings and star fish... The Earth revolution is sourcing here. This is sexy AND important to survive, and unites with Carnavale events, indigenous ritual, and all the Doo Dah and Burning Man parades... We're onto something here. We're intuitively moving toward it... Give me an Earthalujah!
Now that our run at Joe's Pub is concluded I turn to the computer and find my friend Keegan arrested for impersonating cops. Oh, the costumes of activists, trying to appropriate the authority that has gotten out of control. Then I thought of our strange year, this bee cult we started. The authority we confronted was Harvard, the pomposity of scientists there secretly getting money from the Pentagon to replace bees with robots... RoboBees. What?
Costumes take the predator police momentarily off their scent, off their prejudice as to types, and adds a sense of humor. They are slightly less apt to hand-cuff you if they are laughing. You don't often see laughing cops cuffing protesters. It's all theater! The picture here, after our singing invasion of the RoboBee laboratory - we can see the vogue-ing of the Stop Shopping Choir. It seems that we have practiced drag queens in our midst. Gender-switching and species-switching. C'mon cops, try to catch us!
Our fundamentalism will always have us drowning, in denial to the end, preaching about surviving all this extreme weather. But the wilderness rises up our legs, unlaughing, eating us alive. Right-wing apocalyptic Christianity may try its vaudeville routine as the water rises, because turning your deathbed into a garish comedy is its style, but all Americans have the same contract with the lonely, angry military god. We all have our chance go down into the suffocating wildness with only a sad reality show of our last moments. We are looking for eternity, re-runs, syndication, and profits that silently come into our Paypal account.
Profits are the form that fundamentalism takes now, the wars that support it are just a very expensive form of last minute shouting before drowning. We were supposed to follow a pillar of fire across the wilderness, but it's worse than GPS. The flood put out the fire and the god disappeared like a Wall Street crook in a Dassault jet. We wanted the eternity we were promised. We wanted to slay the natives and settle down. We are still trying to go to church as the water rises. We want our eternity so badly, like a drug-like sexual encounter, like a billion dollars appearing in the seaweed as it swallows us. The Earth is pushing us into the sky for our last words, and this is a speech with no money in it.
Victoria, Casey, Hadar, and Vincent - accepted "Fabulous Sainthood" in the Church of Stop Shopping yesterday. These four sacred activists are among the Cooper Union students who took the school president's office and refused to leave, ultimately living there for 65 days. Our HoneyBeeLujah services are just around the corner in Astor Place, and we have a special appreciation for standing up to institutions of higher learning who turn into real estate empires with college presidents paid like CEO's. Trespassing in the upper reaches of these places warms our heart. We were arrested for preaching from the rooftops of NYU buildings more than ten years ago, when we were trying to save the Poe House on 3rd Street from NYU expansion. It was the residence where Edgar Alan wrote The Raven. So we have explored these highfalutin methods. I believe that the powerlessness that students feel with the remote hugeness of universities was - here in New York at least - assuaged by the seizing of executive offices by these saints. And even as they conducted interviews from their top floor corner office, for instance with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, they always took us through the issues of transparency, tuition and debt and the consumerizing of students - with a light touch. You can see it in their laughter here.
In the young years that I lived in Minnesota and the Dakotas. I’d return again and again to the end of a dock to stare up, or take a hillpath to a lookout, my listening point. The main thing I wanted was to be free of others and to look out… I was meditating toward the north and west, where I would see the night sky arrayed out there endlessly above the icy sweeps. I didn’t even want to call it the Rockies or the Arctic - I felt strangely nourished by that mystery.
I loved my listening point in the winter when the north wind made the evergreens give off that soft whistling sound. I could imagine the big forest cats, the wolves and their full moons and the great white owls. They were my fabulous gatekeepers to another world. I knew that if I traveled far enough into this vast space that the thousands of rules that were being assembled for my young life would disappear. The measurements, like “millions of miles” would become useless. All human shouts died on the edge of the crushing silent music that swept up to space.
I believe my listening points offered me an invitation to work free of the culture being forced on me. I could glance in that northerly direction while sitting with my workbook in school. At twelve years old that was Mellette School in Watertown, South Dakota. The schoolyard was turned away from the prairie that disappeared into the ice and stars, but I could sense its presence and feel better ….and be better prepared to cast a cold eye on the education I was getting. The story of history taught in school was like a loud shirt with a missing sleeve; my beloved unknown land became the Northwest Passage, or the last scene in Dr. Strangelove, or - constantly – sentimental versions of the natives. But I was confident of my escape. I knew that I could point myself northwest after school and I would hear an incoming counter-story.
Now as an older person I watch the arctic melting. The unknowable top of the world has been meddled with. As a life-long hunter of new culture, I’ve had to move my listening point to increasingly unprecedented scenic views. Now I must find my howling wind in a cubic inch of soil, or a rare bird a thousand miles off its range, or an orgasmic flash of nature in our bed. The northern lights show up in my life on the sly, a gift of intuition, a surprise from an unknown artist, like catching Charley Parker or Jackson Pollock before they got famous. I still believe that my cultural night sky is hiding somewhere, but the escape to freedom is through a shell-game of dazzling space junk.
The unknowable beasts who once saw human beings as wandering loners in the far distance, tramping through the snow with their guns on their backs – these animals are in flight now like we all are. A few weeks ago, in early May, a roaming female wolf was shot by a farmer in Iowa. The newspapers marveled that the lone wolf got so far south. I wondered if she was searching for her listening point.
The RoboBee inventors are taking the part of the bee that they understand, the non-inertial flight, the 70 wing beats a second, etc. to create their frankenbee. What they don't and cannot understand is how a scout bee returns to the hive and begins her dance, wiggling and waggling, beating her wings 70 times a second, shooting the hive full of pheromone gasses and building a mysterious-to-us map, a three dimensional map created from triangulating the sun, the hive and the foraging flower in the distance... This dance of erotic communication is the Honey Bee being miraculous. In the dark ball of the hive something happens we can't explain. We only see the results: the Honey Bees travel miles to precisely the flower in the scout bee his directed them to.
The scientists at the RoboBee lab are only taking the dumbest part of the smartest animal. They mimic with their little robot the wing-beats and the non-inertial flight, the mechanical stuff. The mysterious dances in the hive they jettison. Could this because they are financed by the Pentagon, and are actually not building a bee at all, but rather a new tiny drone for futuristic warfare? Yes, the head researcher has received millions from DARPA.
As Earth activists we know that we can only stop these people by discovering the mysterious dance in ourselves. These violent people need some precise dark magic from you and me.
Got my "Community Service" today for my conviction for preaching in the JP Morgan Chase lobby last September, surrounded by singing extinct Golden Toads. Connecting bank investments to climate change and the extinction wave - that was our novel idea. So I got my gloves and my ID and my paper form and I'm off to the subway with the sleepy commuters. I thought as an act of defiance I would leave you my faithful this picture of preaching in the lobby of the Boston Monsanto headquarters a couple weeks ago. I think their interior decoration resembles their vision of the interior of a corn plant. No biological shapes, no stinking smells, no humor or mystery or sex. Also no evolution, no intruders or "wildness" of any kind and so no nutrition. And the inscrutable architecture reminds me of reflecto-sunglasses that mask any desire. It makes us want to break that "sea of identical details" with singing and shouting and sheer information. This is a cover-up! We know what you are doing! You are sweeping our best souls from their traditional homes into shantytowns. You are chemicalizing eco-systems. You are leaving the bee without a flower. So come down out of your offices, don't such Selfie us. Come out and touch us and laugh with us instead of arresting us. We know that you want to join the resistance to Godsanto's Hell.