Because the electronic wallpaper of commentary makes it impossible to communicate a single good idea. We can't have such clarity when everyone points in every direction with digital streaming.
Everything that moves has cursors on it. All things are Selfied, from the evening meal to an ancient Seqouia. So reality is middle-distanced, framed and digitized, pushed to the distance and converted into sparkling mush.
So it's hard to press forward in this bizarro environment with one, single compassionate political action.
This must be at least part of how difficult it is to persuade people that corporate poisons are real. The toxicity of Monsanto and Syngenta and Bayer's chemicals don't show up in our Selfys. The alarming studies and the corporate denials ambush with the same pixels. All we have are the smiling actors in their advertisements and their lawyers' litigations. The one thing that breaks through their fog of sales is actual death. There is this mysterious cancer epidemic. All these dead loved ones. There are the corrupted recommended safety levels for Monsanto's glyphosates, with the government riddled with Monsanto executives, but then - these pesky corpses.
We will accept the testimony of the dead to save the living. Yes Monsanto spy reading this - you will be haunted. That zombie citizen telling you about her final illness - she has an opinion.
This time, in Paris with Antoine du Caune. The show is the popular L'Emission d'Antoine. He invited me 8 years ago to Los Angeles where we invaded a mall together, preached, and in a comic turn of events that entertained on French TV, we got kicked out by mall cops.
The writers who best describe the deadening impact of shopping are the French. Guy Debord of "The Society of the Spectacle", Raoul Vaneigem of "The Revolution of Everyday Life", and Michel de Certeau of "The Practice of Everyday Life" - are three examples of brilliant refractions of consumer culture.
I was invited to talk to Antoine last week, after eight years had passed since our collaboration in LA. He had grown gray-haired and famous, looking very much like Jon Stewart. He called me back last week, as the French struggled to rebound from the Bataclan massacre, playing footsy with the law enforcement overkill of "The State of Emergency" and Hollande's new macho pronouncements. In my talk on the show, before I exorcised his iPhone and flew into the audience, I wove together the state of official fear and the state of constant shopping. Was I convincing? Perhaps I covered up that question's answer by praying for Antoine's soul and crashing into his congregation.
Antoine kept saying, "But we cannot stop shopping, can we? You have been protesting this consumerism for many years. Won't you give up?"
The Earth is not giving up. We appreciate doing what we believe the Earth is telling us to do. What's the good life if not the moral one.
SIGN ME UP FOR THE EVOLUTION REVOLUTION. The skies erupt. The streams become snakes, the sea boils, the mountain rocks crush our memory.
I am a consumer in the "Developed West." I am living inside a thick fortress of rituals which are unacknowledged. My conveniences are extremely repetitive. I walk down the street and thousands of times the mental environment of the USA shouts at me that I am free, that I am happy, that I am very special.
I have seen children who refuse to go gently into that freedom. But they are surrounded. Consumerism hunts them down, promising new Mouse-ka-teers who have the tweener foreshadowings of orgasm.
I go to the window of our apartment and look out. We are watching the sky, which has delivered a six month long Indian summer full of birds and insects from the tropics. Another gigantic freak storm is coming. It seems more intelligent than Pope Francis.
A natural disaster is a living thing that seems to know that the humans were evolution’s mistake.
We are proud citizens worshipping at the altar called "America" and we are layered in unacknowledged ritual.
We suddenly stop. We stop our prayer and turn to look at the front door of the church and there she is, the Earth, what now? Here she comes. Is this a flash flood or a slow flock of rare cancers? Oh no! Evolution spits like lava from the face of Jesus.
We are in the last moments of Christian living. Evolution was more than the fundamentalists could handle. Will we die? Yes that is what this is. This is death. American consumers don’t know what death is because death is not for sale.
Will our children die? Will they remember what we did before they die? How we tried to stop?
Our children are emissaries from the Earth, and the Earth remembers everything, every single life. But it was up to every single life to remember the Earth. We remember her now.
THE SECRET CULT OF THE NORMAL MUST NOW BE CAST INTO THE LAKE OF HELLFIRE. After all the floods fires droughts and typhoons - we have never had a politician not-corrupted enough to say WE MUST CHANGE HOW WE LIVE. Back down carbon-intense industrial ag, cars, "big retail", tourism, war? Well, uh, that's BAD FOR JOBS. "Bad for jobs" translated into common sense means BAD FOR THE 1%.
Let's get 2016 started with some truth. Our convenience is based on ruining the weather. Our god is based on ruining the weather. Our law enforcement is based on ruining the weather. Imperialists have never changed very much while the empire was still making money, but never before have imperialists been threatened with the loss of their lives from the Earth itself. That's the good news gospel. This is our opportunity if we seize it.
Nothing is more crucial to the corporation culture than this idea that our life is normal. Every single purchase of a product is a high-stakes defense of Consumerism. It's why Chelsea Manning is more important than the Sierra Club. The violation of the sanctity of the whole system is what we need.
How do we do that? Maybe we're not violent - so we won't blow up the nearest Dunkin Donuts. We'll do something that's much more taboo. WE WON'T BE NORMAL Happy New Year.
Brother, Sinner, Saint. I used to hunt down and collect brother figures, pummel them with questions, keep them up on a pedestal longer than they wanted and lob more questions. I don't think I ever went to school; more like, I created the situation of being tutored by flotillas of friends who floated into my voracioius orphanage.
Mike Roselle is a throwback for me but such an illustrious one in this desperate year. When he walks somewhere I walk alongside if I can help it and I'll have a question in a moment. Sit down nearby and after a while he can hear it coming I'll tender a subject he might address. Its enough sometimes to get a verbal painting of the Arctic 30 blow by blow, of the order of War and Peace, so vivid and full with tangents to explain motivations of characters in the plot, and at the end like a chaser his friend Cat walks up with the email of Captain of the Arctic Sunrise and suddenly that chapter in my book has its primary source.
Last week I stayed with Mike and let the new year come up Coal River Valley. I washed dishes and stoked the fire and asked questions, and like all my questions in recent years my questions have apocalyptic accents. Mike is more patient with me than he is with the end of the world. He's got wisdom he doesn't know what to do with. His first arrest in the ice above the arctic circle was in 2003. Thanks Mike!
I had this same feeling after 9/11 and the first Afghani bombings. People turned right around and celebrated Christmas. What? How can we gather 'round the yule log with the house burning down?
I'm encouraged that indigenous activists and 25,000 Earth-lovers overwhelmed tourists at the Eiffel Tower on December 12th. And I breathe a sigh of relief from the stopping of the Mall of America yesterday by Black Lives Matter. Amen. Climate change and the racism are murder-fests so first things first: stop it.
Shut down Christmas. This year give the gift of inconvenience. Middle class fun must be re-sold with its costs clearly marked. You are being interrupted now. No more Christmas as usual. We weren’t watching what we consumed.
Take the Christmas out of the Solstice! Earthalujah!
It is 66 degrees in NYC. That’s 18.9 Celsius. Capping a month of freakish warmth in the apple. The flowers are confused, bursting into bloom on the darkest day of the year. We humans should be more confused than we are.
I'm writing on the December 26, 2015 in Florida. I’m visiting my father, who turns 91 on Thursday. Florida is where we retire from work, or where we retire from thinking and go to Disney. The peninsula is dying, its coral reefs bleached and Everglades polluted and drained. Brazilians and non-consumerized Cubans rejuvenate a place that sinks into the dead sea.
Yesterday a Frigate Bird soared over us, sliding off the clouds over the Atlantic. The sleek mother of the sky, she never moved her wings… There is constancy with the Earth, even as she tries to shake off her main predator. We have let her down, but mostly we’ve let ourselves down. It is a year to despair about what we have done.
For the first time we find it possible to imagine leaving our city. Should we move to another part of the Earth? Could we ever do that? The city is lying to us. It is not the sophisticated big city of America. It is a real estate destination that eats its neighborhoods alive. The police manufacture fear. Its artists and working poor are banished to the fringes.
Or is it time to re-commit, to re-commit deeply. Maybe our years of work are not just lost. What if all the shouting in picket lines and parades and running from lobbies and hallways dodging cops – maybe that was practice for this moment, in 2016, when it is obvious to even the most de-politicized citizens that the Earth is moving on without us.
Florida and New York are on the ocean and they will change utterly. We are in the wind storm of evolution – finding a way to live when the Earth changes. Politics will mean trying to take some survivors with us to a new life.
Each of us creates our own map of the world. We do it alone. In the Church of Stop Shopping we say that each of us carries inside 713 stories that we have selected.
We capture experiences, memories, dreams. We fashion our life from the lessons that these stories teach us. If we collect stories of revenge, we are vengeful. If we carry stories of love, we love. However, we can carry stories that conflict, stories of love and hate battling for our attention inside our bodies, leaving us exhausted with flash floods of emotion and confusing signals to our friends.
Fundamentalist corporations and religions and militaries - try to introduce stories that compel us to follow. The strongest and the largest of the western fundamentalist religions is Consumerism, and we are the Church of Stop Shopping. We encourage you to enter the adventure of personally selecting your stories, the ones that have in them antidotes for fundamentalism like utter, complete, uncontrollable surprise, the mysteries, the quantum physics of the honeybees and the wind, the landscape called intuition; in other words the 99% of creation that is unexplained.
At a time in history when people express themselves by shooting bullets and CO2 gas, there is nothing more valuable then what we don't know. That is where Peace waits for us.
God I wish I was there with the Shop Shopping Choir. We're out of money, so we will sing in New York, trying to harmonize with you across the dying Atlantic.
Your dance with police is heart-breaking and revealing. It is a gift to all of us out here who will carry on the Earth's work, the job of tornado-ing in the plazas.
The mind-leap that the politicians and police make - that any gathering in public space resembles the Other and must be called Extreme - this doesn't seem like France, but I am naive.
My lazy thinking has it that I myself would never be this way, but we all fall back into fear, don't we? We are the predator species, and we forget that we are made of the Earth. We are mammals made of soil and ocean-water, a column of water up on our hind legs.
That is what we are on both sides of the conflict. But one side has a club and no face. The other, you, you bring your vulnerable body as close to the action as you dare. You show your flesh to the public air and receive the bruise. You show a smile, you are hopping in place, and then running back to slow down a friend's arrest.
When we protest we make a storm in the street that the Earth's horizon watches with interest. The Earth is our leader and our teacher. We know that the Earth will win. She will heat up but she will survive the extinction that sweeps across her eco-systems. We know that the men in body-armor will join us ultimately as we fall to the ground like leaves in the autumn. At some point the cops too will feel the Earth in their bodies - that is what will persuade them not to work for nationalism descended from old wars.
The Earth fills us up and sends us into the fight with instructions in its singing molecules. She gives us power beyond policies, ego or courage.
When we watch you on the streets we feel a strange kind of gratitude - your bodies are like letters arranging in words against the page of the ground. You give us our new instructions!
Norman Rockwell is dead at the easel, his paintbrush still hanging in the air. All our traditions are in anaphylactic shock. We chew together in the eye of the storm.
This turkey-day we gather around the steaming food to defend ourselves against what is outside. We are seated facing inward, admiring the steaming aroma of the overkill. We pretend for an hour that we don't notice what is behind us, the climate rattling the windows and the families knocking on our door.
We express our gratitude for what? That we have just a little more time; time for this meal. The ritual meal gives us a feeling of false momentum; that we are logically coming from 10,000 meals going back through time. This also suggests that there will be many more such celebrations to follow. This is a lie and we know it.
We all live in a gated community now. We all live within a militarized zone, in the center of which is an extreme form of retail culture which storms our minds with smiling graphics, actors, anti-depressants, fossil-sourced packaging and carbon shipping. This bizarre deathtrap is called our mainstream economy.
Here in 2015, after Beirut and Paris; after extinction sweeping through the natural world; after cops shooting unarmed black men sixteen times and cities hiding the evidence; after the language of candidates out-Hitlering the worst of the past - we take another bite. We use the words of mild-mannered love. We think of our family as a little culture with borders. Well, should we be grateful that we can still harbor this fantasy?
We hear the wind blowing against the side of our dining room. We call it a super storm, hoping to make it as manageable as the super bowl or a super mall. We are watching the geo-political super-storm of ISIS, Putin and Goldman Sachs, but we are belching the gas from the top of our packed stomachs and the problems of the world are on a screen on the wall. We are not witnesses to the world, we are consumers of it. It comes as information on a screen. It is our most violent border. We have ourselves to thank for corporate media.
Our mature response is to remain in a state of non-protest and keep shopping. Cornel West is right when he says, “Everything is commodified. All things are for sale.” This is a state-sanctioned religion. Extreme shopping is the psychic heart of modern racism. The shopping drug makes us the kind of idiots that accept violence. The Ferguson young people last year were right to march into Walmart and shout "Hands Up! Don't Shop!"
This year is a hard Thanksgiving. Our thanks must leap from our immediate love all the way over Trump and ISIS and toxin-coated seeds of 200 mile-an-hour wind. Our thanks flies out to Chelsea Manning, the truth-teller alone in her cell. Our thanks go to the families who miss their murdered loved ones, the survivors of state violence from bullets, drone bombs or Monsanto. Our thanks go to the piano player at the Paris theater; to the all-night campers in the Minnesota cold at Precinct #4, and to the police who are beginning to have, in the midst of their thanks, doubts about their leaders.
The sun is rising in our windows on Thanksgiving Day in the USA. It's getting warmer for the homeless here in New York. My thanks go out to them, and the 60 million homeless who walk hundreds of miles toward militarized horizons. We must escape to all of you, cross the borders from the shopping side, and give thanks to you for our freedom.