You, kind reader, are an amateur holy person who will become intensely sanctified when you PLACE YOUR PRAYING HANDS ON THE GENITALS OF THE COFFEE GIANT. By which I mean, follow the money and change where it goes. Here’s how you do it.
First, walk into a Starbucks. Walk up to the counter. Place one hand over the cash register, the other in the air, open your mouth and shout out your prayer. Don’t worry: today is a good day to disturb the customers.
Put the ‘odd’ back in God! Oh bless me that I might have the power to be UTTERLY INAPPROPIATE! I don’t know what happened, honey. Somebody was over by the cappuccino machine. He was dressed in white, with a dog collar and bad Elvis hair. He had one hand over the cash. He said I could leave. He was saying I was free to leave.
OH, THIS COMPUTERISED MACHINE OF MONEY IS DE-FETISHISED! Oh good Lord, thank you for the ability to stop buying sweatshop coffee. My prayer is a divesting of power. The pounds and dollars tremble beneath my hand and then fly in the unplanned direction: from the pocket of the billionaire Howard Schultz back toward the unpaid families in the coffee groves.
As I back away from this idiot addiction, I have a brilliant vision. Six- and seven-year-old children coming home out of the fields. If I walk from this coffee, they can too. On both ends of this money cycle, we are free to leave if we walk away together. Starbucks is a fundamentalist church masquerading as a stylish revamp of rebellious café culture. Bullshit SIN.
We must walk into this church now and commit the wrong ritual, strip away erotic attachment to the MERMAID WITH NO NIPPLES, leader of fake bohemia and lousy beans. Starbucks is a chain store that flaunts its aggression against independent businesses. Its missionaries come into a neighbourhood and listen for the laughter of original culture-making, gossiping and story-shouting: the human comedy that makes us smile.
Then they buy the building, evict the tenants, and put a poster that says ’Create Community’ in the window. Dear Starbucks, in your security cameras, the revolutions that brewed change in the world with the hot brilliant chatter of Zurich and Vienna, of Paris and New York, of Bogotá and Rio... Revolutions cannot be reduced to mere Style. Real café society is a threat to your impersonation. Its history as source-rooms of bravery will turn on your little palaces of amphetamines. A revolution knows when it has been copied. Can I preach now?
Yesterday I was released from LA County jail. I was sentenced to three days for ‘trespass and obstruction of lawful business’. My crime? I walked into a Starbucks; walked up to the counter; placed my hand over the cash till and began to channel my Odd God. 30 believers laid their sexy fingers over the astonished faces of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. We asked customers to see the real costs of the steaming coffees.
WE CANNOT AFFORD TO BE APOLITICAL ANYMORE. THAT LATTÉ THERE? WE HAVE TO KNOW WHERE IT’S FROM! Then I was filled with the Spirit and leapt onto the counter and began to dance. ‘Yes, your honour, I admit it. I danced on the counter. I had energy in my legs that came from the anguish in the distance. I felt long-range love in that money before me. I felt faith in the work, the powerless in Mexico and Guatemala and Nicaragua, the cheated families left with their value not counted.
I feel their making of this money. Yes, they made this money. We pray the money back to them. Reverse it from its course toward the billionaire at the top; flow back to the trees and the people standing there, feeling our presence.’
Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir invite you to celebrate Buy Nothing Day 2004 on Saturday 27 November by putting on a dog collar and white coat, combing up your big bad hair, walking in and shouting your prayer in the Devil’s Cafe. Send your pictures or tapes to www.revbilly.com, where a world of exorcisms will be posted.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist December 2004