I’m the Reverend Billy

| 1st March 2005
Bolgs and Comments
We interrupt our regular programming for a moral advisory…
‘Endangerment of life is ignored when it is real, but sold in bulk when it’s a good enough apocalypse for a movie’
 

If a loved one is in danger, we don’t hesitate. We act. We don’t
hesitate. In the Church of Ecology, for which this hymnal in your hands
is a friendly extended Revelations of CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS IS
HAPPENING? – we are left in a state of amazement – my god the
APOCALYPSE! IT’S HERE! – and then we don’t feel that there’s much we
can do. We are left sending a small cheque, signing a petition,
thinking about ethical shopping. Meanwhile, Antarctica is sailing
chunks of ice the size of Uranus, the tectonic plates are writhing…

 How do we go on with, say, ORDINARY EVERYDAY LIFE? Let’s take it
one step at a time. It’s 8AM. We get out of bed, we take a shower and
go the Shepherd’s Bush tube. Then, we remember an apocalyptic news item
that was on the table beneath our orange juice. The frogs are gone,
hmm. But by now we have put on our headphones and we are running to the
train with, say, MONEY BY PINK FLOYD at such volumes that the tawdry
world around us is lent a climactic soundtrack while we peruse the
secondary erogenous zones suggested by the draping qualities of the
cloth around the midsection of a person standing next to us who is
listening to MONEY BY PINK FLOYD.

You see, we remove ourselves to the Entertainment Apocalypse. A power
anthem from the 70’s, about how money is governing the world, would
nicely itch our state of disbelief, but it takes us far away from the
report of froglessness on our breakfast table, which is a more
difficult anthem. The authors in an average Ecologist propose 50 ways
that the Earth is nearly over, while offering a great spectrum of
emergency strategies, from chewing Slow Food to investing against the
transnationals through the guidance of Karmabanque. The relief of
pounding the echoey chambers of your brain with the Money blast, while
duly eyeing someone’s butt – ALLELUJAH! – easier.

This is where we must admit that CONSUMERISM IS THE DEVIL! Endangerment
of life is ignored when it is real, but sold in bulk when it’s a good
enough apocalypse for a movie. Consumerism’s rival producer, THE EARTH,
brings us life, but also brings us death, and doesn’t really explain
either one. That’s a bit messy, what? The Indian Ocean tsunami made the
product line of apocalypses that Hollywood has sold us look like a
RUBBER GODZILLA IN A FISHTANK CIRCA 1955. Children, ultimately the
death of the Earth is like our personal death, which is less friendly
than a product line in which death is featured for consumerising
reasons, ie it terrorizes us in a pleasurable grand mal sort of way,
like the aforementioned money in the song heard by the fine arse.

Right now Consumerism is winning. A key reason? It offers better
deaths, and makes real death, whether frogs or Antarctica or ourselves
– less real. Farther away. Not quite a loved one at all. We can refuse
to take responsibility for real death, the Earth’s or ours, because now
death is packaged for the sale – and we have as many deaths to choose
from on the shelves as we do GENTRIFIED GENE-TWISTED MILK. There’s
Fat-Free Death, 1% Death, 2% Death…

Outside my window where I’m typing, I’ve got nothing but pavement. It’s
New York city. I’ve been removed. But I’ve noticed that this
hopelessness itself already seems to search for the Earth beneath. It
doesn’t take much of a pause for the Earth to reappear faster than a
DSL-ed G4. That’s because the Earth isn’t just under that concrete out
there. It’s in these eyes searching for it. It IS these eyes. Looking,
I’m THE EARTH TRYING TO SEE ITSELF.

Bush and Blair give us so many rousing images of war that we start not
registering the real one – we come to believe that the actual war is
only a show. The apocalypses rain down on us also, and they create
something that is more insidious than the belief that the illness of
the Earth is not real. Lately we are circled by apocalypses like
fearful medieval city-dwellers who imagined the ravenous wolf-men
beyond the gates. The Earth is this misbehaving THING, out there,
exciting prurient interest but only at a distance.

But children – APOCALYPSES ARE US. Earth is what we’re made of. We can
try to separate, but all we get is a bad ugly divorce. We can pour
dazzling products into that divide, but it doesn’t work. This removal
is really the ONLY SIN THERE IS! The Earth is the frogs and the
Antarctic ice and it’s us; the Earth is our parents and our brothers
and sisters and the strangers we suddenly love, too. And – when a loved
one is in danger, we act. Amen?

This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2005

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