Children, the Downing Street memo comes in waves. Again and again I get this aghast junk mail featuring the Bearing of False Wintess; this moral junk mail which demands that outraged citizens fling cyber-frisbees across the White House lawn, letting naughty George feel the full force of their…
Of their what?
The discovery of the Downing Street memo, the smoking gun that Bush lied while Blair prayed, and the hope that we will have the peaceful millions in the streets like 15 February 2003, but this time with each of us brandishing the memo in the air, is…
Do we hope George will emerge from behind the guns and oil wells and ask forgiveness like faucet-faced Jimmy Swaggart? How naive is that? It is so deeply naive that we search for a new vision of naiveté, a cleansing sadomasochistic blitheringness. Nigh-Eve! It’s like Neville Chamberlain wanting to chat with Adolf during the Battle of the Bulge.
Here we have a classic phenomenon. And here in our divinity studies perhaps we need to broach the question: Whither goes inconsequence? Do we see Evil in the self-defeating act by progressive people who itch their wound but then cry out, ‘now I really must go shopping’?
And so, here is the crux. The Consumer Liberal wants to pontificate, to illustrate immorality in the air and be happy with the Act of Illustration itself. ‘Oh, we all must mutually forgive one another, because we’re only doing the best we can for our fellows.’
However, you are dangerous idiots! Yes, we have a difference as to what we believe is of any consequence. I say going to the White House and Downing Street with that memo soaked in the blood of Iraqi children is like Fed-Exing the Beatitudes to Al Capone. You same handwringing Lefties would say that staging heightened conversations in Starbucks, where the Earth’s destruction by industrial agricultural methods is exclaimed so neatly that a putrification besets the $4 lattés arrayed before the overwhelmed customers, is a Goof – the minor turn of clowns in desperation, the province of wankers. Well, bless you. Better wipe that genetically-altered milk moustache off your Left-leaning face.
And you would say that singing radical hymns deep in the fl uorescent aisles of WalMart products that leave local residents shouting Change-a-lujah! for days… You’d say that is raucous, student-like, anarchy-tinged. Well, bless you. Let’s go dirty dancing.
And you would say, no wait a minute, you do say, all the time, that The People can still rise up in a replay of an old newsreel. All we need is to adjust the colour balance. You say that you can slip into the clothing of the ghosts of the popular Left’s past. You say you can slip your fist up into the fist of the street-pounding workers’ movements! (Or at least slip your carpal-syndromed wrists up into a withered but cyber-savvy semblance of fist.) Oh, now you will sue the bastards, blog them to some ultimate embarrassment, vote them out by moral junk mail, hound George and Tony to their graves with their sin-laden memo. And then what?
The old heroes, the lessons of history – they teach us, but they are not plots asking for actors. The fact is we don’t have a plan of action, even as permanent warfare is good for the markets and the oceans rise through the windows. Anything we do is shadow-dancing if two thirds of Western economies are based on consumption – a spinning loop of products and poison that no politician could stop even if they wanted to.
And so all our attempts take on the quality of Starbucks decor, the imitation of a day when real change began in real conversations over coffee. But in those days they didn’t leave cafés with a buzz: they left radicalised. How would a radical look today?
While we debate the consequence of this or that activity, whether marching, emailing, voting or performing in the aisles of products, we have to ask the question which has been illegal since 9/11. Would we die for it? The crazy apocalypticists in the White House are saying that they will. They want death and will kill us all so they can have their unhappy ending. We want life and will have to risk our lives for it.
No one really believed it would come to this. But it has. You won’t save life with a letter campaign, not now. The only question is this: ‘Is the reverend too depressed to finish this sermon?’
This article first appeared in the Ecologist August 2005