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I’m the Reverend Billy

Billy Talen

1st March, 2005

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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