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A feature by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!






by Reverend Billy


Published by OR Books
March, 2013


Ever one to buck tradition, NYC’s irreverent Reverend Billy, aka Bill Talon begins his published treatise on global warming with a chapter entitled ‘Happy Endings.’ Rev., who’s in all ways, an exception to rules, famously, ones destined to destroy man’s environment, describes himself here as, ‘a modern man stumbling towards what the old cultures always knew,’ aka staying attuned with Mother Nature.

We Westerners are up to our eyeballs in voyeurism, to the point where we tend to bypass its inherent obscenity, i.e. what such self-gratifying tendencies do to our earth. Snooze-papers are chock full of who’s looking at who, what they’re wearing, how we/they can impress, and vice versa, while our atmosphere literally closes in on us. Clearance sales may continue into ad infinatum, but no matter how much we buy, it will never be enough, as long as the mass hypnosis of consumerism plagues us…

If you don’t know who Reverend Billy and his Choir of Stop Shopping is, shame on you! Through many of the many moons I spent Stateside, I intermittently saw, (and noted with interest) seemingly random news snippets from Rev. and company’s canon of activist action in New York City, initially, on/in streets/public buildings in, or not far from Times Square and/or Wall Street, then, subsequently, across America and around the world, with London actions in 2011.  Actor turned activist Talon first appeared in NYC in the guise of white suited, blond, Elvis haired televangelist Reverend Billy, having relocated from San Francisco via South Dakota, when a Disney Store in need of exorcism (Mickey Mouse being the devil) opened in Times Square in the early ‘90’s. Wisely blending reason with seemingly reckless, but no less pointed humour, Rev. proceeded to show kick back sharing politicos and corporate dons the way to reclaim our collective home, namely, through care. Care brethren, is what it’s all about, care and fair-sharing. Like it or not, right now, we’re all sharing something larger than life itself – Global Warming, which Rev. demonstrates via poetry rapped in deep black humour, eyewitness reports and sobering facts. As of 2012, one third of the earth’s tropical forests, home of half the world’s species, were gone! With Silent Running (1972) coming true, can Soylent Green (1973), Logan’s Run (1976) (i.e. slow but systematic extermination of the elderly, now prevalent in UK), The Road (2009), and more obvious Planet of the Apes (1968) replacing, NYC drowning blockbusters like Independence Day (1996), be far behind? No need to have been weaned on ‘50’s B movie Sci-Fi to dig where Rev.’s coming from.

Rev.’s also right on when borrowing late Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘the revolution will NOT be televised’, as widespread, media non-coverage of huge, Coalition of Resistance instigated, anti-austerity cut action in London last November demonstrated. Never heard of it? I rest my case. Rev. also makes points about the recent spate of disaster movies profitably screening bigged up versions of planetary ills. Last time we had this many consecutive towering infernos morphing us into ashes onscreen was during the Nixon administration, mall crawling zombies of Dawn of the Dead (1978), being a still pertinent exception. Reducing climatic dilemmas a la thousand mile wide NYC subway flooding Hurricane Sandy to prophetically profitable flickering images is akin to watching an oversized, scalding hot pot boil over.

But there’s a lyricism to the Rev’s prose that doesn’t resonate with just any old blinged up jibe. Here, distances created for the sake of convenience are interwoven as naturally as though we were born to text rather than talk, surf rather than swim. Rev’s pocket tome’s a wake-up call tailored to 21st century glibness, as it’s effectively, a bearer of bad tidings in the guise of info sharing informality. Friendliness is the American way; teeth still tend to remain largely un-gritted these days over routine, repetitive, illegal wars. As a species, if the rapid downturn of our environment is left unchecked humans’ days on this planet could definitely be numbered, that much is clear. Of course, for the most part, we pretend otherwise, in accordance with ad-speak. In case we momentarily lapse back into a consumerist coma, Rev.’s quote from late Nigerian activist, singer, champion of civil rights Fela Kuti’s robotically sung anti ‘the man’ chant ‘Zombie’at the segment entitled ‘The Global, going crazy tipping point’ awakens us.



Text from The End of the World by Reverend Billy



No world leader of climate change reversal is in the house, gone are the green-men of yore. Instead we have cuts to ‘green budgets’ hidden beneath the pressing immediacy of quality of life lowering cuts stifling the poor, disabled, elderly and students, cutting environmental hopes with them. Many scientists now feel the environment capable of supporting human life is in terminal decline. What to do? As all recovering addicts must, admit that through apprehension or lack of concern, we’ve turned a blind eye to the magnitude of the problem, now backed by continually record breaking temperatures high and low, escalating life threatening storms, and growing food and water shortages round the world. Not to despair. As long as motivating Rev. Billy and company are adamantly taking action, which, even for Rev. is a case of on the job training, there is hope of more concerned folks acting too.

In The End of the World, we’re given a front row seat to some of Rev. Billy and choir’s finest moments of activism, such as their impromptu Thanksgiving dinner on the banking floor of Deutsch Bank in NYC, complete with turkey, Norman Rockwell paintings and doilies, honouring a woman ousted from her home by the bank, and Rev’s sequestered interactions with similarly motivated, later, needlessly brutalised Occupy Wall Street being among his ‘Earth Manifesto’s’ most touching, insightful passages.

As I sit in a chilly flat in London in late March, that I, like countless others in this wealthy capitol, cannot afford to heat properly, despite sub-freezing nights and no end of winter in sight, I ponder. Having spent half century plus on this planet, I can recall a time when prolonged winter in spring was an oddity. Today, the unexpected is the norm, as environmental changes make weather increasingly unpredictable. But there’s always been wintery weather in spring, and vice versa, I hear you say. Yes, and in our part of the world, scientists officially count a brief annual mid-winter spring the fifth season.

Unlike proverbial fire and brimstone preachers, who’ve sometimes been known to simply talk the talk, Reverend Billy’s elevating sermons, eloquently delivered and, voiced here, are interwoven with irony fuelled by imagination, coupled with genuine passion for the many overlapping causes for which he and his choir stands. Given the Rev’s experience in the field of activism, few laymen are more qualified to represent the concerns of the masses. These days, one person’s struggle to deal with injustice perpetrated at the hands of corporate demigods, banksters prime among them, oft represents the many. If you’re attuned to our planet’s increasingly pronounced pleas for mercy of late, The End of the World could be just what’s needed to tip your inner scales towards justice for all.  To quote Reverend Billy, 'Earthalujah!'




The End of the World
Reverend Billy:
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