Change-a-lujah: Doing Everything We Can Do to Save The Earth

Issue 241

Reverend Billy Talen Nov 11, 2018

I have felt nervous speaking before groups of people ever since my school days. I can still hear my classmates laughing at me when I would begin stuttering and lost track of what I was reading. These days, there is a lot to say but I’m unsure I can do it. Do you ever get nervous when you are on stage? You seem to relish being the center of attention.

— Maria, Morningside Heights

Maria, the “center of attention” no longer exists. People who want to walk into that spotlight — they disappear. Colin Kaepernick is the one person I can think of who is really the center of attention, and he doesn’t want attention. He wants simple justice. 

Well, Colin is a QB surrounded by TV cameras. You can say that he has a special situation. But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was tending bar a few months ago. She must be an inspiration to you, yes? She looked around her neighborhood and began to celebrate her Change-a-lujah!   

That’s it. If you want justice then do your personal radical thing and the old cultural edifices of the corporations, art forms, religions — they will threateningly lean over you.

But those edifices have been eaten from the inside by the psychosis of capitalism. They have left us with zombie police, pixel pollution and millions of people who are eroticized by hatred. 

The people who have what’s left of the spotlight — let’s call them property-owners — they are border-fetishists. Their laws are devices that harvest crimes among the just. They are afraid that beyond the edge of their spotlight is the darkness of the hordes of others, who, in actuality, are billions of moving souls full of light. 

Maria. You don’t need voice lessons! Don’t wait to be pre-affirmed before you break into your freedom. Let’s ascend to the Sacred State of Exalted Embarrassment! Disrupt the Earth-haters with raw love. Racism is maintained by isolation. Crash gated communities with some rough forgiveness. Interrupt, disrupt, trespass, shock and educate and love. Maria each of us is already in the center. You are and you always knew it. 



Dear Reverend,

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the UN’s report that essentially gives humanity until 2030 to get its act together in order to curb the worst effects of climate change. Realistically, we’re not going to pull this off. How do we press on with the constant feeling that planet Earth is on borrowed time? I’m feeling more than a little hopeless. Thank you,

— Corey, Brooklyn


Don’t feel “a little hopeless.” Feel really deeply unforgettably what-the-hell-is-happening-am-I-going-to-die hopeless. The Earth’s crisis isn’t an issue, it’s all the issues. It’s life and death for all of us.

You ask “How do we press on?”  The important thing is to find our radicalism because the Earth is already in an extreme state and we are sort of wandering with our iPhones into death.

We’re shopping. We’re trying to get laid. We go to blockbuster films about the end of the world, but as far as the real world is concerned, we’re busy.

Put it this way, Jim Crow would still be directing Americans to the colored fountain without 10,000 street actions, thousands of songs and prayers and sermons, and Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King and Joan Baez and James Farmer and Nina Simone and James Baldwin and Rosa Parks and Fred Shuttlesworth and Malcolm X and Medgar Evers and Thurgood Marshall and Emmett Till.

And every one of these people would say that the movement was deeply moving to everyone. The heroes were mostly unknown. The transformation left each person saying, “I will do everything I can do.”

The imminent end of civilization don’t have nothin’ like that. And why not? We haven’t forced the story out of the “environmentalism” closet. The millions of premature deaths, whatever climate change and the Sixth Extinction comes to, couldn’t even be discussed during the midterms. 

Isn’t climate change the ultimate pre-existing condition?

Corey, let’s not press on, let’s be willing to die. The Civil Rights Movement is our gold standard of social change. They risked everything. Whenever there is a new fracked-gas pipeline coming toward New York. We know we have to throw our bodies across it.

Reverend Billy is an activist and political shouter, a post-religious preacher of the streets and bank lobbies. Catch him and the Stop Shopping Choir at Joes Pub this holiday season. Have a question for the Rev? Just email and unburden your soul.

Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stopped by police at Medgar Evers’ funeral in Jackson, Mississippi. Credit: Ernest Withers/The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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