Holiday Lockdown Hotline: Advice From Reverend Billy

Issue 260

Reverend Billy Talen Dec 19, 2020

Dear Billy,
I miss being around other people. I don’t see my friends anymore, except on Zoom. Same with my co-workers. I also miss being around crowds of people. Now it’s holiday season, and I can’t travel to go see my family. This sucks. Do you have words of wisdom to share


Dear Maria,
I believe that you can use what you’ve been given. Don’t be impatient with me now, hear me out. We all have this chal- lenge. But loneliness can be the gateway, an opportunity. There is much that can be gained in this trying time.

Here’s a mistake a lot of us have made lately, and maybe this warning will help some of you readers. In late 2020, consumer spending rose as folks bought things that they couldn’t really use in a lockdown, but they wanted the act of shopping, giving a new dress a twirl in a mirror. Don’t do this! Stop Shopping! Shopping doesn’t solve loneliness…

Here’s an idea, Maria. Take the train from Sunnyside to Coney or the Rockaways. Find where the planet pokes through our megalopolis. The Earth will come to you in thoughts and dreams if you go to it, walk along the ocean, and listen. The wildfires and super storms and the virus come from the Earth, but she also gives us a quiet joy that is the antidote.


• • •

Hey Rev Billy,
I’m on one of the fortunate ones who still has a steady, good-paying job. I will give money to charities and some of my favorite activist groups. Question: You frequently extol the virtues of small neighborhood stores and urge us to spend our shopping dollars there. Yet, most small businesses pay low wages and provide little or no benefits for their workers. What we really need is socialism. Until then, I don’t see what the difference is between buying from a small capitalist or a large capitalist especially if the latter has better selection and cheaper prices.

Fort Greene

Dear Carl,
Smaller capitalism vs. the larger capitalism? That’s a false dilemma. The two are apples and oranges. My corner grocery, Seeley Market down on the corner, is not a smaller version of Whole Foods. Everyone in Seeley knows everyone else’s name and what kind of story, joke, lament, flirtation, or explanation of the universe to expect from the familiar parade of personalities.

The owner-operated companies often have loving, helping relationships within their communities. The Seeley folks, Amanee and Abbot and their family and employees – they are unsurveilled. They don’t wear corporate uniforms. They are allowed to have their own home-made pace, personal slang and belief systems. They can have emotions that are not coming from the policy of some focus group study.

Small shops, cottage manufacturing and call-and-come service companies — such are the building blocks of healthy neighborhoods and towns. And this makes a higher quality of life, where the exchanges of skills and products are leavened, at least partly, by a gift economy. There is a lot of “pay us when you can.” Being together in a community, you can feel how Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Washington and Hollywood, and yes, Amazon, are farther away. The drama and the fun is right here! We’re smiling a lot right here! (in our masks).



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