Change-a-lujah

US anti-consumerism campaigner Rev Billy reports from Hellnar, on the western tip of Iceland - a sur

This morning we walked across on a grassy bluff to look out at the ocean, and found a crater, with jagged black rock walls. But then we noticed that it had the sounds of gulls coming out of its depths, and angling around it we discovered sunlight shimmering down there. We found that it was a cave that made its way to the sea.

This is one of those surreal Edens, like Patagonia, in which the earth stares down human beings and dares us to believe. Believe in what? The answer would be: impossible things. Mysterious complexity that encourages a response of meditation as much as science. It’s good for us to be here. Tomorrow we return to New York. Back to the daunting task of slowing down American Consumerism.

In fact this place makes us feel as if the jig is up for the retail world back home. The thing that product-life can’t possibly do, not the new iPhone or Shrek 3, is greet the mind with this level of complexity. And we need it like we need breathing. Amen? Of all the things that are routinely promised by corporations as they hawk their products: youth, status, sex – the glaring lack is complexity. Products must per se be dumber than nature, and thus dumber than people.

Just lately, the complexity of nature has been obvious to the average lay person, as the climate crisis has stood up like a brilliant student at the back of the class and suddenly recited a physics of a hundred feedback loops of sunlight and trapped gasses and ice. We have felt this here, being so far north, amid glaciers and lava fields, and hearing the native talk of seasons gone by. And the Greening of the Corporation appears laughably late in the day in the land of the midnight sun. Shopping our way out of this? Are we that stupid? This earth isn’t.

I predict an uprising against this great dumbing down by product-life. A withdrawal from middle class habits because they are less interesting. There is something in human beings that must demand the complexity in which we were created and evolved. This evening we climbed up through one of these caves, up from the black stone beach, and pulling ourselves up to the grassy edge at the top, we found a snowy mountain peak awaiting us in the sky above. Breath-taking, barely imaginable, so complexified, how could this be? We were given, then, something from the earth that we can bring to face down the corporation’s reduced world. Children, from nature we came, and to save ourselves, to this higher art of living we shall return.

Change-a-lujah!

Reverend Billy is a US anti-consumerism campaigner. He and his Stop Shopping Gospel Choir spend their time “singing and preaching for local economies and real experience”. They argue backing away from the the product will put the “odd back in god
Getty
Show Hide image

The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

0800 7318496