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
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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.