Tag Archives: Peterson Toscano

Brain Damage

Day 14 of The Year

Mourning/solidarity: I’m still with the water. Could stay with it forever, it’s just so big.


I must be insane.

Because last night when I read that there is proof that fracking here in PA is contaminating our waterways with radioactive pollution, I got really mad. Like, short of breath, heart squeezing mad. So mad, that I wanted to march right out and wring the necks of those responsible, lay down in the road and refuse to move, climb to the roof and scream at the top of my lungs.

But instead I ate waffles.

I toasted waffles and ate them with butter, peanut butter and date syrup. They were delicious.

But eating waffles is obviously not an appropriate response to finding out your son’s future has been compromised by natural gas companies. Starting an armed revolution would be more like it.

So why did I decide to eat waffles when I should have been fighting in the streets?

Because I have brain damage.

From a life lived within the confines of this culture of destruction.

And I’m not the only one.

Jack Forbes, professor, native american activist, and author, describes this phenomenon in his amazing book, that every single person should read, Columbus and Other Cannibals,

“For several thousands of years human beings have suffered from a plague, a disease worse than leprosy, a sickness worse than malaria, a malady much more terrible than smallpox.”

He goes onto describe what he terms ” The Wetiko concept”.

“Wetiko is a Cree term (windigo in Ojibway, wintiko in Powhatan) which refers to a cannibal, or, more specifically, to an evil person or spirit who terrorizes other creatures by means of terrible evil acts, including cannibalism.”

Where “cannibalism” is, as he defines it, “the consuming of another’s life for one’s own private purpose or profit.”

Sound familiar to anyone? Our culture mandates that we constantly consume without end food, products, living creatures, ecosystems, forests, oceans of fish etc., etc., even at the expense of others, our own planet, and our own futures.

Modern psychology diagnoses people suffering from a disconnect between feelings and actions with PD’s, or personality disorders. These include Bipolar Disorder, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia.

Left undiagnosed and untreated for too long, these PD’s can cause long lasting brain damage, making it difficult or impossible for the patient to become well.

So, we hear the water is radioactive and we make waffles. Or we hear that the earth is warming at such a rapid rate that the oceans are rising, and we go to the mall. Or we hear that children are suffering in Syria and we clean out the silverware drawer.

Our actions are not appropriate. Our behavior does not match the emotion. And often the emotion doesn’t match the event. Our behavior does not accurately reflect the atrocities we are surrounded by on a daily basis.

We are suffering from brain damage on a cultural scale.

And we better find a treatment plan before it’s too late.

Thank you for listening.



And now, we are honored to have a guest post by activist and planet lover, Jerry. Thank you Jerry!!!


By Jerry Lee Miller

The Sky People tell me “Yes! It’s Time!”

What does this mean? Is there a way to hear messages other people do not or cannot hear? Is that a crazy thought? Or is it a way through the rubble of collapsing civilizations and dying ecosystems?

Sunday evening, my band Streetbeets performed our song, The Sky People, for a gathering at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster. About 130 persons had come to hear performance artist Peterson Toscano (www.petersontoscano.com ) and his husband, the writer Glen Retief (www.glenretief.com). Streetbeets was the warm up act as well as one of the sponsors.

Our song begins with what I call an apocalyptic yell- “AHWAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!” The audience was ready. When I invited them, over 100 voices yelled along “AHWAAAAAHHHH!!!!”

Artists Robert Allen and Kevin Miller, good friends of mine, were sitting in the 2nd row yelling right along with everyone else. Later they told me, that in their artist minds, each of them visualized a new painting as I sang: “ It’s Time /My hands flaming with the colors of the world to come./ And the Sky People tell me ‘Yes! It’s time!’ /‘Yes! It’s time! /The Sky People tell me ‘Yes! It’s time!’ “

I wonder- can the visions of artists open up a way through the rubble of collapsing civilizations and dying ecosystems?

Later in the program Sunday, Peterson Toscano tells the audience that he came home one evening about a year ago to find Glen weeping in the bedroom. An article Glen had been reading moved him to tears. Suddenly he understood that the natural world is rapidly turning into something quite different than any of us have ever known. At once, Glen sensed deeply that climate change would prevent future generations of people, as well as all kinds of creatures, from enjoying a livable planet. Weeping, of course, is a totally appropriate response to such terrible news! So is lying down on the floor and moaning- a posture I sometimes find myself in.

But Glen and Peterson want to do more than weep. They want to find an artistic expression which will provide an opening for themselves and others; a way, perhaps, through the rubble of collapsing civilizations and dying ecosystems. So now Glen is writing a novel which he hopes will capture people’s imaginations and free them to deeply feel what’s happening. Peterson, a master humorist, is bringing a new character to the stage- The Climate Change Comic!


Return now to those artists in the 2nd row for a moment. Robert Allen, I’m told, envisioned a painting of huge exotic birds filling the sky while Streetbeets performed. The very next night he dreams he is at a conference of some kind. At this conference, everyone chooses Robert to be the communication liaison between the world and these Sky Bird People. His job is to listen to the Sky Bird People. So he does.

Then a giant eagle comes and lands on Robert’s arm. The eagle transforms into a young tiger which then changes into a wolf and keeps changing into different forms.

Tuesday morning he awakens to hear two hawks calling from outside the home he shares with Kevin in the woods. So Robert goes out and talks with the two hawks. I don’t know what they talked about. Time will tell.

“The sky people are calling….Yes It’s Time!”

The word ‘apocalypse’ means an unveiling or a sudden flash of vision when things of deep significance (often very disturbing) become so clear that people weep or yell “AHWAAAHHHH!!!!” Then after they weep or yell or disappear in the woods to talk with hawks, they might write novels, create performance pieces with new characters, paint paintings, sing new songs or otherwise express what has been revealed. Everyday language doesn’t seem adequate for the apocalyptic.

Have you had your own apocalypse yet? Are you ready…ready for a way through the rubble of collapsing civilizations and dying ecosystems? I have one word for you: “AHWAAAAHHHHH!!!”

Jerry Lee Miller of Lancaster,PA is a climate activist, ordained minister, songwriter, and performer with the band Streetbeets. He is the group leader for the Lancaster chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. Jerry and his wife, Susan, have two grown children and one old black cat.