shopocalypse now

shopocalypse now: rise of an anti-retail campaignerfrom the independent: He's stormed everywhere from Starbucks to the Capitol preaching his gospel of Stop Shopping. As Morgan Spurlock brings the unorthodox anti-capitalist's message to the world, David Usborne is granted an audience with the Reverend Billy...

If you have ever seen the Rev, it is unlikely you will have forgotten him. Perhaps it was in one of the two Starbucks branches one block from one another in the St Mark's neighbourhood of the East Village, or any Victoria's Secret franchise or Disney Store in New York. They are all favourite targets.

He will have made his way to the cashier's desk and begun one of his favourite "actions" - a laying of hands on the till followed by an exorcism. Or, if it was Starbucks, he and members of his choir - he has one, and they can raise the roof - perhaps began chanting the chain's name. Something even as simple as that always works a treat, sending the manager into a tizzy and the punters out the door.

For a man who began his performing career in Los Angeles 30 years ago as a street poet, Talen has in recent years turned himself into a pulpit-thumping, police-defying, hallelujah-baying phenomenon. He looks like an Elvis impersonator with blond hair, brandishing a Bible instead of a guitar.

He means to save us from what he calls the impending Shopocalypse, a time in America, and maybe it is upon us in Britain too, when community is supplanted by shopping malls, where real spirituality is replaced by the worship of the credit card and where freedom - that thing that George Bush boasts about - is perverted by our enslavement to the addiction of buying.