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Brooklyn Magazine: Given the anti-consumerism, anti-corporation stance you both have taken, how has having a child changed that? How do you guys stick to your ideals when dealing with things like diapers and bottles and all the endless stuff that kids need?
Savitri: It's hard. It's hard to—I don't want to judge anyone's parenting. Parent how you parent. It's the most natural thing in the world but we're in the most unnatural situation.
Billy: You look at the weather map—just a few days ago two thirds of the country was having record heat. And you look at our little Lena and look out the front door at the 40-50 kids in the PS 144 playground. That's what's hard. You don't even know what kind of climate will be in existence. Things are changing so fast from one year to the next.
Savitri: I've always had a bit of resentment of the chauvanism of children. The "Oh, let's do it for the children," or "I care because of my kids."
As if you need to have a kid to give a shit about something?
Billy: [laughs] Right!
Savitri: It just drives me crazy. It's sort of like a hollywood ending. "And then they found love! And everything was fine and great forever!"
Billy: [singing with saracasm] We are the world! We are the children!
Savitri: It's so chauvanistic and limited and so species-centric and...
Billy: On the other hand it's so real right now because you really can't know what's going to happen. And that's the big picture, but on an every-day scale there are all these new choices you have to make with Lena in mind that you know have a small effect on the environment. Baby food and bottles and clothes and on and on.
I'd imagine that's a new obstacle when it comes to boycotting certain stores and companies, especially when you're on the road.
Savitri: Yeah. It's really different for me to just grab some kind of food that I don't really know where it came from and shove it into my competely toxic forty-year-old body, than it is for me to do to her. Then again I think we have a terrible tendency toward puritanism—no matter how perfect I make her life she still has to be in the world just as we all do. Being a parent can take you away from that broader picture and make you really myopic. You just have to be disciplined and look up and think about what's happening out there, what's happening in my community, what's happening in my city, what's happening on my planet?
Billy: You know—you're always on the look-out for sharp objects. You're baby-proofing the space you're in all the time. And now the world needs to be baby-proofed. What we're trained to do in a near space... When you open up the door and look at the sky—that's not baby proof.
Savitri: Yeah, who's going to baby-proof the watershed or sub-Saharan Africa?
Billy: We're trying to keep the oil companies away from the aquifers [that ones upstate that supply the city with drinking water] so we can have safe water. That's when the fracking battle got local... There are those decals from the Yes Men by some public water fountains that say something like, "This water is safe to drink, but just in case, light a match near it and see if it's alright..." Which of course is a reference to the scene in Josh Fox's documentary. Are we off topic?
Not at all.
Billy: Oh right, because the topic is protecting Lena.
Savitri: Well, I was just saying the opposite. We can't protect Lena. We can't just protect Lena. That's the danger of being a parent, that it keeps your perspective inside the house.
Billy: Of course, we wondered, "Is this going to rock our world, and to what extent is this going to effect The Church of Stop Shopping? We had to ask that question. I think people in the choir were wondering. Actvists in other cities were wondering and emailing us. I think one reason the change wasn't that unsettling was that in our comedic—our faux-televangelism and the choir going into stores harmonizing about "stop shopping"—the things that we do are already, in a way, parental. There's advice we're giving. And some people who've received our advice are parents. We get emails from people who have seen What Would Jesus Buy on Netflix or the Sundance Channel and they'll talk about raising thier kids, changing what they do.
Lena: Blah Dah dah.
She's adorable. You're right that she is a tiny Judy Garland.
Billy: Those midwestern looks.