1 FOR EIGHT YEARS did reign Mikeeomousus, who wished to fell all Ancient Forests; and, during his reign, impoverishment spread far and wide and there was a great poisoning of all air and land and sea.
2 When the rule of Mikeeomousus was over, Petroliomiah came to power and he yearned to become Lord of all Empires, West and East.
3 In the second year of the reign of Petroliomiah, the People of Mud did go into the Forests of Redwood and Shawnee and there they did rejoice; but the armies of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar, who was a servant of Petroliomiah, did come and take the People of Mud into bondage.
4 It came to pass that Neb-u-chad-nez-zar had a bomb placed in the cart of one of the People of Mud and his guards proclaimed that they had done it unto themselves; and then Neb-u-chad-nez-zar had made an image of gold; and he gathered all priests of the Empire of Babylon and he cried aloud:
5 To you it is commanded that at what time ye hear the sound of the flute, dulcimer, saxophone and keyboard and all kinds of musak, that ye fall down and worship the Golden Idol;
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth the Golden Idol known by the name of Consumerism, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
7 REPLICAS OF THE idol were placed in all temples throughout the land of Babylon and when the musak did sound the people fell down and worshipped the Golden Idols.
8 Wherefore priests of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar came near to him and accused certain People of Mud.
9 They said, O Neb-u-chad-nez-zar, thou hast made a decree that all people must worship the Idol of Consumerism;
10 But there are those named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who did not worship the Idol which we have placed throughout Babylon in all Temples known by the name of Shopping Mall.
11 Then Neb-u-chad-nez-zar in his rage and fury commanded that these men be brought unto him.
12 And he said, Is it true that ye serve not my gods, nor worship the Golden Idol which I have set in all the Temples of Babylon?
13 At what time ye hear the sound of the flute, dulcimer, saxophone and keyboard and all kinds of musak, and if ye worship not, ye shall be cast that same hour into the midst of a burning fiery <br>
14 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar pointed to the first corner of the Golden Idol and spake unto Meshach, Do you know this image?
15 Meshach did say, Looks like a motorboat to me.
16 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar asked if he would worship it when he heard the sound of the flute; but Meshach said, I don't need no motorboat; ain't no way I'm gonna worship that thing.
17 And in his rage, Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did point to the second corner of the Idol of Consumerism, saying, Meshach, do you know this image?
18 Meshach spake saying, Sure, that's a microwave oven.
19 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar asked if he would worship it when he heard the sound of the dulcimer; but Meshach said, I told my wife to get rid of one of those cause they send out all sorta rays ... no way am I gonna worship that.
20 His fury was great and Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did point to the third corner of the Idol of Consumerism and bellowed, Tell me what you see here!
21 Guess it's a VCR.
22 And Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did ask Meshach, When you hear the sound of the saxaphone, will you worship it?
23 Well, uh ... Can it record on a channel you're not watching. Uh ... no. No, I won't worship it.
24 It did seem to Neb-u-chad-nez-zar the Meshach could be won unto him and he asked, What is the fourth corner of the Idol?
25 Hm-m-m-m. Looks like a Nintendo set.
26 When you hear the sound of the keyboard, will you fall down and worship the Idol of Nintendo?
27 Well, ah-h, well, uh-h-h.
28 And, lo, Abednego did gaze upon Meshach and, in his wisdom, he did know that it was a time of weakness unto Meshach for he was sorely tempted.
29 For Abednego did oft go into Meshach's home after work; and Meshach would grumble about speedup, for Meshach did work sewing buttons on robes, and his union had offered many concessions to keep the factory in the Land of Babylon, and Meshach would collapse on the couch with only enough strength to pick up his Nintendo and move its stick and push its button.
30 And the wife of Meshach yelleth unto him, Hey, did you take out the garbage?
31 But Meshach answereth not, so great was his love of Nintendo.
32 And his wife yelleth again, Did you pick up the kids?
33 But Meshach answereth this question with a query of his own, Wanna bring me a Bud Lite?
34 These were the images which entered the mind of Abednego and he knew that Meshach did want for succor and strength for his hour of need was great.
35 So he went to the side of Meshach, and, as he stood beside Meshach, Abednego did lift his hand unto his own breastbone, and he did clinch his fist tightly, and with his elbow he did jab Meshach in the ribs and he jabbed him hard so that Meshach did say, Ooow!
36 But Meshach regained his posture and he looked straight at Neb-u-chad-nez-zar saying, I will not worship in the Temple of Shopping Mall, even if I must forgo the Idol of Nintendo.
37 Thus, with the true comradeship of Abednego, Meshach shunned the Path of Consumerism; and, he did walk the Path of Virtue and Righteousness all of his days.
38 NOW, THE RAGE and fury of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar knew no bounds and he beheld Shadrach, for Shadrach had been trying to play it cool by leaning against the fiery furnace and keeping out of the goings-on.
39 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar yelleth, Shadrach, did you think that I would not see you slouching against my fiery furnace?
40 As Shadrach jumped upright, he saw that his elbow had rubbed dust from the side of the fiery furnace and he read the letters thus revealed: W ... M ... I ... WMI. Hey, Neb-u-chad-nez-zar, by any chance is this a Waste Management Incorporated fiery furnace?
41 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar shook his mighty scepter, which was a long flashlight, and the batteries did rattle and he did cry, Damned right it's a Waste Management Incorporated fiery furnace, and, if you don't fall down and worship my Golden Idol, I'll turn you into medical waste and pitch you in it!
42 But neither Shadrach nor Meshach nor Abednego would enter the Temple of Shopping Mall; and, Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did command that the furnace be packed seven times more than it was wont to be packed; so, they brought forth all types of medical waste and all kinds of household poisons and a whole bunch of industrial waste, and they packed it so that the People of Babylon held their noses; for vapors from the burning fiery furnace stunk unto high heaven.
43 Then Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did call his two most faithful guards and the guards did bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and cast them into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
44 Therefore, because the command of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar was urgent and the furnace was filled with disgusting slop and was exceedingly hot, its flames slew those very guards who had served Babylon.
45 The guards who were thus slain had been known as Noriega and Saddam Hussein and they had long served Babylon before they walked out of step and were destroyed.
46 So great had been the service of the guard Saddam Hussein to Babylon that he had made war against the land of Persia, even with arms supplied unto him by Mikeeomousus.
47 And so great was the service of the guard Noriega that he had brought vast quantities of the Leaf of Contentment into the land, and had distributed the Leaf with the blessing of Petroliomiah so that the impoverished might partake of the Leaf of Contentment and not rise up in rebellion against the rulers of Babylon.
48 But even though the service of the guards to the land of Babylon had been long, in the end, they were burned.
49 AS SHADRACH, MESHACH & Abednego did find themselves in the midst of the fiery furnace, they were amazed that they were not consumed.
50 And Abednego did gaze upon Shadrach and did see him turning his lips into a circle and blowing, such that he went, Wh-wh-wh--wh ...
51 And he asked him, Shadrach, why are you doing that?
52 Shadrach did answer, Cause there's dioxins bein' formed from burning all these plastics; and the dioxins will pass into vapors which spew from the fiery furnace and there will be a great plague visited upon the People of Babylon; a plague of cancers and immune system failures; and, the only way to destroy the dioxins is to raise the temperature of the fiery furnace; so, I'm blowin' to get the fire hotter.
53 And Abednego did gaze upon Meshach and he did see him taking off his robe and hitting the flames and he asked him, Meshach, why are you doing that?
54 Meshach did answer, Cause there's mercury in here and when mercury is burned its vapor does spread across the land and it brings a great plague to the People of Babylon, a plague of nerve damage and mental retardation; but, the only way to condense the mercury vapor is by lowering the temperature; so, I'm poundin' the flames.
55 Abednego did look at Shadrach going, Wh-wh-wh--wh, and he did look at the naked Meshach hitting flames with his robe and he did say, Lemme see if I got this right; now, Shadrach, you're trying to raise the temperature to destroy the dioxins and, Meshach, you're trying to lower the temperature to condense mercury vapor?;
56 And Shadrach and Meshach did say, You got it.
57 Abednego shook his fists with great fury and uttered, Not only are you fools having no effect on this fiery furnace; you don't even have the sense to know you're goin' against each other!
58 And Shadrach and Meshach did say, Hey, man, that's the way pollution control devices work.
59 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did peek into the fiery furnace and his astonishment was great for he beheld that Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego had not perished and his astonishment was yet greater as he beheld Shadrach going, Wh-wh-wh--wh, and the naked Meshach hitting flames with his robe, and Abednego running amok shaking his fists.
60 The rage of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar was terrible and he took his mighty sceptor, which was a long flashlight, and he did unscrew the end and he dumped out a battery and he hurled the battery into the fiery furnace.
61 As the battery whizzed past the head of Abednego, Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did scream, If the flames don't get `em, the vapors from burning this will!
62 YET, AS NEB-u-chad-nez-zar hurled more batteries at Shadrach and Meshach, a stranger ran unto him yelling, You can't do that!
63 Just who are you, to tell the mighty Neb-u-chad-nez-zar what he can and cannot hurl into his own fiery furnace?
64 I'm from the Environmental Protection Agency and, in this municipality, you have to separate out household toxins for recycling.
65 And the servants of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar whispered, He ain't kiddin', boss.
66 And the EPA inspector did astound them as he recited rules and regulations, saying unto them, If that was an industrial flashlight, you could pitch the whole thing in. But, your wife gave it to you for your birthday; so you have to recycle it.
;67 So deep was the awe that Neb-u-chad-nez-zar had for the EPA inspector that he commended him, Come unto me and kneel.
68 The EPA inspector came forth and knelt at the feet of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar, who did anoit his head with a bucket of sludge, and did pronounce him Lord over the Public Relations Department of his fiery furnace corporation, and he increaseth his salary ten fold.
;69 The anointed Lord of Public Relations did rise and his first act of service to Neb-u-chad-nez-zar was to proclaim thusly, Well, since there's no EPA inspectors around, hurry up and haul all the household toxins and we'll pitch `em in. From now on, we'll work it like this--we get the recycling bonus for separating the stuff; we'll burn papers and non-toxic junk during the day; and, after dark, we'll check that no inspectors are hangin' around and then double-pack all the hazardous stuff in.
70 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar nodded his head and smiled, for he knew his investment in the salary of his Public Relations Lord would reap him rewards a hundred-fold.
71 The servants of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did haul all of the separated household toxins unto the furnace and they threw in styrofoam cups and plastic toys and latex paint and cans of hair spray and bug spray./p>
72 And a dark brown cloud of nitrous oxide did rise from the stack of the fiery furnace and floated through the air of Babylon and brought a plague unto the lungs of the people.
73 And fumes of hydrochloric acid did rise and the people did breathe it and they did puke upon the Land of Babylon.
74 And a cloud of sulfur dioxide did rise and begat a plague upon the skin of the People of Babylon.
75 And fumes of carbon monoxide did rise and the People of Babylon who breathed it begat children with many arms.
76 And the vapor of lead did rise and begat a plague upon those People of Babylon whose gums fell off and whose blood turned green.
77 And the vapor of cadmium did rise and visited a plague upon those People of Babylon whose bones rotted from the inside out.
78 And the vapor of chromium did rise and it begat a plague upon the kidneys of the People of Babylon.
79 And the vapor of arsenic did rise and it gnawed at the livers of the People of Babylon.
80 And the People of Babylon looked at one another and did say, We've been screwed.
81 BUT NEB-U-chad-nez-zar did not hear their cry; for his joy was bountiful from his labor of throwing slop into his fiery furnace; and, he grabbed a whole garbage bag full of batteries and he swung it around once and he swung it around twice and he heaved it in.
82 As it flew into the fiery furnace, a voice screamed, You can't do that!
83 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar beheld his Lord of Public Relations and did reprimand him, Don't give me orders. You're on my payroll now!
84 But the Public Relations Lord would not cease and he did continue, Plastic garbage bags can't go into the fiery furnace. We need to save them for landfill liners.
85 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar's jaw did drop as he uttered,
87 The High Priest of Babylon came forth saying, As the wondrous fiery furnace burns, ash falls into its bowels; and we bring forth the ash and place it in vast pits and call it Landfill and there the Landfill doth seep into drinking water; and, though the vapors bring forth great plagues upon the people, these plagues are but small beside the plagues visited from Landfill upon the children of the People of Babylon, yea unto the third and fourth generation.
;88 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar waved the High Priest away with his hand saying, Yeah, yeah, yeah. People dying all over. I know all about that. So tell me what's the deal with the garbage bags?
89 The Public Relations Lord did explain, We put a layer of garbage bags on the bottom of the pit for protection against seepage.
90 But Neb-u-chad-nez-zar was not convinced and he wondered, Hundreds of chemical compounds that never existed until waste was burned at high temperatures, compounds that eat through brick & mortar--how is a layer of garbage bags going to stop them from seeping into groundwater?
91 The Public Relations Lord sought to sway him, answering, Well, we can always use two layers of garbage bags. Besides that, it satisfies local landfill regulations.
92 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar shook his head and muttered, Not even people who've worked for the EPA can be stupid enough to believe that one.
93 We most certainly can be! Anyway, if two layers of garbage bags don't work, then we'll use three at the next landfill.
94 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar could listen no more and he ordered, Get this fool out of here!
95 And the servants of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar seized the Lord of Public Relations and they put him on a speaking tour for the fiery furnace industry and, til this very day, he travels from town to town, babbling unto any who will listen, If four hundred and eighty-five layers of garbage bags do not prove totally effective in protecting your groundwater, then the next time around, we'll use four hundred and eighty-six ...
96 At that hour, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego came forth from the fiery furnace and cast their gaze upon Neb-u-chad-nez-zar and let it be known, This crap has got to stop right now.
97 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar and all his servants were filled with terror,
98 And they raised their hands, Saying, We'll meet all your demands.
99 But Shadrach did shout, Your days of burning are numbered!
100 NEB-U-CHAD-nez-zar shook with fear, for his financial investment in fiery furnaces was large, and he announced, I'm doing a complete conversion to a Waste Recovery Parque; we'll have total trash separation and recycle everything we can and we'll help the environment by creating energy from what we have to burn.
101 As Meshach poked his finger at Neb-u-chad-nez-zar, he repeated, The fiery furnace is gonna come down.
102 Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did tremble as he spoke, We'll have state-of-the-art-pollution control devices. Scrubbers. Bag-houses. You name it, this fiery furnace will have it. Listen, Abednego, you've been complaining about toxic industrial emissions for a long time. It's cause the factories burn their own stuff. Look, with this fiery furnace, they'll be able to ship their stuff to us; we'll burn it; and, they'll be able to reduce their toxic emissions by 90% within two years. You're not against reducing toxic emissions, are you?/p>
103 But Abednego would not be swayed and he let it be known that, The thing has got to come down.
104 So, Neb-u-chad-nez-zar went unto Abednego and put his arm around him and oozed these words: Abednego, I think of you as a friend; so, I'm gonna let you in on a secret. I'm really an environmentalist. Few people know it; but, the reason I do the things I do is because I care about our planet as much as you do. Just to show you that I'm on your side, I gonna make the Ultimate Sacrifice--I'm gonna take my checkbook outta my robe, I'm gonna get my pen, and I'm gonna write a $15,000 check to the Earth Day Committee.
&105 So, Shadrach, Meshach & Abesdnego did look up, through the vapors coming forth from the fiery furnace, and they looked beyond the vapors and they raised their arms and they cried aloud, Deliver us from this bullshit!
106 And a mighty voice boomed down, I got you out of one mess 3,000 years ago. This time, you're on your own.
107 The eyes of Shadrach darted nervously as he asked, Does this mean we can't even work with each other?
108 Meshach did comfort him, Of course, we can work with each other. If we stick together, we can bring down the fiery furnace.
109 But Shadrach was not convinced, The voice said, YOU are on your own. It didn't say, YOU'ALL.
110 Meshach, explained, Not every higher voice is from down South. Someone's been doing a lot of work chasing after fiery furnace companies in Canada and New York. What you are experiencing is the classic COMMUNICATION BARRIER.
111 Abednego added, COMMUNICATION BARRIERS always seem to pop up when you talk to voices from on high.
112 So, they knew that they could not wait for help from high places and that they themselves must organize to bring down the fiery furnace.
113 THUS, SHADRACH DID go to the town councils which surrounded the fiery furnace and spake unto them; and he did find that the council persons were not wont to alienate the Chamber of Commerce; but, that the citizens did wish for the fiery furnace to fall.
114 Thus, Meshach did go unto the Central Trades Council and did show his Amalgamated Button Sewers card; and he did find that the officers were not wont to jeopardize contract negotiations; but that the rank and file did wish to be rid of the fiery furnace.
115 Thus, Abednego did go unto the environmental establishment and they sat before him a great stack of postcards with a list of mighty politicians to write; but, he found that the members of those groups did wish to destroy the fiery furnace.
116 And Shadrach did raise a baseball bat and many brought their baseball bats unto the fiery furnace, and, from that day forward, the followers of Shadrach were known as the Team of Baseball.
117 And Meshach did raise a sledgehammer, and many lifted sledgehammers in their arms as they beheld the fiery furnace, and, from that day forward, the followers of Meshach were known by the Arm and Hammer.
118 And Abednego did raise a monkeywrench and many brought their wrenches unto the fiery furnace, and, from that day forward, the followers of Abednego were known as the Tribe of Monkeywrench.
119 Those with baseball bats did go unto the gates of the fiery furnace and they did hit home runs with the locks upon those gates.
120 Those with sledgehammers did go inside the gates and they did smite the fiery furnace, for they knew that it was evil and it was wont to be smitten.
121 Those with monkeywrenches did go unto all the valves that were open and they did close them and they went unto all parts joined together and they did put those parts asunder.
122 And the bats did hit and the hammers did smite and the wrenches did unscrew and, lo, the fiery furnace did come tumbling unto the ground.
123 The People of Babylon did make a joyful noise; but, even in their hour of triumph, Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did glare at them from behind the Board of Directors table.
124 And Neb-u-chad-nez-zar did put a curse upon the land and his curse was that as long as the people did worship the Idol of Consumerism which dwelt within the Temples of Shopping Mall, then fiery furnaces would not perish but would spread throughout the Land of Babylon.
January-February 1993, ATC 42
The September/October 2017 Against the Current (#190) features: