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Searching for the Amazonian

"Does Google invest in Chevron and BlackRock, I wonder, and was I indirectly doing so too by googling ‘Amazonian’? I vow to support Amazon Watch."

Iain Galbraith
18 August 2020
Inside the GOUM store in 1893.
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Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.

The door bell rings. Could that be the Amazonian? I leap out of bed and rush out of the flat without my face on (luckily remembering my mask), plunging straight into the long corridor with its eternal red carpets and oily green walls. I hurry but don't run. After some time I reach one of the smaller staircases to ground level, but at the bottom of the stairs I find red and white warning tape barring my path. The builders have removed the bottom steps and there is now a drop of about one and a half metres to the ground. No problem. I duck under the tape and jump. I land perfectly and am about to continue on my way when I hear a voice behind me. What are we going to do now, it bellows. I look back up the staircase and see two portly men in black suits but without heads (thanks to the staircase ceiling). Well, says the other, I'm sure I don't know, but the bloke in front of us just jumped. Ok, says the first, let's do that. I decide to help them and the first speaker bends down and hands me his umbrella. I see his face now, because he is not wearing a mask. It's Boris Johnson again. I don't recognize the other. One of his ministrators, I suppose, with a sergeant’s stripes.

Johnson's umbrella is meant to be Winston Churchill's. That's what they say. But this one has a small button near the top, and I recognize, as if it were yesterday, the ricin-shooting umbrella that killed Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian diplomat, on Waterloo bridge in 1978. Some of these people hang water-buffalo or wildebeest heads over their mantelpieces. Others, umbrellas. Trophy hunters! Like the serial murderer in some Scandi-noir thriller. Iain, he says, as I steady him after his leap. Prime Minister, I reply. But I have to get away to meet the Amazonian, and hurry into the vast concourse which you might recognize as St Pancras, or Grand Central NY, or Kaufhaus des Westens with all but the ground floor blown out, ditto GUM in Moscow, with Shokov's roof but minus the galleries.

At one end of the concourse are enormous glass doors and I can see the crowds outside. Perhaps the Amazonian is out there too. I spring down the steps onto the big square. Everything, every shop, is made of tropical wood; even the ground is. What's this? A blue plaque on the side of a booth saying: T.S. Eliot spent the night here in 1929. Not much time to ponder this news as I head back to the concourse, since I have evidently come to the wrong end of the building. On my way back into the gigantic interior I meet K. coming out. She claims to have bought a coffee for 50 euros in Café St. Mungo. This is a person I have always suspected of extravagance, but I say nothing, and she continues: But I wouldn't go there if I were you, Brits are not allowed. Is that what it actually says? I ask, worried. No, it's in French, silly. It says, Défense d'entrer aux personnes qui heurtent le point. So that's what we do is it, "hurt the point"? Surely only the English, I ruminate. I must find the Amazonian.

And here he is, or rather, there they are. Seven from the Kichwa tribe in the Sarayaku region of the Amazon in Ecuador, on their own in a corner of this global concourse. They are fighting the oil companies who want to exploit their ancestral land. KEEP OIL IN THE GROUND, says one placard, and PROTECT THE PROTECTORS OF THE RAIN FOREST and BLACKROCK AND JPMORGAN CHASE: STOP INVESTING IN COMPANIES DESTROYING THE AMAZON AND THE CLIMATE! DISINVEST FROM CHEVRON! All this because I searched for the ‘Amazonian’. Does Google invest in Chevron and BlackRock, I wonder, and was I indirectly doing so too by googling ‘Amazonian’? I vow to support Amazon Watch.

Has someone rung the doorbell again? I leap out of bed and go to the front door. It isn't a parcel from Amazon but the man to fix the rain pipe. The price he names makes me reach for the wall for support while I catch my breath. Rainwater, surely this is what we need most. Invaluable. Chevron wants to purchase our air? While I am considering the price and asking myself where the word ‘Chevron’ has come from he suddenly unbuttons his shirt to reveal a line of white tissue down the middle of his chest. “There's a pig's heart valve in there now,” he informs me, dabbing his finger at the horrific scar in the jungle of his chest hair. “They've given me 5-10 years. Four of them gone already." I pay the price.

This piece was originally published in the August edition of Splinters.

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