(Green Print, London, 1990)
ISBN: 1 85425 033 7

Confusingly there is some debate over what should be considered the first book by David Icke. Logically his first book should be the one he wrote first, It’s A Tough Game, Son! (1983), a reflection on his own career as a professional footballer, and a guide to aspiring players who want to break into the game. In the canon of David Icke’s writing however, this first work is often forgotten, mostly because it makes no reference to the New Age inspired conspiracies he has become famous for, and so sits long out of print, rarely even listed by the author himself in any of his subsequent books. Often Icke himself, and those who follow him and his work, see The Truth Vibrations (1991) as the start of his real writing career, as this is the book that he  officially revealed his belief in psychic phenomenon and spiritual energies. When it was prophesied to Icke, as part of his spiritual awakening in March 1990, that he would write five books in three years, he saw his next writing, The Truth Vibrations, as the first in this sacred series, and a series that has essentially continued through not five, but twenty books, most recently Everything You Need to Know But Have Never Been Told in 2017. 

The Truth Vibrations was however his third book. Sitting in-between this and It’s A Tough Game, Son! is his 1990 work It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This, a call to arms for the environmentalist agenda of the Green Party political movement of which he was involved with at the time of his writing. It is this second book that I will use as his first – if that makes sense. Whilst It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This is not the book that made clear his belief in spiritual channeling, past lives, the paranormal, chakras, psychic powers, and mediums, there are enough hints to his future thinking placed within the book to explore it in this context.

The early career of David Icke was not one that was dominated by spiritualism, or environmentalism, but sports. At the age of 15 Icke was recruited into Coventry City’s football youth team by a talent spotter.  He spent the late 1960s developing his skills as a goalkeeper in various youth squads, such as Oxford United and Northampton Town, and by 1971 he became goalkeeper for third division Hereford United, clocking up thirty seven appearances for the club. Icke’s career in professional football ended early, when at the age of 21 he was forced to retire due to crippling rheumatoid arthritis, which spread quickly through his knees, ankles, elbows, wrists, and hands. He subsequently reinvented himself, becoming a BBC sports presenter, covering events like snooker championships on programmes such as Newsnight and Grandstand, and it was during this period that he wrote It’s A Tough Game, Son!

Soon after the publication of his first book his career in television began to lose its appeal, especially when his lifelong ambition to co-host Grandstand was cut short after only a few appearances in 1983. Continuing problems with arthritis and an increasingly unfulfilling career gave Icke impetus to explore new ways of thinking about life. He began to explore alternative medicines as a way to combat his arthritis, and in turn was drawn into relatively new political ideas concerning the environment, nature, and what would become known as Green politics.By the early 1980s Icke had moved, along with his young family, to the Isle of Wight. Here remnants of the late-60s hippie movement no doubt festered in pockets of the island, due to the Isle of Wight festivals of the late 1960s. The final event in 1970 was the largest of its kind, bigger even than the infamous Woodstock festival of 1969, and saw headline acts like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Joan Baez play to huge crowds on the island. It was on the Isle of Wight, during the mid-1980s, that Icke became an early convert to the newly branded Green Party, its policies of ecological wisdom, social justice, liberal democracy, and aspects of spiritual enlightenment obviously appealing.

The Green Party of England and Wales has its roots in a group founded in 1972 by former Conservative councilor Tony Whittaker, who was concerned about the negative effects of over-population. The primary source of Whittaker’s concerns came from an article he read in Playboy magazine that predicted continued population growth would lead only to worldwide famine. Motivated to reverse the trend, Whittaker, along with his wife and some friends, formed the PEOPLE Party in February 1972, with the goal of moving society toward the new age. By 1975 it rebranded itself as the Ecology Party, before again becoming the Green Party in 1985. The party was still in its grassroots phase when Icke became an enthusiastic member. His joining was well timed, as Green politics transformed itself through the late 1980s from a fringe voice to a new mainstream political group – still comparatively small compared to the big political parties, it was big enough to be gaining notable followers and media attention. Despite ongoing internal struggles the Greens took nearly 90,000 votes at the 1987 general election, and moved to expand their membership base as a result. Keen to develop a new template for democratic politics, the Greens adopted an anti-leadership position, instead looking to appoint four Principal Speakers in place of any single leader. As an experienced TV presenter, and recognisable face – especially after his stint presenting parts of the 1988 Summer Olympics for the BBC – David Icke became an obvious choice for the face of the Green Party, and soon became a national spokesperson for the group.

1989 saw Icke invited to a range of high profile events, such as a debate on animal rights held at the Royal Institute, which featured other speakers such as prominent feminist Germaine Greer, and philosopher of morality Baroness Mary Warnock. A career in politics beckoned, and as a spokesperson for the environmental agenda Icke looked to spread the word, and soon produced a book on the subject after being approached by a publicist at a Green Party conference.

The opening statement of the first chapter to It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This, summarizes Icke’s varied career from footballer, to television presenter, to green politician, and poses the question ‘whatever next?’ in regard to his changing occupations. His response is that there is nothing next, that this is it, green politics is his calling, and he would be committing what was left of his life to promoting the values that lay at the heart of the Green Party. Mostly written in 1989 the book was published in February 1990, and it was only the following month that Icke committed himself to a new calling, but it was not green politics.

Although the pivotal experience that Icke had in March 1990 can be seen as the launch of his spiritual awakening, (it is a starting date that he holds in reverence in books that would follow), he had in-fact been interested in alternative medicines and associated practices since the mid-1980s. Green politics was a transition, and something he later admitted was just part of his spiritual journey. [1] Knowing now that he understood this himself when writing It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This, leads to the question of why he stated with such conviction his commitment to the cause of the Green Party, when he likely knew it was only a stepping stone to something more. The answer, I suspect, is that he genuinely did not know what that something more could be, and the spiritualist and New Age sympathies of those often interested in green politics could, perhaps, have provided him with the freedom to explore such ideas in a manner that was considered meaningful and worthwhile by enough of a slice of society. A more cynical answer may be that green politics served its purpose at the time, and that his devotion to the cause would remain until a better alternative presented itself. Indeed, Icke has a tendency through his writing career to not simply adjust his viewpoint, or shift his opinion on certain matters, but rather perform a complete reversal of belief, but in a way that retains, in his view, a consistency of his general philosophy. In this regard he can transition from Green Party activist, indeed their National Spokesperson, and later become a vocal climate change denier, without it principally damaging the consistency of his core message or values. 

The overview of green politics expressed by Icke gives a reasonably accessible insight into such policies and philosophy. It is one that argues for a greater consideration of the natural environment, warns of the damage caused by pollution, and offers an alternative, which looks to reimagine the current economic system through a rebalancing of resources, through greater equality, and shared values. The writing expresses issues inherent with mainstream capitalist politics, and the obsessive value placed on continued expansion, growth and rampant consumerism. As a piece of left-wing politics, it is fairly predictable.

Within such text however lurk clues to the broader concerns that were filling the mind of David Icke, and ones that would become apparent in the years following the publication of this book. A skeptical view of ‘the system’ quickly emerges through It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This, which sees an inherent mistrust of big business and globalization. As a hint to his dislike of international collaboration and multiculturalism Icke singles out the European market as symptomatic of the world’s environmental mistakes. Closer ties with Europe and abhorrent schemes like the Channel tunnel rail link between England and France, are described as environmental disasters, and symptoms of a dying and discredited system. [2] His concern is for the local to take precedence over the global, using the example of his own area of the Isle of Wight, he laments the need for pointless trade between the island and anywhere else. The irony is lost in the Isle of Wight being a perfect example of why broader trade is good for an area, with a small and ageing population, the island’s main trade is tourism, followed by modest but specialist areas of agriculture, such as growing garlic. An expansion in trade from the islands garlic industry has seen greater exports to both mainland UK and also France, resulting in initiatives like the annual Garlic Festival, an event that fundraises for local agricultural farms, and helps improve the agricultural heritage of the island. Other growth areas on the Isle of Wight have included a deal producing wind turbine parts for the Danish firm Vestas – international trade that encourages the production and use of ‘green’ energies. Such alternative energy sources, like wind, wave, and solar power, are later encouraged by Icke in his book, though he has obviously not considered the industrial and trade implications inherent in their production. [3] While he may be right that many big businesses could, and should, act in a more environmentally conscious manner, his oversimplification of just keeping things local ignores inconvenient complexities around socio-economic growth that in turn can have a positive impact on the environment. 

In the chapter ‘Empty Bellies and Chocolate Bars’ a lot of what would become standard villains in Icke’s work are discussed, these include the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, multi-national corporations, NATO, European market economies, and corrupt governments. Later Icke advocates for a considered control on population growth, which is ironic considering his later writings claim that the main objective of the global elite is population control. [4] Concerns around pollution skirt into territories often discussed in conspiracy circles; hidden additives in foods, and mysterious substances in the water supply. Pesticides are highlighted as an exclusively machiavellian villain, and are presented as a conspiracy developed through the Ministry of Agriculture and the agro-chemical industries to secretly poison the population in a bid to increase profits. [5]

It is however the penultimate chapter ‘Summon the Spirit’ that chimes best with the future writings of Icke. He claims that our life force has been suppressed by the system, going on to argue that such a soul has been imprisoned since the industrial revolution. [6] A move away from pre-industrial age spirituality is apparently the primary cause of alcohol abuse, depression, and child suicide. A common idea in many new age inspired conspiracy theories is an emphasis on the benefits of ancient wisdom, an appeal to tradition that sees the distant past as some sort of natural utopia, and views such times through rose-tinted nostalgia, ignoring poor living conditions, none-existent medicines, and rampant inequality. Icke describes ancient cultures who better understood emotional wellbeing, using some wonderfully stereotypical examples like ‘American Indians’, who will apparently know more about the Earth and the spiritual links that humans have with all of creation than modern man ever will. An example he uses, and a common one for environmental activists, is an apparent speech given in the nineteenth century by Chief Seattle, a Suquamish and Duwamish chief, who is known for pursuing a path of accommodation to white settlers in America – acts embracing multiculturalism that Icke ignores in this particular context. [7] Chief Seattle’s speech encourages ecological responsibilities, and questions how any human can own the Earth, or the sky, or the air, as we all must live in harmony as one. However the date, location, and content of this speech are open to much historical debate. The earliest record of such a speech was recorded in 1887, but it essentially recalls a speech that may have been made thirty years earlier. Chief Seattle, if and when he did speak, likely did so in the Lushootseed language, which was in turn likely first translated into Chinook Wawa, a common but basic shared trading language, and then into English, most likely by poet Henry A Smith, who produced a piece of flowery prose that he attributed to Seattle. The speech has been re-worked, and re-contextualised, numerous times, especially during the 1970s when it was used as part of the promotion for an environmentalist movie produced by the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission. The use of vague historic documents to support Icke’s ideas become increasingly common in his following books, with the embracing of spiritualism becoming a focus through the early 1990s. 

Threads of green politics continue to run through Ickes thinking, such as grassroots democracy, community-based economics, decentralization, and global responsibility, though in ways that have become hijacked by conspiratorial thought, and aspects of far-right environmental nationalism that focus on preservation of the literal soil of the ‘mother-land’. It Doesn’t Have To Be Like This is Icke’s only environmentally focused book, and came at a time when he was transitioning into his infamous turquoise period, a phase that saw him having to forcibly resign from Green Party politics not long after the books publication. Written at a time of great growth for the Greens, Icke’s work was briefly a motivational mouthpiece for the party, but it, as well as Icke’s general involvement in the group, has become a long buried, and infrequently mentioned mis-step for environmental politics. The Green Party has moved on, and so too has Icke, spurred on when a month after the publication of It Doesn’t Have to be Like This he had an experience with a powerful inner voice, instructing him to explore some books in a local newsagents.