So many people are content to “plant seeds of change,” and patiently hope they grow. These are the people who say “Every little bit helps” and “If I change even one person in my life, I’ve done my part.” A certain abolitionist leader once in vogue would inspire his feet-kissing disciples with these soul-stirring words: “If you do nothing else today, at least talk to one person in the grocery store about going vegan.” To understand the true depth of this absurdity and internalization of the Stockholm Syndrome, imagine if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.aroused his thousands of followers with these words: “If you do nothing else today, talk to at least one white person about racism.” In truth, King called for mass civil disobedience and wanted “to fill the jails with singing children.” That courage, conviction, and bold defiance is utterly lacking in the pacified landscape of “politics” today.
Planting seeds assumes an infinite model of change, but world scientists insist we have only a finite amount of time before crossing the tipping point where climate change wreaks havoc on this earth and makes life hellish at best and impossible at worst. The neo-Johnny Appleseed’s of the world will grow a tree for every rainforest leveled, and convert one person to veganism for every thousand new carnivores China churns out every day. Do the math. It doesn’t add up in our favor.
In a world of climate change, species extinction, overpopulation, predatory global capitalism, social crisis, mass exploitation, dire human need, growing scarcity and multiplying resource wars, the decline in democracy and civil rights in tandem with the expansion of police states and fascist control systems, and the massive spike in meat growth (principally due to omnivorous demands in China and India, the world’s two most populous nations), the global, systemic picture — not visible to those living in the bubble of denial — doesn’t inspire hope, but sure ought to ignite rage and anger.
The clear implication is we have to do more, much more, not only educate, but demonstrate and agitate. We have to build global resistance movements strong enough to match and exceed the power of transnational corporations, the WTO and IMF, the US imperialist state, and the military-industrial killing complex. We have to radically transform both psychological mindsets and social institutions; we have to end anthropocentrism, destroy speciesism, and transcend humanism; we must dismantle systems of hierarchical domination; and we must monkeywrench the machinery of global capitalism until it grinds to a halt.
Perhaps this is setting the bar too high, but most set it far too low, so low that we trip on the fallacies of liberal-individualism and trumpet the most pathetic reforms granted to co-opt struggle such that, indeed, we rise and proclaim “victory!” In truth, I’m not overly confident humans are capable of meeting the challenge before us, and of creating the forces of Eros powerful enough to check the lethal effects of Thanatos that have prevailed in dominator cultures for the last ten thousand years.
But global resistance, radical liberation movements, and alliance politics are likely our only bet, and planting seeds surely is a losing strategy even if we can find some not yet owned and genetically modified by Monsanto. This patient wait-and-hope approach might have had some charm or nobility in the time of Seneca, Socrates, or Buddha. But not in the 21st century of social collapse and biological meltdown, not in this era of ecological crisis so advanced that scientists warn the window of opportunity to prevent irreversible devastation may be just a few years off.
And so, I suggest, instead of planting seeds, we need to plant bombs. We have to ignite and trigger explosive forces of anger, discontent, awareness, resistance and transformation, or we are going down the same road of extinction every human (Homo) ancestor went down, as we take most of life with us, and degrade every ecosystem before we go.
In the 1960s, Malcolm X framed the choice in terms of “bullets or the ballot box.” More than a half century later, immanent disaster at all levels demands that we raise similar critical choices once again, with far greater urgency: Do we watch and wait, or act and attack; stay calm and seated or mobilize for war; dally in isolation or unite with armies of exploited, disaffected malcontents; plant seeds or plant “bombs.”
The answer lies in not in the works of Gandhi and King, not in the pundits and media manipulators, nor in the conditioned fear response of the voices around us, but in the objective conditions of crisis themselves, in the agony of the animals, and in the pain of the earth.