“Extremism in the cause of compassion is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Seneca
“That he which hath no stomach to this fight, … Instead, make this known throughout the army: whoever has no spirit for this fight, let him depart” -William Shakespeare
In response to a Facebook acquaintance’s question as to how to make the vegan and animal advocacy far more dynamic and effective movements, I gave this general sketch of a reply that summarizes some of my thoughts, concerns, and frustrations.
I think it is important to underscore the difference between pacifism and passivism. I’m no pacifist, but deeply respect the action and confrontation based approach of Gandhi, King, and others. There are thousands or millions mouthing their words without following their actions, which apparently even animal “activists” think are too “alienating” to the God of public opinion or are afraid of an arrest charge just slightly more serious than a parking ticket. Just when was even mass civil disobedience taken off the table as a needed tactic, and renounced as violent or counter-productive? This movement has not even tried this tactic, and the much-vaunted “peaceful” means of change have barely even been explored for the opportunities available even within that particular paradigm.
We need to put the social and political and resistance movement back into the meaning of vegan and animal rights/liberation (or reinvent these concepts as such). For all the power and advantages of new social media, I think Facebook and other such technologies have played a huge role in the pacification and domestication (literally) of this movement. Some people use these tools very effectively by mediating them with actions and campaigns, others remain locked into the virtual straightjacket and spectacle of these media, confusing politics with hitting “like” and sign e-petitions.
We need to raise the bar; we are content with crumbs and too little, we have lost the capacity to imagine and the boldness to demand. We pander far too much to public opinion rather than to execute effective strikes and actions against oppressors. We have internalized the state superego, to the point of demanding we respect animal oppressors and treat them with respect and as people who have strayed from their “humanity.” We have fallen prey to this Kumbaya nonsense that we are one human family, when we shall forever be divided and there will always be enemies who want to murder, rape, and destroy, and they are not our friends or part of our community. We have denied ourselves use of the words “war” and “enemy” as being nothing but vocabulary taken from the dominator culture rather than apt analytic terms and important concepts to avoid being seduced into false alliances and collaborationism that betrays the animals and the earth.
We need to put the fight back in this movement, we need to revive what the 19th century abolitionist movement in the US was and meant compared to the pathetic caricature of what some call “vegan abolitionism” today and attempt to patent as the only form of abolitionism possible, and which amounts to nothing more than following a cult leader in chanting “Go Vegan!” and “Adopt a dog from a shelter!” (how the hell is that abolitionist?!) mantras. They have completely corrupted, perverted, and irrevocably drained the term “abolitionism” of any meaning, and so I use the discourse of “liberationism” for various reasons.
We need to take risks, put our bodies on the line and in the way between hunters and hunted, killers and killed. We need a social resistance movement,, a new anarchist, not yet another vegan, cookbook. I’m not holding my breath, but I have done my share of CD and I would do it anytime, I just wish it could be part of a large movement of the kind Gandhi and King once mobilized, rather than myself and maybe one friend. Non-cooperation, total interference, absolute disruption, shut it down system by system, plank by plank, and escalate the struggle from occupation to appropriation to transformation.
Over the course of years, I sometimes feel like I am pissing in the wind or addressing an imaginary audience wholly unaroused by the level of outrage, urgency, and passion that I feel every day. How refreshing it would be to hear from at least two dozen people who are thinking along the same lines, and then I might regain hope this movement has a chance to make a real impact in the short time remaining to us before global social and ecological catastrophes bury us all like the wretched victims of Pompeii, whose bodies still lie in frozen agony.
With the planet in the throes of dramatic climate change, destabilization and death of all ecological systems, the sixth great extinction crisis the history of the earth (this one being caused by human activity not natural events), and with the number of animals murdered for human purposes growing each year (60 billion land animals killed each year for food consumption alone, add dozens of billion more perhaps for sea animals), “reasonableness” and “moderation” seem to be entirely unreasonable and immoderate, as “extreme” and “radical” actions appear simply as necessary and appropriate.
So yes, I am an extremist: to be anything else in these conditions, in this distinct context and moment in time, is treacherous, cowardly, unethical, and insane.
The question “what would the animals want us to do?” is no different in essence from “what would future generations want us to do?” The answer is: a hell of a lot more than what we are doing now.
The 21st century is a time of reckoning. With the rainforests falling, species vanishing, sea levels rising, and temperatures climbing, this is undeniably a pivotal time in history, a crossroads for the future of life. It’s now or never, do or die. Windows of opportunity are closing. The actions that humanity now collectively takes — or fails to take — will determine whether our future, and that of biodiversity itself, is hopeful or bleak, merely terrible or absolutely unbearable.
And this outcome will be determined by whether or not we can wake up, free our minds, galvanize our will, (re)discover our courage, abandon the state superego, and adopt whatever tactics we need to end the total war on life and earth.
There is no guarantee we can perform this Herculean feat at the 11th hour, but it is certain that if we cannot create anything short of systemic psychological, moral, and institutional revolution on a global scale, then our fate is sealed. Consequently, we shall follow all other prior Homo species into the same black hole of extinction, taking perhaps half of all existing species with us. And that is only if we perish in the next century or so, otherwise the toll on other species could be even more obscene.
We need the largest, broadest, boldest, most systemic and inclusive visions and strategies possible, ones that fear no consequence of logic and are attuned to historical precedents and possibilities. We need the most uncompromising, militant form of politics we can muster.
To stop the ongoing war, Holocaust, and genocide against animals — we must employ every means at our disposal, from nonviolent resistance to civil disobedience; from sabotage to liberation; and from violence and guerilla warfare, and armed struggle (all better understood as self-defense and protection of innocents and the earth under massive assault). We need everything we got, and to use any and all of it –when necessary, when intelligent, and when most effective.
We must not take anything off the table, for the stakes are the future of evolutionary biodiversity as we know it, and the losses are potentially total.
Otherwise, should we wring our hands; allow ourselves to be seduced into the endless delaying and diversion tactics of the legal system; or to cling to outmoded, naive, and suicidal moral principles — while earth enemies in the corporate-state-military industrial complex have long ago removed all moral constraints on what is pure aggression and the implacable exercise of pathological power — we allow a greater violence to grow exponentially.
And once the rainforests are but smouldering ruins, the oceans acidic cesspools, the animals have vanished from the face of the earth, and the winds of climate change beat down upon us in all their fury, wiping away an evolutionary mistake, then we just might see, finally, the blood-stains on the hands of pacifists. Then we will understand the full consequences of believing in their false views of human nature and their naive faith in the state to deliver justice under pressure. Then we will grasp our own massive lapse in judgment in adhering to their foolish counsel to tolerate the intolerable, when all the while we should have taken necessary measures to shut down this nihilistic, barbaric, and omnicidal dominator culture and world system when we still had a chance.