Photo by Ricky Cohete (taken in Cappadocia Turkey)
Even in childhood I had a passion for the earth: I would sit and sing in trees for hours, I would make documentaries to save local forests, and in first grade I boycotted Japanese class, after watching a program on dolphin massacres. I was a rather disastrous mixture of outspoken and passionate.
Since those years, I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by friends and family who challenge and teach me how to augment my beliefs with love. Recently I was challenged in these ways once more.
We all know (or at least most of us do) that The Monsanto Corp. is pretty much the most evil thing around. Monsanto has corrupted the way we eat, bought out prominent members of our government, and has been a key player in the oppression of the farming class. More recently they were responsible for the suicides of hundreds of thousands of farmers in India. Not to mention what they are doing to our environment. It is rather easy for me to express without hesitation that I loathe this company's very existence.
... But recently a curious thing happened.
A few months ago I was at a monastery with friends. We were all sitting around discussing life, and I brought up a project that I was working on. I was planning to do a series called "Fuck Monsanto"… basically calling out the huge Seed Magnate for oppressing the world with its monopolistic greed.
I thought we were all on the same page about this subject- but my friend Calvin stopped me. "Dude" he said… "you are going about this the wrong way". With a gentleness that I myself could never muster he challenged me to re-think my statements and re-explore the topic. He encouraged me to think of Monsanto through a different lens (think: Wendell Barry, Ghandi, Joan Baez, and yes, even the Bible)
Truth be told I was taken aback. It was much easier for me to think of Monsanto as some looming evil, than as something complicated and human. Calvin said that the actual energy to transform something would take a positive statement like "Bless Monsanto". It struck me immediately. In part because it called out my own vulgarities, and in part because it was the hippiest thing I had ever heard.
was born out of that discussion. More a look into oppression and provision than an indictment of a corporation. I used the word "bless" because I too wanted to change the conversation… not just exposing corruption and evil in the world but exposing it in my own heart as well. I want to be a part of transformation and positive change.
Here is where things got crazy... I was working on the series... painting my little heart out... when one day I happened to tweet about the project. Just an innocent little tweet. The next day Monsanto and a few sub-corporations were following me on twitter. I was kind of freaked out. Reluctantly I followed them back, more out of curiosity than anything else. I thought perhaps that they had mis-understood the point of my project. Didn't they get that I was trying to expose their greed and corruption? As I followed their tweets I began to notice a pattern- the use of certain words- especially the word "sustainability". Ugh, I thought- "They just have good public relations folks". Then I read more articles, and their blog, and I began to get the sense that the Scientists (if no one else) behind Monsanto seemed to actually believe that they were doing the world a favor. Seriously. They seemed to think that with all that we had done to the world and to humanity- that we had to seek out ways to provide food for everyone... and they saw themselves as the heroes in this process. I was aghast at the idea that Monsanto saw itself as an agent for feeding the world and providing for the hungry.
The simple result for me is that I am learning to see the human side of the things I once hated. Even huge corporations are filled with people trying to do good. My heart has been transformed by this. All I want to do now is open the conversation- away from thoughts of good and evil, of right and wrong... to helping and healing and discussing. That's all I can do right now. None of this changes what Monsanto has done, and continues to do- it only changes what goes on in my heart- filled now with compassion rather than rage.
is a link to information about monsanto's work in India... and
are a few of the paintings I created during this process.
Jonathan Randall Grant