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How Humanity Could Become Impossible To Propagandize

I’ve been writing a lot about how the ability to control public narratives is the only real power in this world, and how the need of the ruling elites to wield that power explains everything from the feigned panic about “Russian propaganda” to Wikipedia’s bizarre editing policies to why Joy Reid still has a job. In my opinion it is impossible to overemphasize the impact that narrative and the myriad agendas to control it has on human life. Indeed, if a critical mass of individuals experienced a deep enough insight into the nature of mental narrative, all of our challenges as a species could be resolved very easily.

A search for the word “narrative” on the WikiLeaks website turns up tens of thousands of results. This is because the manipulators who work for the institutions that tend to have documents leaked to that outlet are well aware that the actual raw information about a government, a political campaign, event, etc. have far less impact on the way the public thinks about them than the sparkly, simplified, tweet-sized stories (narratives) that get circulated about those things on a large scale.


For example, if you ask an American political pundit about the president’s dealings with North Korea, you will likely be told that Trump is either a brilliant strategist who is almost single-handedly bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula or an incompetent imbecile who is getting “played” by Pyongyang, depending on which side of the partisan divide that pundit is loyal to. Both sides have access to the same information, but they are advancing wildly different narratives about it, because each side has an agenda that they know will be advanced if their narrative becomes dominant. In reality, neither narrative has much to do with what has actually been going on in the Korean negotiations, but that’s another story.

Narrative rules our world today, from our most basic concepts about ourselves to the behavior of nations and governments. Right now your direct experience of life is little more than the air going in and out of your respiratory system, your gaze moving from left to right over this text, and perhaps the sensation of your bum in a chair or sofa; without any narrative overlay, those experiences are all you are in this moment. Add in mental narrative and all of a sudden you’re a particular individual with a particular name and a particular story, who has perhaps some concerns about the future and regrets about the past, with all sorts of desires and goals and fears and aversions. As far as your actual present experience is concerned, all that stuff is pure mental noise. Pure narrative.

The same is true of things like power, money, and government. There is nothing grafted onto the electrons of the universe which says that the world needs to be mostly ruled by a few billionaires and their lackeys. Only the made-up rules about how power, money and government operate cause that to be the case, and those rules are only as true as we all collectively agree to pretend they are. They are all mental constructs that people made up, and we can therefore change them whenever we want to. Which is why so much plutocratic effort goes into making sure that we don’t.

Narrative dominates our society from top to bottom, which means that all someone has to do to control society is control its narratives. If people are sick, hungry, or poor, you don’t have to give them medicine, food or money to pacify them; you can just give them a narrative instead. If you can get them subscribed to the notion that attempts to rectify these problems with economic justice ought to be rejected and avoided by all hardworking Americans, you can have them defending the plutocracy and advocating their own poverty without giving them a thing. In a society where power is relative and money equals power, the rich are necessarily incentivized to keep everyone else poor in order to retain power, so using narrative control to pacify the masses is a common and useful tactic.


I look at mankind and I see a species in an awkward transitionary phase, like how the ancestors of birds probably were before they really got that whole flying thing down. We’ve evolved these gigantic brains which give us a capacity for abstract thought that has enabled us to out-survive and out-thrive other competing organisms, but we haven’t yet moved into a mature relationship with that newfound capability. A human brain can make someone so crazy and miserable that he’ll blow it out of his own skull with a gun, a weapon which we invented using that same capacity for abstract thought.

Humans, to put it simply, have an unhealthy relationship with narrative. If you have ever experienced a moment of mental stillness, you know how peaceful and pleasant that experience is. It is natural and harmonious. It’s only once you add in the believed mental chatter that we suffer, we hate, we fight each other, and we can be manipulated by narratives inserted into our mental processes by plutocrat-owned media.

There is nothing inherent in the human organism which makes suffering natural or necessary; it’s only the babbling believed narratives in our minds that generate suffering. The same is true of our susceptibility to mass media manipulation.

We will not exist as a species in a few decades if we do not find a way to cease being manipulated into war and ecocide by plutocratic sociopaths who rule over us using the influence of money and the propaganda of mass media. If humanity exists on the other side of the massive changes that we are inevitably hurtling toward one way or another, it will be a humanity that has moved into a wholesome relationship with mental narrative. The churning, yammering mental noise about the self, the world, what’s going on and how everyone ought to be will have lost its place of dominance over human society. We will have found a way to relate to life as it is, no longer filtered through narrative.

We absolutely have the ability to do this. For thousands of years mystics and philosophers all around the world have been pointing to a different way of functioning that a human being can slip into, one which isn’t wrapped up in believed “me” narratives (also known as ego) or dominated by compulsive mental habits. This other mode of functioning has been discovered independently across isolated and unrelated spiritual and philosophical traditions, because it is a potential that all of humanity has access to.

This shift is most commonly known as spiritual enlightenment, and according to people who have been teaching it for many years, it’s getting more common. Teachers like Eckhart TolleAdyashanti and Jac O’Keefe all say something is very different in their field of study, and individuals are now having an easier time awakening from egoic consciousness than they used to. Spontaneous shifts are becoming commonplace to the point where teachers like Tony Parsons now center their entire body of teaching around the possibility of snapping out of one’s old frame of reference without engaging in any spiritual practices at all.


Why is this happening? Why do we have what appears to be a built-in off switch for the very problem that plagues us as a species, and why does it appear to be getting easier and easier for people to switch it off? It is of course possible that spiritual enlightenment is just some random fluke of human neurology, and it is possible that longtime enlightenment coaches are lying or mistaken about that path having become easier for people to travel in recent years, and that we are indeed just one more species headed the way of the dinosaur with no off-ramp. But I do think it’s fascinating that our enslavement to mental narrative is the thing which enables us to be manipulated into consenting to war, oligarchy and ecocide on a large scale, and that just as we approach crunch time regarding these dangers people appear to be slipping toward a shift which would free us from that very enslavement.

A humanity which spontaneously began snapping out of its old mental narratives would be impossible to effectively manipulate with propaganda. Hell, if the oligarchs snapped out of it too they probably wouldn’t even try, suddenly content with what they have now that life is finally getting a word in edgewise. Anyway, I think it’s a possibility worth considering, and even exploring if you are interested.


Caitlin Johnstone
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