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Normalize Peace

National Geographic’s Brain Games aired a social experiment a while back which produced some footage which, while jarring, shouldn’t surprise anyone who takes an interest in the way people tend to operate when in groups.

A waiting room was filled up with actors for the show, with one real patient waiting for an actual eye doctor’s appointment. Every few minutes a bell was rung, at which time all the actors would stand up for no discernible reason and then sit back down. The real patient was confused by this behavior at first, but by the third bell she was standing and sitting in unison with the rest of the herd.

The subject of the social experiment continued standing and sitting whenever the bell rang even after the show actors had been away for fake appointments and she was left alone in the waiting room, and continued to stand even when joined by a second real optometry patient. She then showed the new arrival how to stand and sit when prompted by the bell.

There have been many such social experiments carried out for televised entertainment over the years, starting with the famous Candid Camera elevator experiment in which the subject quickly conforms with a group of actors who face the wrong way in an elevator car. These playful explorations of the human impulse to conform make for easy laughs, but they also provide tremendous insight into why society operates the way it operates.

Have you ever found yourself in the unfortunate position of having to explain what war is to a young child? It’s a very awkward and uncomfortable task most of us find ourselves assigned with at some point in our lives, and I can’t think of a better illustration of what it feels like than the subject in the Brain Games experiment sheepishly explaining to the new arrival that she’s standing up whenever the bell rings because that’s what everyone was doing when she got there.

To a child who hasn’t yet been indoctrinated into an insane world where explosives are dropped from the sky upon strangers on the other side of the planet for reasons nobody quite understands, this behavior looks like the most bizarre and horrific thing imaginable. If you were to bring in someone from an alternate reality wherein humans have figured out how to function in a healthy and sane way, I am sure they would have a similar experience.

Until war has been normalized for you, it’s the most insane thing that anyone could possibly imagine. We arrive in this world innocent and untarnished by propaganda and cultural mind viruses, but we are indoctrinated into a profoundly sick way of functioning before our capacity for abstract thought is anywhere close to being fully formed. And before we know it many of us find ourselves answering a child’s “Why?” questions about war with a shrug and a “That’s how it’s always been.”

And now we have groups that have a historical tradition of opposing the agendas of the US-centralized war machine actively cheerleading for escalations against Russia and regime change in Syria. Trump’s hawkish maneuvers against Russia, already far in excess of any ever undertaken by Obama, are being condemned by Democratic party leaders as grossly inadequate. Even some proper leftists who claim to oppose the predatory capitalism of the neocon centrists are now actively cheerleading for the longstanding CIA agenda of regime change in Syria. The obvious reality has been obscured that US military interventionism in the modern world is literally always disastrous, literally never helpful, literally always extremely profitable for military-industrial complex plutocrats, and literally always based on lies.

This is not because these political factions have weighed all the evidence and thought critically about what is happening. It is because everyone else keeps standing when the waiting room bell rings. It is a well-documented fact that the western empire planned the 2011 uprising in Syria years in advance. It is a well-documented fact that this same empire has an extensive history of using lies, propaganda and false flags to manufacture support for preexisting military agendas. If you’re ignoring these glaring facts and the growing mountain of plot holes in the establishment story enough to jump on the “Assad must go and Putin must be stopped” bandwagon, it’s because war has been normalized for you. You are turning to face the back of the elevator because that’s what everyone else is doing.

I write constantly about my concern that the ongoing escalations against Russia, Syria and Iran could lead to a third world war and possibly nuclear armageddon, but amazingly few people have ever engaged me on the subject. They’ll nitpick on the details, they’ll tell me “17 intelligence agencies” confirmed the Russian hacking narrative, they’ll tell me Assad is a butcher so of course he killed children with poison gas for no discernible reason, but they virtually never attempt to argue that these escalations we appear to be headed toward aren’t a real threat or that they are necessary and worth the risk.

This is because people aren’t thinking. They are following. If the factions supporting the new cold war against Russia and interventionism against Syria were thinking clearly about their own positions, there would be a robust mainstream argument addressing the concerns people like me keep voicing about a third and final world war. But there isn’t. There’s nothing. This is because that side of the argument is compartmentalizing away from the consideration of uncomfortable possibilities which interfere with the enthusiastic promotion of longstanding power agendas. The talking heads on TV beat the war drums and the mindless masses march in time.

We need to de-normalize war. When we see talking heads promoting a sequel to the Iraq invasion with Iraq’s next-door neighbor, we should all be recoiling with horror in the same way we would if they were promoting cannibalism or pedophilia. History has taught us beyond a doubt that saying humanitarian problems can be solved with US military interventionism is like saying a crumbling building can be fixed with TNT, and we should respond to such claims accordingly.

These people are not promoting a differing political ideology, they are promoting death, destruction, destabilization and terrorism. The resurfacing of longstanding neoconservative agendas should be met with nothing other than rejection and revulsion.

The US-centralized war machine planned and created the violence in Syria; planned and created the hostilities with Russia. All that is required for peace to have a chance in this world is for the western empire to cease stomping it into the dirt at every opportunity.

Abnormalize war. Treat it like the despicable horror that it is. Stop marching to the beat of the war drums. Turn and face the front doors of the elevator like a normal person. Stop standing up in the waiting room like a weirdo whenever that bell sounds. They are working to manufacture your consent. Give them nothing other than your adamant, screaming refusal.

Normalize peace.


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Latest comments

  • Truth.

  • “This is because people aren’t thinking. I AM thinking ! Until it hurts! Many Americans are not thinking, because they are completely wrapped up in their own minutiae, mistakenly thinking that they can, long term, hold on to the little they have.
    Me, I don’t trust a single thing uttered by the government and politicians, unless I have researched and researched it to my own satisfaction. Ditto for mainstream network news media. I get sick to my stomach in the first seconds when they start to spew the bullshit propaganda over the airwaves – and I leave them as soon as it is clear what they are doing.

    One thing IS clear – that the usual narrative is not working for the betterment of the people. It is time to try some thing different. To quote John Lennon, I think that it is time to “Give Peace A Chance.”

  • A study of anthropology and evolutionary biology will show you that violence and war are quite natural. I applaud your efforts as someone has to actual report rather than copy and paste approved stories, but I think here your political bias is showing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan and glad I found you, but in this field of study you are deficient. And I direct that at most of your ilk, so it is probably a group think thing.

  • Thank you Caitlin for being a powerful voice for reason and a kindred spirit of love and enlightenmnet. I share the same sentiments.

    I would like to share an article I posted exactly one year ago, which I hope would also be useful to you and your readers.



  • I agree wholeheartily with the vast majority of your sentiments, Caitlin – but beware the oldest trap of the Seer who despairs at the wilfull blindness of others – belittling their intellect.
    Calling any section of people ‘mindless’ will not only fail to win them over, it will exacerbate their unwillingness to listen.

  • Who can claim it’s abnormal not to be depressed, given this state of affairs?

    The UK is like the (slightly) brainy kid who sucks up to the class bully.

    The herd instinct is a flight, not a fight (ok piranhas) response.

    What we should be running away from are factions, nation states, language problems, and the the rather obvious defects of money as a measure of value, which many of us feel uncomfortable about, but powerless to cure.

    Practically, what can a person do about conformity risks? Watch out for crowds and their behaviour. You won’t outrun those bombs.

    Nor https://is.gd/DtAqsA – a rather egregious example of the conformity effect which can affect anyone before they are even born (!) – with a little help from our mainstream media friends.

  • Great work to pass on to folk Caitlin – thank you so much

  • Sadly even the Australian Greens and the Socialist Alliance support the overthrow of Assad, and intervention generally … the Greens and Socialist Alliance supported for the NATO destruction of Libya too … this is a pattern recurring throughout the Global North… there is no one to vote for …

  • Not to come across as too much of “Caitlin groupie”, but everything you write is simply wonderful and inspiring! Thank you for all you do.

  • Caitlin & Team

    This essay ought to be made compulsory for all Middle and High School Students – as well as for all journalists in their Ethics classes. I am NOT looking away or standing up or engaging in any other herd-like behaviour or commentary simply because it is easier to be one with the crowd.

    But then again I’m an historian, a reader of literature and memoir and biography – so I consider myself pretty much aware – coupled with the fact that I have lived years abroad – and in fact travelled vast parts of our Earth. Leads to learning and the ability to see how the political and military industrial complexes get to operate – as destroyers of humanity in the pursuit of personal greedy enrichment!

    Keep these essays coming!

  • ❤️

  • Off subject – appears to me that Medium is side-lining you in favor of a bunch of stupid, such as DFR’s data manipulations. I’m only staying on their list in order to clap for your articles when they appear..

  • Agree. Many others would as well but wouldn’t admit it openly. If they’re going to object to war, why not taxation, which is the extortion racket that funds it? People like to be consistent. If you’re forced to give money to strangers because they threaten to put you in a cage then on what basis can you object to that money being used to murder people you know nothing about?

    • Taxation can also be used, in more sane society, to fund healthcare, education, housing and subsistence for people in hard times. Look at how it is carried out in scandinavian countries. High taxation, very high quality of life and first class services. They also do not interefere militarily around the world…..

      • There is nothing ‘sane’ about being forced to hand over your money, give it to people who depend on that money for a ‘job’ (working for the State) and then being given some of it back as a ‘benefit’.

        People who spend their lives manipulating others (the politicians the public thinks it has a right to empower) so that they can force their opinions onto them, have a tendency towards war, which is a more extreme implementation of the same basic principle:
        Robbing productive people to fund ‘humane’ projects always looks good initially. Until the productive people get tired of funding the whole ponzi scheme.
        Stockholm syndrome is not happiness. It’s a bizarre reaction to coercive force.

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