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 Tolle, Adyashanti 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.


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20 responses to “How Humanity Could Become Impossible To Propagandize”

  1. Long ago, I studied the Heart Sutra (Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra) with Zen Master Kobun Chino Roshi. The sutra proclaims that our existence (five skhandas (‘heaps’) is in essence empty. This teaching seems perfectly in agreement with Ms Johnstone’s thesis.
    I have long believed that our species can only be ‘saved’ by realizing emptiness and achieving enlightenment.

  2. We are beings on our way to dying, as Don Juan kept telling Carlos Casteneda, and we have forgotten this important fact. We are observing mechanisms, we can manipulate our environment, but we do not create. A book I highly recommend with an explanation of what it is that makes humans act like such destructive fools is in Casteneda’s last book, “The Active Side of Infinity”. This has given me peace.

  3. This is a great article, Caitlin. I am a supporter of Modern Monetary Theory, which is a heterodox body dealing with macroeconomics. The economy is unimaginably important to all of us, but it is ruled by a cohort of people who have managed the narrative, just like you write.

    This narrative is based on models conjured up by academic economists all seemingly working for vested interests, like big corporations and their political lackeys who convince most of us to vote against our best interests. Turkeys voting for Xmas. The mainstream media reinforces the narrative partly because the are lazy and don’t do enough research and partly becaus . their editors tell them how to frame the language.

    I’ll just give one example. Turnbull talks about the economy being like a household, because we can all understand we have to earn money, or borrow to pay our way. We can bo broke. However Australia is one of the nations that is monetary sovereign. That means to constitution has given the government the power to create its own currency, our Aust dollar.
    This totally different from what the federal government can do, cpmpared to a household. So Turnbull lied but as it fits the narrative he gets away with saying it. MMT scholars are spending time on the narrative to debunk it. But it is counter intuitive for many of us. In reality MMT tells us the government cannot run out of money and that it does not use or need taxes to support spending. The budgets SHOULD be in deficit most of the time and surpluses give rise to recessions. Balancing the budget is another lie. There are quite a few. I can spell them out if you wish, Getting the narrative adjusted is crucial to undoing the neo liberal falsehoods that make us vote against our own best interests.

    1. Live a simple life. Work for yourself, own little, no debt, screw the “economy” concerns. The deeper you are plugged into the system, the worse it is for the planet and humanity. Live on the outside, bleeding edge where there is more freedom, no politics, no religion, no control.

  4. Michael Major\\ Avatar
    Michael Major\\

    The “Reality Based Community” is the place we occupy. It is the set of all people who are influenced by the controlled media of the American empire. It manages and shifts narratives and those who don’t or can’t keep-up suffer in varying degrees from PTSD-like Cognitive Dissonance. One of the best explanations of the methodology and effect is by Karl Rove in this excerpt from Ron Suskind’s below referenced 2004 article.


    Ron Suskind: In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like …, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush [Karl Rove]. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

    The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

  5. Harry S. Nydick Avatar
    Harry S. Nydick

    First, Caity, I have my narrative and you have yours. 98% of the time, possibly more, we are in complete agreement. And what this article says, reminds me of a multi-day seminar I took, way back in 1982. Condensed to a few words, the most important construct in it is that ‘we are all god – in our own universe. ‘ What we say (or think) rules, for nothing outside of us has an concrete, indestructible meaning. In fact, though we value it highly, even life has no meaning.
    Our experiences tend to create our individual internal narratives and anything that rattles our confidence in our personal narrative comes from a position of cognitive dissidence. If the human animal is but one more rung on the ladder of evolution, do the things we ‘fight’ really matter; will we get the ‘next’ species anyway? Or, in the end, will nature just do what it always does?
    As I’ve often said, the universe – which has existed for billions of years – not only does care about the problems that we, as individuals, get so upset about that they alter our narrative, but it also doesn’t even know that the exist. They are, to the universe, as an individual grain of sand on a beach is to us. The odds of fining a specific such grain are infinitesimally small, to the point that it isn’t worth trying to find it. It’s impact on the greater beach is virtually insignificant.
    So, what is left to us, as individuals, is to create our narrative and then to be true to it, or to modify it. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or evil in the things Trump, for example, does. I just think that there is – and I respond accordingly, for I’m not about to blow my brains out.

    1. Obviously, you meant “does NOT care” – the universe is utterly thoughtless, meaningless, care less, etc., but you’re dead wrong about there being “nothing intrinsically wrong or evil in the things Trump does”. The concept of evil or wrong is entirely human-centric, but has impacts far beyond our pathetic species. You sound like you’ve got your head stuck so far up on the clouds now that you are of no Earthly good.

  6. Johny Conspiranoid Avatar
    Johny Conspiranoid

    Frederick Alexander thought that habits of mind and muscular habits always worked together. He found a way of changing muscular habits.

  7. The evidence has been there for a long time as more and more people become numb to the effects of any given narrative. The impact lessens over time, and the meaning – particularly as the levels of distrust of governments and corporations rises, also reduces, as the message is not believed so much.

    But this creates a much bigger problem of governments no longer caring how credible their narratives are providing they can get away with whatever they are trying to do. By having an anaesthetised population, they can pretty much do as they wish without having to worry about the backlash which of course they also suppress. This eases the move towards totalitarianism.

    I’m wondering which of our Western societies will be the first to ‘suspend’ elections. I don’t think it will be long now.

    We are gradually reverting to the post-WWII state of European fascist countries like Spain and Portugal (I live in both under fascist regimes) where most of the people were ignorant by virtue of not being well educated and therefore easier to control. This time around, the people will be just as ignorant of the facts, and just as apathetic because they no longer have the ability to determine the truth. As long as they can survive economically, they will continue to distract themselves and avoid confrontation with the powers that be. The times are different but the behaviour is the same.

    I saw this statement recently……………… I’m sure you’ve already seen it.

    1% control the world
    4% have sold their souls
    90% are asleep
    5% know and are trying to wake up the 90% (that’s you & others)
    The 1% don’t want the 5% to wake up the 90%

  8. Erica Shugart Avatar
    Erica Shugart

    Yes yes and more yes, Caitlan. My teacher (who was a student of Adyashanti and Osho), was talking the other day about politics because she was responding to a student’s distressed narrative about Trump. She commented that politics has always been rooted in the unconscious and that people are getting tired of it because they are beginning to see through the narrative. I want to think this too.

    I know that after a weekend of spending time in meditation with my teacher, I am totally dropped into a deeper state of awareness rooted in my belly at first, and then spreading out from there. This experience is pleasurable and puts me in a place of no ego. I struggle with anxiety and my anxiety goes “poof.” Her retreats are donation based too. People are so open hearted by the end that they want to give as much as they can to keep this woman spreading the love. When I leave to go back home, I recognize that this state takes a lot of work and practice to cultivate and maintain. I wish more people would see this work as worthy and most valuable. In my twenties I could drop into this state simply by practicing on my own with the use of Tolle’s epic book, but now I find it helpful to have a supportive community because this type of work also confronts the shadow. The light always brings it’s dark sister to love up. Thanks for your post and wonderful writing.

  9. John Allen aka Ol' Hippy Avatar
    John Allen aka Ol’ Hippy

    Good explanation of the various narratives we contend with on a daily basis. Postmodernism deluxe if you will. Various competing propagandists vying for our brain and hence control. It’s hard to exist in this world shaped this century by powerful forces seeking more control. However to survive for very long will require a shift in conscientiousness. A paradigm shift and with the psychos in control I don’t see a way out, at least yet. We can still hope for a shift. That’s my message for the younger crowd the did’t live over half their life with the horrors of the cold war. It certainly affected me. Oh yeah, the ‘Nam and gulf war one etc. War is a way of for Americans and I’m fucking sick of it. That’s what the masters want to ue the forces of war to rule the world. I say it’s time for a change. Peace, The ol’ Hippy

  10. Humanism has lost its agnosticism and become a failure and champion of the materialist lack of imagination. Story is the second of three chapters of the ragingly unread “Warning at the Dawn of History” freely uploaded at the ragingly unvisited website huminimism.com

    1. John Allen aka Ol' Hippy Avatar
      John Allen aka Ol’ Hippy

      I’ll check out the site when time permits. I’ve just got a new philosopy book to read first. I’m on Derrida right now.

  11. This is the deepest level and it involves the control of the dominant narrative which manufactures scarcity, greed and is due to the suppression of the feminine loving, caring and sharing life-values.


    1. “Who and what are responsible for this cancerous cultural value disorder that is threatening to destroy our life-developing social life host and ultimately that of the life-regenerating planetary life host? This is a very loaded question that is being vigorously suppressed from coming to the collective consciousness by the controlling ruling class.”

      What if the “who and what” are not human? What if humans are just being manipulated like humans manipulate their own environment, for food? “Food” in this case being the parasitic harvesting of human energy. In this case, focusing on human evil of the “controlling ruling class” is suppressing awareness of the parasite “from coming to the collective human consciousness”. Genius, no? Humans are biting their own tails, getting nowhere that way. People are not the problem, really. And the Parasite that is the problem, which created the narratives, is terrified that we will find out, and stop participating, and cut off their food supply. The way to freedom is non-participation in the enslaving narrative. Take back control of your energy. Extremely difficult, not impossible.

  12. Strange topic, I wonder whats going to happen? Humans sure are strange!

  13. Michael Major\\ Avatar
    Michael Major\\

    I am not at all sure that spiritual enlightenment is an anodyne for the ascendancy of psychopaths, oligarchs, plutocrats and practitioners and the henchflak of Ayn Randian Objectivism or the new found transnational capacity to wag the world’s societal dogs with precisely calibrated mainstream media narrative manipulation. There was a time that enlightenment was presumed the cascading political consequence of illuminating cause and effect and distinguishing them with “reason” from luck, magic and the propitiated will of the gods. I’d be happier if we were looking towards political enlightenment but at this terminal threshold anything which constrains the emancipation and overshoot of greed looks like a life ring to me. michael\\

  14. Caitlin, what you call narrative is what used to be called (and may still be called) conditioning. People are told stories in order to condition their minds into particular patterns of thought. And we humans are susceptible to conditioning, because we long for understanding of why things are the way they are and why we are the way we are. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is a very useful trait, but it also makes us vulnerable to exploitation by forces seeking to create misunderstanding. I am not convinced that the human species can ever break away from conditioning, although the widespread rejection of organized religion in the Western World is an encouraging sign that it might be possible.

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