In the first half of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, a pair of talking galaxies share snippets from a man’s life with a developmentally disabled angel from the nineteenth century. Early on, an ornate carriage is seen carrying a plutocrat who will later go on to drive the man to contemplate suicide and (spoiler alert) never suffer any consequences for it.

“Who’s that, a king?” asks the angel upon seeing the carriage.

“That’s Henry F. Potter, the richest and meanest man in the county,” replies one of the talking galaxies.

It was as good an answer as you could expect from an anthropomorphic celestial body talking to a cognitively challenged spiritual being, but it could have just said “Yeah, basically.”

In the old days, kings wore gold on their heads, and when you saw one you were expected to remove your hat and bow or you’d be tortured to death in the town square. Then along came the printing press and people got better at sharing ideas with each other, and pretty soon everyone started to connect the dots and realized that kings were just regular people with gold on their heads. Once everyone started agreeing that they didn’t much like being tortured to death in the town square for not groveling before some schmuck with a shiny hat, kings went out of style.

But they didn’t go away.

As long as there have been humans, there have been humans trying to dominate and control other humans. As societies became larger and more complex it went from trying to become the alpha human in the tribe to the alpha human of the village to the alpha human of an entire country to the alpha human of an empire, but in each case the impulse to try and dominate as many other humans as possible was the same. When kings went out of style, that impulse didn’t leave with them; it simply found a different way of manifesting.

The new alpha dominators of the literate world couldn’t wear gold on their heads and couldn’t torture dissidents to death in the town square. The ones who rose to the top were the ones who figured out that they could still function as kings as long as they weren’t such egotistical cunts about it. They could no longer sit on thrones and make everyone grovel before them, but with a little bit of cleverness and a whole lot of money, they could have all the power of a king and more. All they had to do was keep the people from realizing they were being ruled.

It took them a while to get that last part down and there were a few false starts, like in France where everyone started grabbing them and slicing off their heads with French head slicing contraptions. The new breed of kings which emerged from the chaos and upheaval were ones which understood how to control everyone from behind the scenes without drawing much attention to themselves.

They learned to give the people an official government to create the illusion of freedom and democracy, and they learned to use their money to dominate every important aspect of that government. They learned how to buy up media so they could control the stories the people tell themselves about what’s going on in their society, beginning with newspapers, then radio stations, then television and eventually online media as well. They learned to control the very economic infrastructure which determines how money works. They passed these secrets on to their heirs along with their vast fortunes in exactly the same way kings used to pass down their crowns.

Today’s kings rule not with brute force and claims of divine right, but with manipulation and with money. They rule from the shadows, never sticking their heads out into the light for fear they’ll start getting chopped off again. They weave happy stories into public consciousness of freedom and democracy while wielding far more military and economic might with far more control than the kings of old ever dreamed possible. They have used this power to turn humanity into a funnel which pours ever increasing amounts of wealth into their treasuries, and thus ever increasing amounts of power. The earth itself is being stripped bare to quench their insatiable lust for more and more control over more and more humans.

But the weakness of the new kings is the same as the kings of old: information. We can share ideas and information and point out what the kings have been doing to us, what they are doing to our planet, what they are doing to our minds. We can point to their lies, point to their hiding places in the shadows. Because these new kings cannot torture us to death in the town square. All they have is lies and money, and we can see through lies and collectively change our minds about how money works. When we do that we can get rid of the new kings just like we got rid of the old kings, only this time we can choose to evolve beyond the urge to dominate and control and enslave.

And then, our eyes freed from the lies and manipulation and delusion, we can all be kings. And we can heal our planet together, and we can place a crown upon its head, and a new humanity can be born. A humanity that works in collaboration with itself and with its ecosystem. A harmonious humanity. A natural humanity. A humanity the angels and the galaxies can be proud of. And that would be truly wonderful.




The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to get on the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out my podcast, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalor buying my book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Liked it? Take a second to support Caitlin Johnstone on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

43 responses to “Kings”

  1. This topic is certainly an interesting one and perhaps worthy of further articles. I am not entirely convinced of that getting rid of kings has solved the “egotistical cunt” problem and perhaps the article goes on to say as much. It could be argued that the current situation in the west enables the rise of egotistical cunts to positions of power in politics and corporations just as much, if not more so, than in a monarchy. Since a monarchy is hereditary you don’t have to climb the greasy pole to get to power and there is at least a chance that the king may be benign and not corrupt. I’m not a monarchist by the way – these are just some thoughts. In fact I have no idea of the best way to govern a society.

  2. Randall Petty Avatar
    Randall Petty

    Rings true, but I’m not prepared to believe that every single billionaire fits this “king definition ” and every single reporter or journalist at every single newspaper , radio station, TV station or online media is completely corrupted and lying through their teeth just to get a paycheck

    1. It’s wrong to have more than you need when others don’t have enough.

    2. It doesn’t have to be every single one and no one ever said that it was.

  3. I like and appreciate Caitlins writing.
    Along with bad words she is prone to using labels such as “progressive”. The problem with most labels is that they have amorphous and hidden meanings – implications good and bad depending on the mindset of reader. Hence making the argument ambiguous. We would all like to resort to labels if we were so well literate as Caitlin. But we would then be speaking in bigotted suprficial shorthand reinforcing old ideas.
    I belive to a great extent the french and american revolutions are being misrepresented. Victor writes the history books and acceptable schools use those books. The revolutions were not some much about democracy that was the weapon used they were about the rise of the moneyed class vs the old order. The people were and are pawns in a scheme.

    1. “Victor writes the history books”

      I knew it! The Russians have even been writing our books!

      (Anybody, if you actually want to pose as a Russian troll, leave out most of your articles – Russian doesn’t have “the” or “a” or “an”. They’re inferred from the context.)

      I agree with you. And the American Revolution was a war of independence, which is what it’s called in French. Not a revolution.

  4. This should be made into a cartoon: it is SO great!
    thank you Caitlin; to be this talented to tell the truth as clear as you continue to do <3

  5. Funny reading the comments. I’m an Australian and didn’t even notice the vulgarity. Appreciate it’s quite shocking for Americans and makes the article harder to share. But we Australian women – we swear a lot. No harm intended, just a cultural difference.

    1. Marian-Ellen Ring Avatar
      Marian-Ellen Ring

      Hi. I wondered about that, and thought that perhaps that was the case. I experienced that in the U.K., too. Here in Canada, I don’t hear it said at all. It might also be a matter of different cultures within countries. But it is good for an author to understand her audience — then she can decide what she wants to write.

    2. Maxwell Quest Avatar
      Maxwell Quest

      It’s my opinion that vulgarity is a necessary element of discourse, which can successfully drive home a point through even the thickest skull; however, like a revolver, you don’t want to constantly be waving it around in the air, otherwise it loses its effectiveness.

    3. I’ve noticed that people who have nothing better to say usually will criticize Caitlin for language that literally every human being has heard and likely used at one point in their lives and somehow managed to survive the incident. To claim that the curse words degrade the dialogue is a third-grader’s level debate tactic.

      Thank d*g for writers like Caitlin who can communicate their rage and dismay in a creative, constructive fashion that is both accessible and enjoyable to read.

  6. I’m sharing this knowing how it can wake up some and give them that ah-ha moment.

  7. Absolutely magnificent piece by Caitlin. :+)

  8. Organized crime, i.e., the mafia, tribal warlords, street gangs in locations of extreme poverty, governments run by power-hungry people, etc. – will always prevail because such criminally minded folks will make you an offer that you can’t refuse:
    ”Either do as we say, or we will make sure that you and your family wished you had.”
    People of goodwill, who have a genuine concern for others, will not use brutal, inhuman tactics. It’s not in their nature to commit such tyranny.
    The heartless, power-hungry, evil, ”People Of The Lie” (the title of psychiatrist Scott Peck’s book, which probes into the essence of human evil) will always prevail, power-wise, over the people of goodwill (they can torture and kill your body – but not your goodwill).
    But what about ordinary people–?
    How vulnerable are we to indulging in evil–?
    For 390-years, Imperial Rome used the Colosseum for entertainment. During that time more than 400,000 humans were killed. An estimated 1,000,000 animals were killed as well. Average attendance at these events was 50-65,000 spectators.
    Why would ordinary Romans enjoy watching such a spectacle–?
    During the Jim Crow era of the U.S. south, about 4,000 people were lynched.
    If you google the photos of these public lynchings, you will see how the crowds of ordinary people look like they are at a church social.
    Why would ordinary people enjoy watching other humans get mutilated & lynched–?
    Ordinary Germans manned the concentration camps of Hitler, why–?
    Ordinary U.S. draftees committed terrible atrocities at My Lai, why–?
    Ordinary Israelis use Gaza protesters for target practice in front of the whole world, why–?
    So it’s okay to hope that, someday, we humans will outgrow evil.
    But until then, the truth is that evil will prevail, by using its brutal tactics, just as it has throughout history. And people of goodwill, no matter how small in number, will continue to advocate for truth and humane justice under the rule of civilized law, – may blessings be upon you dear Caitlin.

    1. Great comment! I’ve read Scott Peck, too, but a very long time ago.

  9. Perhaps its more of a comment on my roots, but Caitlin’s use of English mostly strikes me as extremely accurate and concise. She does not mince or obfuscate, she comes right out and tells it like it is. To those who complained no one even tried to give an example of a better turn of phrase. In two words she explained what some one else would have struggled for a few sentences to get across, losing the audience in the process.

    I like the idea of collaborative management. Somehow our culture seems to trash the best ideas unless they come from the “right” source. Bullying, buying or stealing our way up the hierarchy does not prove our worth.

    1. How about “they could still function as kings as long as they kept their egos in check” ???

    2. The women I know in the US do not use the C-word, partly because it is an insult thrown at women. I certainly don’t. But I’m all for describing kings and emperors as “egotistical cunts”. Wowee the Australians have made it an equal opportunity swear word? Brilliant!

      Caitlin, your sparing use of swear words is what usually makes me laugh. Don’t ever stop making me laugh.

  10. Marian-Ellen Ring Avatar
    Marian-Ellen Ring


    I often share your writing, especially with my (adult) children. But I am not comfortable sharing a text that contains a certain pejorative term. Maybe this will mark me as someone whose opinion you needn’t care about, but I hope that you will see the benefit of reaching all audiences, not just ones who are modern enough to take certain language in their stride. Have a lovely day.

    1. I agree. Like most of Caitlin’s work, this is an article well worth sharing. But I have friends and family members with whom I won’t share because I know their horror at the use of four-letter words would blind them to truth in the rest of the article. I am not here to argue use of language, just to point out that it would definitely put some people off and therefore limits the audience. No doubt Caitlin has already weighed that point.

  11. I couldn’t agree more. Getting all worked up over a four letter word is juvenile. No, wait. It’s thoroughly adult. Juveniles know better.

    1. This comment was meant to go below Tim’s post. Excellent op ed, Caitlin.

  12. I am right there with Caitlin until the last 2 paragraphs. The powerful do indeed hate the dissemination of truth. Controlling the minds of billions through propaganda/media and then using their heavy, dark surveillance and policing/military/dark ops to rendition information traitors and terrorists. Think Julian Assange. They have power and they ruthlessly wield it.

    1. Thanks, Garp. I came to Comments to mention Julian Assange who stands as a prime example (along with many others) of what happens to influential people who share information.

  13. There comes a time for all good people to curse. Why elevate heinous ideas? Propriety is not for evil.
    Thanks for this convenient nutshell describing a pattern of leading fucked human behavior.

  14. Hmmm. Psychic whiplash. We go from a near hysteric critique of America’s so-called left in-fighting and squabbling about Helsinki or single-payer, to a fable about kings. What you smoking, Caitlin?

    This fable has a few … um … major flaws. It may be that torturing in the town square is passe, but it is still done in the back rooms. Like the dungeons of olde. And yeah, they’ve learned a few things about being indirect and hiding like the Wizard of Oz, but it still works on a public addicted to celebrity and trivia, and the men behind the scrim now have phalanxes of professors and specialists in psy-war and super-cons to aid and abet them. Veritable “professionals” in the arts of manipulation. The difficulty for these new kings is the same old same old thing that always foils them: hubris. We have a stable genius demonstrating this very quality these days. Smartest man in the room. Etc. Just ask him.

    Meantime the Age of Aquarius seems to have eluded us, as it ever does, and barring that fabled quantum leap in consciousness delivering us all to Nirvana, it is far more likely we will escort ourselves in our profound collective stupidity to a well-deserved end.

    1. No whiplash here, J. In fact, it is a most effective educational technique that is sorely lacking (maybe intentionally now that I think about it) in our modern diploma mills. First, start with the general or 10,000 ft view and then work toward the specific.

      Only when seen in the context of the grand paradigm (Globalism, Empire, Greed) can seemingly isolated events, like Russiagate, be correctly interpreted and understood. Caitlin was merely giving her readers a compass so they don’t get lost in the weeds.

  15. “Every man a king and every gal a queen” (Huey Long, 1934)

  16. “Every man a king and every gal a queen” (Huey Long, 1934)

  17. “Every man a king and every gal a queen” (Huey Long. 1934)

  18. Karen P. and Bill P. make valid comments, but I’d like to point out that the use of physical force and religion to dominate people is based on an acceptance that hierarchies are the only way to structure society. I also think that for sociopathy, psychopathy, and narcissism to be acceptable traits, your society must be organized in hierarchies.

    Hierarchies got popular about the time patriarchy came along, 10,000 or more years ago, so it’s no wonder we as a culture cannot remember any other way of organizing. No wonder our sociopathic “leaders” killed off whole races of non-hierarchical cultures.

    So no, I don’t think it’s human nature to accept these traits. There are still tribal societies where these are not acceptable behaviors, and we need to learn how they traditionally deal with these people.

  19. As someone else commented on a previous article,why does Caitlin feel the need to insert the odd vulgarity in her,otherwise,quite thoughtful posts.In my opinion,it comes across as juvenile.

    1. I agree. There really is no need for vulgarity … it diminishes Caitlin’s otherwise astute and rich commentary.

    2. If you don’t like her writing style, no one is forcing you to read it. The vast majority of us love her writing style, swear words and all. We’re adults, we can handle it.

      1. Vulgarity is not a writing style.

        1. You are free to leave. As a moderator, I don’t put up with petty back and forth insults which don’t add to the discussion. So either stop insulting Caity’s writing style (obviously, you couldn’t find anything to attack in her actual articles), or I’ll boot you.

          1. Bingo Mary.

          2. Mary – An interesting comment for a moderator for a website that advocates for free speech. All he is saying is he doesn’t like the swearing. You boot him for that?

        2. . There really is no need for vulgarity
          You might want to have a look at “The Angry Chef” blog.

          Caitlin’s writing style seems fine to me. She uses words to make her points clearly and concisely.

          Perhaps she is not as mealymouthed as some readers are? Australians, in my limited experience don’t normally use as many euphemisms or circumlocutions as the citizens of some other countries.

  20. Karen Poniatowski Avatar
    Karen Poniatowski

    A good essay, and hopeful, but you’ve omitted two significant factors in the human power struggle: physical force and religion.

    Physical force is the means of coercion, religion is the justification for physical force and another form of coercion.

  21. Nice read

  22. Bill Philipson Avatar
    Bill Philipson

    For those nice things to happen, human nature would have to change. We would need to get rid of or control sociopathy, psychopathy, narcissism, and other traits that drive some people to want to rule over others. I have my doubts about that being possible.

    1. And yet, it is possible to have a society in which those traits don’t dominate. It’s been done before. It might end up being forced on us, eventually. As our environment deteriorates, people are going to have to get along and collaborate in order to survive.

Leave a Reply