In the age of information, you tend to let the best voice speak for you. However, when we let another define our worldview, we lose something far more precious.
I just got done reading an unintentionally hilarious article in The Guardian whose author, Tim Dowling, shared, under the billing “I watched RT for a week so you don’t have to.” The whole thing is a story by a man immersed in mainstream narratives who spent a week perpetually aghast at how “surreal” it is to suddenly be hearing stories outside his echo chamber. Even while conceding that some of the programming was downright enlightening, Dowling just couldn’t get over the fact that he was seeing different things on RT (formerly Russia Today) than he was on BBC News and ended up writing about the experience in the way one might speak about their trip to a furry convention.
“The annoying thing about RT is that some of the reporting is very good and genuine,” Misha Glenny is quoted as saying in the article. “The trick is trying to differentiate that from the propaganda.”
Which is of course true of all mainstream news media, but most westerners just call their propaganda “news”. They place deep faith in what is told to them in the confident, assertive voices of the mainstream media, and plug their fingers in their ears and brainlessly scream “propaganda!” until the dissonance stops.
They don’t stand in their own authority. They commit the grave crime against humanity of abdicating their authority to someone else.
The three most routinely overlooked and underappreciated aspects of day-to-day human experience are probably, in order of significance, (1) consciousness itself, (2) the extent to which mental habits dominate and determine our lives, and (3) the extent to which other people are trying to manipulate what we think. I tend to wage my little battles here focusing on the third one.
The typical westerner is saturated in a barrage of corporate media propaganda telling them what to believe about their world, their society, and their leaders, but it’s so much more than that. There are religions, ideologies, and limitless agendas all vying for space in your mental playground. Anywhere you look there are advertisers trying to manipulate you into buying stuff. Most of your personal relationships will be with people who are deeply invested in your being a certain way, and they’re always nudging you in that direction in various subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
It is a betrayal of humanity to abdicate your authority over your own worldview to anyone, be it Noam Chomsky or Ron Paul or me. Nobody belongs in that throne but you.
Hell, a lot of the ideas we get in our heads about how a person ought to live were spoken by people who died long ago. We get our advice on how to live from dead people. How much sense does that make? The world those philosophers and spiritual teachers knew when they were alive is long gone, but we look to them for advice on how to navigate this wildly unprecedented situation in which our species now finds itself.
We’re born into this. From the very beginning of our lives, long before we have the capacity to begin critically examining information, we are shaped and molded by this chaotic torrent of agendas. A large part of our perspectives and mental habits come from other people, and it can be very, very difficult to sort out what’s real and what’s just some dead idea implanted there long ago that we made the mental habit of taking for granted. But truly standing in your own authority uninfluenced by propaganda, groupthink, or societal pressures is one of the most revolutionary things that anyone can possibly do.
So much of the evolve-or-die transformation our species is currently undergoing is necessarily an inside job. An elite class of plutocrats is convinced that the riff raff need to be told what’s what so we’ll comply with their benevolent leadership, and yet these same pricks have marched us into a new cold war and to the brink of ecosystemic disaster, to say nothing of the economic exploitation, endless war, Orwellian surveillance, and militarized police state they’ve created. We need to reclaim our minds from the lies that these horrible people have filled us with before we’ll ever have a shot at wresting the steering wheel from their clutches and averting disaster.
Truly insisting upon your own mental sovereignty typically brings an enormous social backlash. Many of my readers will have lost friends last year when they refused to play along with the establishment narrative that it was absolutely essential to elect Hillary Clinton to the presidency, and that’s just one tiny taste of it. Insisting on only being true to what’s true for you will disrupt entire relationships as you quickly discover that you were surrounded by people who’ve come to rely on you being true to what’s true for them instead. Your entire worldview can experience an upheaval, and with it, all the alliances and connections you’d made as a result of your previous worldview.
Also on The Big Smoke
- The push for Internet censorship they’re barely trying to hide
- Propaganda: The water we swim in, but can’t see through
But it is its own reward. Letting go of your old loyalties to other people’s stories about you, them, your society, your government and your world provides an immense freedom and fearlessness that can move mountains, a stable ground on which to take your stand which will never disappear from underneath you, and a delightful expansive spaciousness in your day-to-day living once you’ve eliminated all the various manipulators which were pushing and pulling on you in different ways.
My writings lean heavily toward the populist because I believe all ordinary people are much better at running things than a handful of sociopathic oligarchs, but populism will never have a shot if people can’t free their minds from exploitative manipulations. If we can still be directed every which way like a cat chasing a laser point, any populist revolution will just be used to shore up power for whoever’s the alpha manipulator on the scene.
So begin tearing down the system by tearing down its influences on you. Question all your most basic assumptions about reality itself, and if it can’t stand on its own, discard it.
Be distrustful of people who put a lot of energy into telling you about themselves; they’re trying to control your perception of them. Be even more distrustful of people who put a lot of energy into telling you about yourself; they’re trying to control your perception of you. You are sovereign. Own those perceptions. Reject any attempts to prevent you from owning what’s yours as aggressively as you need to.
It is at its core a betrayal of humanity for you to abdicate your authority over your own worldview to anyone, be it Noam Chomsky or Ron Paul or me. Nobody belongs in that throne but you. Trusting in any authority but your own is shirking your most important existential responsibility. As far as you are concerned, figuring out what’s true is your job and no one else’s.
Once you’ve rejected all narratives but your own point of view and are standing firmly grounded in your own truth, the notion that “propaganda” poses any threat to you becomes laughable. You have the ability to look at what comes up and examine it under the light of your own truth, and if it’s useful to you it becomes a tool in your toolbox. If not, it’s sent on its way. The idea that anyone would want anybody to “watch RT for a week so that you don’t have to” becomes baffling.
As far as your worldview is concerned, you are lord supreme. You can pretend that that authority belongs to some asshole on CNN or Fox or The Intercept or right here, but you’ll be living a lie. Nobody can interpret this experience for you, and if they tell you they can, it’s because they’re trying to use you.
Make your stand on your own two feet.
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