How The Hell Did We Get Here?

By Caitlin Johnstone

We could have been so much more. We have the ability to create a healthy and harmonious world and collaborate to give everyone on earth everything they need, and instead we’re killing the biosphere while arguing about whether or not it’s anti-semitic to oppose an active genocide.

We could have peace on earth and move from competition-based systems to collaboration-based ones to maximize our creative and innovative potential and spend our existence exploring the outer universe and the universes within ourselves, and instead we’re ramping up brinkmanship between nuclear-armed states and arguing about whether or not it’s ethical to rain military explosives on a giant concentration camp full of children.

We have the technology to let every scientist on earth share ideas and information with each other around the world in real time in any language, and instead we’ve fractured scientific development into atomized little echo chambers of closely-guarded secrets in the name of profit generation and “national security”.

How did we get here? How were we duped into trading paradise on earth for this lunatic dystopia? How did we allow ourselves to give up everything our species has the capability to be in exchange for this nightmarish paradigm of endless ecocide and exploitation and oppression and war and militarism?

Near as I can tell, it’s ultimately because our species evolved these massive brains very quickly which we still haven’t learned how to use in a mature way, like a kid learning to ride a bicycle right after the training wheels have been removed. This has allowed us to dominate the planet while still ourselves being dominated by primitive fear-based impulses which were much better suited for our early evolutionary ancestors as they strived to survive the dangerous plains of Africa as small prey animals.

We develop egos in early childhood to help us feel safe and secure in a confusing world full of giants, which most of us go on to use in highly maladaptive ways throughout the remainder of our lives. Our psychology is riddled with cognitive biases, which the clever manipulators among us can use to dupe us into mass-scale behavior which benefits them rather than behaving in a way which benefits each other and our ecosystem.

The most clever of these manipulators are able to use their cleverness to rise to the top of our political, governmental, commercial and financial systems around the world, and they use increasingly sophisticated methods of propaganda to dupe the rest of us into moving in alignment with their will. And their will is not wise or intelligent; it’s driven by the same primitive fear-based impulses that the rest of the humans trapped in egoic consciousness are driven by.

So here we are. That’s why we now find ourselves in this profoundly dysfunctional civilization where the biosphere is treated like an enemy and human beings are treated like fuel and minds are being marinated in an increasingly vapid mainstream culture where everything is fake and stupid. That’s why we don’t have paradise on earth, and that’s why the bombs are falling on Gaza today.

But it is just a phase. A kid who’s learning to ride a bike doesn’t remain on wobbly wheels forever. Eventually we’ll get the hang of this thing. Eventually we’ll grow into these giant new brains of ours and become a conscious species. 

Assuming we don’t wipe ourselves out first, of course.

Caitlin Johnstone publishes a reader-supported Newsletter.

This Newsletter piece was published on December 27, 2023. Find it here.

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