Humanity Is Deciding If It Will Evolve Or Die

Caitlin Johnstone
10 min readJul 27, 2018

I write a lot about consciousness, enlightenment and the potential humanity has to rise above its conditioned patterns, because if I only wrote about politics and media propaganda I’d be accomplishing nothing but helping the anti-establishment fringe feel good about itself while waiting for human extinction. I can’t do this thing honestly and sincerely without periodically pointing to the dangers on the horizon, and to what I perceive as the only off ramp in sight.

Human society is clearly at its most interesting point ever. Billions of human brains are now interconnected in real time by the internet, we’re realizing on mass scale that all the rules of society were invented by dead people long before any of us got here, and we’re seeing that we are free to re-write those rules in a way that benefits us. From popular grassroots examinations of socialist ideas, to cryptocurrencies and an evolving understanding of what money is, to redefining social institutions as ancient and ingrained as marriage and gender identity, more and more people are saying in effect, “Hmm, it looks like all those old thoughts we’ve been using to describe our reality are causing some problems. Let’s find new ones.” It could be described as a collective awakening to the fact that reality and our conceptual model for it are two very different things, and the model is as flexible as your ability to change your mind. We’ve never seen anything like this before as a species. We’ve literally never been here.

We are in uncharted, unprecedented territory. When you’re in uncharted, unprecedented territory, there’s no valid basis for ruling out any conceivable possibility. Stodgy intellectuals may say “Hurr, yes, this is very similar to the Bulgarian Wheat Rebellions of 1809, so this will likely turn out the same” or whatever, but they’re wrong, because it isn’t. The past can be a useful tool for predicting future outcomes, but in an entirely unprecedented situation, that is not the case. Anything is possible.

But we are also facing an unprecedented set of challenges. Our planet is currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction that is entirely the result of human ecocide. More than half the world’s wildlife has vanished in forty years and the worldwide insect population has plummeted by as much as 90 percent, so the very ecosystemic context in which we evolved is dying, and every few weeks there are new reports that anthropogenic climate change is progressing more rapidly than previously anticipated. There are self-reinforcing warming effects called “feedback loops” which, once set off, can continue warming the atmosphere further and further regardless of human behavior, meaning that a chain of events can conceivably be set off tipping us rapidly into climate chaos and making industrial farming impossible, causing global starvation.

If we dodge that bullet, we’ve got steadily mounting new cold war escalations between the world’s two nuclear superpowers imperiling us more and more with every moronic increase in nuclear tensions. There’s also the looming and seemingly inevitable invention of artificial superintelligence, which could end us in any number of completely unpredictable ways. If we manage to dodge all of those bullets in the next few decades, we’re still headed straight toward an Orwellian global empire which controls all access to information and ideas using AI-controlled censorship and propaganda. Serving out the remainder of our existence as a sanitized, homogenized and propagandized servile class for sociopathic elites would be a kind of extinction in itself, and arguably a worse fate.

So we’re at a pretty significant juncture here. Our present situation could accurately be described as a question that we are collectively being asked as a species: do we want to (A) live on and find out what the future holds for us, or do we want to (B) go the way of the dinosaur?

Whenever I bring this subject up I encounter proponents of both answers. Though they never frame it as such, the people who show up in my social media notifications proclaiming that it is naive to think humans will ever cease their destructive patterns are very much on the side of Answer B. They insist that turning away from our ecocidal, omnicidal trajectory is impossible, and apparently their plan is to sit back and feel smugly vindicated when the world burns. They are choosing extinction, and their prize is that they get to be right and feel good about that if it happens.

Answer A is less sexy. Less egoically satisfying. You don’t get to feel smug and superior with Answer A, because Answer A involves changing. It involves waking up from that same ego structure which gets so much pleasure out of being right and knowing better.

If we’re going to pull away from catastrophe or dystopia and survive, we’re going to have to take full advantage of the unprecedented situation in which we now find ourselves. We’re going to have to make a miracle happen. We’re going to have to evolve beyond our current relationship with thought. We’re going to have to wake up.

Throughout recorded history and across all cultures around the world, there have been individuals testifying that it is possible to undergo a transformation in the way one relates to the world, experiencing life as it actually is instead of filtered through unconscious conditioned thought patterns. After such a transformation, thought becomes the useful tool it’s supposed to be instead of the writer, director and star of the whole show.

If such a transformation is possible on an individual level, it is possible on a collective level as well. With a shift in our relationship with thought and ego, we would become impossible to propagandize, and therefore able to determine a course of action that isn’t selected for us by plutocratic manipulators. We can awaken from the old patterns of fear and greed and need to control which are constantly used to manipulate us, and begin working in harmony with each other and our environment instead.

This as near as I can tell is the only way to avert catastrophe. All the other exits we’ve tried are bolted shut; political attempts at solutions are shut down with plutocratic manipulations, activism is shut down with media propaganda and corporate censorship, and violent revolution just puts the same problems into different hands. The deck is stacked to keep funneling the momentum toward the agendas of the ruling elites. Our only option is to change ourselves.

Such a collective transformation has always been possible, and everyone from Buddha to the hippies of the 1960s has pointed to it and insisted that it is possible. The difference now is that we are in unprecedented times, and that we now have no other choice.

But it isn’t sexy. It is, in fact, in the exact opposite direction of egoic gratification. On a collective level, it means giving up on barking and snarling at the Russians or the libtards or the Muslims or the Trump supporters and relinquishing the notion of your pet political, religious or social faction ever being proven right and vindicated over the others. On an individual level, it means letting go of everything you’ve built your identity on. It means realizing and fully understanding that you’ve been basically wrong about everything your entire life as mental narratives are seen for the babbling nonsense they are. It means forgiving yourself for your mistakes and forgiving your mother for hers. It means the ultimate humility of taking everything you’ve held yourself to be and unceremoniously discarding it like an old piece of gum.

It means examining everything you think you are and seeing it for the story it is. All the babbling thoughts that go on in your head about who you are, what you like, what you think, they are all just re-runs of old stories playing in the TV of your mind, and they all need fresh eyes and a critical appraisal. Put together, these thoughts create the impression of the thing that you call “me”, but they’re as arbitrary as snippets from a cutting room floor. The more meaning you imbue into them, the more fascinating you’ll find the re-runs, the more you’re glued to the screen and the less attention you pay to real life. These stories also create hooks by which you can be trolled and manipulated. Take a step back and watch your thoughts like old television, and they’ll be no less noisy but much less interesting, and eventually the noise disappears into the background and you can begin engaging with life as it really is.

This personal inventory has messy consequences. It means facing your fear of death to the point where it no longer controls every decision you make so you will be free to live right now. It means resolving to hand your desire over to the highest interest, not just when it suits you but every time. It means giving up everything you ever do for anyone else’s approval, including your own. It means admitting to your own arrogance, your own violence, your own hypocrisies, your own projections, your own sneaky manipulations, your own sins, and tracing them back to the point in time where you created this little coping mechanism gone mad. It means forgiving others, but it also means forgiving yourself. It means applying love to your wounds until they heal and the pain of the scars doesn’t rule you anymore. It means getting playful and curious and unafraid to jump down rabbit holes. It means letting the intelligence of your animal body purge your stuck emotions and dormant fears. You might look silly sometimes. That’s okay.

Then, in the relative quiet of your mind-cave with the TV no longer dominating your attention, a silent inner voice emerges and rather than allowing the ghosts of the past to dictate your every move, a greater wisdom will get a chance to inform your choices. In many ways, this is when it gets harder. This means doing what’s in the highest interest even when it’s scary and everyone you love is trying to stop you. It means you will have a much clearer idea of what’s your responsibility and what’s not, but it means taking responsibility. It means having a much better idea of where you stop and where others begin, but that means ceasing to lean in on other’s sovereign boundaries to manipulate them for your own perceived safety, and it also means getting up the guts to throw out the predators that you suddenly realize have been in your sovereign space this whole time. It means becoming fearless.

If everyone who is capable took these steps, the world will change at a miraculous pace. Individually we will become ungovernable from the outside, and guided from within, and as a group, our clarion call will siren each other into quietly taking the actions we need to take to avoid extinction. Inspired, fearless individual actions will harmoniously and wordlessly collaborate with others in a way that will look like magical rolling coincidences but is really just as mundane and natural as the daily work of an ant colony. With the babble of ego turned all the way down, we will start behaving in concert with each other like a marvelous improv troupe, taking cues and accepting offers and intuitively building something more beautiful together than our individual thinker brain could ever hope to even glimpse.

The journey out of egoic consciousness isn’t something that can be undertaken lightly. Relinquishing everything that has made up your inner world your entire life is not something you can do as a casual pastime. You need to plunge into it with the intensity of someone fighting for their life, and what we have working in our favor today is the fact that now we collectively are fighting for our lives. This has never happened before. It’s scary, but it’s also a time of unprecedented potential.

It’s all here. We have all the parts right here and ready to go. All we need now is to individually get humble and do the work to quiet the mind. We just need to set our intention to mute the babble of ego to give us the space to let something extraordinary create itself through us. There is nothing stopping us except the concept of ourselves that we hold, and surely we all must be getting bored of that by now. Besides, what choice do we have? Sit around and wait to die, or sit down and do the work and see what happens when we’ve thrown off our brain boxes and we can dance with each other naked?

Get naked with me. You know you want to. Come on. Let’s see what’s on the other side of this thing. I’m pretty sure it’s more beautiful than we can possibly imagine. I want to know. Don’t you?


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