Never Stop Being Shocked By The Depravity Of The Empire

Caitlin Johnstone
3 min readNov 23, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

A friend of mine shared my article about how the Biden administration is worried the pause in fighting will allow journalists into Gaza to show Israel’s crimes to the world, saying he knows he shouldn’t be surprised by how evil these freaks are but somehow he still is.

I told him I actually consciously cultivate the ability to stay surprised by such things. If you stop being surprised when you see the world’s most powerful people always finding new and innovative ways to make the world a worse place for ordinary human beings, it means it’s become normalized in your system in some way. It means that on top of all the other horrible evils they’ve inflicted upon our world, they’ve also managed to steal an important part of your humanity.

No longer being shocked by the murderousness of the empire is a counterintuitive sign that something unhealthy is happening to you, like when the body stops shivering as it sinks into the later stages of hypothermia, or when the hunger pangs go away in the later stages of starvation. It’s a sign that your system is no longer forcefully rejecting conditions it ought to reject, and has instead shifted into giving up and trying to conserve energy.

I spend all day every day staring into the ugliest parts of the imperial machine, but I refuse to let it desensitize me. These monsters have taken so very, very much from the world, and I refuse to let them take that too. I refuse to let them rob me of my humanity like that.

I see it as a sacred duty to keep a flame lit in myself which knows what a healthy world looks like, which knows what sanity looks like, which knows how things ought to be, and which naturally finds it jarring when the sickness of this civilization reveals itself.

I refuse to accept this as normal. I refuse to let the abuses of the empire turn me into a callused, jaded husk of a human who can only respond to each new monstrosity with a deep world-weary sigh. I make sure it still brings up a white hot rage in me. I make sure it still brings white hot tears to my eyes.

You can’t let them take that from you. You can’t let them harden your heart and darken your eyes. We’ve got to keep the flame burning for a sane and healthy world, if not for ourselves then for our children, and for future generations who we will never meet.

If you’re still finding yourself shocked and shaken by the actions of our rulers, that’s a very healthy sign. It means they haven’t got you yet. It means they haven’t succeeded in snuffing out your flame.

We’ve got to protect our sensitivity at all costs. We’ve got to maintain that visceral rejection of madness, because that’s what’s calling us home. That’s what’s calling us home to a healthy world. That’s what will guide our way as we fight our way there, one small, almost-insignificant victory at a time.

If they haven’t yet snuffed out your flame today, that’s one more small win for humanity. That’s one more tiny step toward health.


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