We Must Never Let Ourselves Become Desensitized To This

Caitlin Johnstone
3 min readSep 17, 2023

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

We must never let ourselves become desensitized to this. To any part of this.

We must never cease appreciating the sun on our skin and the wind in our hair, and we must never cease being shocked by the fact that there are people whose entire job is to push for more war.

We must never lose our sense of wonder at the birds in the air, and we must never lose our sense of horror at the fact that there are people who profit from war and militarism and lobby for more of it at every opportunity.

We must strive never to walk through a forest or a field or a parking garage or a shopping mall without being floored by the beauty we find there, and we must strive never to look at warmongering, ecocide, oppression and injustice without trembling with rage.

We must never allow ourselves to become so jaded and calloused that the rustling of leaves or bird songs fail to delight us, or that reading about starvation sanctions targeting civilian populations fails to draw hot tears of compassion from our eyes.

We mustn’t let ourselves take for granted this boundless ocean of astonishing miracles we find ourselves swimming in — not even for an instant — and we mustn’t let ourselves grow accustomed to any part of this freakishly abusive dystopia we were birthed into.

There’s this weird taboo against expressing shock at the horrors of the empire, at the abuses, at the lies. Doing so often draws out a haughty, leaned-back response of, “Ha! That surprises you? I grew accustomed to that long ago.”

This impulse is born of cowardice. It’s so much easier to be jaded than to let it all in. So much easier to lean back smugly knowing better than to let yourself be brought to your knees in heartbreak. So much safer to hide out in world-weary cynicism than to let this world affect you in all its terrible glory.

But we lose so much when we let that callus build up, because there’s no way to take the awfulness for granted without also doing the same with the wondrousness and the beauty. It all comes in through the same aperture within our perception, so it’s impossible to inoculate yourself against experiencing the nightmare without also inoculating yourself against experiencing the ecstacy.

We’ve got to be brave enough to feel — to take it all in, the good and the bad. This doesn’t mean responding unconsciously and becoming a rage addict drifting blindly through life on autopilot on the current of one’s emotions, it means meeting life where it is, exactly as it is, without manipulating our experience of it to numb ourselves and give ourselves a sense of control.

That’s what authentic living is, in my view: meeting life just as it is, without egocentric filters, distortions or manipulations, come what may. This is the only way to really live our time on this earth, to really experience each moment instead of missing it. It’s also the only way for ordinary people to respond to tyranny and abuse with the emotional energy it requires.

Life-sized life. Beauty-flavored beauty. Carnage-colored carnage. It’s all here, inviting us in to meet it on its terms, whenever we’re ready.

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My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. Go here to buy paperback editions of my writings from month to month. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

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