We Think This Dystopia Is Normal Like People In Abusive Relationships Think It’s Normal

Caitlin Johnstone
4 min readFeb 15, 2024

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

Westerners who don’t appreciate the extreme dysfunctionality of western civilization are like someone in an abusive marriage who hasn’t yet recognized that there’s a problem, or someone who had a violent and chaotic childhood who still thinks their home life was basically normal.

All of us understand that there are problems with our society, and most of us understand that a lot of of those problems are severe. But few westerners really get just how bad it is. How pervasively diseased it is.

In reality, we are living in a profoundly sick dystopia that is built on a foundation of human corpses and fueled by an endless river of human blood. Our news media are propaganda services, our entertainment is brainwashing, and our mainstream culture is social engineering, all built to keep us turning the gears of a vast globe-dominating empire.

There’s a widespread assumption throughout the western world that while things might not be perfect our society is certainly much better than what people experience in a nation like China, smugly believing ourselves to be a free society full of free thinkers and free people in contrast with those unfortunate thought-controlled communist conformists. In fact western civilization is one giant thought-controlled conformity machine where people’s minds are shaped by mass-scale psychological manipulation far more effectively than anywhere else in the world, exactly because westerners don’t know this is happening and believe they are free.

Western minds don’t like to be told this, because it goes against everything they’ve been trained to believe about their nation, their society, and their world. Obviously we are much freer here than those poor saps to the east; here in the west we are free to choose between 197 flavors of frosted breakfast cereal and 20,000 different superhero movies. We are free to choose between voting for warmongering capitalist authoritarian Democrats or warmongering capitalist authoritarian Republicans. We are free to sell our labor at a fraction of the value it generates to any exploitative ecocidal employer of our choosing. We are free to think whatever thoughts we’ve been trained to think by our education systems, mass media, and Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation. We are free to speak our minds, which have been shaped and conditioned to serve the interests of the powerful and never to say anything that falls outside the Overton window of acceptable opinion.

Sure there are outliers in the margins, westerners who’ve slipped outside the matrix of thought control and have gained the ability to traffick in unauthorized opinions — if you’re reading this you’re probably one of them. But our numbers are deliberately kept too small to have any political consequence, and if those numbers start getting too big for comfort we immediately see influence ops to sow division and confusion and herd people back toward the mainstream flock. Sure we in our small numbers are free to voice unauthorized opinions on marginal platforms where we can’t have much impact — we’re free to dig a hole in the ground and whisper whatever we want into it, too.

The single biggest obstacle to our freedom in the west is our widespread belief that we are free. Until we collectively realize we’re human livestock being continually herded into our respective gear-turning stations to keep the imperial juggernaut trudging ever forward on the world stage, we’ve got no chance to break free and bring the whole abusive system crashing down.

Until this is seen we’re like the wife who thinks it’s perfectly normal that her husband controls all her finances and dictates every aspect of her life, and who’d be shocked and angered if anyone tried to tell her that this is what an abusive relationship looks like. We’re like the man who insists he had a happy childhood despite remembering a lot of body trauma and screams.

The truth is all around us — we’re marinating in it 24/7/365. But we can’t see it, because it’s all we’ve ever known. We’ve been conditioned to think that this murderous ecocidal mind-controlled dystopia is normal, and we can’t imagine it being any other way. The prospect of ending it can actually feel scary and intimidating, just as it can for someone who’s thinking about fleeing an abusive relationship.

But real freedom is just on the other side of that fear. All we’ve got to do is become sufficiently conscious of what’s really going on here.

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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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Featured image via Adobe Stock.

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