Why Do Our Heroes Always Let Us Down?

Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is drawing fire from the antiwar left, and not for the first, second or third time. The same leftist contingent which has been energizing Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and elevating her to the public spotlight has been voicing increasing concerns about her antiwar platform temporarily vanishing from her campaign website, about her walking back from her position on the Israeli government’s massacring of Palestinian protesters with sniper fire, about her weirdly hawkish criticism of the GOP as being “weak on national security”, and her deference to the establishment Russia narrative.

And now, as multiple outlets have documented in articles released in the last few hours, many of Ocasio-Cortez’s supporters have been upset with a statement she made praising the recently deceased warmongering psychopath John McCain and his blood-soaked legacy.

“John McCain’s legacy represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service,” tweeted the candidate upon McCain’s death, which, for anyone who cares about the late Arizona senator’s relentless push to inflict military violence around the world at every opportunity, is incredibly offensive. McCain was easily the single most virulent warmonger on Capitol Hill, so praising him and his legacy as exemplary of human decency necessarily clashes with the “Peace Economy” platform that has had so many of Ocasio-Cortez’s supporters so excited.

What remains of the American left (and for my right-wing readers I here mean the actual anti-war, socialist left, not the Hillary Clinton “Make sure we refer to everyone on our drone kill list by their preferred gender pronouns” corporatist Left™ that Americans are permitted to support) has become very suspicious of anyone who rises to a position of leadership among their ranks, especially anyone who appears to lend legitimacy to the profoundly corrupt Democratic Party. And understandably so; being a DemEnter progressive is a nonstop lesson in disappointment, heartache and betrayal. Door after door after door gets slammed on all attempts to advance your political agendas, and if you find someone who seems like he might maybe be able to sneak some health in between the cracks, he turns around and helps sell America the new cold war with Russia.

This has been a set pattern for a long time now. I often share this video clip from eight years ago when the progressives who had hoped that the Obama administration would oppose warmongering and fight for economic justice were coming to the conclusion that they had been duped yet again by the “hope and change” song and dance. The term “three-dimensional chess”, a term you’ll always see supporters of a given political figure start using when their hero begins capitulating to establishment interests, is used scornfully in the clip. It happens on either side of the political aisle; I see Trump supporters do it too when I point out the many ways in which he is continuing and expanding the Orwellian neoconservative policies of his predecessors.

What’s up with that? Why do our heroes always fail us? Why does everyone we elevate to fight the oppression machine always end up becoming a cog in that very machine? Is there a lesson here we’re meant to be learning?

I think there is. Out of the constant rise and fall of hope and then disappointment, over and over the lesson is that we aren’t going to get a savior. We can keep looking for one and crowdsurfing them to the frontlines, but each pedestalling will inevitably fail. We will be constantly disappointed by the choices of humans on an individual basis. The second coming ain’t coming to save us unless it’s coming from within, and within all of us.

Every few days I get a comment from a reader who is deeply disappointed in my choices. “I can’t believe you’ve gone and said such a thing,” they say. “To think, I used to trust you! You were my hero!” And I always want to shout back, “Well, that was a bit dumb, who told you to do that?? Who told you I was interested in being anyone’s hero?”

And I’m truly not. I’ve got exactly zero interest in being anyone’s hero or leader or guru or anything like that; I’m just some potty-mouthed bogan with a few ideas and a Medium account, and I like it that way. I don’t have any special powers and if you find my thoughts resonate with yours, great, but I always want you to put your own gut before my ramblings. All I’m ever really doing here is pointing out again and again in different ways how your own best guess as to what’s going on in the world is always going to be superior to the information being spoon fed to you by the paid deceivers and manipulators of the mass media. If people could simply shift to trusting themselves and their own inner sense-maker more than the voices of perceived authority in their lives and on their digital screens, our species could very quickly move into health and harmony, because we’d no longer be streamlined into supporting the unwholesome agendas of an elite class of plutocrats.

And the longer I look at this thing the more clear it becomes that that really is our only shot. It sounds a bit kooky to say that the only way out of the oppressive Orwellian status quo that is driving us toward war and ecocide is a mass shift in human consciousness, but I insist that it’s far less crazy than the idea that we can solve our problems using political solutions while maintaining the relationship with thought and narrative that our species currently has.

Whenever you try to debate a devout free market capitalist by pointing to the current system’s failures, they’ll invariably tell you that the current system isn’t true capitalism, that due to corporatism and the influences of corrupt governmental power, true capitalism hasn’t yet been tried. When you try to debate a socialist by pointing to the failures of nations which carry that label you get the same argument; those were corrupt, top heavy perversions of the socialist ideology, and true socialism hasn’t been tried yet.

And both are correct: neither political solution to our society’s dilemmas has ever been tried in its pure form. And why is that? Ultimately, it’s because humanity remains a fearful species which latches onto abstract mental narratives in order to maintain a sense of control over the fate of the conceptual self they believe themselves to be, and those narratives can then be manipulated by more clever humans. Happens again and again; systems designed to help humanity give way to the manipulations of the powerful for the benefit of the powerful, because we are too easy to manipulate.

So in the cases of both true free market capitalism and true socialism, the problem isn’t necessarily that those systems don’t work (who knows, haven’t tried them yet), it’s that humanity hasn’t yet moved into a sufficiently wholesome relationship with power and narrative to be able to implement them. Complaining that your system hasn’t been implemented correctly is therefore actually just complaining that humanity has not yet experienced a global shift in consciousness.

But if we can make such a shift, will our old models even be useful in the new paradigm? Isn’t it kind of like a two-dimensional character trying to design city plans for a three-dimension civilization they can’t even imagine? How much relevance would the manifesto of a nineteenth century German philosopher or the ideas of long dead Austrian economists have to a twenty-first century world in which humans don’t move the way they used to and are not motivated by the same things they once were?

This is why I don’t make much of a fuss about one ideological model or the other being the right and true one. A world in which everyone gets what they need and we aren’t killing each other or our ecosystem anymore is obviously something we all want, but I don’t see any way to get there by picking heroes and sending them toward the top of a power structure that has been deliberately designed to funnel power upward and banish anyone who obstructs that movement.

I no longer jump on bandwagons for the same reason I don’t go around babbling about “sheep dogs” and aggressively trying to tear down anti-establishment heroes who aren’t being anti-establishment enough: if you put someone on a pedestal, eventually you’re going to have to knock them off of it, because the solution isn’t in them. It’s in each of us.

How can we overthrow our oppressors if we haven’t overthrown our inner oppressor as well? How can we shrug off the fear-soaked narratives of the propaganda machine if we haven’t detached from the anxious self-talk of our babbling inner narrator that seeks to dictate our entire attention? We can turn off all the screens in our lives that seek to take over our authority, but it’s the screen in our minds which holds our attention that we have to turn off as well.

And that will necessarily move us in a far more harmonious way. We will look like a whole different species. From how I see it now, political solutions are inherently top-down, competitive and divisive, and what we are shooting for is a much more organically collaborative crowd-sourced approach. As we get healthier, we’ll see solutions come together in a distributed, improvisational way from collections of people who aren’t interested in getting noticed, they just want to get it done.

And there are plenty of people like that already. The Bernie campaign brought together huge swathes of them. We are going to see that across all sectors, in science, technology and the arts as people put aside our weird egoic desire for the separating effects of fame and fortune for the joy of making something beautiful, helpful or healthy together, simply for the thrill of accomplishing something bigger than ourselves. The old dinosaur notions of pinning down ideas with patents and so on will be seen clearly for what they are — an attempt by individual egos to colonize inspiration that ultimately inhibits human thriving. Just as we learn to stop trusting the individual ego in others to save us, we will stop trusting it in ourselves, and increasingly we will hand over our internal control to the greater part of our consciousness that does not seek to control, define, claim and deflect, but rather draws from a wisdom that often eludes narration but creates harmoniously.

We are the helpers. We’ve always been here, but until now we’ve been co-opted by manipulators into manufacturing consent for their sick agendas. Very rarely has a helper found a helper to help. Very rarely have two people who only want to work in the highest interest and not self-interest come together to make something, let alone a group of them. As we begin to really see how manipulators move and they start to pop up on our screens like a fly on white paper, the helpers will become obvious as well. We can start to trust our gut again about who and where to put our energy, and out of those new collaborations, beautiful inspired solutions will be born into the world.

Put to one side the anxiety-soaked stories your mind creates and deal with what’s in the here and now, and keep gently bringing yourself back to the reality of your feet on the floor and the air moving through your lungs. Every reset back into peace with your surroundings creates a space where inspiration can come in. This simple internal act of rebellion from obedience to the voice-that-is-me will have far-reaching consequences in the outer world as we draw back subservience from the outer voices of authority, and bring it back into ourselves.

I know that’s not nearly as cool as storming the barracks with flags and rebel songs and the image of our hero inked into our skin, but we’ve tried that before, and we just got more of the same. Every hero we elevate turns to smoke, and every door we’ve tried is closed except this one. So let’s open it and see what happens.


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I write about the end of illusions.