You Don’t Have To Choose Between Happiness And Being Informed

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readMay 12, 2023

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

I write about some dark, dark things in this space, and it’s common to receive expressions of despair in response to the subjects I focus on.

This is perfectly understandable. Not only is our world hurtling toward nuclear armageddon and environmental collapse while surging authoritarianism threatens our ability to even talk about these things with each other, but most people are completely oblivious to it all. Even relatively politically engaged people tend to believe society’s biggest problems are things like sexism or drag shows, and they generally support one of the two mainstream political factions who are both driving us toward destruction.

And this is of course because we live in a mind-controlled dystopia where everything is fake and stupid. Western civilization is dominated by a power structure that has invested more heavily in “soft power” (mass-scale psychological manipulation) than any other power structure in history. It pervades our media, our internet services, our art — literally all of mainstream culture.

The politicians lie, the news media lie, the movies lie, the internet lies, the advertisements lie, the shows between the advertisements lie. They lie about our world, they lie about our government, they lie about what’s important, how we should think, what we should value, and how we should measure our level of success and worthiness as human beings. That’s what you get when you live in a civilization that’s made of lies, under an empire that’s held together by lies.

So of course people who see this express despair. When you first punch through the lies and start to gain an understanding of what’s really going on, it can be really unpleasant at first. It feels like what it probably felt like to be a lucid thinker back in much less enlightened times when civilization was dominated by religion and superstition. Lonely. Depressing. As Terence McKenna said, “The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.”

But it gets better. Or at least it does if you allow it to.

It’s not that society starts feeling less fraudulent (it doesn’t), and it’s not that you get used to how fake and dishonest it all is (you don’t). Things like political conversations, movies, celebrity awards shows, even the kinds of jokes comedians tell are still experienced as coming from a backward dream world whose circumstances are completely different from waking reality, and the smell of propaganda brainwashing still pervades it all. But it does get better.

What gets better is that once you’ve unplugged your mind from the matrix of imperial mind control, you stop looking for happiness, connection and satisfaction in the places the matrix trained you to look for it. You no longer get your sense of self-worth from how successful you can be as an industrious gear-turner of the capitalist machine or how much your body looks the way the ads say it should look. You don’t get your sense of satisfaction from how much approval you can win over from denizens of a mentally ill society. You no longer find connection in false tribal loyalties or in shared enjoyment of the buffet of mind-killing entertainment we are served by the empire. You no longer seek happiness in the pursuit of new things to own and consume, or in worthless new goals to attain.

Instead, you begin to see that as confused and shitty as our civilization is, we’re still living in an amazingly beautiful world, whose beauty is so much vaster and more ancient than all the conceptual bullshit we’ve heaped upon the human experience. You start to find joy in real things. The thundering majesty of nature. That spark of authenticity in people’s eyes. The crackle of magic at the train station. Something as simple as a piece of garbage catching the light just right can make you coo and giggle with delight like an infant.

And you learn to live from there. You settle into an understanding that while the suffering and abuses of our world are very real and of immense consequence, the fact that there is anything at all is immensely more significant than any of our tiny human problems. The fact that we get to live in these bodies and inhabit these brains and move around on this amazing planet and perceive it and think thoughts about it is a much, much bigger deal than any of our difficulties.

To help you see what I am pointing to, imagine if you were experiencing nothing. Imagine if you were just a disembodied expanse of consciousness, with nothing to see, hear, feel, touch, taste or smell. No thoughts to think, no feelings to feel.

Then imagine after an eternity spent in that state, you suddenly got to experience this world. All the sights, sounds, feelings, beauty. All the thoughts, words, creativity, connections, relationships. Imagine how mind-blowing that would be. How delightful. How appreciated.

If that happened, which do you think would seem more significant to you: the appearance of the world and your ability to experience it, or the fact that the world has some problems?

This appreciation for how amazing it is to be comes to supplant the fixation on the details which used to sit at the forefront of your attention. This doesn’t stop you from appreciating the suffering in the world — in fact it makes you more acutely aware of it. But it changes the context in which it’s happening, because it’s happening in something much more vast which isn’t limited to that suffering.

So you absolutely can live a happy, satisfied life with a full awareness of what’s really going on in our world. In fact, the devotion to discovering the truth which led you to understand what’s going on in the world will also lead you to peace and happiness if you take that exploration inward. You just have to stop trying to get your happiness and satisfaction from the places our bullshit civilization has trained you to look for it in.

And then it’s everywhere. Everywhere.

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My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon, Paypal, or Substack, buying an issue of my monthly zine, and following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

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Featured image via Adobe Stock.

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