UPRISING: Don’t. Side. With. The. Powerful.


Caitlin Johnstone calls reflexive subservience a zombie infection; a  mental virus spread by propaganda and toxic ideologies.  

By Caitlin Johnstone

I had a weird dystopian dream recently where I was running away from evil Agent Smith-type characters who looked just like normal people, so there was no way to recognize them; they could be an old man or a child or a librarian, or anyone.

The only sign that allowed me to tell them apart from real people always came too late: if I ever talked about the dark forces I was fighting, at some point they would say the words “Well, what did you expect?”

As in, what did you expect when you disobey us? What did you expect when you try to stand against our power? Did you think we wouldn’t come after you? Did you really think you could win?

It was a really scary, trippy dream, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I’ve been thinking about it because it’s such an accurate reflection of how subservience to power actually manifests in our world. You talk about abusive power structures in our world, from police brutality to corporate predation to imperialist military interventionism, and many people are receptive. But you always wind up standing across from some freaky empire zombie saying “Well, what did you expect?”

It really is like a zombie infection, like a virus of the mind which spreads through propaganda and toxic ideologies and leads people to support the abuse of the disempowered by the powerful.

Whenever there’s an act of police brutality caught on video, no matter how brutal or inexcusable it may be, when that video circulates online you will always see comments saying “Well, what did you expect? That person was disobeying.”

Literally always. Always, always, always, without a single solitary exception. There’s a certain type of mind virus whose victims literally cannot help themselves. They absolutely cannot resist the impulse to start making excuses for the authority figure explaining why it’s okay for them to assault and abuse the disobedient weaker party. You get the impression that they’re not even really thinking about it; it’s an entirely mindless reflex for them. Like robots. Or zombies.

And it’s the exact same mind virus which justifies literally any violence by the powerful against those who disobey them, from the smallest to the largest of scales.

Those who respond to videos of police brutality with “Well what do you expect? They were disobeying!” aren’t just defending the police, they’re defending every power structure in the world where the weak are attacked for disobeying the powerful. From governments which attack, subvert and destroy weaker nations which disobey them, all the way down to parents who hit their children for annoying them.

It’s the same mind virus, and it’s the same dynamic, and it all funnels upward in support of the same power structures. The doctrine which says it’s okay for the powerful to use violence upon the disobedient disempowered applies anywhere else one might choose to apply it. Which is why there’s so much overlap between defenders of police violence and supporters of various kinds of US imperialism.

Don’t side with the powerful against the disempowered. Just don’t.

Learning to distinguish between empowered parties and disempowered parties can be a little tricky, because nobody likes to think of themselves as siding with the powerful against the weak. It’s something we all know intuitively to be wrong, so we’ll often find clever ways of using an incomplete analysis of the power dynamics at play which allows us to feel as though we’re fighting the power when we’re really doing the exact opposite.

And propagandists are of course all too eager to help us do this.

Israel is a perfect example. You can squint at it in such a way that lets you feel as though you’re defending a disempowered religious minority with an extensive history of persecution that is surrounded by enemies, but really it has nuclear weapons and the full might of the U.S. empire on its side. In reality the Palestinians are the down-power ones, but people who want to believe the Israeli government is a poor widdle victim will do mental gymnastics to contort the power dynamics.

These compartmentalizations ignore where the actual power is at on a global scale and just zoom in to a local analysis which ignores all else.

Whenever you see the Western mass media and their propagandized followers talking about “The people of [insert targeted nation here],” they’re cheerleading a U.S. empire-backed movement against a weaker government which has resisted absorption into that empire. But they’re posing as supporters of the little guy.

  • In the case of Venezuela, Juan Guaido is the brave rebel fighting the powerful Maduro regime! No, he’s backed by the U.S.-centralized empire which is trying to stage a coup in the nation with the largest proven oil reserves on the planet.
  • Yay, the freedom fighters in Syria are fighting the tyranny of their oppressive ruler! No, they’re not, they’re jihadist extremists who were backed by the U.S. and its allies with the goal of toppling Damascus in order to seize control of a crucial geostrategic region.
  • Yay, the brave people of Hong Kong are liberating themselves from the tyranny of Beijing! Well really China is far less powerful than the U.S.-centralized power alliance and the U.S. government is unquestionably intervening in the HK protests. But people make believe it’s just the people vs the big bad Chinese government.

This impulse to pretend you’re fighting the power instead of fighting for power is so pervasive I’ve seen people do ridiculous things like say Julian Assange is actually the power because WikiLeaks is influential. He’s one guy!

That’s also what you’re seeing when people try to spin these U.S. protests as a Deep State color revolution backed by George Soros and “the Chicoms.” No, it’s not, you just don’t want to admit that you support the government and its armed goon squad against people who are sick of the brutal U.S. police state, so you’re doing ridiculous mental gymnastics to make it feel like you’re actually punching up.

Online forums are full of self-described “anarchists” who constantly wind up on the same side as the CIA and the U.S. State Department on foreign policy because they act like every “revolution” in every nation is the people vs power while ignoring a global-scale analysis of real power. If your “anti-authoritarian” worldview frequently leads you to supporting agendas which make the biggest power structure on the planet more powerful, then you’re not anti-authoritarian, you just want to feel like you are. You’re fundamentally no different from any other MSM-brainwashed tool.

Learn to see clearly where the power is, and refuse to side with it. Expunge the “What did you expect?” mind virus from your system and you’ll be doing all of humanity a big favor.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.   Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books “Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone” and “Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.”

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