Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


We Won’t Be Free Until Our Minds Are Free

There's a quote from an ancient Buddhist text called the Dhammapada that's often translated as, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”

In other words our mental habits shape our personality and determine how that personality will behave, and that behavior contributes to the shaping of the world.

We see a similar line in the Upanishads of Hinduism: "As is your desire, so is your intention. As is your intention, so is your will. As is your will, so is your deed. As is your deed, so is your destiny.”

These are two different ways of expressing the same timeless observation we see pop up in various forms throughout philosophical traditions around the world: that our actions arise from our thoughts and our thoughts arise from our conditioned mental habits, so we need to be very careful about what those mental habits are since it will ultimately determine our destiny.

But the people who pour the most energy and attention into this timeless observation as a group are not the Buddhists, nor the Hindus, nor any religious or philosophical tradition at all. Those who are the most interested in studying and acting upon this insight are the powerful people who rule this world.

The powerful understand that because people's actions follow from their thoughts and the destiny of the world follows from people's actions, if you can control the thoughts people think at mass scale you can control the destiny of the world.

Control the way people collectively think about things and you can control the way they act, you can control the way they organize, and you can control the way they vote. This is important because people have become more literate and better at sharing information over the years, and therefore more aware of the value of freedom and equality, so it's gotten harder and harder to deny them freedom and equality without sparking violent revolutions and winding up with your head in a basket.

Power structures of more "enlightened" societies have addressed this dilemma by giving people the illusion of freedom snd equality while still keeping them enslaved to the agendas of their rulers via mass-scale psychological manipulation. Media institutions, online platforms and think tanks are dominated by plutocrats in coordination with secretive government agencies to ensure that the information the majority of people consume serves the social, political, military and geostrategic interests of the ruling power structure.

This is why when you watch the news on TV it always kind of feels like they are deceiving you; that's exactly what's happening. Information that is inconvenient for the powerful is omitted, while information that serves the powerful is amplified and twisted in the most convenient light possible.

This happens not because the media-controlling class is personally leaning over the shoulder of every news reporter and instructing them to lie, but because if you control who runs a media outlet then you control who they will hire and who they will elevate, naturally giving rise to a system wherein reporters understand that the only way for them to advance their careers is to promote narratives which serve the ruling power establishment and marginalize narratives which don't.

Many journalists - either for self-serving reasons or due to genuine befuddlement - are completely misinterpreting Bernie's media critique. The person who explained it most clearly was Noam Chomsky in this 90-second answer to an equally confused BBC host. This will clear it up:

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 13, 2019

The best way to manipulate people without their knowing it is to appeal to their strongest and most unconscious impulses. In practice this means tugging at the psychological hooks of the ego, which at their base level are fear and identity. If you've made a strong identity out of something like belonging to a certain political party or a certain ideological or ethnic group, then it will carry a lot of egoic weight for you. If you're in a fear state then there will be a lot of egoic contraction and you'll consequentially take your thoughts very seriously.

If you can appeal to people's base impulses of fear and identification it becomes very easy to insert ideas into their minds and give them new mental habits, and that's exactly what propagandists do. You need to fear the terrorists, the Russians and the Chinese, because they're going to harm you. You need to support the Democratic Party and everything its pundits tell you, because that's your tribe. Those anti-vaxxers over there are your real enemy, not the nuclear-armed globe-spanning power structure that is driving our world to its doom in myriad ways. And on and on and on.

They give us the illusion of freedom, but as long as they chain our minds with propaganda we are not free. It wouldn't matter if they gave us every personal liberty imaginable if a critical mass of us were still thinking in ways which benefit the powerful, because those thoughts would cause us to act, organize and vote in a way that benefits our rulers and not us.

If we want to free our minds from the chains of power, it's not enough to do research and memorize a bunch of facts about what's really going on in our nation and our world. The most important step to freeing our minds from their shackles is to remove from ourselves the psychological hooks of fear and identity to which those shackles are attached. This means freeing ourselves from the delusions of egoic consciousness, which, funny enough, brings us right back around to the central tenets of Buddhism and Hinduism again.

As long as humanity is enslaved to the ego it will remain enslaved to abusive power structures, because manipulators will always be able to use our egoic hooks to propagandize us into supporting their interests at mass scale. Until then it won't ultimately matter how many civil liberties we gain or lose, because we'll still be unable to move beyond the bonds of our psychological chains.

Not until humanity collectively breaks free from the gravitational pull of egoic consciousness will we truly blast off into the real potentiality of our species.


My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. 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.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Listen to a reading of this article:

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


The Conversation: Old wine in new bottles – why the NZ-UK free trade agreement fails to confront the challenges of a post-COVID world
When the sales pitch for a free trade agreement is that “British consumers will enjoy more affordable Marlborough sauvignon blanc, mānuka honey and kiwifruit, while Kiwis enjoy the benefit from cheaper gin, chocolate, clothing and buses”, you know this is hardly the deal of the century... More>>

Philip Temple: Hang On A Minute, Mate
Peter Dunne quietly omits some salient facts when arguing for retention of MMP’s coat-tailing provision that allows a party to add list seats if it wins one electorate and achieves more than 1% or so of the party vote... More>>

Cheap Grace And Climate Change: Australia And COP26

It was not for everybody, but the shock advertising tactics of the Australian comedian Dan Ilic made an appropriate point. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a famed coal hugger, has vacillated about whether to even go to the climate conference in Glasgow. Having himself turned the country’s prime ministerial office into an extended advertising agency, Ilic was speaking his language... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Labour's High Water Mark
If I were still a member of the Labour Party I would be feeling a little concerned after this week’s Colmar Brunton public opinion poll. Not because the poll suggested Labour is going to lose office any time soon – it did not – nor because it showed other parties doing better – they are not... More>>

Our Man In Washington: Morrison’s Tour Of Deception

It was startling and even shocking. Away from the thrust and cut of domestic politics, not to mention noisy discord within his government’s ranks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison could breathe a sign of relief. Perhaps no one would notice in Washington that Australia remains prehistoric in approaching climate change relative to its counterparts... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Melbourne Quake: Shaken, Not Stirred

It began just after a news interview. Time: a quarter past nine. Morning of September 22, and yet to take a sip from the brewed Turkish coffee, its light thin surface foam inviting. The Australian city of Melbourne in its sixth lockdown, its residents fatigued and ravaged by regulations. Rising COVID-19 numbers, seemingly inexorable... More>>