The Next Revolution Won't Be In The Streets. It Will Be In Our Minds.
Updated: May 31
June 2, 2018
We Can Change Our World When We Reject the Illusion of Power
I know what you're probably thinking.
The world is so messed up now that it seems almost impossible to fix. At times, it may even seem hopeless. But I believe there is hope, my friends. I believe we can change EVERYTHING. We have the power to level the playing field, restore our voice, and regain what's been taken from us. We have the power to launch a revolution, but probably not the kind you're thinking of.
When we hear the word "revolution", the first thought that usually comes to mind is violent conflict. Bodies packed in streets with guns, pitchforks and Molotov cocktails, usually accompanied by some loss of blood. Nasty stuff that no sane person wants to be a part of, especially when we're busy hustling to keep a job and make ends meet.
While a revolution can be "a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure" that is "often accompanied by violence", that's not always the case. If you Google the definition and scroll down a bit further, you’ll find a more subtle take on the word: “a sudden, complete or marked change in something.” A shift in the way we built things brought the Industrial Revolution. A shift in technology from analog electronics brought the Digital Revolution.
A shift in the way we defined the relationships between women and men brought the Sexual Revolution. So a revolution doesn't have to be ugly and bloody; it can also be a shift in the way we see ourselves or the world around us. A change in the way we think.
This means that a revolution can start in our mind. And because each and every one of us is gifted with a mind, we have the power to change our world and fix whatever isn't working. We have the power to change everything.
Have you ever watched the "The Carbonaro Effect" on TruTV? (If not, it's definitely worth a season pass on your DVR). Michael Carbanaro is a magician who can make normal, every day people believe the most outrageous things -- like convincing them it's possible to place a call on a cell phone made from paper or get almond milk by squeezing nuts with his hands.
How does he do it? By creating an illusion.
By distorting the reality of ordinary people to make them believe that the impossible is possible. But illusions in our world aren't limited to TV magicians or Las Vegas prestidigitators; they're all around us, every day.
And the biggest illusion of all is the one that convinces us that a few people in government have power over hundreds of millions of others.
The funny thing about illusions is that they're often mind-blowingly simple. Once the trick is revealed, we often wonder how we fell for it because the deception seems so obvious in hindsight. The illusion of power is no exception.
Let me show you how flimsy the illusion of power really is:
We have more power than the small group of people who governs us
When we reject the illusion of power, we realize the only way that a small group of people can convince hundreds of millions of us that they have "power" over our lives, our economy, and our laws is by distorting their reality and convincing them to embrace an illusion.
The reality is that the people who lead us don't have the power we think they do. We the people have the numbers, so we, the people, have the power. And if we decide to stop playing along with the illusion? That's when our "fake" reality ends. That's when we re-claim our power. That's when we take back control over our lives.
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing us that a few people have power over millions
Let's take a look at how this might play out in the real world.
How many of us grumble and moan when April 15 rolls around? Unless we’re getting a refund, it’s a dark day in Whoville. We may think taxes don’t leave us with enough money to keep up with the cost of living.
We may be hate the fact that people who make a LOT more than we do pay a LOT less (or, in the case of companies like General Electric and PG&E, paying nothing at all).
We may be appalled that our hard-earned tax dollars are used to bail out banks whose greed created the messes they find themselves in. We may resent the fact that huge chunks of our tax dollars are funneled into wars we don't support and spent in other vomit-inducing ways we choose not to consider too carefully.
But we still play along.
We're even conditioned not to cheat on our taxes (even though the IRS only audits a ridiculously small number of people). Why? Because we’re told that starving the wars and the banks we’ll also starve schools, the elderly, the poor and the roads and bridges that need our tax dollars. It's an ugly compromise, but the ideological justification for taxes compels us to play along.
If a handful of people set aside their guilt and object to being taxed for things they're not on board with (the way the Founding Fathers did), they would pay a steep price: their wages will be garnished, they might lose their home, they might even be thrown in jail.
But what if tens of millions of people refused to pay taxes? How would that play out?
First, the government would have no means of punishing that many people. Prisons are already overcrowded, so mass dissenters couldn't possibly be incarcerated.
Second, while the IRS could theoretically garnish the wages of millions of Americans, the ripple effect on the economy would be staggering: mortgages would go unpaid, so banks would be hit with foreclosures. The disobedients would have less disposable income to buy cars and the cheap Chinese crap that keeps our economy moving. Credit cards would go delinquent, the stock market would tank, the government would struggle to stay afloat., etc. You get the picture.
If dissenters held out long enough the economy might even collapse, inviting people to rally around a new government and re-build from the ground up (Incidentally, this is what happened in Iceland after it refused to "save" itself by taking on more debt from bankers, and its economy has rebounded nicely and is doing better than its European neighbors). Punishing a few people who don't play along is a risk-free proposition for any government. But punishing large numbers of people is a completely different story, because the situation could unravel, and the punishers could easily find themselves out of power.
When a large chunk of people decide not to play along, their government is forced to listen to them
But there could be a silver lining in the midst of this ugliness. A crisis like this could be a kind of "teaching moment" that inspires our leaders to change their ways.
Since politicians are risk-adverse by nature, they will do almost anything to keep their jobs. If they were faced with large numbers of non-compliant citizens capable of seriously disrupting the status quo, they might think twice about spending tax money like drunken sailors on things voters don’t support. Or bailing out banks because they're "too big too fail." Or passing laws buried in so much paper that no one ever bothers to read them.
But they would only be compelled to change their ways if they felt it was absolutely necessary. If they felt they had no other choice. If the unthinkable was on their doorstep. So how do bureaucrats keep the unthinkable from happening? By getting LARGE numbers of people to play along and keep quiet. By bluffing. Because a government's worst nightmare is a critical mass of motivated, unified citizens who decide to call their bluff -- on anything. This means that when a large chunk of people decide not to do or think as they are expected to, or believe what they are told, those in government will have no choice but to listen to them.
Just to be clear clear: I'm not advising anyone to avoid paying taxes that are due and owing to the U.S. Treasury. I'm merely presenting a hypothetical example of the power citizens could wield over their representatives if they come together in large numbers with a unified voice.
But we have other ways of flexing our muscle. We can mobilize to support a third party candidate instead of dutifully jumping on the bandwagon of Establishment candidates (who are only "viable" because we make them "viable"). We can put our hard-earned money in credit unions and community banks instead of handing it over to the usual suspects that gouge us with fees and make risky investments.
In large numbers, we are much, MUCH stronger than we realize. The first step is to understand that we have muscles to flex. The next step is to identify our common problems, lock arms and move forward together. This is why it's imperative that we unplug from the political division that's raging around us now, because when we're divided we don't realize our collective power. This is why we need to stop focusing on our differences in race and values and unite, because that's the only way we can harness this power.
So the next time you hear someone lamenting about how hopeless our situation is and asking, "But what can I do? What's the solution?", I want you to tell them they can do plenty. Tell them that we can do plenty.
But it all starts with our minds. It all starts when we unplug.