The Red Pill

The metaphor of the red pill, borrowed from the Warner Brother’s film, The Matrix, refers to waking up from illusion – suddenly realizing that everything is quite different than how you always thought it was.

Each chapter of this book offers its own red pill. Our civilization is based on a great many illusions, and each chapter attempts to dispel one of these, peeling one more layer from the onion of deception. Below is a brief description of each chapter’s red pill.

The Matrix

The consensus reality that we see portrayed on television and in school history books is a fabricated illusion. The lies of politicians are repeated in the media and then become the basis of histories, the fabric of the Matrix. The war in Iraq provides an excellent current example: in the Matrix we read about bringing democracy to the Iraqis while in reality the US is seizing control of petroleum resources and establishing a permanent military outpost in the Middle East.

A brief history of humanity

The history we are taught in school is not the story of humanity, but rather the story of hierarchical civilizations. Our species has been fully human for about 100,000 years, and only the last 10% of that – a brief episode for our species – has been characterized by hierarchy and centralized governance. We are presented with the Hobbesian myth that early humans lived a short and brutal life, and the Social Darwinist myth that our evolution has been driven by dog-eat-dog competition. In reality, early societies were highly cooperative and egalitarian. Civilization is not a reflection of human nature, but is rather a system of domination and exploitation by ruling elites. We are like animals in cages: our behavior under these stressful conditions is not representative of our nature, just as the pacing of a caged cheetah does not represent the natural behavior of that beautiful animal.

We the People and the Transformational Imperative

The source of our crisis is the dominator culture itself. Environmental collapse and capitalism are merely the terminal symptoms of a chronic cancer, a cancer that has plagued us for six thousand years. We need a culture based on mutual understanding and cooperation rather than on war and conquest, a culture based on common sense rather than dysfunctional doctrine, on respect for life rather than the pursuit of profit, and on democracy in place of elite rule. After six thousand years of domestication, we sheep must finally cast aside our illusions, recognize our condition, and reclaim our identity as free human beings. In reclaiming our identities we will also be redefining our cultures. There is no one out there, no actor on the stage of society, who can or will bring about the radical transformation required to save humanity and the world – no one that is except We the People. There is no one else who will do it for us, and it is a job that must be done. This is our Transformational Imperative.

Our Harmonization Imperative

Our societies and political systems are characterized by competition and struggle among cultural factions and political parties. When we try to change this system by forming adversarial political movements we are playing into this game – a game rigged so that elites always win. If we really want to change the system, we need to learn how to come together as humans, moving beyond the ideological structures that have been created to divide us from one another. We are all in this together, and a better world for one is a better world for all. It’s not about winning, nor really even about agreement: it’s about working together in pursuit of our common interests.

The dynamics of harmonization

Our usual models of discussion and deliberation reflect the adversarial nature of our society generally. We argue for our position over the other position: one side wins, the other loses, or we settle for a compromise – and the underlying conflicts remain unresolved. Harmonization is about a different kind of dialog, based on respectful listening, and aimed at developing solutions that take into account everyone’s concerns. This kind of dialog can be readily facilitated in any group of people, and it is an ancient human tradition, capable of transforming conflict into creative synergy. We the People are capable of working together wisely and harmoniously.

Jim Rough’s media page provides inspiring audio and video material that illustrate harmonization processes in action, in the form of Wisdom Councils.

Envisioning a transformational movement

Harmonization provides the means by which we can overcome our differences and find our common identity as We the People. If we pursue harmonization in our local communities, on an all-inclusive basis, we can create islands of grassroots empowerment – of direct democracy – within our existing societies. Harmonization can become the basis of a community empowerment movement, transforming our adversarial cultures into cooperative cultures. When We the People have woken up on a society-wide basis, we will be in a position to transform our societies, replacing elite rule with grassroots democracy, based on the principles of harmonization and mutual-benefit exchange.

Envisioning a liberated global society

The core principles of a democratic society are local sovereignty and harmonization. Only at the local level is it possible for everyone’s voice to be heard, and harmonization is the means by which those voices can develop a consensus agenda. The residents of a local community share a common interest in the local quality of life, and are in the best position to manage their resources and economies wisely. Large scale issues and operations can be worked out by delegations from local constituencies, meeting together to harmonize their various agendas and concerns. There is no need for centralized governments, corporations, or institutions, which inevitably become vehicles for the usurpation of power by would-be ruling cliques.

The transition process

Political sovereignty is meaningless unless it also includes dominion over resources and economic affairs. In our transition to a democratic society, one of the first steps will be for each community to repossess its commons – assuming ownership of all land, resources, buildings, and infrastructures that are currently controlled by absentee landlords, banks, corporations, and government agencies. Under the control of local communities and workers, conversion plans can be worked out, gradually repurposing existing facilities toward sensible and sustainable uses. We can expect considerable variety in local economic practices – ranging from communal operations to market economies – as determined by local cultural traditions and the democratic process.

Reflections on humanity’s future

Which comes first, personal transformation or social transformation? This question, often debated, turns out to be much like the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” That is to say, the question cannot be answered in its own terms. Humans are above all a social species, and it should not be surprising to realize that personal transformation and social transformation can be most readily achieved together. To a considerable extent, existing paths of enlightenment must begin with a rehabilitation of the individual, helping them find their own center in the midst of an oppressive and stressful society. When we create societies that liberate our spirits and involve us in our own governance, the path to enlightenment will be a much easier one.