I Am The Conspiracy

There is an increasing amount of talk these days about conspiracy theories. Most theories involve some variation of a global cabal of elites reigning power over the helpless masses.

Photograph: Alamy

A friend recently asked for my view on these theories, and my answer surprised even myself…

I am the conspiracy.

When I was 24 years old I got my first big film directing project. Despite studying photojournalism and wanting to make stories that “saved the world” I somehow found myself flying business class to South America in one of those seats that fully recline into a bed. It was a luxurious delight!

They even gave us free slippers.

During the trip I watched a documentary on the in-flight monitor called Fed Up. It’s a jaw-dropping look at the sugar industry and its responsibility for the health and obesity epidemic plaguing the western world. It shows how sugar lights up the same brain receptors as cocaine, hence why it’s so addicting.

So why was I flying business class to Chile?

To direct a soda commercial for 7UP.

The flight was 11 hours which gave me plenty of time for reflection.

Good Tucker: “Shit, so soda is literally killing people and is one of the worst products being peddled by massive global corporations looking to profit off our health.”

Bad Tucker: “Maybe. But I don’t drink soda, so clearly that proves it’s a choice. If people want to poison themselves that’s their right to do so.”

Good Tucker: “You don’t have to direct this commercial, Tucker. This isn’t why you got into filmmaking. Just say no.”

Bad Tucker: “Are you kidding me? We’re already on the flight there, for God’s sake. And you’re getting paid $17,500 per day for this one project! That’s more than half of your sister’s entire teaching salary! This is a big opportunity, Tucker, and you can use this money to help do good later on.”

This went on for hours. Until the plane landed. And then I was shuffled off to a luxury hotel. And the next day I was on set directing hundreds of people at the age of 24 making a pretty penny in the process.

That commercial would air all over Latin America, precisely where the obesity epidemic is currently skyrocketing.

7UP commercial that I reluctantly directed in Santiago, Chile.

So this is the part of the story where I tell you that my soul stepped in and made me promise that I would never direct a soda commercial again, and it was a huge come-to-Jesus moment. But that would be a lie.

Exactly one year later, I flew business class to Brazil where I directed yet another 7UP commercial. But this time it was worse.

The commercial featured two young visual artists who, like me the year prior, started having second doubts about using their art to support a soda company. In the days leading up to the shoot, I personally sat with them and worked tirelessly to convince them to do it. Nobody asked me to do this, I just did it. I didn’t want them to fuck up my gig. After all, my budding career and $$ was on the line.

The morning of the shoot, they were crying in their hotel room, not wanting to go through with it. But like me a year prior in Chile, they swallowed their pride and started drinking fake soda for 15 takes until the lighting was perfect and we got the shot.

And that was a wrap.

Me on set living my “dream life.”

Over the next three years, my career would take off like a bottlerocket. I was killing it, and I was killing myself. And now that I reflect on it, I was literally killing others, too.

I directed big projects for WalMart, Pepsi, JCPenney, PetSmart, Pfizer, BMW, Ford Motors, Adidas, Facebook, and on and on.

I had ethical issues with all of these companies. I grew up with a father who repeatedly told me, “I’ll never fucking shop at WalMart. They’re the worse corporation in the world!”

But I still chose to work tirelessly to help increase their profits via my clever (some might say manipulative) storytelling skills. I did a damn good job, and I was compensated handsomely.

I flew so many cross-country trips for work that my sister gifted me this fitting t-shirt.

My last year in Los Angeles, I was renting a three story home for $9,000 a month. On my same block lived several homeless people whom I walked past daily without ever acknowledging. I never even knew their names.

Like those “evil” billionaires, I was the one amassing wealth at the expense of others. I was the one knowingly doing harm to others for my own self-interest.

You might be thinking, “Oh poor Tucker, yet another aspiring documentary artist who fell victim to the evil corrupt System. Don’t beat yourself up…it’s society’s fault, not yours.”

No.

My parents, my teachers, my mentors — they all wanted me to be a photojournalist traveling around the world working for National Geographic or The New York Times.

Nobody told me to do advertising. But upon graduating from art school, I made the decision to turn down a job offer with CNN and instead signed on with a small production company that made powerful doc films for TEDTalks, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, and various nonprofits all over the globe.

A project I directed about the opioid crisis for the nonprofit Truth Initiative.

Over the next few years, m ss ng p eces would blow up, and today it’s one of the largest and most successful advertising production companies on the planet. I used to humbly say that I was the lucky one who rode their coattails, but the truth is I was the one helping them become so successful. I was the one directing many of their biggest campaigns that brought the company and me all of the glory that we could ever ask for.

This wasn’t my master plan. It just happened. But here’s the thing, I would also direct a couple of nonprofit projects each year, which I considered my Soul work. It helped me justify spending the rest of my time doing advertising.

The same pattern can be seen in billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the Clintons who all have big foundations that they pour their money into. Perhaps, like me, it helps them rationalize their main gig by creating a charity side show.

All of this came to a head when I was 28 years old, burnt out, exhausted, depleted and depressed. I had worked so hard and made so much and felt so empty. That “Good Tucker” voice started screaming at me, and I had no choice but to pay attention.

The tipping point came when I was spending $1,000 a night at a swanky resort in Big Sur. I got out of the infinity pool to receive an email informing me that I had won six Cannes Lion Awards, the most sought after prize in advertising. I felt like shit. I had everything I ever wanted, but clearly it wasn’t what I actually wanted.

Me in Big Sur pretending to be happy for Instagram.

I stood there at the edge of the cliff looking down at the ocean hundreds of feet below.

Bad Tucker: “Just jump, dude. This will all go away. J U M P !”

Good Tucker: “Take a deep breath. It will all be okay. Just get through today.”

Here’s why I am The Conspiracy: Nothing was stopping me from changing except for me.

There was no secret cabal controlling me. My own psychology was controlling me. And yes, my psychology was programmed by the stories of society, but guess whose job it was to program society? ME. It was my job. I was making advertisements to sell myself on my own life choices. It was ME.

Here’s why that’s fucking fantastic news: if I’m not being controlled by The Evil Other, that means I also have the power to change my programming.

And that’s exactly what I set out to do. Over the next two years, I reoriented my entire life.

My new cabin on remote Friendship Island in Maine, a huge change from my Hollywood dream.

I sold nearly all my possessions and moved from my mini mansion in LA to a remote off-the-grid island in Maine where my carbon footprint and living expenses were drastically reduced.

I donated $100,000 (⅓ of my savings) in the form of reparations to Black and Indigenous-led organizations.

Took all my money out of the stock market and big banks to instead support a local credit union.

I volunteered 1–2 days a week at my local soup kitchen, became active in social justice rallies, and spent a summer apprenticing at an electricity-free ecovillage called The Possibility Alliance.

Switched to a plant-based diet and purchased local produce from my neighborhood farmers market and co-op.

Helped support Indigenous activist Sheri Mitchell form a land-based educational and healing center run by Wabanaki women.

I sold my car to reduce my carbon footprint and started taking the train and bus instead of flying.

Deleted all of my social media accounts and went on long technology detoxes.

I separated with my beloved partner of 10 years in part because our lifestyles were no longer aligned.

And, most daringly, I quit my job at the height of my career. I left the world of advertising. I walked away on what I once called “my dream life.”

But all of these external changes were drops in the bucket. The biggest shifts happened internally.

Meditating at a spiritual community in Nicaragua.

Silent meditation retreats and vision quest ceremonies, psychedelics and trauma work, grief rituals and solitude in nature, fasting and praying, facing fears and making amends.

Instead of trying to save the world via my documentaries, I decided to try a new approach: save myself. And it paid dividends. I’m richer now than I’ve ever been in my life, despite having less money than I’ve ever had.

Photo by Juliette Carmen

Here’s the craziest, most conspiratorial part: society supported me on this journey.

It was shockingly effortless to find all the right books and mentors to help guide me into this Soul initiation journey. It was shockingly effortless to find free programs like the 12 Steps and Goenka Vipassana meditation retreats where one could have community support without the exchange of money. It was shockingly effortless to drastically reduce my carbon footprint and minimize my support of large corporations.

Yes, I don’t have children or dependents who rely on me, which is a massive privilege. I also had savings that provided a financial safety net that many lack. I’m not saying the journey is easy, and it’s certainly not quick and simple. But for many of us, it is possible. And for whatever reason, it’s as if the entire Universe conspired to help me help myself.

That, my friends, is the real conspiracy. We are the ones programming our own minds. It’s us, not “them.”

This is certainly not an invitation to spiritually bypass the structural challenges inherent in our political and societal systems. But it’s also not an invitation to politically bypass our own healing.

Charles Eisenstein on Spiritual and Political Bypass

You are only a victim if you choose to be. That label is optional. If it serves you on your journey, by all means, go for it. In my own experience, embodying the victim archetype simply gave my Bad Tucker voice another reason to continue doing the very things Good Tucker warned against.

I am The Conspiracy because I am Society. I am the one creating The System. But I am also The Change. I am also The Solution. We all are. Individually and collectively.

The Conspiracy is us. Projecting that onto others is often the ego’s greatest trick.

The first step to changing it is owning it.

But don’t worry, for TODAY only, The Conspiracy is FREE of charge. That’s right folks, you heard it first, FREE of charge. But don’t wait…this offer won’t last. Go to www.It’sOnUs.com to get this exclusive offer. Or call 1–800-BeTheChange. DON’T WAIT. The time is NOW!

:)

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Tucker Walsh

Tucker is a lighthouse for Spirit and travel guide for Soul helping to navigate the miracle of Life through storytelling, ceremony and celebration.