There’s a certain hidden document on the Web, far beyond the clutches of Google, that purports to teach us all a set of “unknown” truths about the world as it is today.

That document uses the tired-yet-reliable analogy of humans enmeshed in a “Matrix” that entraps and enslaves us all.

Note: come back later for the completed version; this is an early draft (maybe).

But there is a way out of the Matrix, they say. Escape! Be your own personal Thomas Neo Anderson! Dodge bullets! Find the world’s only sexy PVC-clad uber-hacker girl who can “hack the IRS D-Base!” Defy death, proclaim God Mode, and literally fly on the superheated power of your own transcendant super-Neo ego!

Or you could sell psychedelic drugs and sit behind your computer monitor on an encrypted IRC channel until you fall asleep every night, waiting in desperate futility for a fateful visit from the mystically nonexistent White Rabbit.

Which option is a more likely mirror for reality?

You Are The Matrix…?

There is no Matrix. At least, not the fabled territory that most try to map directly onto our “real” social world.

The Matrix is not government, or capitalism.

The Matrix is human society itself.

This is the “software” running inside our own minds, software that creates and sustains (or apathetically perpetuates) government and capitalism. Government feeds our desire to follow leaders; consumer capitalism speaks to our appetite for status, codified and symbolized through the objects we can purchase and proudly display to our peers.

Even if one society is destroyed, a more sophisticated society reboots itself from the ashes of its obsolete predecessor. The fundamental principles are as unchanged as the structure of our paleolithic brains.

Inequality is built into how humans perceive themselves and each other — it is intrinsic (coming from within our brains and minds), not extrinsic (the result of some external entity oppressing us). As long as we are driven to compete against each other, we will continue to create stratified societies where the winners take all and the losers (somewhere between fortyseven and ninetynine percent of us) will struggle merely to survive.

Easter Egg: A Hidden Gift From Smith To Morpheus, For All Of Us

This was the real purpose of Agent Smith’s speech to Morpheus: the first iteration of the Matrix was a paradise.

Humans rejected it in favor of a simulation that looks like the modern world as it is today [which is even more dystopian than the present-day of 1999, the year in which the Matrix was set].

No Mister Anderson… don’t blame capitalism

The Matrix is not capitalism. Civilization throughout history has been built on inequality. The “land of the free”, the United States of America, is built unequivocally on genocide of Native Americans, slavery of Africans, indentured servitude of Chinese, internment of Japanese, oppression of the Irish, and ostracism of Jews. The entirety of Europe stands on a legacy of world war, and before that, a succession of tyranny leading back long before the Enlightenment. Much of Asia, with its fetishized pseudo-exotic mysticism for all who live outside it, is a hive of post-feudal xenophobia that necessitates perpetual simmering conflict.

Capitalism is a product of humanity, not an evil set upon us from elsewhere. It flourishes because it appeals to greed, which is as natural to humanity as the twisted philosophies that spring from it — from Manifest Destiny to Kamikaze and all shades in between. All political religions begin with us, and are sustained by us.

Silly Neo… Mr. Smith isn’t the government, either

Corporate capitalism and the governments it owns (including American democracy and increasingly, Chinese communism) are one and the same. Greed rules all.

Escaping The Matrix: Quick, I Need An Exit…! Or Do I?

The only way to truly “escape” the Matrix is to exit from society entirely.

Live on a mountain by yourself or with as many people as will follow you there.

This is the real-world equivalent of “Zion”, the world beyond the Matrix and far from Machine City.

The average person would not want to live in “Zion”, as was depicted by the traitorous character Cypher, who wanted to be not just an average person, but “someone important… like an actor”. An actor: one of those glittering objects of envy who become famous for pretending to be other people for a living. A pretender.

In the real world of today, there are over a billion Facebook Junkies gasping for each other’s attention with every status update. Many of them not only want to be the Alpha Animal in their mass media-fueled consumerist fantasyland, they also strive to be Youtube Superstars and trending Reality Celebrities with an endless feed of self-obsessive selfies and egotistical memes.

Do You Really Want To Exit The Matrix?

The door is right here, and this is the key.

If you continue to live in a house or apartment where there is flowing water, working electricity, trash disposal and emergency medical services, the Matrix still has you. And you have… McDonalds and Starbucks.

No one “subverts the Matrix” by pretending that information is free. As we all live in a capitalist system [given that capitalism has effectively taken over the world], taking things without paying is simply called “larceny” or stealing.

A man in trenchcoat and dark sunglasses walks into a convenience store. The man takes a candybar from an open box next to the checkout counter, then turns to leave the store. The clerk overseeing the automated self-checkout line says, “hey, you have to pay for that!” The Man says, “no, can’t you see? My hand is invisible because I’ve stepped outside the Matrix!” Clerk says, “you still have to pay for that candybar!” Man retorts, “no, can’t you see? The candybar is invisible, too, because I hold it in my hand, and I’ve stepped outside the Matrix!” Clerk explains while pressing the silent alarm, “no, you’re standing in a convenience store and you just stole a candybar!” The Man mumbles to himself with a sick bemused grin, “well, you’re either one of us, or you’re one of them.”

In the Hollywood version of this story, The Man pulls out a submachine gun and shoots the clerk to death. In the real version, two mentally disturbed teenagers at Columbine high school performed a similar act of “liberation” that resulted in the deaths of thirteen people and their own suicide. Wearing t-shirts that read “Evolution” and “Wrath”, their unifying ideology seemed to be that “Getting attention by becoming notorious is better than being a failure.”

The reality of the Matrix is that Neo and his grim cohort were actually psychopathic terrorist murderers with a complete disregard for human life.

They used a primitive — in the parlance of Hollywood, “high-concept” — mentality of “us versus them” to justify murdering untold hundreds of people in the name of their righteous cause.

Matrix Convolutions

As the plot thickens, the true point is often lost.

The true “hero” of the Matrix was Morpheus. And Morpheus, both in the Matrix and in Zion, was regarded as most likely insane.

Morpheus had previously found several other “proto-Neos”, but they all failed (and presumably were killed).

Most critically, Morpheus was eventually captured by the Agents, tortured by them, and, in the real-world version of the story, would almost certainly have been imprisoned for life. He may even have been set free — only to be murdered later, quite likely by a missile shot from a drone [as machines so often do our governments’ killing for us now].

How did Morpheus learn of the Matrix’s existence in the first place? If the Matrix is all-encompassing for those within it, then the Matrix must also have been Morpheus’ source of intelligence. Maybe he first saw the Matrix in the plot a multi-million-dollar movie. But, no, that would be too silly even for Hollywood… yet oddly not too silly for the many who take the Matrix as a kind of field guide to reality.

If Morpheus had learned that the Matrix is intrinsic to the human mind rather than created by machines, would he have taken the fundamentalist zealot’s path that he did? The Columbine killers were obviously mentally ill, but without the trigger that also set fragile-minded Morpheus on a murderous crusade, would their fate have also turned out differently? To be clear, neither the movie nor the message are to blame. Truly, there is no blame to be cast, but rather, a question about the switches that can be flipped in susceptible minds.

Likewise, as we see with the “hidden” version of this document, a perversion of the idea of “free” flourishes among those who are dazzled by Hollywood and seduced by overcomplicated pseudo-egalitarian ideologies.

Information created by humans is no more free than water or electricity.

Scientific knowledge is more valuable when all can access it. Still, the scientist needs some sort of wage in order to be able to live while pushing the envelope of human knowledge, skill and ability.

The products of other types of knowledge [music, film, visual arts, etc.] are the same way.

“I torrented this movie a couple of months ago. I watch it at least twice a week because the special effects are cool, but it totally isn’t Oscar quality and the script could be better, so why should I pay for it? By not paying now, I’m actually telling the movie people to do better next time. Then everything will be Oscar quality. Yay!”

“I downloaded this music album just recently, but I wouldn’t call it one of my all-time favorites, so why pay for it? The artist gets more exposure this way, too, so it’s kind of like I’m doing them a favor!”

The essence of both science and creativity is experimentation. Scientific progress and creative exploration are iterative, evolutionary processes that far more often result in failure than success. If we punish failure by cutting off scientists’ and artists’ ability to continue their work by devaluing it to become a mere hobby, we cripple the creative process of science and art itself.

Most computer programmers create free software in order to build their reputation — so that they can eventually land a paying job writing software. The philosophy of free software, then, was never designed to be applied to movies, books or music. And that is largely why it fails, instead exposing the ones who parrot its corrupted version as a cover-up for their desire to take all while giving back nothing.

Side note: the film “the Matrix” itself would never have been made, and another film of its quality has not been made since, without the crucial support of the (deeply flawed as it is) Hollywood system.

Until we have working alternatives to the existing system, destruction in the name of freedom is simply obliteration without the counterbalance of creation to save us from suicide.

Ending At The Beginning

The true meaning of revolution is that the cycle ends where it began

How do you truly “unplug” from the Matrix? A few suggestions:

  • Recognize that society is the “Matrix” and that the average person is the one sustaining it (including those who steal while regurgitating the pirates’ propaganda that information should be “free”)
  • Recognize that the government is not the problem
  • Recognize that capitalism is not the problem
  • Recognize that if you believe that either government or capitalism are the problem, your only solution is to exit the nation-state and/or leave the financial system entirely
  • Recognize that if you choose to reap the benefits of living in the “Matrix”, your denial of its fundamental attributes [i.e. the exchange of money for goods and services] is only hurting other people who are also trying to survive, advance science and push forward creatively in this system
  • Recognize that if you remain inside the Matrix, you are one of Us Humans (not “Agents” or “Them”). Our only viable option is to work together to change the Matrix, not turn guns on each other (or figuratively do the same by stealing from each other) or commit random-yet-premeditated acts of larceny — leading even to murder.

The Matrix is not outside us. The Matrix is within us. The only way to destroy the Matrix is to change ourselves and create a better Matrix. At the best, we create an alternative that eventually supercedes the existing system. At worst, we continue down the existing path to oblivion and hasten our collective demise. “Freedom fighters” who indulge the Morpheus/Neo Delusion turn a blind eye to economic, political and social totalitarianism that strips us of our desire for privacy while selling our digital identities to the highest bidder. Such isolating “freedom” turns us on each other with false doctrines like “if you have nothing to hide, you have no need for privacy” and equally false reactionary mantras like “information wants to be free”.

There is, has never, and never will be, anything gotten for free in this world. The sooner we all realize that “free” is yet another scam that steals time and energy (therefore, life) from all of us, the more quickly we’ll create a system that can help us all live better lives in the real world rather than construct psychotic fantasies like the Matrix. Leave the Matrix where it belongs — in film, in video games and in cautionary science fiction stories. Sometimes a metaphor is just a metaphor, and sometimes a great movie is just a great movie. Eschew the Polyanna Positive Thinker’s helium-brained need to blame the creators of entertainingly instructive make-believe dystopias. Columbine wasn’t the Wachowski siblings’ fault, any more than rock-n-roll is to blame for hippies selling out their values in exchange for a spot in the corner office. It’s time to finally wake up from “the Matrix”, and at long last, rejoin the real world before it’s too late. We simply can’t afford a cynical “cyberpunk” version of the Age of Aquarius.

The Power Of The Matrix Is Within You. The Question Is How You Use It.

The question is not “can you escape?” The challenge is “what can you create?”

If you believe that the answer to the challenge of “what can you create?” is “nothing”, then do us all a favor: turn off your television, press “pause” on the movies and learn, learn, learn until you can bring a skill to the table that Humanity truly needs (and if you still feel the unstoppable urge to pick up a submachine gun to prove your allegiance to Zion and independence from the Matrix, put on your sunglasses and trenchcoat and try “flying” from the ledge of a tall building instead).

We need all the help we can get to repair the damage some of us have already done, to prevent more destruction, and to bring us all to a better future. We can’t last much longer with primitive tribalistic “us versus them” pathological ideologies and apathetic acquiescence that amounts not to rebellion, but to “more of the same”. Morpheus was wrong. In the real world, none of us can dodge bullets. But then, Morpheus was also right: the Matrix truly is inside your own mind. And your mind is the place where the battle is fought. From there, the choice is yours.