Archives for posts with tag: corporate capitalism

A question that has proved vexatious over the past few years: is it better to do as you please in life, or sacrifice yourself to help others?

Equally relevant is the side question, “does art really matter at all?”

Answers: The dichotomy in the first question — selfishness versus selflessness — is false, and art may be the only road to creating a scientifically-literate society.

There are more enough self-help gurus in the world today. Many ventures of dubious value tend to adopt the glossy show-business angle of selling a “new you”, from entreprenuerial religious figures to celebrities shilling for the pharmaceutical industry.

Everyone wants to change the world in some way, usually starting with you.

If there are so many “success” gurus and self-declared “experts” giving inspirational TED talks about your awesome brain, how is it possible that we’re not all gorgeous happy millionaires by now? Shouldn’t the privileged one-percent have edged at least somewhat closer to being the “self-made hundred percent”?

One answer is that the game is rigged to keep almost everyone at the bottom. This is obviously part of the problem.

The other part is that humans refuse to learn.

If you want to have an impact in the world, you have to effect change in the behavior of others. The fabeled “neuroplasticity” touted ad infinitum by the TED talkers is essentially fancy jargon for a very old and pragmatic word: that word is “learning”.

And learning, especially learning anything worthwhile, is hard.

It’s no surprise, then, that you can practically hear the doors of young minds closing somewhere in the early-to-middle teen years. Schools are partly to blame, as anyone who has been to school in the current system knows. The other problem is a social one, or perhaps more accurately, a psychosocial one.

Think back to when you were in your mid-teens. What was happening around that time? People around you were starting to have (lots of) sex, everyone seemed to be in a rush to create an identity and become part of some clique or other, and suddenly you realized that you were old enough to start making money. Money meant that you could get more of the things that led to sex with desirable partners. Money also could enable buying objects that could help you “fit in” better — clothes, a car, gadgets and pocket money for “cool” things like drugs and partying.

The new sexual compulsions and socially-facilitated greed eventually forms a belief system that congeals later into a nearly cultish consumerist mentality. Get rich, get laid, and get more-better-newer stuff than your peers: this is the new value system that replaces the curiosities and desires of an otherwise intelligent and inquisitive child.

By the time the average kid leaves high school, the pattern is set. Sex, greed, and the obsession for egotistical social dominance become reframed as “being a grown-up”. The rat race is mistaken for what it means to live a “normal” life.

I used to vacillate between the idea of becoming a scientist or engineer, versus an inclination toward artistic pursuits. Who made a stronger contribution to society: Einstein or Mozart? Amelia Earhart or Britney Spears (I mean, Christina Aguilera)? Alexander Graham Bell or Sidney Poitier and Jay-Z?

Again, the dichotomy is false, because the constraints arbitrarily focus on the wrong set of options.

The predominant myth of modern society is the “self-made” person. It’s a variant of the “rags to riches” story that leads poor people to dream about being filthy (as in, wealthy) in the most short-sighted and cutthroat ways. The only way to be “exceptional” is to be better than everyone else — or to steal their share in a zero-sum game. And there can only be a very small percentage gloating at the top of any given population.

Accordingly, we have fairly boilerplate mythologies spun around people like Einstein, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. The same is true for cultural icons like millionaire actors, platinum-selling rockstars and mixtape-famous rappers. Have you ever stopped and listened to the strangely similar plot points in the hagiographies of your favorite cultural superheroes? We’ve had the equivalent of Photoshopped photos long before software nipped, tucked, deleted, fuzzed and pushed pixels into pleasantly implausible shapes. The “genius” illusion is one that has inspired confused adoration and misplaced idealism (eventually giving way to cynical disillusionment) in young people for generations.

So you _still_ want to change the world…

If you want to change the world, you first have to accept the fact that you most likely will not change the world. Denial of reality leads to the distortion or willful ignorance of empirical facts. If you become some kind of persuasive zealot or denialist manic attempting to fulfill a titanic vision, the likely outcome is its opposite. Hubris leads to the de-valuing of others, which leads to ruthlessness and corruption. Even religions that emphasise pacifist ideals like “turn the other cheek” can be misused by their adherents to justify murder and genocide. The idea of a “superman” reliably creates secular religions that rationalize the displacement and destruction of anyone who is different or raises a voice of dissent.

I realize now that mobilization of a population is far more powerful and important than any individual.

Rather that one “genius” Einstein, imagine an entire society of people who are scientifically literate. Instead of one brilliant Bill Gates, imagine a culture that valued rationality and sought practical solutions for a better life both at home and abroad.

There could be thousands of young Einsteins and Gateses who never learn to care about science and technology until it’s too late — instead, they waste their professional lives building high-tech toys, privacy-destroying “social networks” and schemes to con people into clicking on ads.

To change the world, young children are really the only ones who can be trusted to learn anything at all. Adults are almost invariably trapped in the so-called “grown-up” world of sexual obsession (prudes and perverts alike), tribalistic religiosity (from organized religion to mass consumerism) and twisted irrational thinking (from lionizing corporate greed to normalizing the “fat acceptance” movement).

The only real hope may be to use art — music, films, novels, video games and other storytelling media — inviting and seducing the audience to seek a different path. Replace the dysfunctional melodrama of narcissistic self-indulgence with the lifelong beauty of seeking truth in the real Universe.

Forget the idolatry of Einstein and the pseudo-prophetic proclamations by clever self-promoters like Elon Musk. To massively change the world, society can shift in relatively small ways. Waiting for a benevolent billionaire to hand us our future is undoubtedly the worst of all possible capitalist worlds. Trying to re-make the world in our image is not only futile, it’s a power fantasy that leads to immorality and murder.

What’s most amazing is that nearly no one seems to have tried this truly revolutionary idea: use art as a means of seducing society to become more rationally-minded and scientifically inclined rather than less.

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There’s a great video online of a bearded dragon marauding a field full of innocent crickets. The video has subtitles that give voice to the thoughts of both the dragon and the crickets. The dragon is thinking, “Food!”, while the crickets are thinking, “Ruun! Run for your lives!”

At one point, the bearded dragon ignores a cricket, who runs away. The cricket appears to escape by running under the dragon’s tail in a daring maneuver in which it “bypasses doom”. As the dragon turns around and sees the cricket, the text onscreen shows “NOPE” as the cricket is speedily devoured.

That reminds me of the way that creative people are treated in the larger world of passive observers.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only “The Man” — meaning the stereotypical powers of oppression like the government, your teachers or your boss — will try to keep you down. The fact is that society itself is defined by, and operates fundamentally by, keeping people in particular places. If you’re not born in a privileged environment full of useful influences and mentors, society will put you in the “worker bee” slot and tell you the standard mantra of “work hard, get ahead, live happily ever after.”

We all know that mantra is a lie.

Most people work hard for every dollar. This means that for every dollar, they sacrifice their time. Dollars are literally expendable; you can never make more time. So exchanging dollars for time will always leave you behind unless you’re doing what you love.

Capitalism is designed around paying as little as possible while getting as much as you can (i.e. everybody wants the best possible deal). People consistently fall for the idea of “free” (although nothing in life is free) so they put up with advertising online that steals their privacy and profits from selling their identities. And unless you work for yourself, your boss is almost certainly underpaying you. It’s just how capitalism is designed. Other socioeconomic systems are usually even worse because they ignore this fact, and so greed rears its head anyway under the name “corruption” or “graft”.

This is the life of the worker bee. I’ve also written more about this elsewhere, so we can leave it at that for now.

Is your boss oppressing you? Maybe. Think, though, about what you can see online every day. The presence of “haters” and “trolls” has come to define the Web, largely by exploiting the ideals of privacy (i.e. anonymity) and effortless communication (i.e. places like 4Chan and Reddit). You see haters constantly antagonizing celebrities for no real reason (see: Zelda Williams being driven off Twitter after her famous father committed suicide).

Think also about offline forms of trolling, like hecklers at a stand-up comedian’s show, or those who try to distract actors and musicians who are performing onstage.

These are all signs that point to one fact: people at the bottom are just likely to oppress creativity as those at the top. An old metaphor for this is the “crabs in a barrel” idea where crabs at the bottom will grab and pull down any individual crab who tries to claw out of the container, rather than help each other reach the top.

Why do people do this? One reason is related to the narcissism that propels social networking. Everyone wants to be (and is told that they are) “special”. We love the idea; it’s why we worship anyone who is successful — as long as that person “humanizes” him- or herself by pretending that “it all just happened” rather than being a combination of hard work and luck. If it “just happened”, it could happen to you, too.

Obviously that’s not how the real world works, and we’re constantly reminded of it. If you have ever studied any creative domain (take the cello or violin as an example), you know that it takes years to start to get good. Most people, though, desperately want it to be as easy as a video game where you can learn and be a virtuoso in a matter of hours.

When the non-creative person realizes that “hey, this ‘art’ stuff is hard!”, they fall into another trap: they elevate artists to the level of “the gifted ones” who have some innate “talent” that is inborn and therefore unlearnable. Notice the terminology: An actor, writer or musician isn’t considered to be “skilled”, he or she is “talented”. It’s really just an easy way for most people to rationalize their lack of desire to put in the time and effort required to learn; even a genius has to put in years of study before being able to operate at an elite level. The rest of us can’t rely on prodigious raw ability, so we have to find a different way. Whining about how everyone else is “gifted” is a sure sign of someone who isn’t doing their part. And that’s fine — just be sure that person isn’t you.

During a recent conversation, I found a directly relevant analogy that might make sense to non-creative people, just as it’s already a self-evident fact of life for you and me.

Why can artists rightfully expect to be paid for their work?

Often, the damage done by piracy is brushed aside with glib arguments like, “well, if your work is good enough, people will pay for it.” The conclusion that “if you’re not getting rich from your work, maybe your work just is just no good.” The insinuation is that anyone who isn’t making massive money from their art is some kind of “dilettante” who needs to admit their lack of skill and quit whining about their inability to get paid like the superstars do.

One part of that argument is true. The vast majority of artists aren’t at the top of their field. By definition, most people won’t be the best in any field, because the realm of the best is reserved for a small number of individuals who are better than most of the others.

The problem with that perspective is twofold:

1. In reality, most people aren’t the best at anything.

Telling artists that they need to be the “best” before they can expect to be paid is shown as false when applied to the rest of the workforce. If you work a nine-to-five, are you one of the top performers in your field? Is there even any way to quantify that distinction reliably? If not, why do you expect to be paid for your work?

If you’re not a CEO of a Fortune 50 corporation [or for that matter, if your employer doesn’t perform at that level], you should expect to give your work away for free and go compete for a “day job” in some other market sector.

Right, that sounds pretty ridiculous — and that’s exactly the logic used against artists when people want to justify stealing their work.

There’s a further technology-based implication that you’ll see further down.

2. Practically no one who is a novice in any field will be the “best” right from the start.

If you look at any high-achiever, you’ll see that they probably weren’t amazing for the first five to ten years of their time in the field. Everyone from Bob Dylan to Albert Einstein has to sink time and effort into learning, studying — and crucially, making mistakes — for years before they attained sufficient ability to be considered great.

The ‘Genius’ Fallacy

Geniuses aren’t born; they’re made. A prodigy may have higher innate aptitude than the average person, but if they don’t spend years honing that capability, they’ll get nowhere — just like the average person who gives up before manifesting any ability at all.

Roughly, ability consists of strategy and experience.

If your strategy points you in the wrong direction, no amount of experience will overcome that fundamental error — Da Vinci could build flying contraptions for decades, but without the idea of some sort of engine to power them, his ideas never left the ground to become the empirically-based science of aeronautics.

Experience is necessary to take part in the domain such that your skills improve over time. Even more important, experience enables the creation of better strategies. An expert knows how to detect patterns more quickly than a novice, and the ability to detect patterns is a process that is impossible to shortcut beyond a relatively low level.

Regardless of aptitude, everyone has to put their time in before becoming proficient at any complex skill.

What this means, then, is that if you only pay someone when you think they’re the “best”, you’re actually stifling everyone else’s ability to reach and overcome the plateaus along the path to skill. Simply put, if an artist (or scientist, or engineer) has to spend large amounts of time trying to merely survive, the amount of time and focus they can use to improve their skills will necessarily be foreshortened. This results in a general drain of ability in the domain itself. Skill-building falls prey to time-shortage, and with it comes the inability to amass the experience required to reach high levels of proficiency. If no one can make a decent living creating art, the emergence of new great artists erodes as well. And then we’re left with pop-culture icons whose music consists of over-autotuned voices and shallowly looped samples; adults who unabashedly prefer fiction written for teenagers (the young adult genre); and derivative visual media that is too inept and afraid to do anything new. Eventually, advertising is the only “artform” left standing, mainly because it sells.

Information Wants To Be Free? Your Boss Just Said The Same Thing About Your Job

The mercenary approach taken by music/movie/book pirates in regard to the arts is a mirror image of the corporate disdain for human labor. Many people are justifiably afraid of the fact that mechanization and artificial intelligence are starting to outpace the human ability to re-train and compete. At some point, machines will almost certainly be able to perform the vast majority of jobs that require repetitive cognitive or physical labor.

What we’re seeing now is that corporations are replacing people with robots or intelligent software systems. In the remaining workforce, employers are increasingly hiring only the most overqualified applicants and forcing them to work harder for stagnant wages. This is exactly the same mentality that the average piracy-loving consumer takes when using technology [i.e. the Internet] to steal works from artists with the justification that, “if your work was as good as the best artist out there, I’d gladly pay for it. You’re only ‘good’, though, so I’ll encourage you to become ‘great’ by only paying those who’ve earned that ‘best-in-class’ status.”

The corporate earnings machine now uses the power of technology in order to force the average person to either be the “best” or face inevitable obsoletion (or in the interim, minimization of their prospects for earning a sustainable wage). From unpaid internships to forced overtime, we all have to contend with the idea that either you’re an elite member of your profession, or you don’t deserve to make a living. And it’s all packaged with the bright branding of “positive thinking” in which we’re tantalized by fantasies of a wonderland where we’re all winners, only we’d work just a little faster while smiling harder and desperately denying that ninety-nine percent of us are actually falling farther and farther behind.

Exceptionalism Has A Name, And Its Name Is “Machine”

It’s a sort of cold consolation, then, that when a generation of artists finds themselves unable to make a living wage, it’s only a decade or two before the same ideological axe falls on the hand of the average man and woman. The fallacy of exceptionalism doesn’t incentivize better work. It incentivizes a mercenary mentality that uses technology to increase “productivity” while enslaving and eventually discarding the humans whom that technology was originally designed to serve.

This isn’t an engineering problem of computing power, or false Social Darwinist arguments about “the natural evolution” of progress, or some alarmist propagandizing about the decline of man and the rise of machines. This is a human problem of how we decide to deal with questions about the nature of value, and how we decide to approach those questions as a society. From artist to salaryman to CEO, the “superstar mentality” that only rewards those at the top will eventually create a world where the majority are trapped at the bottom. Every time you pirate a song from an independent musician, steal a book from an self-published author, or pilfer a film produced by a small studio, take note of the fact that your mercenary mentality toward art will one day come back to haunt you — and unless we collectively change our actions, that day of reckoning may come sooner than you might think.

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.