THE RED PILL"
The Matrix, easily the most thought-provoking film in a generation, tells the story of a computer hacker going by the alias Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) who discovers that the world he has taken for granted his entire life is an illusion. The �Matrix� is a virtual-reality simulation created by a powerful artificial intelligence. Since birth Neo has been wired directly into an immense computer system that can project a panorama of sensory information directly into his brain and central nervous system. This creates the illusion of his living in a world where by day he is Thomas A. Anderson, a programmer for a software giant. One of the working premises of the film is that the majority of human beings are born, live out their lives, and die inhabiting cocoon-like structures, plugged into this system, never suspecting the truth. Their life-experiences are fabricated, while their life-energies sustain the ruling entity.
Neo has long suspected that something is amiss without being able to put his finger on it. It was this something that drew him into hacking and into the world of computers generally. His presence became known to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), leader of a band of rebels fighting to free the human race from bondage to the artificial intelligence. Of course, Neo�s nocturnal computer explorations have also become known to the �agents,� living programs who service the artificial intelligence. The first half-hour or so of the film is a race to see which side can get to him first.
One of the rebels, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), hacks into his computer and lures him to a Gothic nightclub. There she confronts him with his unease:
�I know why you�re here, Neo. I know what you�ve been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night you sit at your computer. You�re looking for him. I know, because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn�t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It�s the question that drives us, Neo. It�s the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did.�
Neo: �What is the Matrix?�
Trinity: �The answer is out there, Neo. It�s looking for you. And it will find you, if you want it to.�
The pivotal scene occurs when she introduces Neo to Morpheus. With a thunderstorm in the background, some gripping dialogue ensues:
Morpheus: I imagine that right now you�re feeling a little like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit-hole�I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth�Let me tell you why you are here. You�re here because you know something. What you know, you can�t explain. But you feel it. You�ve felt it your entire life. That there�s something wrong with the world. You don�t know what it is, but it�s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I�m talking about?
Neo: The Matrix?
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when you go to church, or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. (Produces a box containing two colored pills, one blue and one red.) This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you awake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Pause. Neo reaches for the red pill.) Remember: all I�m offering is the truth, nothing more. (Neo swallows the red pill with a glass of water.)
After that, things happen pretty quickly. Neo is jerked free of the artificial intelligence and finds himself in the �desert of the real,� with Morpheus, Trinity and the others on board the Nebuchadnezzar who are struggling to free the human race from control by the artificial intelligence, while simultaneously battling superhuman �agents� and monstrous mechanical �sentinels� sent to destroy them.
Science fiction, right?
Unquestionably, many viewers watched The Matrix convinced that all they were seeing was a science fiction action film�entertainment, without further significance.
I believe it�s more. The Matrix�which has begun to generate a secondary literature in academic disciplines like philosophy and cultural studies�may be seen an allegory for our present situation after the past hundred-plus years. The allegory is about power and concealment. The �real matrix� is then a world most of middle America takes for granted�a world where �they hate us because we are free,� and where the public schools educate. A world where we can trust the federal government and believe Dan Rather. A world where the former obeys its founding document, the U.S. Constitution. In other words, a fantasy world.
Let us conduct a thought experiment. Let us remove the obviously evil artificial intelligence and its minions��agents� and �sentinels��and substitute a power system controlled by a few hundred extremely wealthy and well-placed individuals�a super-elite, I will call it. I use this term to distinguish it from visible, national elites. This super-elite operates at an international level, outside all national loyalties. Its only loyalties are to money and power. It exercises control by controlling not just much of the Western world�s finances but much of the information released to the public. It controls the mainstream mass media (television networks and newspapers mostly owned by six or so megaconglomerates) and most education through top-down policies permeating the prevailing form of education in this land: government (�public�) schools. So-called higher education is part of this system. The super-elite bent academic disciplines such as history and psychology in the direction it wanted them to go by generously supplying foundation and grant money to compliant graduate students who then become compliant professors and administrators. Through the endowment system it gained control over Ivy League universities. The latter, via their enormous prestige and control of flagship organizations within academic disciplines (such as the American Historical Association or the American Psychological Association), set the course for those disciplines that others can be expected to follow automatically.
Members of the super-elite that controls this power system were never elected to anything, but elected officials in national elites answer to them. Those without the tacit approval of the super-elite have no chance of coming within a thousand miles of the Oval Office. The masses of people, meanwhile, will have been �educated� to adjust to society, which in this context means following the crowd and automatically withholding support from anyone who �can�t get elected.� Combine these two, and you have a reason why no Libertarian Party or Constitution Party candidate has a chance of becoming President of the United States or even reaching high office at the state level as long as this power system remains in place. The media elites continue to promote a system which plays Democrats against Republicans although both parties are controlled at the top. There exists, in other words, a strict gatekeeping system. Only those with certain values and attributes, and a certain mindset, need apply.
Let�s now go beyond the thought-experiment stage. Does this super-elite really exist, or is this just more armchair �conspiracy theory�? It is not a theory. It is now quite well documented. The information is available to anyone willing to seek it out. To paraphrase what Trinity told Neo in their initial conversation, the answers are out there, and will find you if you want them to. Or, you can find them, if you go looking.
� 2004 Steven Yates -
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Steven Yates is an independent scholar who earned his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1987. He is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1994), Worldviews: Christian Theism versus Modern Materialism (Columbia, SC: Worldviews Project, due out in early 2005); and a co-author of The Free Person and the Free Market (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2002).
He is also an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He has also worked as a clerk in a state agency, written obituaries for the local newspaper, earned a public health degree from the University of South Carolina (1999), done a stint as the writer, editor and consultant for the South Carolina Cancer Research Network writing the organization's Cancer Research Needs Report (2004), and worked as a customer service representative doing computer technical support.
He has other projects underway, including a science fiction novel. Most recently he joined the Stratia Corporation as a consultant and formed the Worldviews Project to further public discussion of the issues between the Christian worldview and that of modern materialism. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.
E-Mail [email protected].
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