By JP Miller[A]nyone who has seen the 1999 movie called “The Matrix” might just have a little suspicion or skepticism in their minds about this seemingly abundant world of ours. Good. As an analogy, the movie opens up a new idea and a serious debate over what it means to be a human in the machinery of capitalist control, Orwellian jargon, and the constant spying and surveillance of our meager lives.
The capitalist paradigm and the state’s protection of this archetype is a creation of the few and ferociously defended. The matrix is a global system and a veritable blanket of lies that is sly and slippery. It destroys our liberties, enslaves us and prevents us from recognizing the truth. Thus escaping that imaginary “free trade” capitalist world is as difficult as seeing past the camouflage erected in our paths. The matrix is a carefully managed network of misdirection, disinformation, machination, lies and subjugation promoted by the few elite who do enjoy such wealth and power.
Product placements, car commercials, shampoo ads, subliminal messages, house-hunting cable shows, pharmaceuticals, luxury boats, so-called reality shows, the tourism industry—anything that we don’t need to survive but somehow are convinced that we do need is their game. The anticipation of wealth, the dream of winning the lottery, the carefully driven message that you deserve to be rich and live care free lives is just the bait of the Matrix. It’s a completely invented world where we give up our minds and bodies to a web of control and we just don’t see the truth any longer. The matrix is everywhere.
There is no other option for most people who can’t see outside the matrix. All that the captives can do is find some survival strategy through any cracks we manage to find in the paradigm. It is a mighty battle for us.
The mainstream media are complicit in this created world of false riches and desire of fame. Through these outlets, the state and the corporate world hand out just enough anticipation that your lives will get better. We will get that lucky lottery ticket, we will find that perfect, meaningful job, and we will win this war are brought to us by our government through the television. Just enough promise to keep you hooked. Although the chances our lottery ticket will pay off, the war will end, and our lives will get easier are infinitesimal.
The Orwellian language used by the oligarchy is simply a promise and a lie that if you accept their control then good things will happen to you. You must have faith in the lie. As in the movie, the oligarchy send out “agents” that serve to sell us the big lie, make us good consumers and a better debt holder. A few of these agents are the politicians, mainstream media, political action groups, AD agencies, and the most pornographic television of all—the 24 hour shopping networks. They dangle the carrot in front of the ass and watch as we are unable to quite reach that reward. I have watched homeless men and women save money to buy a scratch-off lottery ticket rather than eat. Perhaps for some the odds don’t matter anymore. It’s the anticipation that counts and all the while your life slips away.
We are lulled into the complicated matrix of an imaginary world of abundance while the plain truth is that nearly all of us (the 99%) will never become one of the rich and entitled class. Despite the message of abundance, worldwide, 4/5ths of the population gets by on just 2 dollars a day.
Much like in the movie, we are simply the energy they need to produce their products that they sell right back to us. We are endless fields of energy producing, impoverished pods of workers and consumers. Just watch a worker at Wal-Mart cradling a new iphone as a trophy despite that he or she uses all their earnings to pay for the phone and then pay to use it. All most of what we can do is hang on by our fingers and work day to day to pay the plethora of bills owed to the oligarchy. Even if we reach into the class of people with a college education we are met with dead-end office jobs, poverty, enormous debt, and healthcare needs, with a lack of time to become politically and socially self-aware. It’s not pretty struggle.
Hobbe’s exclamation that life is “nasty, brutish and short” is part of the real world. But the Matrix tells you that capitalism is the answer. No wonder people choose to be deluded by television sitcoms, fast food news and sexually enticing commercials. We are unaware because we are infinitely fed expert lies which render us powerless to escape the matrix. Almost all of us choose the “blue pill” that represents ignorance and apathy and become embedded in the matrix. I understand. It’s much easier that way. If all one sees in Socrates’ cave is shadows then that is reality. There is no convincing those that see only the shadows. I have tried and I have failed.
Despite the failures of the left to shake off the ignorance and apathy there is hope. Outside the matrix is a natural form of socialism that people want and need. I see some form of it every day. People live in villages for the most part. A neighbor helps another without expecting a return on his investment. They give others genuine advice or a thoughtful word of encouragement without expectations of reciprocity. My neighbor came over and offered to help patch a hole in my jeep’s roof. He has expertise in that area and expects nothing in return except a smile and a friendship. There are soup kitchens, shelters, counseling, and genuine programs to alleviate at least some of the problems. There are grassroots political movements who see the truth and agitate. It’s hard to see but it’s there.
According to Gaither Stewart’s seminal work, Recollections and Remembrances, there is an appetite, or “nostalgia,” for the left which is stirring in pockets across the globe. Whether it is the Occupy movement or striking workers in the fast-food industry or anti-war movements around the world, there is some progress. It’s true we are a long way from universal healthcare as a right. We have a very long way to go to produce a free educational system that gives us all a chance. We are also in the midst of perpetual war. Our national infrastructure is crumbling. Poverty is on the rise across the US.
Poverty rules. According to the government (Census bureau), a family in the US is in poverty if their income is at or below pre-set standardized levels. The government says that only around 15% to 22% of the people in the US are impoverished and it gets significantly worse as you age or are single, a minority, or even worse, a child. The US government doesn’t consider you poor unless you meet their pathetic statistical thresholds—11,000.00 or below if you are elderly or single and on to 26,000.00 and below if you have four in the household. That’s 49 million people. No one can live on these income levels. More lies. The truth is that there are more poor people across the US and the world than ever before. According to Bread.org, “Most Americans (51.4 percent) will live in poverty at some point before age 65. Sixty-five percent of low-income families have at least one working family member and 79 percent of single mothers who head households work. In most areas, a family of four needs to earn twice the poverty line to provide children with basic necessities.” The government’s statistics are simplistic and simply lies that sanctify the Matrix. The divide between the haves and the have-nots is a gaping chasm that may never be remedied.
Unfortunately, a true welfare state in the US, where the rich pay their share is light years from fruition. The wealth of the world is hoarded by the oligarchy and prying it from their fingers will require nothing short of revolution. Reform has proven impotent.
Despite that the US was built on rebellion, we have lost that want, the need to change things and evolve into a better political and social system. Somewhere along the line the oligarchy, as predicted by the founding fathers, took over and the elite soon filled the void left by an unengaged, misdirected populace. Putting aside the sins of Thomas Jefferson, he wrote that rebellion was requisite for survival of this state. Change was essential to the survival of the nation. He saw a rare commonality among the citizens of the US and advocated for direct democracy. Such a radical idea would never be admitted to public debate in our present political situation. The political and social matrix has put an end to such simple and profound ideas. A false sense of abundance is pumped straight into our bodies and minds through the mass media. The message is clear. Follow the rules set forth by the oligarchy and never question the Matrix.
Only the few who choose the “red pill”, and who work hard to see outside the net can see some light. It is a considerable effort to open our eyes, turn off the television, read the alternate press, scan the obvious and take a glimpse of the world outside the matrix. There’s a universal blindness and deafness that binds our hands and holds our tongues. This is the matrix. Once you learn to tune out the want from your situation and concentrate on your needs then you are able to see some of the real world. Commercials, sitcoms, useless products and government lies; these are the things that are not real. The real world consists of housing, social welfare programs, meaningful employment, healthcare, education, food, family, friends, political, social and self-awareness and resistance to the matrix—the very things the oligarchy seeks to deprive from our lives.
In order to see outside the Matrix requires political and social awareness. There are remedies for this need. Read the alternative press and turn off Fox news or MSNBC. The mainstream media are purveyors of poison and nothing more than propaganda for the interests that own them. I am constantly amazed at the number of televisions spouting Fox news wherever I go. The hospital, the clinic, the dentist, the bars, the restaurants, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc. etc., all have the mainstream news streaming straight into us. They serve to scare us. They put the fear into our lives and turn around saying only this opinion or this product can remedy that fear. But if we buy this soap all will be well. Your family can be just like this one in the commercial if we only buy this product or better yet, this opinion. I have a habit of turning off these televisions wherever I encounter them and I usually get cursed for doing such a thing. It’s unconscionable. Who has the right to turn off our entertainment and mind control? No, I don’t own a television. If I did I would probably sell it or pawn to pay a bill.
How can I convince you that the Matrix exists? Listen to the people who parrot the neo-liberal or neo-con news. Read a mainstream news article from the Washington Post or New York Times and then read an article in the alternative press on the same subject. The differences are shocking and leave you with a sense of loss. That loss is a painful beginning to recognizing the matrix.
Take a look at the commercials mainlined into our homes and ask; do I really need that product? While at work in our cubicle do we feel like what you are doing is meaningful? Do we trust the company? Do we go home after work and sit on the couch and watch the news with a cocktail and dread the morning? Do you question the talking heads on the screen? Have you any need to know the truth?
Like the movie, one has to choose the “Red Pill”—a kind of painful enlightenment. We must look past the lies of big business and the corrupt government messages. Those are the means of the oligarchy’s control over our lives. It can be a laborious process to accept the truth—to accept that capitalism is an artificial creation of the oligarchy. Can you accept that you have been weaned on a diet of lies?
Only when a simple majority of people recognize the Matrix for what it is, can we move on to the obvious and essential revolution. We can then build a better society that includes 100% of the population. The Spanish civil war comes to mind. Although the war was lost, people from all over the world came to fight against the fascists. They fought for many different reasons but mostly the recognition that fascism was evil. It was obvious.
I expect that I will never see a socialist revolution in my lifetime. Frankly, my money is on a kind of neo-fascism. But we have to try. We have to fight and we have to revolt if any change is to occur. So, maybe just once take the red pill and look for the truth, question the government, boycott big business and send Wall Street and Wal-Mart a message of non-compliance and civil disobedience. Perhaps then our children or our children’s children will have nothing to lose except the matrix?
JP Miller is a disabled veteran, journalist, and writer who lives in the Outer Banks of North Carolina beside the Atlantic Ocean. He has published short stories and political essays in The Literary Yard, The Southern Cross Review, The Greanville Post, Pravda, Countercurrents, and Cyrano’s Journal.