July 9, 2000
The Matrix Metaphor
by Royce Carlson
the movie, "The Matrix", the world has supposedly been taken
over by machines that use human bio-energy as their fuel. Millions of
humans sleep 24/7 within pods attached to huge structures while their
energy is drained to fuel the machine-world. They involuntarily
participate in a manufactured virtual reality that is an imitation of
life as we know it. None of them know that the true reality is very
"The Matrix" contains all the Hollywood plot twists and
effects that you would expect from any other good action-adventure
movie. It has a love interest, lots of explosions, violence and
spectacular special effects. It has macho dialogue and handsome actors -
the usual. But there is a depth to this movie that is just now beginning
to take hold in the consciousness of many people.
The metaphor that "The Matrix" represents is not a literal
danger of the world being taken over by sentient machines. It is the
situation we are in right now in regards to cultural, political and
economic systems. We are living in the matrix now and most of us, like
the helpless people in the movie, donít even know it. We are the
unwitting victims of forces we donít even know exist.
In the summer 2000 issue of Whole Earth Review there is an article by
Richard K. Moore called "Escaping the Matrix." He takes the
matrix metaphor into the field of politics and likens our two-party
system to a set-up by the real powers-that-be to give us the illusion
that we have a choice in who is governing us. The Democrat and
Republican parties are so similar that choosing between them amounts to
no real choice at all. An essential element of the matrix metaphor is,
"Give people the illusion of self-determination and they will
remain under control."
Another article, published in the July 2000 issue of Yahoo! Internet
Life, compares some of the big tech and telecom companies to the Matrix.
Once again, we are given the illusion of choice while the actual players
win regardless of what we choose. In this article the authors represent
that not only is Microsoft a potential danger to competition but that
AOL-Time Warner and Yahoo! are equal threats (if not greater) to our
ability to choose who to get products and services from. In the early
days of personal computing we would buy third party software to add
functionality to our personal computing experience. The strategy of
Microsoft and Yahoo! is to essentially pirate these peripherals and
integrate them into their products. Their sheer size allows them to
offer these features for free thereby eliminating any competition almost
completely. Why go anywhere else, when the matrix will provide us with
The matrix metaphor exerts its control over us in a cultural context
constantly. We are raised to like certain things and dislike others. We
are prodded and manipulated from the time of childhood to assert our
unique identities by taking pride in the brand of beer we drink or the
type of car we drive. Have you noticed the bizarre and childish battle
between Ford and Chevy owners? They have these little stickers on their
windows showing a little boy peeing on one or the other corporate logos.
The matrix takes advantage of our innate human desire to belong to
something and twists it to promote products.
We watch the sports we are supposed to watch Ė in fact, the
increasing "spectator-ization" of America is result of the
matrix. We believe we are exercising our personal choice when we choose
which sports team to support. What is the result of that? Ė we pay,
they make millions. The matrix wants us to buy our individuality.
In business, one of the current buzz phrases, "think outside the
box" is an attempt to escape the control of the matrix. But the
powers that are really in control have already built a new box around
the one you are supposed to try to think outside of. That bigger box has
to do with greed and power, one of the carrots held in front of us to
keep us under control. The matrix is clever. It will use our desire to
break out to keep us inside by offering us the illusion of freedom,
"Be a rebel. Buy our product."
The message that the matrix sends to the less rebellious of us is,
"Leave it to the professionals. You just sit there. We have it all
under control. If you follow the right (our) path, you will be given
everything you ever desired. Think the right thoughts and buy the right
products and you will be rewarded."
The Matrix metaphor has a lot of mileage left in it and stands a good
chance of taking a significant place in the consciousness of the
Taking the red pill and waking up to the truth is the easiest part of
the path to true freedom although itís an essential beginning. Next
comes the hard part of trying to extricate ourselves from thinking the
thoughts we are trained to think and accepting the pathways and
solutions to problems that we are trained to accept.
There is a battle for control of the immense Internet communications
infrastructure being built today. The matrix powers are building it but
we can use it to help people wake up to reality. We can use it to
connect with other people who dare to really think outside the box and
we can use it to learn new ways of thinking that can potentially free us
from the tyranny of cultural, economic and political coercion. We can,
in our daily lives, try to see how we are held prisoner by the matrix in
our thoughts and actions.
One simple, but powerful, mental exercise is to assume first of all
that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Not that it actually always is,
but, if you reject it right off, you are left with non-matrix
possibilities to consider. It may well turn out that conventional wisdom
is best, but you may also discover life-enhancing ways of thinking that
would never have occurred to you before. This is the beginning of the
escape from the matrix.
The movie presents, in the form of art, a
metaphor that needs to be understood. The message is powerful and is becoming
a rallying point for those people working against the multinational
corporate politics that is ruling our lives. More articles are being
written every month that use the matrix metaphor to make their points
and, hopefully, they can help us shift to a more human-oriented culture.
So, take the red pill and discover the truth that we have been asleep
and under the control of the matrix. Then wake up and find a new way to
think and be!
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