I have had the most exciting summer in years. To the untrained eye I appear to be a slack-jawed and lifeless form on the couch. But in reality I am deep in philosophical thought. I finally had the chance to rewatch the Matrix trilogy and go WOOOOAH DUDE! Do I dare to project my stereotypical nerdiness out into the world? The Matrix has once again turned me onto philosophy. I fell down the rabbithole and took the blue pill (or was it the red pill?) or was I just dreaming?
I know it is a ridiculous nerd cliche to have this movie make you think really hard about the nature of reality but you just can’t stop me from going there, so there I go. If you can’t handle it you can take the blue pill and wake up or just hit the back button on your browser and escape my insane ramblings.
The first time I saw this movie it was late at night and I was by myself. I was just looking for a bit of fluffy scifi fun. Being naive I thought the Matrix would fit the bill. Wrong! The scene where Neo takes the red pill and gets unplugged and sees the world as it really is freaked me out so bad. What a powerful metaphor! Nobody sees the world as it really is and waking up is scary and painful so just stay asleep. How would I feel if I saw the world as it really is instead of the way that I want it to be?
Just think about what Morpheus says to Neo, “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”
Isn’t that true of every sentient being on the planet? Everybody was born into bondage and we are all slaves. We had no choice in the really important decisions in our lives. We don’t get to choose our names, genders, ages, birthplace, family of origin or socioeconomic status. Or even whether to be born at all. As a living breathing sentient being you are a slave to your biological impulses. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe. In order to meet those needs you have to have a place to live and food to eat. Which means you have to find a group of humans to live with and have your needs met. There is no easy way out of this mess. Being born creates an obligation to stay alive which necessitates making certain choices. Those choices are very limited but they do exist. You could avoid all this nonsense and just kill yourself but that would create a huge burden to all the people who have to take over your responsibilities when you die. Suicide is not a realistic choice.
We are slaves to our biology and to the wider society. We can choose which occupation to follow. But we can’t opt out of earning a living. We can choose who to marry or to stay single. But we do not get to choose our sexuality. We have to make peace with it and express it in a socially approved way. Even if you are homeless you still spend a large amount of your time fulfilling your physical needs. We can’t yet choose to be pulsating blobs of happiness. We have to be a part of the world to survive. When we are born we are plugged into the matrix. There are so many systems that we are plugged into that we had no choice about. You are attached to all the other humans, sentient beings and the environment.
That’s just talking about physical needs. What about all of the ways that your mind is enslaved? We have no say in the way our society is structured. I didn’t choose the government, the education system, the language, family structure or the national anthem. All of these things had nothing to do with me. I have been taught to see the world in a certain way. I like to think I am an intelligent and well-read person but I am merely repeating memes that I learned from the wider environment. My views are so biased that I can’t even see how biased they really are.
Just think about the ways that families are structured. We usually think of the family as containing parents and their children. The base of a family is a couple. We take it as a given that people will come of age and form a pair bond as a foundation for a new family. We are slowly coming around to the idea that there are different ways to make up a family. We have hetero couples and gay couples and single parents. But there is still the idea lingering that a married couple – the nuclear family – is the preferred foundation for a family. There are many other ways people could structure their families but this is the one that is dominant. We just accept that and don’t question it. Why not live in small communes or families with three or four parents? Our society is structured around nuclear families. Our tax forms force us to define our families. Common-law? Married? Single? Divorced? The nuclear family mindset is so engraved that we don’t even think about it.
There is no possible way to be free. The idea is laughable. The only thing we can do is make the best choices we can.
This is why I love this movie so much. It makes you think about these things.
This was supposed to be a movie review but it is turning into some philosophical ramblings. So here you go. This was inspired by Stacy’s book review.