Seeing The Matrix

How can we get closer to the truth?

I have decided to answer this very tricky question in a creative way so I shall use evidence from pop culture (which is a roundabout way of saying Netflix shows and perhaps a few books here or there). Hence, this article contains some minor spoilers from books, tv series, movies, but also… life! So, like Morpheus said, this is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. If you choose to read on then, it means that you will be taking the red pill. If you choose the blue pill instead, well… maybe you should consider cutting down on porn.

The Matrix (1999) caused enormous shockwaves when it first arrived in cinemas: The world that surrounds us being fake?! People being able to bend its rules and achieve amazing feats? Humans being harvested by machines for their energy? Well, apart from that last, somewhat extreme sci-fi scenario, the rest of the movie’s suggestions do not seem to lie too far from the truth of our world.

Deception and fakeness are everywhere around us. Just a few days ago, I read a 17th century play called The Spanish Brabanter where the protagonist, Jerolimo, managed to deceive people from all around Amsterdam with his rhetoric and his being well dressed. But, I mean, you only really need to watch The Crown for that kind of deception. Queen Elizabeth II, trying to preserve the social constructions and the status quo by making boring speeches, standing around aimlessly and waving prettily with a fake smile is – for me at least – the embodiment of falseness. There’s even one episode where she needs to get an injection on her cheek because her face muscles are tired and she needs to continue on smiling. Heroic. Simply and utterly. 

As Dr. House used to say, “everybody lies”. See what I did there? I’ve just used a quote from another fictional character to further my own narrative. Because that is what people do, they create narratives. (Sometimes they even use italics to make the readers pay closer attention.) Arguably the greatest narrative of all, religion, is influencing billions of lives every day. And here we have another fictional character, Elliot Alderson from Mr. Robot, addressing that very issue:

Is that what God does? He helps? Tell me, why didn’t God help my innocent friend who died for no reason while the guilty ran free? Okay. Fine. Forget the one offs. How about the countless wars declared in his name? Okay. Fine. Let’s skip the random, meaningless murder for a second, shall we? How about the racist, sexist, phobia soup we’ve all been drowning in because of him? And I’m not just talking about Jesus. I’m talking about all organized religion. Exclusive groups created to manage control. A dealer getting people hooked on the drug of hope. His followers, nothing but addicts who want their hit of bullshit to keep their dopamine of ignorance. Addicts. Afraid to believe the truth. That there’s no order. There’s no power. That all religions are just metastasizing mind worms, meant to divide us so it’s easier to rule us by the charlatans that wanna run us. All we are to them are paying fanboys of their poorly-written sci-fi franchise. If I don’t listen to my imaginary friend, why the fuck should I listen to yours? People think their worship’s some key to happiness. That’s just how he owns you. Even I’m not crazy enough to believe that distortion of reality. So fuck God. He’s not a good enough scapegoat for me.

Felt that. But once again, we arrive at a conundrum. Who should we trust? The ancient narratives or the new ones? Even if all holy books are simply early forms of science fiction and were created to preserve order and socially condition us, should we blatantly disregard them? Should we only trust science? Should we believe in nothing instead? Become nihilists and stop caring about anything? Do not follow the rules of society because they were set upon us and are infringing our rights? Where would we stop then? What if people’s rights start infringing upon other people’s rights? How would we know what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil? Does good and evil exist in the first place?…

Binaries broke down since poststructuralism first came about in the 1960s. Long before that actually, as Milton’s epic, Paradise Lost (first published in 1667) did give us a fresh viewpoint on good and evil; I mean, who would ever think that Satan, the manifestation of all evil in the world, to be talking about free will and having hero-like qualities? I was born in 1995 and didn’t expect a twist like that. For me, that very retelling of Genesis from Satan’s perspective carried the same shock factor that Neo’s rebirth in the alien pod had. And not only because of the whole free will thing, but because they were both “glass shattering” moments, meaning “moments of realisation that change your perception on something” (urban dictionary FTW). (Ah, before I forget, check out How I Met Your Mother S3E8 for a funny take on this!) Anyway, Neo’s rebirth exposes us to ideas of deception and illusion, while Satan’s journey shows us not only that everyone believes they are doing the “right” thing, but also that good and evil are subjective notions, based on the positioning of the individual within a particular situation.

Netflix’s hit TV series Cobra Kai has been (rather successfully!) advocating the same. Perspective is everything; Actor Ralf Macchio, during the first episode of The Netflix Afterparty, expressed the following:

The angle opening the show was how to get into the Karate Kid universe from a different perspective [that is] … through the eyes of Johnny Lawrence … How grey the areas were and how LaRusso and Lawrence, at certain times, would become the antagonist to the other is part of the fun of it all… {The] lines are blurred and I think it creates a deeper dive into and a more multi-dimensional way to look at these characters.

So yeah, typical bad-boy Johnny Lawrence has now got some good qualities as well. Even his baddie Sensei John Kreese gets his own flashback sequences in Season 3 (which is now streaming on Netflix!) and also becomes a multi-dimensional character, probably for the first time in the Karate Kid universe. And it’s no secret that rebooting popular movies from the 80’s into series could go wrong in so many ways. Yet, the series’ success is rooted on that grey area surrounding the main characters, a quality that makes it feel real. What one could infer from this is that truth is more subjective than what you may initially have thought as it depends on which perspective you choose to see it from.

So, for better or for worse, we were placed in this world and we must uncover the hidden truth inside the lies. No, I don’t believe we should blatantly disregard religion, neither do I believe that science is the only truth. Don’t forget that scientists can also be religious, like Kala in Sense8. Believing in nothing would never lead you anywhere, accomplishing your goals would then be close to (if not) impossible… I don’t mean that one should not be an atheist, but every one of us believes in something, or else how would we get up from bed each day? So even if one believes in a lie and accomplishes everything they really want in life, where’s the problem with that? 

Our societies are living organisms consisting of people, and they will constantly be challenged. The battle for our rights changes our view of what is right and what is wrong. But once again, if we are blind followers of an ideology, aren’t we still stuck inside the vortex of social constructionism that is being imposed upon us? Shouldn’t we try to shape our own mindset instead? And even if we do, shouldn’t it be infinitely malleable? Remember, you may not be seeing one of the perspectives clearly. So, as French artist Marcel Duchamp once said, “I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.” (Finally, a reference that’s not from a Netflix show!)

If this article is making you more confused than you were before, don’t despair. It was done on purpose *glass shatters*, in order to show that the search for truth is a complex, Daedalian endeavour. Just because people use a 5-letter word for it doesn’t mean it’s a concept one can grasp easily, so instead of constructing a logical sequence I let my thoughts run freely on the page. Trying to answer some of the initial questions naturally led to more questions being asked and this could have gone ad infinitum… Your own search can lead you down a different path, but any way you approach this, be sure that Hydra-headed questions will constantly be appearing. Nonetheless, let me try and give a summary of the main ideas expressed in this article so that my editors don’t turn Agent Smith on me… In conclusion then! Narratives shape our world. Binaries are a thing of the past. The grey area is real (yes, sexuality is a spectrum too!), people are not either good or evil, yet they do lie, so we need to be able to see beyond what they are telling us. We could do this by changing our perspective and not being absolute in our beliefs. Also, we should be able to understand by now that we are socially conditioned by the society we are living in and try to form our own, unique mentality instead of that of the herd and not be afraid to change it even. That way, we might get a chance to finally see the matrix around us.

Bad news is we probably won’t be able to stop bullets like Neo.

Disclaimer: No, this was not a paid advertisement for Netflix. But, I mean, the next one could be @Netflix 


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