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Give Us the Old Razzle Dazzle
"Denial is the most predictable of human responses," the Architect intones with bored disdain. It is an inarguable fact that we are mundanely predictable, pathetically easy to lead, as countless dictators, confidence men, religious leaders, and any number of other synonyms for sociopath or bully have proven over and over again throughout history. They are right to cackle in malevolent glee at our reliable stupidity and weakness. They keep proving to us how very simple it is to use us against ourselves and each other.
What is it humans want? What do we gravitate toward without fail? Not seek, necessarily, but find and become dependent on; addicted to. What we seek is a different matter altogether, for we are making a choice based on impulse or instinct. Weíll always seek what we need and want, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the mysteriously powerful hold what we do not need, want, or seek can have on us. It is a function comparable to P. T. Barnumís philosophy of "a sucker born every minute," comparable to the mysterious survival of pyramid schemes and chain letters. It is based on the principles of the greatest salesmen, the alchemists who can make it seem inconceivable to you that you would ever be able to live without the $1500 vacuum cleaner, who can make it seem perfect sensible that a little pill dropped into your gas tank will magically expand into a full tank of clean fuel.
What we apparently want, what has been proven throughout human history as a profound and universal need, is for the world around us to be made somehow as predictable as we are. We are desperate to see a pattern, a purpose, to make sense of events that are chaotic and random. We need to believe there is something or someone moving the pieces around the board, pushing the buttons, watching the monitors to maintain the status quo. The familiar, the identifiable, that which we can force into the pattern and see as deliberate choice, even the choice of a supreme power we cannot hope to reach or comprehend...these things comfort us and make it possible to lead us. We have a history of accepting instructions that are morally unthinkable when those instructions come from the higher powers. We somehow manage to find comfort even in the acknowledged lack of any comprehensible reason on the higher powersí part...we simply say we cannot know it, but that there is a reason; there must be, because there always is. It is begging the question, of course, to prove what we know only by itself and without objective proof...but then, the look of suspicion with which any logical arguments are met is enough to scare most of us back into our place.
(Begging the question does seem to be our favorite logical fallacy to employ; this is no doubt why we as a culture have elected to redefine it so that it no longer connotes any fallacy at all - nowadays whenever you hear anyone say "begging the question," what they mean is something like "bringing to mind an interesting new concept to be explored." Like "irony," eventually the phrase will have lost its original meaning due to vernacular misuse. But it really is quite logical in effect; we donít want to have a name for a problem we donít mean to solve. Itís untidy to have any means of calling attention to our collective self-deception.)
It is as the Architect said, for what are we doing, fundamentally, when we avert our eyes and minds from any evidence that might indicate our views are incorrect? We will do anything to keep the status quo, no matter whether we are happy within it, no matter whether we agree with it on a moral level. We live in willful denial of all possibilities, because we donít like possibilities; we like certainties. No matter how uncertain they are.
One unique point to consider in the historical scam and our choice to pull the wool over our own eyes before anyone else can do it for us: patterns do not rule nature the way they rule human constructs. Life is not neat and well-plotted, with themes and morals, carefully chosen character archetypes present when needed to provide help. This is what happens when we create situations, not when they occur naturally.
So why is it we accept such well-plotted myths as truths? And why the current myths when the literature is in no way superior to that which came before? Above all, why do we not see the fundamental flaw of the repetition of archetypes, the classic plot points of the heroic journey? Why are we so determined to hold onto our illogical ideas that we deny the similarity of the legends, or if we do admit their sameness, we use that again as proof of itself...we point to the recurring details as proof of what we believe, rather than what it so clearly is from an objective standpoint: evidence that these are not truths but fabrications, not the products of an undeniably random and chaotic natural universe, but the products of the limited and purposeful human mind.
I find it disappointing to hear so many disparaging comments about the Matrix being "too easy," in the end. The boredom with which the Messiah story is dismissed is mostly due to our cultureís reliance on that story as an absolute truth. There is a much deeper story being told, and we must change our perspective to allow ourselves to see it.
It is not a Messiah story that actually happens in the Matrix. It is a Messiah myth that happens in the Matrix. The elaborate construction of a belief system that will allow the vast majority of enslaved humans to accept their fate gracefully, because they believe in something so great they feel protected by its existence. That they are not in fact free is no longer a factor, because they have found faith. Try arguing with the deeply faithful. Try telling them that anything they "know" is not correct. Itís impossible. You can never disprove what they have chosen to believe in the absence of proof. Itís as illogical and undeniable as Stockholm Syndrome. Ask any battered wife why she still insists her husband loves her; she cannot believe otherwise without her entire life being invalidated. She has sacrificed and lost too much to learn now that it was all for nothing, that the bargain she struck was for beans with no magic in them. After the events of Revolutions, nearly every human in captivity will be free in their own mind, and philosophers have argued throughout human history that no other degree of freedom is required.
What about the Oracle? The Oracle is not a program with ultimate omniscience, clearly; she canít see or know everything, so what can she know? Obviously, she can know what she is intended to. A program cannot be a divine being. A program is limited to the very concrete world of computers. She isnít a goddess, so her ability to know information beyond normal perception is not supernatural. She doesnít get the information from magic; she gets it from the Matrix.
The reason provided for the One and Oracleís existence has been that crops of humans have died out, essentially due to depression or rebellion in various forms. The Matrix cannot afford to set the humans free, as in all of them, as the Architect avers at the overly sunny conclusion. Letís not forget the whole "need to get their energy from somewhere and oops thereís no sun" factor. If the machines have been working so hard so long to get this "The One" story to play out as they need it to, they obviously have not found an alternate energy source. If they had, they would just let the damn humans die already. Meanwhile, a major clue comes in Reloaded when Neo goes for the night walk with the Councilor, who reminds him that the machines are 100% necessary for the humansí own survival. So...when the humans are freed, and the sun is still not coming through the permanent cloud cover, and the machines what, voluntarily grind to a halt? The humans die too... Uh-huh. Likely story.
Consider the stories of Osiris and Dionysus as they compare to the story of Jesus. The multitude of similar myths about the gods that die and are reborn cannot be dismissed as standard religious teachings would prefer...the illogic inherent in their refusal to regard the myths which predate Jesus as anything other than quaint foolish tales of a populace that needed to make sense of lightning and earthquakes is vastly amusing, if you think about it. For if the nearly identical stories are nothing more than foolish folk tradition, what is the definitive proof backing up Christian mythology? Why is that anything more than foolish folk tradition? Is there an answer that doesnít come down to Because we said so?
And here comes logic with its persistent rearing of that ugly old head...
The desperate need to fit every piece of new information into the "truth" you already believe, even when it is directly contradictory of that truth is a uniquely religious tendency. Jesus is the Messiah, goes our base argument without which we would lose our entire understanding of existence...therefore all previous stories are untrue, and any nugget of truth they appear to have is the equivalent of an illiterate societyís attempt to read scientific tomes - they may have managed to pick up a word or two, but that doesnít qualify them to run the particle accelerator.
The far more reasonable explanation, the elements of a heroís journey that are held to be a reliable formula, the archetypes that recur because they have proven effective over millennia of storytelling...those are blasphemy and therefore wrong (wrong by moral laws, but then by association of the word wrong as a secular term, it becomes "incorrect"). The simplest solution is nearly always correct, but to the deeply devout follower, Occamís Razor would constitute sufficient reason to put a real one to their wrists. They canít let go of what they have allowed to define their entire existence; they have too much invested in the construct.
Applying the Razor to the events of the Matrix: Neo is suddenly able to stop the sentinels at the end of Reloaded. We want so much to believe in our hero that we decide this is proof that he has gained even more power and can dominate reality and mold it to his will, walk on water, hallelujah...when if we were willing to accept an alternative to his being the One, we would be forced to acknowledge that the sudden abilities demonstrated in the "real world" have a far simpler cause. The simplest and most obviously likely explanation is that Neo canít suddenly affect reality because he is the One; he can affect reality because he finally had the idea to try it - he could have done so all along, and so could any of them if theyíd ever had the notion to try, because it is not reality. It never was.
The six Ones are not much different than the multiple Messianic figures in our own history. Think of it this way: a Power (one or more humans with a major control fetish and extensive means - think the Masons, or the Bushes) has the idea to create a figure who will unite and inspire the populace, whose reputation and image will have sufficient impact that the masses will be easy to control, calm like cows as they walk toward the slaughterhouse...the Power has been at it for a long time, honing the plot each time a Messiah fails to grab quite enough attention or build a strong enough fanbase. Eventually, they strike upon a decent formula, and they still havenít got quite enough in terms of numbers, but screw it, they have just enough of the people who have the good weapons, and what more could they need? They deploy the Crusades, and the rest is history.
The Matrix hones the program of The One six times before the story plays out quite right. The humans, even that pesky Morpheus with his rousing speeches, and Niobe the hardnosed skeptic, now believe in this single human to such a degree that they will never question his sacrifice or that it was enough to save them. They are rejoicing, and they are free in their minds. And since theyíve never used their bodies, thatís enough.
Did You Know?
Neo's opening scene in The Matrix shows the computer displaying 'Wake up Neo'. This echoes HAL's opening line in '2001: A Space Odyssey'.