It’s trusting one’s own judgment. It’s questioning assumptions and exposing the ‘many modern myths’ considered truth in a culture that looks very like the dream world of exploitation in the film ‘The Matrix’. Living outside of this Matrix of mind control is about being in the drivers seat of one’s life, by being in the drivers seat of one’s mind. It’s asking questions and pursuing answers with critical independent thinking because if we take control of our minds they cannot be controlled by anyone else. Reason is key as we re-examine our fundamental premises and make sure all our conclusions are our own. It takes effort, but the result is that the mind grows wings.
Borrowed from the 1999 Wachowski brothers film starring Keanu Reeves, the Matrix is a useful metaphor for seeing the world in which we live as a dream world pulled over our eyes, a departure from reality. Being in the Matrix is living one’s life according to assumptions that are not true, that means not in accord with reality, and this is fundamental. The Matrix is a prepackaged cultural download of ready-made assumptions, beliefs, catch phrases, slogans, generalisations and conclusions that are absorbed by osmosis in the absence of independent thinking – but most of these are at best half-truths, and very often 180 degrees wrong!
Being in or outside the Matrix is not an either or option. Unlike in the film, leaving the real life “Matrix of control” is a matter of degree. It’s a process, primarily of thought, but necessarily followed by action. It takes time.
I like to use the Matrix metaphor because the lead character Neo deliberately seeks to know by choosing the red pill. He is pro-active and chooses to think. This is foundational to the solution of any perceived problem. Wanting to know is the first cause of knowledge and it is the precursor to living outside the Matrix.
The film portrays human existence outside the Matrix as being a harsh and miserable struggle. In the real world, the change of mindset that leaving the matrix entails empowers individuals and makes full control of one’s life possible – its good news all round. This misrepresentation of reality is not without consequences in the assumptions it potentially sows into the mind of the viewer. Although the film inspires thinking to some degree, one implicit take away message is that ‘its bleak out there’, why would you leave the comforts of the known? The point to note about these assumptions that are implicitly left having in our minds through the medium of films and stories, is that they have no power to enter the subconscious as a conclusion unnoticed, if there is a considered conviction there already. If we have previously given conscious thought to an issue and formed our own conclusions, a new and perhaps contradictory one brought to our awareness will be noticed. If we are paying attention, if we are thinking and aware, we can then compare suggested ideas with our own and revise our convictions if necessary, or consciously reject the idea as contrary to our thinking. This is being in control of ones thoughts and premises, knowing ones own motives. It renders us far less controllable.
The roots of the Matrix
At the most fundamental level, our philosophical assumptions have been given a duff steer – whether by intention or error is not the issue here. In spite of the obvious and easily provable existence of an objective reality that exists separate from consciousness, most peoples way of thinking today implicitly entertains the opposite assumption – that reality is subjective, that it is shapable, effected, even created by consciousness. This is subjectivism. This assumption not only has the effect of disconnecting us from reality by short-circuiting the apparent need to rely exclusively upon reasoned thought to know reality, but also of undermining our perceived need to think in general. Why would you bother thinking in order discover knowledge of reality if on a subconscious level you have already accepted that you are making it all up in your head anyway? We have been culturally seduced by the notion of an alternative and allegedly effortless way of ‘knowing reality’ through mystic means such as revelation, feeling, just ‘knowing’, and other new age ideas.
Although few would argue explicitly for subjectivism, due to the irrefutable evidence to the contrary, their thinking implies it. Mysticism is the predominant form of subjectivism – through religions or otherwise, the claim to some other reality apart from the one in which we live/exist. When cultural assumptions are predominantly subjectivist, life is a competition of irrational whims. Might is right and the brute with the biggest club becomes the master. An inevitable consequence of subjectivism is therefore the use of force and coercion. Mysticism is a key root of violence because reference to the ultimate arbiter of truth – reality – is discounted.
Mysticism is a form of subjectivism with a long and bloody history. It is the acceptance of ideas without any supporting evidence in reality; the claim to another reality which we have no ability to perceive using our human senses; it is the claim to knowledge in the absence of proof and often in defiance of proof. Mysticism is not real by definition and should therefore remain disqualified in anyone’s mind as a guide to reality or how to live. It is falseness pretending to be truth. It is anti-life and therefore evil.
When our accurate perception of reality is compromised so is our ability to function effectively within it. We are all familiar with the concept of sanity as being ‘well adjusted to reality’, or in touch with reality. Mysticism by definition lays claim to another reality! An unknowable and imperceivable one. there is no way its claims can be verified by human senses, demonstration or empirical evidence. Its a hoodwink, a con. People are duped to the extent that they accept its claims as real. It is vital that we maintain a clear distinction between what is real and what is not. I do not mean to dismiss mysterious or unexplained phenomena, only to keep clear mental labels on what is knowledge and what is not yet understood, not to substitute invention for enquiry in a desperate attempt to explain the unexplained.
The second fundamental of the Matrix that is anti life, is altruism – the ethics of mysticism. The basic principle of which is that man has no right to live for his own sake. That the only purpose of his existence and his highest moral achievement is service to other. Whether that other is tribe or king or God. Most people confuse altruism with kindness or respect for others, this is not what it is. Altruism means self-sacrifice, self immolation, self-denial and ultimately self-destruction.
Altruism effectively offers no moral guidance by focusing only on the recipient of any action. If it is claimed that action is taken for the benefit of others, it is good. Action taken for one’s own benefit is bad. Much evil has been done by those claiming to be selflessly serving the collective and acting for the greater good. This makes it the dream ticket morality for tyranny and dictatorship.
Relentless conditioning and exposure to propaganda will almost inevitably cause resistance to these ideas in most minds. Think of the airplane decompression scenario, where we are told to put on our own oxygen masks first before helping others. This is where reality kicks in. We all ‘get’ that if you help others first in the airplane decompression you are going to be dead in a matter of seconds, then you and those you would help will perish. The principle holds true in every respect of life. If we rationally attend to ourselves first, we are then able to help and to give and to enjoy the experience of generosity and offering value to others. Where most peoples understanding is derailed is that they naturally assume that serving one’s self interest requires sacrificing others. But this not true. On the contrary it entails offering value to others, respecting rights and trading with others. Rational self interest creates wealth. Any kind of theft from others or living at the expense of others is counter productive and irrational in the long run even if there are perceived short term gains. Think of each tree in the forest looking after its own interests not that of its neighbours. Think of each cell in your body and how it tends to its own needs and not the needs of those adjacent to it, so it is that as humans rationally attend to their own needs as the logical priority, that a healthy society results.
The upshot of all this is that its OK to be self-centered. Its OK to be selfish. Which means its OK to be concerned with your own self interest. It is essential to be concerned with your own self interest. The question is whether one does it rationally or irrationally. And this is where reason is your guide.
As we notice the resistance in our minds to these seemingly up-side-down ideas, we must re-program the hard wired assumptions written onto the hard drives of our subconscious minds by process of active critical thinking. It is also necessary to integrate new conclusions into a non contradictory sum of knowledge so that (to use a computer analogy) all relevant mental files are updated.
The validity of thinking is undermined by the first fundamental of the Matrix – subjectivism – most people are on the back foot before they start. Thinking is not taught at school or by most parents. Thinking is discouraged in modern education by methods such as multiple choice testing, where understanding is not required, only recognition. The value of thinking is also undermined implicitly in a culture where meditation is considered a means to enlightenment. But by thinking, and specifically thinking rationally using logic and the principle of non-contradiction, it is possible to deconstruct the many modern myths that comprise the Matrix.
The importance of rational thinking
Thinking is crucial. Thinking is our most basic survival tool. It precedes any considered action by definition. Imagine a survival situation in which you need shelter, water, and a plan. You will perish without thinking rationally. Wishing for a warm shelter and for water to drink will not manifest them. Although modern life insulates us from this slightly unrealistic example, the principle still holds. Nothing is created by man until he thinks up an idea, a process, a method, and subsequently constructs something of value. Every material thing we enjoy today, cars, TV’s, computers, food, clothes, furniture, all has to be produced as a value, and thought is the foundation on which it all rests.
Of course it is possible to exist in the short term by stealing from others who have thought and produced. It is possible to exist as a parasite and consume off the backs of other men. But this is not living. This is not what man can be. This is reverting to the lowest form of human existence. If humanity has any hope at all it must consciously reject parasitic existence and choose ‘living as man qua man‘. This means living in true accord with our nature as rational beings, not as brutes and thugs, not as masters and slaves, but as traders of value. This is why the solution starts and ends with personal responsibility. Because each man alone either chooses to think or not to bother, to figure it out or avoid the issue, to seek to understand or just copy and mimic the actions of those who appear to know better. This is the relevance of the “I” the “ONE”, the ruler who draws the line. The individual, living and thinking as an individual, is the way to a free and prosperous world.
As a result of un-thinking and evasion of the effort to understand, people become more and more reliant on the understanding of the group, the collective, and they give increasing value to what ‘they say’, or to what the leaders say. This is common place today. But fortunately the mainstream narrative on everything is being questioned by (and proven wrong by) more and more thinkers who are breaking out of this pattern. Thinking is the way out of the maze. Humanity is in the midst of multiple crises today and the only way out is thinking – rational thinking. This means consciously rejecting by a process of thought the validity of mysticism and altruism. It means explicitly recognising objective reality as an absolute, and of allowing this fundamental to permeate and influence all of our concepts and ideas. It means establishing intellectual sovereignty and consequently independent living.
So what is thinking?
The greatest myth around the concept of thinking is that everyone knows what it is and how to do it. We all take the concept of thinking as a given and therefore beyond question, but it is not. Although thinking is what makes us human, a function of our unique form of consciousness, and it is what distinguishes us from the primates and lower animals, it is not automatic. It arises from our unique ability to conceptualise, to form concepts, but this is volitional – we have to choose to do it. What thinking is requires a more in-depth discussion than is possible here, and I look into it further in the podcast episode “What is thinking?”. The point to make here is that thinking is fundamental and any notion of avoiding it and simply tuning into the ‘universe’ as a means to so-called “enlightenment” is a duff steer and a road to nowhere. The idea of ascension to a higher conscious without thought is a contradiction in terms. Meditation or mindfulness or any other form of mental quietude are great tools and have value, but are emphatically not the solution to any problem that man faces. Rational thinking on the other hand, mans distinguishing feature as a rational animal, is.
Thinking is a purposeful mental activity with the acquisition of knowledge as its goal, but to achieve this it must be effective and efficient. It must involve the asking and answering of questions, developing and exploring sub-purposes. Thinking must involve the deliberate integration of new knowledge and conclusions into the sum of ones knowledge. It must use principles and not be concrete bound. Thinking must be able to prove ideas and identify what is knowledge and what is not. It must be able to link complex concepts back to the facts of reality from which they are derived, and it must recognise a contradiction as an indication of error – since contradictions do not exist in reality.
As a result of all of the above, the Matrix is people living unconsidered lives, following each other through an unquestioned existence and just doing what everybody else does. It is herd mentality, a mindset of dependence, dumbed down compliance and readily swallowed cultural fast food. The Matrix is propaganda and deception. It is un-thinking. It is a whole stack of what I call duff steers, or modern myths, that although widely held as true are demonstrably false. I am not talking conspiracy theories here, I mean lies such as mercury amalgam fillings are safe in your mouth; fluoridated water helps reduce tooth decay; that cholesterol causes heart disease; that our highest moral action is self-sacrifice; that a central controlling authority is needed to effectively organise anything (including society); that capitalism is immoral and the enemy; that Co2 is the great bogey-man that it is claimed to be; that it is best not to judge others and therefore not be judged …and so on.
The Matrix is unconscious living in the sense of not having conscious awareness of one’s philosophical convictions, one’s beliefs about the nature of reality and of what is possible and what is not. This means not knowing and understanding the foundations upon which one’s values and motives are based. The Matrix is ‘not knowing’ what you think about fundamental issues, or if you do regurgitate some swallowed lines it is not being able to explain and justify them. Consequently it is confusion between what is real and what is fiction.
The Matrix is the consequential erosion of property rights through creeping government controls and expansion of the state and state power. It is the false religion of statism. It is creeping collectivist tyranny, the violence of coercion and the ubiquitous belief in the need for government and central planning. It is the subordination of the individual to the state, which then has the power to sacrifice any individual for the so-called ‘greater good’ of society. The Matrix is entitlement mentality, it is parasitic living on the efforts and thinking of others. It is the enforced level playing field where merit is penalised and inefficaciousness rewarded. The Matrix is the creeping triumph of altruism and mysticism over reason in the minds of men. It is all born of un-thinking!
The Matrix is the human farm onto which we have been born, the system by which a few economically control and exploit the majority, benefiting from and perpetuating their unconsciousness. It is the system by which the sweat equity of men is harvested for the benefit of a few.
At the most fundamental level, the matrix is the consequence of irrationality. It is irrational to not bother to think, given that thinking is our most basic survival tool and the capacity which defines us a s human.
Living outside the Matrix?
Living outside the Matrix is thinking for one’s self and it’s a consequence of independent living. It is reclaiming the confidence in one’s own mind to know what is real, what is true and therefore what to do. It is trust in the supremacy of one’s own judgment and knowing that their is no higher authority than mans sovereign intellect.
The result of this is consciously determining our values, deliberately deciding what is important and what is not. Right at the top of the list must be the accurate identification of reality using the faculty of reason. Next, the ultimate values we all share are the maintenance of our life and it’s enjoyment. All other rational values support these two.
Living outside the Matrix is making lifestyle choices based exclusively upon one’s own rational judgment. The only way to learn to trust your own judgment is to habitually think for one’s self.
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