Monday, August 13, 2007

Neo Everywhere (We Thank You For Your Business)


Jean Baudrillard

Several months ago, I read an essay by David Brin, the Sci-Fi author, titled The Matrix: Tomorrow May Be Different, its main argument being that Neo is far from being the only One: millions of us, maintains Brin, have experienced this eerie sensation about the [hidden] System, and have been patiently waiting ever since for their computer to ask them to follow the white rabbit.

Super heroes or super critics - for Brin both are severely overestimating their uniqueness.

I allow myself some improvisation here, as Brin is not talking about Neo; rather he refers to anyone challenging the rationality and the rightfulness of the System. Any rebel, maintains Brin, is just like any other rebel that has been, that is, that will be - so why rebel? Moreover, the "hidden truth" revealed to the rebel is actually known to everybody (I'll explain why further on), the rebel thus becoming nothing but a sad cliché. And so to avoid such a pathetic state of things, Brin recommends that we'll "turn with confidence and wary optimism toward the future", never looking back.

So where were we wrong? (by "we" I refer to all those lonely riders, freedom fighters, corruption busters individuals, who thought they were alone in their cause). Brin raises the following thesis: in the Western Lands people are continuously going through a certain type of indoctrination, whose mediums are TV series, Hollywood movies, bestsellers novels and other mass-production narratives. Surprisingly, the major part of those narratives have the same set up, with a lonely rider, freedom fighter, corruption buster individual at the heart of their plot.

"In fact, the most persistent and inarguably incessant propaganda campaign, appearing in countless movies, novels, myths and TV shows is suspicion of authority -- often accompanied by its sidekick/partner: tolerance.

Rebels are always the heroes. Conformity is portrayed as worse than death".

And as we've all grown up on those narratives, it is unlikely that You! are the only one to see that the System is corrupted, abusive and merciless. No, we're all sharing this knowledge, and so whenever you cry that the king is naked, you're making a fool of yourself; everybody knows that fact, so shut the fuck up.

I was puzzled... maybe I should really shut up... but

What Brin doesn't really explain is why? Why do all those films, TV shows, novels etc. evolve around this main theme of suspicion of authority?

Jean Baudrillard, the late French philosopher that greatly influenced the creators of the Matrix, provided a very interesting explanation in an interview titled The Matrix Decoded :

Nouvel Observateur: It is rather shocking to see that, henceforth, all American marketing successes, from The Matrix to Madonna’s new album, are presented as critiques of the system which massively promotes them.

Baudrillard:
That is exactly what makes our times so oppressive. The system produces negativity in trompe-l’oeil, which is integrated into products of the spectacle just as obsolescence is built into industrial products. It is the most efficient way of incorporating all genuine alternatives. There are no longer external Omega points or any antagonistic means available in order to analyze the world; there is nothing more than a fascinated adhesion.

Imagine Lord Voldemort going around, telling everybody how evil he is; how he broke down his soul into several lovely horcruxes and how those can be found - it would have sucked all the fun out! Harry Potter would have been dead long ago!

"One must understand, however, that the more a system nears perfection, the more it approaches the total accident".

The System produces negativity... integrated into the products... most efficient way of incorporating all genuine alternatives... to avoid total accident.

And to avoid total accidents, the Architect had to reprogram the Matrix:

The pseudo-Freud who speaks at the film’s conclusion puts it well: at a certain moment, we reprogrammed the matrix in order to integrate anomalies into the equation. And you, the resistors, comprise a part of it.

Yes, Neo, you are part of the System, which - like our body - engenders toxins and antidotes, so it could constantly adapt itself and reshape its limits. Criticism is a crucial toxin for the System' survival. All the anti-doctrines are engendered by the ruling doctrine, thus becoming tainted, depleted, Systematized.

It's sad. Brin's right: if you think you're special – you're not; and if you'd like to have a small rebellion, please do! – we thank you for your business.


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