Explaining the Matrix (Think Up/Down Not Right/Left)
In his 2000 work “Escaping the Matrix: Are You Ready for the Red Pill?” Richard Moore begins:
The defining dramatic moment in the film The Matrix occurs just after Morpheus invites Neo to choose between a red pill and a blue pill. The red pill promises "the truth, nothing more." Neo takes the red pill and awakes to reality--something utterly different from anything Neo, or the audience, could have expected. What Neo had assumed to be reality turned out to be only a collective illusion, fabricated by the Matrix and fed to a population that is asleep, cocooned in grotesque embryonic pods. In Plato's famous parable about the shadows on the walls of the cave, true reality is at least reflected in perceived reality.
Most of us expect rhetoric from politicians, and take what they say with a grain of salt. But as my own picture of present reality came into focus, "grain of salt" no longer worked as a metaphor. I began to see that consensus reality--as generated by official rhetoric and amplified by mass media--bears very little relationship to actual reality. "The matrix" was a metaphor I was ready for.
This perspective on the political process, and on the roles of left and right, is very far from reality. It is a fabricated collective illusion. Morpheus tells Neo that the Matrix is "the world that was pulled over your eyes to hide you from the truth....As long as the Matrix exists, humanity cannot be free." Consensus political reality is precisely such a matrix.
In other words, we, the majority of American citizens, sleep-walk around in a collective “surreality” lost to a toxic mythology, product of the collusion of “officialdom” and corporate media.
Moore’s stunningly insightful work was written in 2000 but its analyses and warnings apply even more strongly to our 2012 reality -- rather, "matrix" surreality. Lost to and in the matrix, we enable the continuing destruction of our democracy and the destruction of foreign peoples by global corporatization.
Moore can’t emphasize enough how effective propaganda trickled down from the ruling class elite is necessary to confuse and divide up a citizenry so that citizenry can continue to be massively exploited from above.
Raw economic aggrandizement is causing global misery, but to snuff out the possibility of effective collective public dissent Moore contends “fabricated motivations” for gross amoral non-representative governmental behavior must be provided to keep the majority of citizens continuing on passive and economically and politically hog-tied within the matrix system. The capitalist overlords must confuse citizen serfs and get them to attribute “patriotism, national honor and heroic causes” to sociopathic ruthless illegitimate activities from grotesquely exorbitant greed and self-interest.
We’ve all been spiritually drugged by mass media into the matrix system to varying degrees. The swallowing of the "blue pill" of denial.
Moore contends that the costs of territorial empire were (and still are) on the backs of Western taxpayers, but the profits from it went and continue to go to private corporations and investors. Politicians and media will do anything and everything to distract us from collectively comprehending and responding to this travesty.
It is the corporations and their super-profiteering handlers who really run “global empire” and our national politicians slather on jingoistic rhetoric to make government seem, but not actually, to care about the “common good” and be worthy of the “public trust” (two phrases now missing from our national political vocabulary).
Moore considers 1945 a turning point year. It heralded the divorce between national and corporatist interests and the beginning of the globalization matrix web of officialdom lies. After World War II a “Pax Americana” was established. The US began “to manage all the Western peripheries on behalf of capitalism generally, while preventing the communist powers from interfering in the game.”
Globalized capitalism was hidden under the cover of expanding benign “democratization” and the critical needs of citizenries of all smaller ‘periphery’ nations could be collectively safe-guarded under the monitoring and mentoring attention of the United Nations organization, especially with great attention to the mandate to “restore order” to troubled regions.
This "restore order" mandate is what, Moore asserts, the “neo-cons” and “neo-libs” opportunistically leapt on and exploited over and over and over as a pretense for suppression, destruction and exploitation of smaller countries for their imperialist agendas.
In the postwar years matrix reality diverged ever further from actual reality. In the postwar matrix [lying] world, imperialism had been abandoned and the world was being "democratized"; in the real world, imperialism had become better organized and more efficient. In the matrix [lying] world the US "restored order," or "came to the assistance" of nations which were being "undermined by Soviet influence"; in the real world, the periphery was being systematically suppressed and exploited. In the matrix [lying] world, the benefit was going to the periphery in the form of countless aid programs; in the real world, immense wealth was being extracted from the periphery.
Moore explains that Western citizens were oblivious to the amoral manipulations of the matrix [lying] system because there were “unprecedented levels of Western prosperity and social progress.” At the same time as many of the middle class were “comfortable” the corporations, banks and capital investors were making PHENOMENAL WEALTH by exploiting "periphery" nations.
Then along came the 1960s narrates Moore and a big SHIFT threatened the scope of matrix thralldom. Those big-mouthed college hippies among others began to “call out” the profoundly hypocritical and globally destructive corporate profit-making and nation destroying matrix!
The parallel agenda of Third-World exploitation and Western prosperity worked effectively for the first two postwar decades. But in the 1960s large numbers of Westerners, particularly the young and well educated, began to notice glitches in the matrix. In Vietnam imperialism was too naked to be successfully masked as something else. A major split in American public consciousness occurred, as millions of anti-war protestors and civil-rights activists punctured the fabricated consensus of the 1950s and declared the reality of exploitation and suppression both at home and abroad. The environmental movement arose, challenging even the exploitation of the natural world. In Europe, 1968 joined 1848 as a landmark year of popular protest.
Suddenly prosperity did not guarantee passivity among the citizenry.
Moore cites the work of an “elite planner,” Harvard Professor Samuel P. Hungtington, that was published in 1975 to explain the importance of having a deaf, dumb and blind, so to speak, citizenry for global imperialism to work.
Huntington tells us that democratic societies "cannot work" unless the citizenry is "passive." The "democratic surge of the 1960s" represented an "excess of democracy," which must be reduced if governments are to carry out their traditional domestic and foreign policies. Huntington's notion of "traditional policies" is expressed in a passage from the report:
"To the extent that the United States was governed by anyone during the decades after World War II, it was governed by the President acting with the support and cooperation of key individuals and groups in the executive office, the federal bureaucracy, Congress, and the more important businesses, banks, law firms, foundations, and media, which constitute the private sector's 'Establishment'."
In these few words Huntington spells out the reality that electoral democracy has little to do with how America is run, and summarizes the kind of people who are included within the elite planning community. Who needs conspiracy theories when elite machinations are clearly described in public documents like these?
During this tumultuous time, the matrix system discovered to survive and prosper it was also time to sacrifice “popular prosperity and welfare” for American citizens that no longer protected it, anyway. Japan with its lower-scaled citizen standard of living was becoming a profound competitor with American-based corporations who soon became willing to jettison American employees for the the profits and promises of globalization.
But a different and seductive anti-prosperity matrix mythology had to be created to keep the citizenry complacent in the face of their economic abandonment. Moore writes:
... Production could be moved overseas to low-wage areas, allowing domestic unemployment to rise. Unions could be attacked and wages forced down, and people could be pushed into temporary and part-time jobs without benefits. Regulations governing corporate behavior could be removed, corporate and capital-gains taxes could be reduced, and the revenue losses could be taken out of public-service budgets. Public infrastructures could be privatized, the services reduced to cut costs, and then they could be milked for easy profits while they deteriorated from neglect.
These are the very policies and programs launched during the Reagan-Thatcher years in the US and Britain. They represent a systematic project of increasing corporate growth at the expense of popular prosperity and welfare.
Such a real agenda would have been unpopular, and a corresponding matrix reality was fabricated for public consumption. The matrix reality used real terms like "deregulation," "reduced taxes," and "privatization," but around them was woven an economic mythology. The old, failed laissez-faire doctrine of the 1800s was reintroduced with the help of Milton Friedman's Chicago School of economics, and "less government" became the proud "modern" theme in America and Britain.
Sensible regulations had restored financial stability after the Great Depression, and had broken up anti-competitive monopolies such as the Rockefeller trust and AT&T. But in the new matrix reality, all regulations were considered bureaucratic interference. Reagan and Thatcher preached the virtues of individualism, and promised to "get government off people's backs." The implication was that everyday individuals were to get more money and freedom, but in reality the primary benefits would go to corporations and wealthy investors.
The academic term for laissez-faire economics is "economic liberalism," and hence the Reagan-Thatcher revolution has come to be known as the "neoliberal revolution." It brought a radical change in actual reality by returning to the economic philosophy that led to sweatshops, corruption, and robber-baron monopolies in the nineteenth century. It brought an equally radical change in matrix reality--a complete reversal in the attitude that was projected regarding government.
Moore explains that though government policies were often criticized by the media over the decades, the “institution of government” was still respected. This was, Moore stresses, when “capitalism and nationalism” were still bonded. Reagan’s and Thatcher’s administration effectively helped remove governmental protections for their respective citizens though framed it rhetorically as a positive to said citizenries. As if it were they who were protecting their citizens from government intrusion not setting them up for profound economic decline. Moore:
Soon, British and American populations were beginning to applaud the destruction of the very democratic institutions that provided their only hope of participation in the political process.
Moore sees the 1945 Bretton Woods financial system as being a catalyst for the profound separation of nationalism and capitalism. It set up the IMF, World Bank, and “a system of fixed exchange rates” which ostensibly were to ensure international economic and political stability. This would be reversed to the centralized economic tyranny of globalization we have now. The birth of average citizen-crushing neo-liberalism.
This new “global economy” gave rise to transnational corporations. Corporate leaders realized how much better not to be under the strict control of one particular nation-state. They intended to escape troublesome environmental, consumer-protection and other regulations.
Regarding the original Bretton Woods’ professed intention, fixed rates of currency exchange predictably began to be weakened rather than strengthened by the elite “establishment”. The international financial system was being “gamed” by international capitalist cronyism, destabiliizing rather than stabilizing national economies. Eventually the momentum for free trade would lead to the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
Neo-liberals, Moore explains flatly, want to remove “all political controls over domestic and international trade and commerce.” Thus, corporations get to maximize profits and ignore environmental regulations. As the WTO assumed more and more regulatory power over international commerce, environmental and consumer-protections were not honored.
Also, as the momentum of neo-liberalism and free trade escalated, hardest hit, of course, were nations “outside the West.” The IMF easily created struggling “debtor” nations. Rwanda and South Korea were two serious victims of the IMF.
Moore baldly compares the IMF to the 1800s settlers of North America and Australia who resorted to genocide to “clear out” the native populations. He doesn’t mince his words:
Today, a similar program of genocide has apparently been unleashed against sub-Saharan Africa. The IMF destroys the economies, the CIA trains militias and stirs up tribal conflicts, and the West sells weapons to all sides. Famine and genocidal civil wars are the predictable and inevitable result. Meanwhile, AIDS runs rampant while the WTO and the US government use trade laws to prevent medicines from reaching the victims.
Moore contends that the Pentagon and more and more NATO are presuming to illegitimately police the world on behalf of the economic elite. As their intervention grows in the Third World, so does anti-West resentment. Consider this and think of Syria as one of their latest victims.
Moore cites the excuse of “humanitarianism” to intervene militarily in vulnerable countries. Using the excuse of preventing genocide. This was reflected in the so-called “Clinton doctrine” says Moore.
This matrix fabrication is very effective indeed; who opposes prevention of genocide? Only outside the matrix does one see that genocide is caused by the West in the first place, that the worst cases of genocide are continuing, that "assistance" usually makes things worse (as in the Balkans), and that Clinton's handy doctrine enables him to intervene when and where he chooses. Since dictators and the stirring of ethnic rivalries are standard tools used in managing the periphery, a US president can always find "innocent civilians" wherever elite plans call for an intervention.
In matrix reality, globalization is not a project but rather the inevitable result of beneficial market forces. Genocide in Africa is no fault of the West, but is due to ancient tribal rivalries. Every measure demanded by globalization is referred to as "reform," (the word is never used with irony). "Democracy" and "reform" are frequently used together, always leaving the subtle impression that one has something to do with the other. The illusion is presented that all economic boats are rising, and if yours isn't, it must be your own fault: you aren't "competitive" enough. Economic failures are explained away as "temporary adjustments," or else the victim (as in South Korea or Russia) is blamed for not being sufficiently neoliberal. "Investor confidence" is referred to with the same awe and reverence that earlier societies might have expressed toward the "will of the gods."
Moore predicts that Western quality of life will continue to decline and the continuing devastation of foreign populations is a given. He also makes the provocative statement, “Excess democracy will have to be reined in to protect mass global exploitation.”
The "excess democracy" of the 1960s and 1970s attacked this shared consensus from below, and neoliberal planners decided from above that ongoing consensus wasn't worth paying for. They accepted that segments of society would persist in disbelieving various parts of the matrix. Activism and protest were to be expected. New means of social control would be needed to deal with activist movements and with growing discontent, as neoliberalism gradually tightened the economic screws. Such means of control were identified and have since been largely implemented, particularly in the United States. In many ways America sets the pace of globalization; innovations can often be observed there before they occur elsewhere. This is particularly true in the case of social-control techniques.
Moore explores these techniques for social-control against dissenters. First the hard side of mass control of dissent:
1. A strong, semi-militarized police force. Urban and suburban ghettos, Moore insists, are seriously feeling the impact of this. They are literally “occupied territories” where police beatings and unjustified shootings are common.
2. The neutralizing of the bill of rights. This has been witnessed in midnight raids on the homes of dissenters, inappropriate and humiliating search and seizure practices, invasion of privacy, mass incarceration, and “the rise of prison slave labor” Moore puts forth.
At this point Moore offers an interesting analysis of our police tv shows and how they propagandize for inappropriate police authoritarianism. He writes:
In the matrix, the genre of the TV or movie police drama has served to create a reality in which "rights" are a joke, the accused are despicable sociopaths, and no criminal is ever brought to justice until some noble cop or prosecutor bends the rules a bit. Government officials bolster the construct by declaring "wars" on crime and drugs; the noble cops are fighting a war out there in the streets--and you can't win a war without using your enemy's dirty tricks. The CIA plays its role by managing the international drug trade and making sure that ghetto drug dealers are well supplied. In this way, the American public has been led to accept the means of its own suppression.
With all of us inundated with L&O and all its official and unofficial spin-offs 24/7, one might want to give the above insight a few minutes of consideration.
Moore explains that whenever citizen dissent seriously threatens the oligarchical system, the President will step in, suspend the Constitution and via executive order declare martial law.
Raw power is a leverage in extreme cases, but Moore explains that a so-called “soft power” can be used via mass media and political propaganda to factionalize citizens to simply and profoundly keep each other down.
Divide and rule is one of the oldest means of mass control--standard practice since at least the Roman Empire. ... Within societies it works this way: If each social group can be convinced that some other group is the source of its discontent, then the population's energy will be spent in inter-group struggles. The regime can sit on the sidelines, intervening covertly to stir things up or to guide them in desired directions. In this way most discontent can be neutralized, and force can be reserved for exceptional cases.
In the prosperous postwar years, consensus politics served to manage the population. Under neoliberalism, programmed factionalism has become the front-line defense--the matrix version of divide and rule.
The covert guiding of various social movements has proven to be one of the most effective means of programming factions and stirring them against one another. Fundamentalist religious movements have been particularly useful. They have been used not only within the US, but also to maximize divisiveness in the Middle East and for other purposes throughout the empire. The collective energy and dedication of "true believers" makes them a potent political weapon that movement leaders can readily aim where needed. In the US that weapon has been used to promote censorship on the Internet, to attack the women's movement, to support repressive legislation, and generally to bolster the ranks of what is called in the matrix the "right wing."
Politicians, Moore maintains, want citizens to believe that if they pit their partisan group against opposing groups of fellow citizens they will ultimately “determine a full social agenda.” But Moore bottom lines what the real agenda is and how effectively and for how long the matrix has managed to obscure it.
In reality there is only one significant political agenda these days: the maximization of capital growth through the dismantling of society, the continuing implementation of neoliberalism, and the management of empire.
Moore calls out Bill Clinton’s “liberal” veneer to pump up matrix thinking. It was so useful for the capture of democracy by the globalizing overlords and at the same time the discouragement of dissent from the left.
Clinton's liberal rhetoric and his playing around with health care and gay rights are not the result of liberal pressure. They are rather the means by which Clinton is sold to liberal voters, so that he can proceed with real business: getting NAFTA through Congress, promoting the WTO, giving away the public airwaves, justifying military interventions, and so forth. Issues of genuine importance are never raised in campaign politics--this is a major glitch in the matrix for those who have eyes to see it.
With the Seattle riots of 1999 against globalization and the WTO, Moore points out that two factions came together that must have been quite unsettling for the “let’s you and him fight” game playing corporatists and their puppet politicians. “Left-leaning environmentalists” and “sociallly conservative union members.” It signaled a potential for mass citizen organization.
Moore has hope for humanity. He calls for a serious movement of citizens bent on escaping “entirely from the matrix,” and he adds “it must bring the rest of society with it.” He declares: “AS LONG AS THE MATRIX EXISTS, HUMANITY CANNOT BE FREE" ... "LEFT AND RIGHT ARE ONLY ENEMIES IN THE MATRIX.”
Marx may have failed as a social visionary, but he had capitalism figured out. It is based not on productivity or social benefit, but on the pursuit of capital growth through exploiting everything in its path. The job of elite planners is to create new spaces for capital to grow in. Competitive imperialism provided growth for centuries; collective imperialism was invented when still more growth was needed; and then neoliberalism took over. Like a cancer, capitalism consumes its host and is never satisfied. The capital pool must always grow, more and more, forever--until the host dies or capitalism is replaced.
Can a serious movement take hold to escape the matrix and topple its overlords? One based on a true citizenry consensus? Can such a movement force a paradigm shift from patriarchal power, control, greed and competition top/down governance to a humanist one of win/win partnership, cooperation and empathy?
Moore quotes a wise Carolyn Chute, anti-corporate activist:
It ain't left or right. It's up and down.
Here we all are down here struggling while
the Corporate Elite are all up there having a nice day!