The well-known science fiction film The Matrix narrates the story that the modern world, as perceived by humankind, is in fact a virtual reality. This computer-generated simulation, known as ‘The Matrix’, was created by machines possessing artificial intelligence, with people blissfully going about their everyday visualising, feeling and interacting with the ‘world’, as they see it. In truth, almost everyone actually exists in a state of slumber, hooked up to the very computers that have constructed the people’s ‘reality’. While humanity dreams its way through life, the computers to which they are connected are harvesting human body heat and energy in order to power themselves. People are born in pods and when their life energy has been totally absorbed, they are unplugged, dying both in the real world and the virtual world.
The main character and eventual hero of the film, who works as a computer programmer in what he perceives to be the real world, chances across a group of individuals who have managed to disconnect themselves from this false reality. They resist the machines by entering the Matrix and trying to rescue those that are still linked up to it. Following a meeting with a resistance leader, our protagonist is faced with a choice: In front of him are two pills – a read one and a blue one. He can swallow either one or the other. If he chooses to take the blue pill – he will ‘wake up’ in his own bed, inside the virtual-reality through which he lives his life, attributing the said encounter to a bad dream. If he takes the red pill, however, he will awake for real and see the chilling reality of how the world actually works. Our character takes the red pill, joins the resistance and leads the fight against the machines that have enslaved all but a small minority of the human race.
Some parallels can be drawn between this work of fiction and how a significant proportion of people, especially those living in the more affluent countries, perceive and interpret the world around them. We do not however require the use of a Matrix to create for us a false impression of reality; the mainstream media and politicians do the job more than adequately.
A classic example is the way that the case for the war against Iraq was put forward by leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, with the support of sections of the mainstream media. In the ‘reality’ that was cleverly fashioned for us, Saddam was ready to use his weapons of mass destruction to devastating effect. We were bombarded with information to make us more receptive to the notion that if we didn’t invade Iraq and topple Saddam, we would be facing our doom. We were told that we were doing the right thing in invading and that the Iraqi people would welcome us as liberators. A few weeks before the invasion, former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld commented that the war could last ‘six days, six weeks. I doubt six months’.
Just shortly afterwards, in May 2003, we were informed by George Bush that the status quo was ‘Mission Accomplished. ‘ However, in the coming months and years, as reality began to set in, we found ourselves being constantly reminded of the importance of fighting a global war on terror. In April 2006, a report expressing the views of sixteen separate intelligence agencies within the US was released, titled ‘Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.’ The report found that far from defeating Islamic radicalism, the Iraq war had led to it spreading across the globe. Over a million dead Iraqis, and over 4,500 dead coalition troops later, an agreement has surfaced between the US and Iraqi governments that will have American combat troops withdrawn from the country by 31st December 2011. However, when it comes to rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure or healing the scars of a generation of young Iraqis onto whose minds a familiarity of violence has been seared, the process will take somewhat longer.
The US troops who find themselves withdrawn from Iraq might well find themselves reposted to Afghanistan, once again fighting the ‘war on terror’, as it has been dubbed by its orchestrators. If Gordon Brown has his way, our own troops will be joining them in a war which Britain’s own ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper Coles believes is fated to fail. Courtesy of a leaked communiquÃ© whose contents made it into the public domain late last year, it was made know that he considers ”the presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution”. Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the top British commander in Afghanistan believes that we, the public should not be anticipating a “decisive military victory” but should rather prepare ourselves for a deal being made with the Taliban.
For those wondering how the Afghan war might come to a close, we need only to look at the Ambassador’s comments yet again. Sir Cowper-Coles’ proposal was that the country eventually be ”governed by an acceptable dictator.” He added that “We should think of preparing our public opinion” for such an eventuality.
Once again, it looks like the partnership of mainstream press and mediocre politician have their work cut out. We should watch this space.
Fast forwarding to the recent events in Gaza we have once again seen that truth is the first casualty of the war. The idea of a reluctant Israel having to defend itself was once again invoked, together with the suggestion that that Israel is trying its best to avoid civilian targets. Apart from the fact that the besieged Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, having a population density of over 4,000 people per square kilometre, evidence is emerging of the use of White Phosphorus, which causes chemical burns. Doctors working in Gaza also believe that, consistent with the injuries they have observed, Israel used a weapon called DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) during the 22-day conflict.
DIME is said to create a concentrated but powerful pressure wave which rips apart anyone unlucky enough to be in proximity to the explosion. Consider too those hundreds of Palestinian civilians who lost their lives by having the misfortune of being stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, unable to leave Gaza during the conflict. Other particulars of the reality of the Gaza conflict have been obscured by the fog of war. No doubt in time more of the truth will seep out from behind the blockades erected by those wishing that the reality of what occurred in Gaza be airbrushed out of the news and, subsequently, out of history.
However, it is truly encouraging to see a significant number of people, in Britain and abroad, from all sections and positions in society, coming forward to condemn the slaughter that has taken place in Gaza and demanding that our elected leaders denounce the Israeli army’s actions in Gaza and demand justice for the Palestinians. Luckily there are also individuals, truthful journalists, straight-talking politicians and others, who will seek to remove the smokescreen put in place to have us see the world through the eyes of the individuals who rule it. Be it the Iraq war, the conflict in Gaza or any example of injustice elsewhere in the world, these brave individuals risk the scorn of the high and mighty to do their duty to expose the lies that cloud reality. One does not need to think hard for some names to come to mind.
The Matrix that defines the way the world is portrayed to us can be shattered and the masses can be awakened from their slumber to recognise the plight of fellow human being suffering injustice around the world and to show solidarity with these individuals. However, interpreting the world around us is only the first step – the true challenge lies in changing it.
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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek