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Leaving Home – The Matrix and the Gulf War

Leaving Home The Matrix and the Gulf War by Ness Mountian

"You can’t even say they lied; the media never said 'only 5,000 people were killed in the Gulf War'."

Nature’s Fresh Northwest didn’t write back. No surprise, unfortunately. (See last issue.)

Next problem: why did they use Keanu Reeves as the lead in The Matrix? Reeves plays “Neo,” a young hacker who finds out that the world he lives in is actually only a virtual reality. The real people—their bodies, that is—are sequestered in pods in huge, lightning-lit warehouses built by the evil machines who have conquered the world. They keep the humans there, imprisoned in “The Matrix”—a virtual reality system—so they can drain the electric energy from the humans for their own nefarious uses! Yes indeed. But a small resistance has escaped the pods and realized that all the other humans are living in a collective virtual reality. They initiate Neo—who has always had the feeling that something was wrong—tearing him violently from the virtual world—which is just like our “normal” world—and out into harsh reality. (This moment, incidentally, is the high point of the movie. Everyone I talked to felt a strong sympathetic reaction to it. The world is not what it seems.) Neo joins the resistance, where he is taught to venture back into The Matrix. As a premier hacker, he learns to gain control of the virtual reality computer system as only hackers can. He becomes the hero of the movie and gets the girl.

So—never mind why all Hollywood movies are made with the same hundred mediocre actors. We like them anyway. But why Keanu? Reeves is the ultimate jock, a pinup type, and the role of Neo—correct me if I’m wrong—is the ultimate opportunity for a NERD TO BE THE MAN. There are lots of movies for handsome, tough lovethrobs-of-questionable-acting-ability like Keanu. This was our moment, and it was stolen from us. I demand the movie be remade. Find a real nerd.

Nerds: here’s your chance to write in. Any comments? If I get enough feedback I’ll write a nerd column next time.

A pet project of mine: do you have any idea how many people were killed in the Gulf War? I did a survey, calling around Portland. Talked to twenty people who guessed between 2,000 and 10,000. It’s a fascinating example of the power of media manipulation. You can’t even say they lied; the media never said “only 5,000 people were killed in the Gulf War”. They just talked about American people so much that the Iraqi dead just somehow got lost in the shuffle. About 5,000 Americans were killed (not counting Gulf War Syndrome). The American military estimates about 50,000 total casualties, but they downplay the “side-effects” of war—bad water, disease, famine, and so on. Estimates in the foreign press run about 200,000 to 300,000 casualties. Quite a successful “sanitization” campaign, wasn’t it?

Reminds me of The Matrix, as if that movie were a kind of unconscious expression of our collective knowledge that we are being lied to…or gently led away from the truth.

This remains a pet project because no one is shocked. It doesn't generate any heat. I want to be like Neo. I want to shatter the matrix, freeing people from the illusion of peace and prosperity. Problem is, everyone would wake up in a pod, surrounded by scary machines. We know that world climate is projected to change more in the next fifty years than it did in the last ice age. The suffering of working people in Asia and Mexico is essential to our economy, and we know it as we buy our Nikes. One-third of young black men are in the criminal "justice" system. We know these things but many of us don't awaken to them. We don't have the kind of knowing which leads to action.

The problem is numbness. Before each of us can overcome the numbness we are trained to live with—before we can see the pods—we need to have hope that something good can come of choosing to wake up fully.

We didn’t create the global economy alone and we can’t fix it alone. There are no convenient, believable solutions to these problems. We don’t even know what resistance looks like in the 2000’s, but we must resist, and with strength, spirit, and hope, we will create it.

Ness Mountain is a counselor and urban shaman living in Portland. Your comments on Leaving Home are welcome, respond to Alternatives or to Ness.

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