01 Leaving the Matrix

Session 01: Leaving the Matrix

Contributor: @Nico

The Matrix can be defined as: a set of beliefs and institutions to enforce people not to live sovereign lives and always to engage in transactional consumer based relationships.

Our attachment to the ‘Matrix’ can be emotional, social, physical and infrastructural.

So many of us work at jobs we do not care about just so we have access to our social networks, and be accepted by everyone we know. We are given the impression that if we do not play by the rules of the mainstream or agree with the others, we’ll be left alone, isolated and miserable.

We’re also hyper dependent on the current financial system because we do notown the means of production of our basic needs. Most of us do not consume the food we grow, or even grown by our neighbors, that goes the same for everything we use.

A History of Attempts to Exit the ‘Matrix’

The industrialization era allowed human society to be developed at a massive scale. Within a few decades we witnessed endless inventions of new transformative technologies, the railroads, telegrams, lightbulbs, alternating currents, all sorts of automated machinery…

Transcendentalism was a counter culture movement led by philosophers such as Thoreau and Emerson in the 1820s, during the heat of the American industrial revolution. As opposed to rising industrialization in city centers, transcendentalism advocated self-reliance, a pro-nature, pro-sovereignty way of living.

Starting from the mid 19th century till now, eco communes have always been at the ‘fringe’ of society, establishing an alternative for individuals who want to ‘opt out’ from default worlds and live as separate communities. It can be captured as an ‘communal Utopian movement’ in the US and many parts of the world, from the Shakers to the Armish.

In the 60s, the commune movement was brought into the center of the cultural stage when psychedelic culture and the anti-war movement merged in and gave birth to Woodstock. It was the first time when anti-establish was popularized at a mass scale and being brought into pop culture.

Unfortunately, most of the communes infused with anti-establishment mentality also had anti-productivity and anti-technology mentality, many cult families emerged and a lot of them died out or fell apart for infrastructural, financial and communal reasons.

What we can learn from the past is that just recognizing existing problems and creating pure alternatives might not be enough. As we are building these ‘protopian’ self-reliant communities and societies, we also need to invest heavily into the science of community building, in infrastructural and social science.

Critical Thinking

The first step to ‘step’ out of any system of thought control is to embrace and practice critical thinking, in short, it means to Question Everything, as summarized in this video.

Being a critical thinker doesn’t imply abandonment of structural lifestyle, on the contrary, it might help us improve our lifestyles drastically by thinking ‘outside of the box’. It is a way of evaluating things with different perspectives and a curious mindset and most of the case is what sparks innovation, creativity and joy in human societies.

Manufactured Desire

Living in the capitalistic societal framework where everything is tied to profit maximalism, which includes our beloved media and popular culture.

What are brands and manufacturers going to do if nobody wants to buy new sneakers? Supply chains will be drastically redundant, many will lose their jobs and corporations can face detrimental financial effects. Marketing and branding agencies are put in place to make sure these never happen.

Branding stories might look immensely attractive to us but they most likely do not have our best interest at heart. For example, cigarette companies created a narrative on female freedom and liberation through smoking in order to expand sales to another demographic. In reality the intention has nothing to do with freedom or liberation, but it’s a romanticized image we’re willing to purchase.

How Do You ‘Leave’?

As summarized before, we have physical and emotional dependency to the ‘matrix’ by design, so how do we opt out if we want to?

If there were a game plan, it would most likely be something along these lines:

Infrastructural Sovereignty: Owning the means of production of our basic needs, or at least reducing it as much as we can. This means growing our own food, sourcing our own water, adapting to local renewable energy.

Social Sovereignty: Owning our social network without the dependency on institutional social frameworks. This could mean from integrating deeply with a local support system, befriending our neighbors, to connecting and exchanging on the open internet to form cloud nations and network states. In short, our existing communities don’t have to always be our default ones and if we long for belonging —- it can be created anywhere.

An Important Disclaimer!

By saying ‘leaving the matrix’, we’re not suggesting to everybody to abandon existing society. On the contrary, what we could do is make conscious decisions to be sovereign and to improve our current status quo, wherever we are. In the end, we are the creator of our own reality, and we always have the choice to opt-in to the life we want to pursue.

Thinking critically about every narrative they are given, and being bold enough to question authorities also doesn’t imply becoming an enemy of the ‘state’ in order to make an impact. Revolutions without solutions most likely create new problems after solving the last.

It is easy for ‘Matrix-Exit’ talk to be connected with anarchism and extreme libertarianism. The extremes of each lead to an over emphasis on the “Freedom From” the capitalist mainstream as it is ‘manipulative’ and inherently exploitative, but they fail to imagine a “Freedom To” living a good life, to create a collaborative vision of protopias and make steps toward a better future.

Going back to creating Protopian societies, aside from upgrading technologies, knowledge frameworks, and thinking critically on existing narratives, more importantly, we need to pay attention to something that is very under-discussed —- ethics and compassion.

Food for Thoughts

Propaganda – Edward Barneys

Manufacturing Desires – Authur Asa Berger

Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman

Brave New World – Adous Huxley

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Hypernormalisation – Adam Curtis

Walden - Henry David Thoreau