If you've seen the blockbuster hit 'The Matrix', you may have left the film with the same thought I did: 'Gee...that sounded familiar...'
What you're hearing in the basic story of 'The Matrix' is based in fact. That is, I believe it's fact anyways. Not that the world is really a computer generated dreamworld, but that we are prisoners of this dreamworld and we are only vaguely aware of it.
Mayhap you've had the feeling that something was terribly wrong with the setup of our world. Many people have. The hippy movement of the 60's certainly had that feeling. They protested and pondered, but they failed to find the bars of the proverbial prison that keeps us all in. We find these bars in 'Ishmael' and in 'The Matrix' alike.
The ideas expressed in 'Ishmael' are amazing and revolutionary. We finally have a solution!! For years people have assumed that things like higher crime rates, drug resistant bacteria, and new diseases are just the prices we pay for technology. But in Ishmael, we see that that's not the case at all. It is the price we pay for enacting a story that puts us against the world.
In 'The Matrix', Neo (Keanu Reeves) spends years of his life looking for the answer to one question: 'What is the matrix?'. In Ishmael, the 'everyman' reporter (us) has been searching for years to find the answer to one question: 'How can we save the world?'. We are warned in Ishmael that the knowledge we will bring back will alienate us from our friends, family, and collegues because we will see what's REALLY going on. The same thing is told to us in 'The Matrix'. After reading 'Ishmael' we feel that we must somehow warn people of the impending danger that they will face unless they wake up. After finding the truth in 'The Matrix', our heroes are faced with the same problem. To further understand this, go and watch the Matrix, then come back, and read the rest of this article. If you've already seen the Matrix and/or are familiar with the movie and it's concepts/key ideas, then read on.
The Main Ideas Behind Daniel Quinn's 'Ishmael'
Every group of people on earth divide themselves into cultures. Cultures, as defined in the novel, are people who enact a story. A story, as defined in the novel, is a concept or premise that a culture strives to make a reality. Western culture has it's own story. The basic premise being: 'Man was meant to conquer and rule the world, and under his rule, the world was meant to become a paradise. But, of course, man is essentially flawed, and so his paradise will be flawed as well. This idea seems to excuse us from messing up the world. 'well, I guess that's what happens. If the gods hadn't been stupid enough to put the world in our hands, there wouldn't BE any pollution.'
The premise of western culture's story seems to be begging the question 'was man REALLY meant to rule the world?'. After all, the rest of the story is based on the idea that man was meant to rule the planet, but where's the proof of that? True, we seem to have a pretty good hold on it, but we're killing it as we do so. We're not really RULING the world, we're just CONQUERING it; beating it into submission. If we were MEANT to just RULE the world, wouldn't it just submit to us without making us result to brute force?
Alright, so we've got THAT part of freeing your mind out of the way, let's think about the cultures themselves:
One thing we need to define before we start, MOTHER CULTURE. If you're really quiet for a while, you might be able to hear her murmuring to you. 'This is stupid. Of COURSE man was meant to rule the world! This person must be some sort of 'living off the land' hippy. We don't need savages like that in OUR world!' Does she sound something like that? Mother Culture is the aggregate of all the lies that western civilization's story has fed to you over the years. Mother Culture IS the matrix. Mother Culture continues to plug away at you, your neighbour, even me, as we speak. However, if you know how to extract yourself from her, then this is when you can truly free your mind. Mother Culture has built up such a wall around and within us, that we cannot even see what is on the other side anymore......More
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