A rather well written movie review by Adam Gopnik interestingly trying to enumerate the more or less plausible philosophical references alluded to by the Wachowski bros. in the two first volumes of their magnum opus.
Along with an entertaining and mostly negative critic of the sequel, is the attempt to go over the first episode once again and dig a much decomposed corpse from a grave where it is high time to let it rest: “Philosophy and the Matrix”. In one single column, Adam Gopnik manages to cram references to no less than: Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, French philosopher Jean Beaudrillard, the Cathar religion (with some glaring mistakes and inaccuracies, by the way), Plato, Daniel Dennett, Robert Nozick, Hilary Putnam and Princeton philosopher James Pryor, along with a host of other writers and the predictable -yawn- tribute to sci-fi grand pubah Philip K. Dick…

So, beside letting us know in lengths that he is a highly refined, well-read, educated man who knows his classics and beyond, Mr Gopnik nonetheless listed an interesting point made by James Pryor and worth rehashing a bit more:

[…] the Princeton philosopher James Pryor posed the question “What’s so bad about living in the Matrix?,” and, after sorting through some possible answers, he concluded that the real problem probably has to do with freedom, or the lack of it. “If your ambitions in the Matrix are relatively small-scale, like opening a restaurant or becoming a famous actor, then you may very well be able to achieve them,” Pryor says. “But if your ambitions are larger —e.g., introducing some long-term social change— then whatever progress you make toward that goal will be wiped out when the simulation gets reset”…

Quite a good point imho, “what is so bad about living in the Matrix?”, well, absolutely nothing in most cases. It is even a good deal if you praise the stability of the overall system and inner limitations put on any social interferences.

So, if you are quite satisfied with the system -and who isn’t?- who cares if it is not the original system designed for you. What difference does it make? The essential is that it works, and that it works for you in particular…
Opening that restaurant, becoming that famous actor or getting that job promotion… all these are more likely to happen soon in a well-ordered, Matrix-style system than in the chaos which could only replace it. Right?
Better yet, your dream to gather the entire collection of Matrix action figures or the ultimate website repository of matrix’ links: where do you think you stand better chance to achieve it? within the Matrix… Or outside in the wild ?
Of course, the system has its flaws, not everybody get their fair share of happiness and it even seems like only a handful of people do… but what if that’s the only way for you to get what you consider your well-deserved fair share of happiness?

By now I hope you understand that this is not only about the metaphoric Matrix concept such as exposed in the movie, it’s much more generally the idea of a “thought system”, more or less efficient, unconsciously adopted by the majority, thus redefining for the masses what is “real” and what is not… it can be religious, political or even much deeper down in the psyche of civilizations…

Anyway, just thought it was somewhat amusing that most fans of the movie and overall the type of people who kept nodding their head and mumbling “I knew it” while exiting the theater, when given the choice, would typically prefer to remain within “the matrix”…

Nobody waited for Warner Bros to devise ways of controlling people’s minds or to wonder about how much credit we can give to our senses
Religious and political systems have been quite successful at the former, and still are nowadays, to the best of my knowledge. Like a perfectly designed Matrix, they usually ensure that you are assimilated or disposed of.
It is also essential that nobody sees what’s on the other side of the wall, look at the USSR or the USA of the 50’s ? How much accurate information did each one know of each other ? For either one, the other side was about as real as a propaganda cartoon on national TV… still is to this day, except the sphere of influence of one matrix has eventually overcome and practically erased the other.

As it has been pointed out way too many times already: yes, we live in the “Matrix”… but does anyone really want to get out of it?
I doubt it.

Ok, time to go to catch Fox news.

It suddenly downed on me while reading yet another article pointing out how the US still cannot manage to justify their invasion of Iraq, even after the fact…

Delenda Est Carthago

First, let me give a bit of explanation for the ones who were lucky enough not to endure years of latin grammar and history during their childhood.
Delenda Est Carthago, or more exactly: “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (“And therefore, I conclude that Carthage must be destroyed”), was the motto of Roman conservative senator Cato the Elder. In fact, it was much more than a motto, it was a slogan, tirelessly punctuating every single of his interventions at the senate. Even when the subject debated was in no way related, he would always weave in his subliminal message: “Carthago delenda est”…
Something like: “we need more fund for the new aqueduct, and carthage must be destroyed… let’s paint the coliseum blue and carthage must be destroyed… we need to fight corruption within the administration and carthage must be destroyed… etc. etc”

The goal, obviously, being to convince the Roman senate to go on yet another war against rival city Carthage and make sure nobody got out alive this time…

This warmongering successfully started the third, last and most vicious of the Punic wars, opposing Rome to Carthage and unsurprisingly resulting in the complete obliteration of the weaker one.

Now, I am sure I could find half a dozen wars in the world’s History which would perfectly stand the comparison to “US-Irak Pt. 2: The Vengeance”, but this one is particularly striking in its similarities.

What reminded me of this old tidbit of history was probably, more than anything, the rhetoric used by US warmongers to justify their position before the war: no need to be subtle there, just utter pseudo-truths and dumbed-down arguments over and over again, until they become the official media truth.

But is this the only points of comparison between the two? Well, hardly… curious about how far it could go, I tried to complete my superficial knowledge of this particular slice of history and felt an increasingly dizzifying feeling of déjà-vu as I dug into history books.

What are we talking about again?

Well, it all starts with this rather wishy-washy politician, not really famed for his wit, but quite popular among conservatives for his obtuse, simplistic traditional views.
Then, there is this old nemesis, once a mighty and threatening empire, but now a war-torn piece of land crushed by the previous conflict, painfully recovering under strong economical sanctions.
What happens then?
Well, building a hatred for the other, based mostly on inane non-factual arguments, employing fear and panic as instruments of war, this politician and his allies eventually succeed in starting an unnecessary and unfair conflict, quite predictably won by what is then an unchallenged superpower… all this for the benefit of none but the private interests of a handful of people.

As you guessed, I was merely giving a small lecture on the Third Punic War (149-146 BC), as accounted for by most history books.
History, perpetually repeating itself? nah…

Among the many interesting details of this (rather gratuitous, I’ll admit) comparison, is that this war, although it had little impact on the Roman empire by itself, is considered the first step of what eventually became its demise… and because it just sounds too familiar, I will merely quote some history website:

“The accidental Roman Empire suddenly shifted into high gear. However, the massive wealth that was created for Rome awoke old tensions between the classes, and the Republic would live in a state of crisis for over a hundred years – a crisis that, at its conclusion, would precipitate the demise of the Republic in favor of a dictatorship.
Rome failed to prosecute corrupt bureaucrats effectively since the courts showed a strong bias towards the senatorial class. […]
The historian Sallust […], dated Rome’s corruption to the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC and the absence of any foreign threat.”

Did that sound a bit scary? oh sorry…