There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

No particular reason, just felt in a Rand-bashing mood tonight.

Accordion Guy picked up this tragi-grotesque list of “Most Harmful” books of the century on Human Events Online, a site that panting hardcore conservatives usually browse with a single hand…

Hmmn, awright… I’m not even sure why I bother discussing a list that places Darwins, Kinsey, Beauvoir and overall, any socio-political thought somewhat left of fundamentalist wingnutry as “harmful”…

Yet… I thought I would point out that these “19th and 20th century” contributions all but pale in comparison to a certain piece of writing from twenty centuries ago.

Now, I am serious here: assuming somebody can give me anything other than “They don’t agree with us” as a systematic criterion for inclusion, I presume we would have to take in account killing and massacring of innocents as an important part of the selection process. In which case, call me biased, but I would dare venture that 2000 years of bloody history all seem to point at that bestseller featuring the life and teaching of that famous bearded hippie.

Not only was the man a dangerous subversive commie with strong anti-capitalist positions and a heavy past as a free-trade obstructionist, but his book went on to justify a good half of all blood baths that took place in recorded history… Tell me about harmful liberal propaganda…

A look at the sins that shape this blogging machine of a man…

And we got in close order:

  1. pride
  2. lust
  3. wrath
  4. sloth
  5. envy
  6. gluttony
  7. avarice

What’s your personal Top 7?

This is pointless enough with just what it needs of self-centered drivel in disguise, that it might make it as the next big blog filler around: knock yourself out, but if you do, in the name of all things sacred, just do not call it a meme. Or I’ll personally go all se7en on your ass. Thanks.

Now, you don’t think I was gonna post a list of flaws without some pathetic attempt at justifying them:

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You know, for all my left-wing political hysteria and the incredible amount of time I spend complaining about the state of democracy in the world, I am not much of a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe in that big evil masterplan to keep us all under control.

If anything, I am a strong proponent of the old “Never attribute to malice, what can easily be explained by stupidity” adage… Greed and stupidity, to be exact. And certainly many overt collusions between groups of scary individuals with similar interests. But no international cabal to hide the truth about alien abductions and the enslavement of poorer nations.

Just. plain. stupidity.

Yet, some times I can’t help but wonder. Especially when I wake up, have a look at the triumvirat that now presides over the United States of Earth, and realize they all play for the same team…

See, it all started with our beloved Consul, Supreme Commander of the Armies, followed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to be finally joined in their fight for the Greater Good by none other than the Grand Inquisitor of Our Holy Mother Church himself. That sure is quite a powerful trio we got here…

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1. Unnecessary longwinded and irrelevant Foreword

What does one do, on a depressingly bleary rainy Easter Monday?

  1. Stay in and abuse pharmaceutical substances while watching the entire second season of Scrubs, freshly downloaded off the net.
  2. Stay in and abuse pharmaceutical substances while working on a thoroughly useless piece of software instead of, say, earn a living.
  3. Go to church and bath in Holy Water.

Answer: 1) and 2) (all about multitasking).

Oh wait, sorry… that’s just me.

I believe the correct answer for regular God-fearing sinners is 3).

I know… One usually partakes in such activities on the preceding Sunday. But yesterday was way too busy attending a sun-tanning contest in the garden with my neighbours.

Seeing how I nearly lost an arm to self-combustion last time Holy Water hit my bare skin, we will have to make do with the next closest topic at hand today, and discuss religions in general.

Note: Because this blog wouldn’t be what it is without its overly affected pseudo-wordly brand of cynicism, you can expect a certain amount of negative thoughts and disparaging comments on the matter at heart. We would therefore cordially invite the strongly religious and easily offended among you, to go browse somewhere else for the duration of this entry. Hare Krishnas and Jehova’s Witnesses: you can stay; you are probably accustomed to people overtly mocking your faith by now.

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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.