The Matrix trilogy has three main character types: those who fight on behalf of the machines, those who fight the machines, and Neo. While Neo joins the humans who fight the machines, he is their savior only because he is distinctly different from them. What is it that makes Neo different?
In the real world, there have been many Neo-like characters: Socrates, Jesus, Paine, Thoreau and Orwell are all good examples. They seem to be on the side of the weak in a battle against the powerful, but they are not wholly a member of their group, either. They have a power or understanding that makes them different from their peers, which is why their name resonates. For example, Paine spent two years in a French prison for voting against the execution of the King, despite authoring the pamphlet that de-legitimized the king. When he chose the title Commonsense, he was implying that neither the monarchy nor the masses had any. Both believed a lie, and slaying the King was a lie, too.
Similarly, Thoreau was both admired, mocked and misunderstood by his contemporaries. Emerson, in his eulogy to his friend, said Thoreau belonged to the huckleberry party, suggesting he never accomplished anything useful. Yet Jesus and Socrates also avoided the lust political power.
Socrates was significantly different than his students that followed, Plato and Aristotle. Plato believed in a ruling elite and Aristotle saw a natural balance in slavery. Socrates did not think anybody was fit to be a master. Orwell and these other thinkers all saw the death of the individual as the greatest loss in the battle between good and evil. The lack of a desire to become a master of others is what makes them commonly different. Democracy, unfortunately, is rooted in a victory-defeat paradigm.
Ayn Rand would seem to fit in the above group, since she was a champion of the individual, but her individualism lacked compassion for others. The aforementioned group were both highly compassionate and individualistic. In the case of Socrates and Jesus, their ‘thoughtcrime’ was being more compassionate than their contemporaries, and they did not take refuge in the power of any group, not even for self-defense. They did not seek to conquer, but to transform both the high and the low; the Left and the Right.
We can recognize that this group is both individualistic and compassionate, but what is the exact nature of this different drum that this group hears? What do they see and hear that others sense but do not quite grasp? Or, as Thoreau put it, why do they strike at the root while others hack only at the branches?
While Neo is a fictional character, he does embody the critical element that is shared by these others: he is outside of system-think. He sees himself as an individual, and he sees others as an individual. A system is not a system, but rather a group of like items following a common behavior. A branch is part of the trunk which is part of the root. They are connected, but can be easily severed. Some branches yield fruit and seeds, others branches die. One seed can create many seeds, but the sum is never more than the beginning. The volume fluctuates but not the essence. As he battles Agent Smith, and Agent Smith multiplies, Neo never loses sight that it is always the same seed he is battling. He is fighting back through the branches until he can finally return to the root, which he finally accomplishes in the third movie.
The same sense of individualism and compassion that drives Neo eventually infects Agent Smith. At one point Agent Smith states that he does not like being an agent. He wants his struggle to end. His choice of which side he is on is not nearly as important as his sense of self-awareness. It is that self-awareness that this group of thinkers is constantly prodding and trying to develop. That is the wedge between system-think and individual consciousness.
What drives all these thinkers is a deeper understanding that the same numbers drive the system for good and evil. While the masses think they are battling good versus evil, in fact they are entrapped by a numerical system that they themselves created. They are battling their own mirror. Humans created the machine-world, not the machines. Orwell called it 2+2=5.
Who among us doesn’t believe that 2+2=5? Small children put their meager gifts into interest-bearing savings accounts. Entrepreneurs buy low-sell high. Democrats and progressives believe in taxation, without regard to where the money comes from. Every tax increase for the government is a pay cut for the worker. Unions demand high wages, but that requires higher inflation for the goods everyone purchases. The owners do not manufacturer money, they take it from the customers. Money is a zero-sum game, and the golden rule applies. You should treat others how you would like to be treated. If you would like to pay less, then you must charge less. If you want others to share, then you must be willing to share. Everybody in the auto industry should work for one dollar a year. In fact, everybody everywhere should.
Speculation caused the Great Depression, yet within a generation speculation was again at full throttle. We have children graduating high school and entering directly into indebtedness. To whom are they paying the interest? Themselves! They both take interest with one hand and pay it with the other. Business owners collect profits and pay profits. The government collects taxes and wastefully spends taxes. Non-profits, especially the universities, collect donations but hoard wealth. Every group is mathematically and financially confused.
How do I know this? I have become one of these thinkers who has transcended the lunacy of the false math we have all been indoctrinated to believe. I am not smarter or wiser or more virtuous than anybody else, I am just another late arrival to the club. The neo-conservatives have failed. Now is the time for the neo-transcendentalists.