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Politics Inside and Outside the Matrix

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When I was a kid, my favorite funny writer -- outside of the Mad Magazine gang -- was H. Allen Smith. His name may not be a household word today, but I remember him as a writer with wit and sharp insight into human nature. I learned a lot from him.

Smith grew up in a small town in southern Illinois, and as a child he would wander downtown to watch the men gathered in front of the general store. One day, a proverbial "city slicker" came to town and had the men mesmerized with a shell game. Time and time again, the men would place their bets where they thought the pea would pop up, and time and time again the slicker would lift the shell -- and no pea. Young Smith watched for a while, and suddenly a thought occurred to him. With the innocent perception that has caused emperors to go running for their pants since the dawn of intelligence, he piped up, "Maybe it ain't under any of 'em."

The gaggle of men was struck silent. Game over. The slicker hastily packed his peas, and the townsfolk were simultaneously impressed and embarrassed by a child's voice that cut through the trance.

So what is the significance of this? Well, every time I think of our two major political parties, I remember those words spoken nearly a century ago: "Maybe it ain't under any of 'em."

Like the townsfolk mesmerized by the shell and the pea, we Americans have been hypnotized since birth that our choice is between the Democrats or Republicans. It's either chocolate or vanilla. And when the unsuppressed child in us pipes up, "But I like strawberry," there's always that voice of authority who says, "Strawberry? What are you, some kind of pinko?"

It's Not Red State vs. Blue State, It's Red Pill or Blue Pill
Now, however, as the "up-wising" continues to take hold, more and more Americans are looking beyond the shell game and starting to notice the movers behind the shells. To update the analogy, think of the movie "The Matrix." In this futuristic fantasy (with elements all too present in the present), the population lives under the control of the machine and remains conveniently unaware. In the parlance of the movie, they have taken the "blue pill" of blissful ignorance and live lives that are mere reflections of who they could be. Their energy -- both as workers and consumers -- serves as fuel for the machine.

The movie revolves around Neo -- and his mentor Morpheus -- who have taken the "red pill" of wakefulness, and are trying to liberate themselves and the world from the "matrix." In the most general sense, the "matrix" is our human mind, our habitual ways of thinking that keep us boxed in our limitations. More specifically, the matrix can be seen as the world of the man-made where the machines we humans have created now rule us -- and most people don't even notice.

So it is that politics today exists both inside and outside the matrix. Inside the matrix, politics is the shell game of Democrats and Republicans and their tweedledweeb and tweedledumb platforms. It's the world where there are "serious" conversations about how this politician or that politician can raise their approval rating, and there's no innocent child to point out, "Doesn't that mean which one is doing a better job manipulating public opinion?"

Politics inside the matrix means pretending that all votes are fairly counted and tallied, that the war and now the occupation in Iraq is to liberate the Iraqi people, that 9/11 really was a surprise attack, and that if we're not comfortable with the Bush agenda, the Democrats will save us. There's a telling moment in the dark satire, "Bob Roberts" (see it, and you'll realize why the neocons hate Tim Robbins, who wrote and starred in the movie) where Gore Vidal playing a Daniel Moynihan-type Senator breaks character and talks directly to the screen. "Democrats or Republicans, it doesn't make much of a difference. If the National Security Agency wants it to happen, it happens. If not it doesn't." He then goes back into character, and proceeds with the movie.

"Bob Roberts" was made more than fifteen years ago, during the first Iraq war. What people didn't get then -- or didn't want to get -- they're beginning to get now. Like the classic Twilight Zone episode where the E.T.'s manual "To Serve Humankind" turns out to be a cookbook, the corporate military complex we've learned to put our trust in is now devouring us

The Up-Wising Continues ...

So what do we do? Our first small step outside the matrix is to hearken back to the language and intent of our Founding Fathers. In the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution, they make it clear that we humans are sovereign citizens, not subjects. The government serves at our pleasure, and it serves to protect its citizens and the commonwealth. It is sad indeed that the words and concerns of Franklin, Washington, Jefferson and Madison now stand starkly irrelevant in the face of fear-based self-inflicted totalitarianism. Until we face this tragic truth, we cannot really liberate ourselves and government of, by and for the people.

Secondly, we must strengthen the field of awakening and "up-wising." This means, calmly and courageously speaking our truth and asking the right questions to enable others to discover their truth for themselves. The article I wrote about David Ray Griffin in our local weekly, the Bohemian, elicited over 125 letters of gratitude from all across the country. Never has the Bohemian received even 25 letters about anything. I had hoped that other publications would pick up and republish the article, and a few have. But the really interesting thing is that the field of awareness has expanded.

How do I know? Well, first is the case of Kevin Barrett. Kevin teaches Muslim Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is also the head of Muslims, Christians and Jews for 9/11 Truth. Two months ago, word got out that he was teaching "an alternative view" of the 9/11 story and several state legislators loudly called for his firing. Two things happened. First of all, the University has stood by Kevin, and public opinion has come down solidly behind him. More importantly, he has gotten publicity for the story -- something which he could never get until he was attacked!

In another "coincidence," Vanity Fair -- the bravest and the boldest over the past three or four years in speaking out against the Bush machine -- has published in their August issue an article about the young men who produced the most frequently downloaded movie on the web, "Loose Change," which also offers an alternative view of what happened on 9/11. Has the story finally broken through the "soundless barrier?"

Well, consider where the voting fraud story was before R.F.K. Jr.'s brave article published in Rolling Stone. Not only has the story broken through progressive news services like TruthOut and Common Dreams but my God -- even DEMOCRATS are starting to talk about it!

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Steve Bhaerman is a writer, humorist and uncommontator who's been posing as cosmic comic Swami Beyondananda for the past 20 years. He is the author of seven books including Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From (more...)

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