TCS Daily

Le Matrix

By Stephen W. Stanton - March 18, 2003 12:00 AM

Sometimes, dreams are so much better than reality that we do not want to wake up. Once the alarm clock goes off, we come back in the real world full of obligations, responsibilities, aches and pains. Going back to sleep does not make these problems go away. In fact, it usually makes things worse. Yet some world leaders do not care. They want to catch a few more Z's. The events of 9/11 were a wake up call. Jacques Chirac is telling the world hit the snooze button.

At the very least, 9/11 demonstrated that terrorism is a clear and present threat to developed nations and that national security does not begin and end at a nation's borders. Lee Harris goes much further, suggesting that the event portends the collapse of the liberal order and the end of classical sovereignty. The world has changed, and the new world requires new approaches to foreign policy. So why on earth would Chirac take the untenable position of ignoring this obvious new reality? As usual, Hollywood provides an answer.

For the handful of readers that have not seen the movie, "The Matrix" is a computer generated dream world. In the distant future, the human race has been enslaved, and every person's brain is attached to a computer. From birth, humans spend their entire lives in virtual reality. While plugged into the Matrix, all five senses experience cyberspace like the real world, not merely a simulation. The illusion is maintained because the inhabitants have no frame of reference. They have never awoken from this dream; they have never opened their eyes. They go about their virtual lives, taking out their virtual garbage and paying their virtual taxes. They are unaware that their physical bodies are imprisoned by inhuman overlords. The dream world exists only to control mankind, a futuristic form of propaganda, ignorance by design. Civilization's enemies keep people asleep and dreaming so that nobody will attempt to thwart their evil plans.

Eventually, a handful of individuals escape the Matrix. They wake up and see the world for what it is, a far more dangerous place than the virtual world they knew. They finally understand the clear and present dangers confronting human civilization. For the first time, they become aware of their longtime enemies.

Armed with this knowledge, these few brave souls take it upon themselves to confront the enemies of mankind. This "coalition of the willing" makes it their mission to liberate the millions enslaved by the Matrix. Their goal is complicated by the fact that individuals still plugged into the Matrix do not know they need saving. In fact, people who only know the reality of the Matrix cannot comprehend the existence of the real world they have never seen. They cannot envisage the dangers posed by unseen enemies. They see outsiders fight war they do not understand against an enemy they cannot know. Of course, the outsiders must seem utterly deranged, perhaps even dangerous... reckless cowboys.

George Bush and Tony Blair find themselves called such names today. They woke up on 9/11. They see the world more clearly than we ever could before. They have seen the relentless enemies of civilization. Bush and Blair are determined to defeat those who would do us harm.

Just as the heroes in "The Matrix" could not rely on the masses for help, Bush and Blair cannot necessarily count on widespread public support. Too many people are attached to an outmoded worldview in which all serious security threats consisted of rational and deterrable heads of state. In addition, millions of people have their sense of reality clouded by political correctness and moral equivalence. For example, many anti-war protesters ignore all arguments about national security and Saddam's human rights abuses. Instead, they hoist banners with nonsensical slogans, including "no war for oil", "disarm the U.S.", "at least Saddam was elected", and even more outrageous and irrelevant nonsense. Millions of people live in a fantasy world, though their eyes are wide open. Unless and until they unplug themselves from their dream world, they cannot engage in a rational debate. They cannot support their arguments. And they will never distinguish between verifiable facts and even the most outrageous conspiracy theories. In short, they did not wake up on 9/11. Whatever will be done to make the world safe must be done in spite of the sleepwalking masses.

Is this just some crackpot theory? Nope. Vice President Cheney made the point himself on Meet the Press, stating that "9/11 is maybe an historic watershed, that the world is fundamentally different on the front side of that than it was on the backside - on the 21st century side, if you will, than it was on the 20th century side - that the United States and the president have been forced to come to grips with issues that our allies to date have not yet had to come to grips with." Cheney went on to say, "We're on one side of the divide, if you will, and they're on the other, at this point. I think eventually there will be a coming together in terms of an understanding." Hopefully, it will not take another 9/11.

While this divide is bad news, it is not the worst part of the story. The most tragic scene in "The Matrix" occurs when one of the heroes gives up the fight. Cypher chooses to escape the burdens of reality by plugging himself back into the Matrix. He betrays his allies and abets the enemies of mankind for one selfish and shortsighted reason: to once again enjoy the bliss of ignorance. He does not care that his actions threaten humanity's very existence. He makes a conscious decision to live a lie, to embrace a fantasy as the real world collapses around him. He absolves himself of responsibility for the oppressed people of the world. Worst of all, he sabotages those willing to fight for a good cause, allowing people to die needlessly.

As an aside, the word "Cypher" has its origins in Old French, according to the American Heritage® Dictionary. Coincidence? Pas du tout. Chirac and Cypher are following the same script. Monsieur Chirac signs UN resolutions he has no intention of enforcing. The text of 1441 reads, "...failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations." When asked why France would not enforce the resolution for which it voted, Ambassador Jean-David Levitte responded, "Nobody had the illusion that Saddam would cooperate fully and willingly" when the resolution was negotiated. This duplicity is nothing new. According to former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, France practically acted as Saddam Hussein's lawyer long before 9/11.

When dangers appear, France simply pulls the blankets over her eyes. While blankets might keep away the bogeyman, real threats require more substantial defenses. Stern rhetoric cannot disarm brutal dictators. Diplomatic dalliances will not deter terrorists. Popular opinion cannot protect a nation from weapons of mass destruction. Sweet dreams do not eliminate harsh realities.

There are very real dangers in the world. They existed when the twin towers were still standing. These dangers continue to grow as radical fundamentalism gains traction among oppressed peoples of the world. Armed with WMD's, a small group of these fanatics can kill more people than entire conventional armies.

Yet millions refuse to accept this reality. Brave leaders such as Tony Blair bear the terrible burden of clarity even as their people object, obstruct, and obfuscate. Let's hope that a coalition of the willing can prevent a catastrophe so large that the rest of the world finally wakes up.

If Chirac manages to hit the snooze button, the next alarm may be much louder. Perhaps even nuclear.

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