The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyre)

Use this forum to have philosophical discussions about aesthetics and art. What is art? What is beauty? What makes art good? You can also use this forum to discuss philosophy in the arts, namely to discuss the philosophical points in any particular movie, TV show, book or story.
Post Reply
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4467
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyre)

Post by Scott »

In the 1908 non-fiction essay, Anarchism and American Traditions, Voltairine de Cleyre wrote the following:
Voltairine de Cleyre wrote:The love of material ease has been, in the mass of men and permanently speaking, always greater than the love of liberty. Nine hundred and ninety-nine women out of a thousand are more interested in the cut of a dress than in the independence of their sex; nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thousand are more interested in drinking a glass of beer than in questioning the tax that is laid on it; how many children are not willing to trade the liberty to play for the promise of a new cap or a new dress? This it is which begets the complicated mechanism of society; this it is which, by multiplying the concerns of government, multiplies the strength of government and the corresponding weakness of the people.

Written nearly a century later, in the 1999 science fiction movie, The Matrix, the character Morpheus says the following:
The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Business men, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

Voltairine's words are about real life everyday political freedom in a non-fictional context, in a time before AI and smartphone addiction existed, let alone were so intertwined with the zeitgeist of the time.

Morpheus's words are written in a fictional context and regard a prison-like virtual reality run by AI overlords. It brings into context matters relevant to the human condition that do not exist at all, at least not yet.

Despite the differences, do you also see some parallels between the words of the real Voltairine about our world versus the words of the fictional Morpheus about his world-within-a-world, a sort of dream within a dream?

When it comes to political oppression, does it tend to be the case that the oppressed assist in their own oppression?

Who makes the guns that the police and government agents carry, even when the citizens are deprived of equal rights to arms? Who builds the prisons and camps? Who builds the tanks and paddy wagons? Who does the paperwork and bureaucracy? Do those people tend to do it begrudgingly, or do they tend to apply for and seek out the job? Do they get excited, gitty, and happy when they get the job?

For instance, if we hypothetically imagine an average human living as an unemployed prisoner in a Soviet gulag or a Nazi concentration camp, but then this human was offered an important job helping produce supplies for the government and its armed agents, or doing important bureaucratic paperwork, would the human tend to be eager to take job and happy to get the offer?

Is it an understatement to say that humans tend to be complacent in their own slavery and oppression?

Is it more accurate and less of an understatement to instead say that--rather than being merely complacent--humans tend to be active assistants in their own oppression?

Perhaps humans wouldn't just build the AI that builds the matrix; perhaps humans would also be the ones to build the matrix itself.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
Ecurb
Posts: 825
Joined: May 9th, 2012, 3:13 pm

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Ecurb »

"Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Job 7:5.

Why is slavery the worst of all evils? We all suffer. We all die.
To Althea, from Prison
BY RICHARD LOVELACE

When Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my Gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the Grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair,
And fettered to her eye,
The Gods that wanton in the Air,
Know no such Liberty.

When flowing Cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with Roses bound,
Our hearts with Loyal Flames;
When thirsty grief in Wine we steep,
When Healths and draughts go free,
Fishes that tipple in the Deep
Know no such Liberty.

When (like committed linnets) I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how Great should be,
Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,
Know no such Liberty.

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor Iron bars a Cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage.
If I have freedom in my Love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such Liberty.
Prisoners and slaves are free to think whatever thoughts they will. Here Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, discusses freedom:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
All of us live in circumstances that a limited in some way. We may not be shackled, or live behind bars, but we might have to go to work to support ourselves or follow laws to which we object. But we control our attitude toward these circumstances, and (I think) acceptance is often better than shouting into the wind, which continues to blow regardless.
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4467
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Scott »

Ecurb wrote: April 6th, 2021, 5:29 pm Why is slavery the worst of all evils?
That's a loaded question. Why do you assume evil exists at all? What does it even mean for you to say something is "evil"? What does evilness have to do with this topic?

You may use the term differently than I to refer to something else (which may or may not exist), but generally speaking I don't believe in 'evil'.

As I wrote in my topic Man Is Not Fit To Govern Man, in my philosophy there are no oughts, no shoulds, and no try. There is can and cannot, and from can there is do and do not.

Ecurb wrote: April 6th, 2021, 5:29 pmPrisoners and slaves are free to think whatever thoughts they will. Here Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, discusses freedom:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
That's a great quote, and Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning, is one of my favorite books.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
Nick_A
Posts: 2441
Joined: April 19th, 2009, 11:45 pm

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Nick_A »

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Jacob Needleman asks in his book "Lost Christianity":
Of course it had been stupid of me to express it in quite that way, but nevertheless the point was worth pondering: does there exist in man a natural attraction to truth and to the struggle for truth that is stronger than the natural attraction to pleasure? The history of religion in the west seems by and large to rest on the assumption that the answer is no. Therefore, externally induced emotions of egoistic fear (hellfire), anticipation of pleasure (heaven), vengeance, etc., have been marshaled to keep people in the faith.
The value of liberty is that it enables and honors a society as a whole to struggle for truth. But as the Great Beast, it prefers prestige through the struggle for pleasure. Plato explains the Beast in Book V1 of the Republic
I might compare them to a man who should study the tempers and desires of a mighty strong beast who is fed by him--he would learn how to approach and handle him, also at what times and from what causes he is dangerous or the reverse, and what is the meaning of his several cries, and by what sounds, when another utters them, he is soothed or infuriated; and you may suppose further, that when, by continually attending upon him, he has become perfect in all this, he calls his knowledge wisdom, and makes of it a system or art, which he proceeds to teach, although he has no real notion of what he means by the principles or passions of which he is speaking, but calls this honourable and that dishonourable, or good or evil, or just or unjust, all in accordance with the tastes and tempers of the great brute. Good he pronounces to be that in which the beast delights and evil to be that which he dislikes...
The Beast Masters can lead society itself into oppression at the expense of liberty. It has no need to awaken citizens to the value of liberty. So until a society as a whole can find the means to become human it remains the Great Beast.
Thomas Merton records being asked to review a biography of Weil (Simone Weil: A Fellowship in Love, Jacques Chabaud, 1964) and was challenged and inspired by her writing. “Her non-conformism and mysticism are essential elements in our time and without her contribution we remain not human.”
Of course the Beast Masters want no part of these people. They interfere with its goal which requires eventual oppression to maintain order
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace
User avatar
LuckyR
Moderator
Posts: 4909
Joined: January 18th, 2015, 1:16 am

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by LuckyR »

There is always the spectrum between the individual and the group. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, each has things it does well and poorly. Where on the spectrum one decides to reside will influence their relative safety and freedom.
"As usual... it depends."
User avatar
Papus79
Posts: 1299
Joined: February 19th, 2017, 6:59 pm

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Papus79 »

A big part of the economic system's efficiency is keeping people hungry for more, because it isn't hard - we're calibrated by nature to climb over each other for status and mating rights because of how differential success works in evolutionary game theory.

I see the two quotes as doing something interesting - ie. taking what seems to be the relationships of capitalism with what's really something of a techno-Gnostic view of the world where the archons themselves are either AI or the beings running us in a virtual reality (which seems to be what the Wachowski's were playing with).

Another interesting idea that describes a particular dynamic really well without exactly knowing what to do with it is called in both new age and certain native American circles 'wetiko':

https://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/s ... rrRcg_Nxcw

And then described much more techinically in Slate Star Codex's 'Meditations on Moloch':

https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/m ... on-moloch/


The overall idea is that while there were one million or fewer human beings on the planet human vs. human predation didn't need to be as much of an issue unless dealing with very specific locked-in areas with few resources. By the time humanity started going global competition for scarce resources went up, agrarian life displaced hunter-gatherer, and there were also fights then for various pieces of land and their resources as well as religious wars where the idea wasn't as much trying to grasp at what seemed - on an intuitive level - to be true (such as shamanism or animism) but rather how to mobilize and control the populace. As the number of human beings went up the actual game theory of human beings preying on each other went up.

This is how you get different people describing the spiritual cannibalism of the Europeans as far as I can tell - what people had to do in order to be successful was fully embody the knowledge that they had a predator-prey relationship with their own fellow man and that, as the adage goes, if you don't know who the sucker in the room is its you.


On one hand it's seemed like the only proper patches for this issue would be technological leveraging of resources, so I'm at least a 'partial' techno-optimist, but on the other hand I see where the same category - ie. technology - has the capacity to not only raise the level on which we pray on each other but the power that smaller and smaller groups have to even bring species catastrophes or even near-extinction events down on us (also thinking of Eric Weinstein's twin-nuclei problem - ie. the atom and the cell).
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.
Ecurb
Posts: 825
Joined: May 9th, 2012, 3:13 pm

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Ecurb »

Scott wrote: April 6th, 2021, 6:20 pm
That's a loaded question. Why do you assume evil exists at all? What does it even mean for you to say something is "evil"? What does evilness have to do with this topic?

You may use the term differently than I to refer to something else (which may or may not exist), but generally speaking I don't believe in 'evil'.

I was using "evil" in the sense of "harmful" or "pernicious"-- one of the definitions supported by Webster.
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
Posts: 4467
Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic
Contact:

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Scott »

Ecurb wrote: April 6th, 2021, 5:29 pm Why is slavery the worst of all evils?
Scott wrote: April 6th, 2021, 6:20 pm
That's a loaded question. Why do you assume evil exists at all? What does it even mean for you to say something is "evil"? What does evilness have to do with this topic?

You may use the term differently than I to refer to something else (which may or may not exist), but generally speaking I don't believe in 'evil'.

Ecurb wrote: April 7th, 2021, 2:28 pm I was using "evil" in the sense of "harmful" or "pernicious"-- one of the definitions supported by Webster.
So then your question is: "Why is slavery the most harmful thing that exists?" Correct?

If so, then, still, it seems to me to be a loaded question. It is loaded with a claim that I don't consider meaningful, let alone agreeable.

Needless to say, harmfulness is relative. If a bear eats a fish, it's meaningless to ask if it is harmful without specifying the relation. It might be harmful to the fish, but not to the bear.

If harm means destruction or destructiveness, then the total amount in the world is net zero. Everything that is created in time is eventually destroyed in time. Everything that is born inevitably dies.

That's a mathematical pattern of all conceptual dualities. One cannot add more leftness without equal rightness to the world, or more upness without equal downness, or more tallness without equal shortness, or more birth without equal death. I believe that is a matter of eternal mathematical law, and thus an inexorable pattern of all conceptual duality projected onto reality.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
Tegularius
Posts: 116
Joined: February 6th, 2021, 5:27 am

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Tegularius »

Written nearly a century later, in the 1999 science fiction movie, The Matrix, the character Morpheus says the following:
The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Business men, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.
Systems prevail until they fall apart as they eventually will. When that happens the matrix vanishes and reality sets in, which as a consequence of the "center cannot hold" paradigm becomes far worse if we weren't so plugged to the matrix in the first place. Not least philosophy, as a way of thinking outside the box, makes itself thoroughly futile unable to escape its gravitational pull or simply ignored as something which has no privilege in such a controlled establishment.
User avatar
Papus79
Posts: 1299
Joined: February 19th, 2017, 6:59 pm

Re: The Comfort Zone, Slavery, and Becoming Inured by Material Ease (with quotes from The Matrix and Voltairine de Cleyr

Post by Papus79 »

Some of what we're talking about is bringing back memories of reading John Gray's Soul of the Marionette a couple years ago - the chapter or two he had on Philip K Dick as well as his sections on Erehwon and 'The Machine Stops'. The Machine Stops was actually really fascinating, ie. a Victorian era story about people locked in sealed in apartments whose every need was tended to by the workings of a massive machine, and when the machine stopped they all came out of their apartments clueless on what to do, where to go, etc..
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.
Post Reply

Return to “Philosophy of the Arts and Philosophy in the Arts”

Philosophy Books of the Month

The Biblical Clock: The Untold Secrets Linking the Universe and Humanity with God's Plan

The Biblical Clock
by Daniel Friedmann
March 2021

Wilderness Cry: A Scientific and Philosophical Approach to Understanding God and the Universe

Wilderness Cry
by Dr. Hilary L Hunt M.D.
April 2021

Fear Not, Dream Big, & Execute: Tools To Spark Your Dream And Ignite Your Follow-Through

Fear Not, Dream Big, & Execute
by Jeff Meyer
May 2021

Surviving the Business of Healthcare: Knowledge is Power

Surviving the Business of Healthcare
by Barbara Galutia Regis M.S. PA-C
June 2021

Winning the War on Cancer: The Epic Journey Towards a Natural Cure

Winning the War on Cancer
by Sylvie Beljanski
July 2021

Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream

Defining Moments of a Free Man from a Black Stream
by Dr Frank L Douglas
August 2021

The Preppers Medical Handbook

The Preppers Medical Handbook
by Dr. William W Forgey M.D.
October 2021

Natural Relief for Anxiety and Stress: A Practical Guide

Natural Relief for Anxiety and Stress
by Dr. Gustavo Kinrys, MD
November 2021

Dream For Peace: An Ambassador Memoir

Dream For Peace
by Dr. Ghoulem Berrah
December 2021