The Matrix: A Journey of Individual Freedom
The Matrix film series’ dystopic world has captivated audiences with its intriguing story, charismatic characters, and breath-taking visual effects ever since the release of the franchise’s first film in 1999. It depicts a futuristic world in which humans are controlled by a centralized authority, the machines. We will explore how the story actually resonates in many aspects with Libertarianism’s core values of individual freedom, voluntary association and the idea of limited government intervention.
The Matrix: An Allegory for Oppression
The Matrix is an elaborate virtual reality world that the machines have created in order to keep humans under their control. Humans who are trapped in the Matrix are deprived of individual freedom in every way, as they are prevented to think, act and perceive reality freely. The control of the centralised authority is such that most of the enslaved humans are not aware that they are slaves, which keeps them at the mercy of the machines.
The Matrix can be seen as an allegory for oppressive governments who suppress individual freedom and autonomy with an increasing number of arbitrary laws and regulations, and enforce them by means of force with their police or military.
As the machines will do anything in their power to keep control over humans, so do authoritarian governments. They will demonise, silence and hunt, even outside their frontiers, anybody who goes against them.
A parallel can be drawn between the story of Neo, and the one of Julian Assange, both hunted by centralized powers because they have revealed the truth about the crimes committed by the machines on one side and governments on the other. None of them has breached the non-aggression principle, yet authorities are chasing them for speaking the truth as the truth would cause public outrage and endanger the power of both authorities. As Murray Rothbard well said: ‘The greatest danger to the State is independent intellectual criticism’.
The Red Pill: A Symbol of Individual Awakening
When Neo, the main protagonist, is offered the choice between the red and the blue pill by Morpheus, leader of the resistance, he is actually meant to choose between the truth, which involves dealing with a harsh reality, and blissful ignorance, which means keep on living comfortably in an illusion of reality.
Neo chooses to confront reality by taking the red pill and deciding to fight the machines, enemies of human freedom. The red pill then becomes a symbol of liberation from societal illusions where individuals become aware of their true circumstances instead of embracing a false reality. This can be viewed as a metaphor of the Libertarian awakening, the individual understanding the danger of the State to personal freedom and therefore, the need for limited government intervention.
Of course, taking the red pill is not easy, especially when as Morpheus said ‘People are hopelessly dependent on the system and they will fight to protect it’.
That is what we see in our world, as governments get bigger, the number of public workers and unemployed people who are dependent on the government to live keeps increasing, which makes it more likely for those people to defend the state instead of individual freedom.
The Resistance: A Fight for Freedom through Disobedience
As the Milgram Experiment has shown, most people tend to comply with what is instructed to them by an authority, even if it means harming innocent people. There are multiple historical examples of regular people supporting and putting into place tyrannical measures because an authority had told them to.
A fairly recent example is the Covid-19 mass hysteria during which many people obeyed blindly so-called experts and governments who were aggressing people defending their basic liberties. This is due to the fact many people blindly trust authorities and do not engage in critical thinking as to analyse the legitimacy of this authority.
As Henry David Thoreau well said: ‘Disobedience is the true foundation of freedom. The obedient must be slaves’. This idea is very important in The Matrix, particularly in the following dialogue between Morpheus and Ballard, another captain of the resistance.
Ballard : You’re asking for one of us to disobey a direct order.
Morpheus : That’s right, I am. But we all well know that the reason that most of us are here is because of our… affinity for disobedience.
As Murray Rothbard explained: ‘Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defence is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal’. Following Libertarianism’s non-aggression principle, the machines as well as the state are being ‘aggressive, unjust, and criminal’ towards individuals, who then have the right to defend themselves from such illegitimate centralized powers.
Therefore, as Morpheus and Neo, we should be the resistance against any growing authoritarian powers trying to supress individual freedom and to enslave us. Our most powerful weapons are ideas, because ideas are bulletproof, and as long as the ideas of freedom live, there is hope for a free world.