Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Jesus of Nazareth
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. Nelson Mandela
Freedom, then, lies only in our innate human capacity to choose between different sorts of bondage, bondage to desire or self esteem, or bondage to the light that lightens all our lives. Sri Madhava – Hindu Mystic
Morpheus: You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo. The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us……It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
Are we free? Or are we living in a simulated reality, a Matrix, created by the machine of economic growth, evolved to subdue the human population? OK, maybe we’re not physically plugged into a machine that is using our heat and electrical activity as an energy source, but you could say that our shopping and other economic activity is feeding the economy, giving it what it needs to survive and grow.
To continue with the Matrix analogy, look at how governments and banks were able to contravene reality by creating billions of virtual dollars to keep the economy growing, or George Osborne’s admission that ‘We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business’. There is obviously some imaginary planet that the UK is planning to move to when we have failed to save this one.
We are exposed to hundreds of advertisements every day to keep us in our servitude. And it’s not just commercials. The culture we live in rarely questions the accepted view that we must all strive to buy more, buy bigger, upgrade to the latest model and fly further afield. However, studies have shown that, above a certain level of prosperity, more money and stuff does not make us happier.
Spiritual traditions have for centuries understood that our natural desire for God can be corrupted to become a hunger for that which will never truly fulfil. We can choose to break free of our chains to consumerism every time we make do instead of buying new, walk instead of driving or holiday closer to home.
This is where my parody of The Matrix breaks down! Taking the ‘red pill’ to reveal the reality of our bondage to the economy is unlikely to be painful and terrifying. But it could be an important step towards true happiness and real freedom.