In Lebanon's 'Matrix', the evil machine-agents are our politicians

In Lebanon's 'Matrix', the evil machine-agents are our politicians
Blog: The insensitive way Lebanon's political class has reacted to ongoing crises for which they are largely responsible suggests they might be evil Matrix-like robot overlords, argues Karim Traboulsi
4 min read
23 Sep, 2015
Lebanon's politicians have come to resemble villains from The Matrix trilogy [AFP]

The Matrix series were defining films for my generation - and pretty much all people now approaching their mid-thirties.

I remember leaving the cinema and debating the significance of the scene where Neo meets the Architect, the collective conscisousness of the evil machines enslaving humanity to power themselves.

The denouement that ensued of the human-machine conflict was that both sides should reach a common ground because the destruction of either meant the destruction of both.

The Matrix's premise - despite being a cheesy cyberpunk sci-fi movie - proved to be a great source of symbolism, unto which one could project almost any issue du jour.

The Wachowskis' overbearing machines could be representations of Lebanese politicians

And why not?

The Wachowskis may not be able to place Lebanon on the right continent. But I can't help but feel that their overbearing machines are in fact representations of the politicians of Lebanon.

Think about it. The machines needed to pool the body heat of billions of human slaves in stasis - connected to a dream machine that kept them alive by simulating their old world - to generate enough energy to sustain themselves.

Likewise, the Lebanese politicians need to pool the taxes of millions of Lebanese quasi-slaves in sectarian stasis - connected to a manipulation machine that keeps them paralysed by convincing them their sects are perpetually in danger from the others - to generate enough money to sustain their outrageous wealth and corruption.

Walid Jumblatt is definitely The Oracle. The obnoxious Agent Smith is obviously Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.

And Speaker Nabih Berri could be a version of the Merovingien.

True, the real world - and especially Lebanon - is never that simple. The boundaries between factions are rarely well-defined, and there is a lot of overlap as we, the sado-masochistic observers of the Middle East, know only too well.

But in a way, the factions in the Matrix can accurately model those of Lebanon.

The obnoxious Agent Smith is obviously Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk

To put it simply, we have on one side the people that benefit from the system, from the corrupt politicans and their foreign handlers, to the parasitical bourgeois class.

And on the other side, we have ordinary Lebanese professionals, students, women, LGBT people, labourers, forgotten minorities, poor and destitute people, foreign domestic workers, and expats or exiles who have no hope of leading a decent life inside Lebanon.

That all the politicians and economic leaders have come together to diss protesters demanding little more than elections to be held, and basic services to be provided, proves it.

Yet the ruling cabal's failure to resolve a single problem, including the fact that they have turned Lebanon into a rubbish dump - literally - means all the pressure the protesters have brought to bear so far can be safely ignored.

The politicians still feel safe, and are placing more walls in downtown Beirut around their dens, meaning they intend to continue to ignore protests until protesters get tired and/or run out of hope.

What does the Matrix teach us here? The only real threat the redpills could conjure up against the machines was taking themselves off the grid, and convincing more to do the same, to deny the machines the "energy" they needed.

The Lebanese people must also take the red pill and do the same, and hit the failed Lebanese state where it hurts.

The failed Lebanese political class has cancelled elections and renewed its own mandate. It has decided it does not need people's votes to govern and loot whatever sectors of the economy are still functioning.

The Lebanese people must also take the red pill and hit the failed Lebanese state where it hurts

But the system does need "energy"; these elites do need our taxes.

Jamborees and flea markets in downtown Beirut will not bring about change, but tactics such as civil disobedience, general strikes and boycotts might just work.

And that's just for "legal" tactics.

Remember, our politicians also control some of the biggest businesses in the country, including banks, hotels, restaurants, cement factories, oil firms, and postage companies.

The anti-government protests in Lebanon are promising, but all Lebanese people hoping for change essentially face one principal choice: eventually take the blue pill and rejoin the system on its own terms because the alternative is vague; or take the red pill and escalate action into something that threatens the corrupt overlords and really produces results.

Next week: Fight Club and Lebanon.

Opinions contained within this article do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.