“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, 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.” –Morpheus, The Matrix (Lana Wachowski)
Do you feel some days like the character Cypher in The Matrix, wishing everything could go back to normal? “Why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?” What wouldn’t you give to put everything back the way it was in January, at the start of 2020, when you were full of optimism and plans for the new year?
Careful…that’s a loaded question. Maybe “normal” wasn’t working as well as we thought. The suddenly-clear skies over big cities seem to agree. What is revealed by a few weeks of shut-downs is that our society, our government, our financial system, our families, our very health—these things are a lot more fragile than we like to think. They may even be built on illusions.
But unplugging everyone simultaneously is dangerous, too. Unless you were already free-thinking, self-sufficient, and counter-cultural, simply removing the construct isn’t going to make you so. In fact, it’s more likely to put you into shock. Sending children home from school if there is an abuser in the family puts them more at risk. Removing income from an impoverished family places them in an even more precarious place. Isolating addicts and mentally ill people makes them more desperate. We may be saving thousands from immediate death by pandemic at the cost of millions from slow death by pandemic response. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t obey orders put in place to protect the vulnerable or to limit spread of the disease, but we should do so carefully, considering the collateral damage. We must lay aside our rights as a free people for the good of many, but only temporarily. The founders of the American Democratic experiment feared loss of liberty more than loss of life. Do we?
I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist (unless you consider the cosmic force of evil conspiring against good). But while we’re in the middle of this pandemic, I am asking some questions: Who is in control? Who is telling the truth, and who is not? Who decides what happens next? Where is the flow of money and power? What will happen to our democratic republic if this goes on indefinitely? Looking forward to the “after” of this pandemic, I’m not feeling very optimistic. (This was supposed to be a pep talk, but I’m a little short on pep at the moment. Bear with me.)
Since this is a health crisis, I’m probably going out on a limb by stating that I do not believe that more “healthcare” is equivalent to more “health.” We have been confusing these terms for a long time, and unless we change the paradigm, we will continue to make decisions as a species that erode our future wellness and that of our planet. If we are looking for a quick fix—a shiny new medicine, a vaccine that will make all this bad go away, then we will get what we have been getting from the Pill Pushers: dependence on costly medications that treat symptoms instead of processes that promote wholeness in our bodies and minds. (And don’t forget the side effects…)
I have long been a proponent of slow food, fresh air and sunshine, exercise, quality rest, holistic remedies, good relationships, and spiritual well-being. These things require lifestyle change and sacrifice, but they result in improved overall health. I am not discounting the need for medical care or life-saving drugs; even healthy people get sick sometimes. I am not shunning expert advice about how to be well. I am not saying that those who care for patients every day are not heroic and life-saving (they are!). And I am not ignoring the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society: the poor whose choices are limited by their station (one could argue that I live well because they live in poverty—who grows my food? Who converts raw materials into my fuel? Who makes my clothes?)
I am only saying that at the top levels, the healthcare system as it exists now is based on power and money, and not compassion for the ill. No one benefits from dead people, and no one benefits from well people who don’t need a doctor. What the system needs to remain in place is a large population of people who are a little bit sick all the time. And to sustain itself, it preys on fear and ignorance. And don’t forget laziness, because, honestly, even if we know what’s best for us, it really is easier to take a pill than eat right and exercise, and natural remedies require a lot of time and diligence.
As we wait, and as we slowly crawl toward recovery, let us not forget the lessons we are learning. Ask hard questions, think deep thoughts, search out the Truth. You may find that the world as you knew it was “pulled over your eyes to blind you” (Morpheus again) and even though it’s harder to go forward with that knowledge, it’s better than selling out to go back to a false sense of security.