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The Matrix Analyzed,
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This review is from: Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It (Hardcover)I found Thomas De Zengotita's thesis on our modern state of near complete domestication ("mediation") to be brilliant, exciting and liberating. I also found his writing, while refreshingly intelligent and creative, a bit glib and cynical by the end, and his realistic conclusions more than a bit sobering. Yet, given the coherence of his insight and argument I was mostly glad to accommodate his breezy and sometimes rambling (as well as occasionally scathing, acerbically critical) style. It is ultimately an honest and personal analysis, combining both his smart Ego, and his smart-aleck Shadow, and makes for a quick, fun and entertaining read (appropriately enough for this mediated boomer).
So what does it mean to be "mediated"? It refers to the whole process of seeing ourselves through the lens of an auto-reflective, hyper-rational and self-conscious (thus superficial) world. The result is a world increasingly presented (and perceived) as if we (as individuals) are both the focus of it, and the author, and the one capable of controlling it. This kind of hubris is nothing new, but the technology that gives us both the illusion of complete control and knowledge is.
What I liked most is how he brings his anthropological lens to bear on the current human condition, and so gives a deep psycho-analysis to the culture and some of it's main players. And this is a rather chilling analysis... And probably a rather challenging one for most readers educated/conditioned in the modern PC age ("politically correct" primarily, and "personal computer" incidentally). As he writes;
"But - the dialectic of mediation again - in reaching for the real in that way, they succeed only in extending the reach of the virtual." (pg 94)
"The inherent aim of the ethos of mediation is to turn everything into an option, even when it can't literally succeed." (pg 128)
(This then explains the wide-spread popularity of the illusive ideal of "social justice". We have become conditioned to expect "anything is possible", even when we know it isn't.)
"You become an elaborate apparatus of evolving shtick that you deploy improvisationally as circumstances warrant. Because it is all so habitual, and because you are so busy, you can almost forget the underlying reflexivity." (pg 187)
"But it is obvious to other people. I mean, you see it in others, don't you? Why should you be different?" (pg 188)
"This is a serious diagnosis of a serious condition. Would we rather not know about it because it's incurable?" (pg 193)
"But what that says is that representational technologies have colonized our minds. That may be the simplest deepest way to characterize the whole history of representation to the extent that our thoughts no longer wander on their own, stocked only with materials drawn from direct experience, to the extent that they follow flows of representation instead - to just that extent we don't think our own thoughts. Literally." (pg 196)
Profound stuff. Welcome to the Matrix.
(Personally, I feel all is not lost, this may be an accurate description of life in the false (image projected, filtered and layered) world we call reality, but there are ways available to us as individuals to wake up and see/experience it all differently. Perhaps the extinction of external mystery - through the discovery/mastery of everything material through science - will push us to look more seriously at the internal/spiritual world. And this will be a good, and truly limitless venture - for, after all, the unconscious is inexhaustible.)
PS, as good as this book is at exposing the issue of our mediated/virtualized world, if you are interested in knowing the underlying reason for such a development read Iain McGilchrist' s remarkable study of the brain The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, which clearly shows how this is the result of the rise to power of the left-hemisphere of our brains.