How not to write a diagnostic essay for University English classes: a study in failure.

Posted: December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

The diagnostic essay is a tool employed by many universities across a wide range of subjects, although it is primarily used in english classes. These are used in order to establish the standard of english present in a student, presumably so that the writer’s style can be examined before more important assignments are set. The major flaw with these essays however, is that they are often merely set as a “diagnostic essay” where no formal topic question is asked. The student is given free rein to write on either any subject or any piece of media/literature they desire. This often leads to unrefined essays, as you may read below. The worst part of the diagnostic essay is that a mark is unobtainable, if there is no topic question, a grade can not be decided upon. Instead of reading this piece as a college assignment, I would ask that you view it as my tribute to a legendary film. My personal favourite, the matrix is perhaps one of the oddest films ever created. Its obscurities reflect the non-sensical essay title for which this article was written.

The Matrix, released in 1999 on the brink of a new millennium was a blockbusting new cinema phenomenon. As we looked into the future, facing a new century and a new age of technology, the Matrix was an outlook on the race we had become, a power-hungry people constantly in search of newer and more powerful technology, technology that was capable of both creation and the benefit of our people, but also of terrible destruction. As we entered into a new age in our history, this film, despite its roots in farfetched science fiction, raised important questions on what we would become as human beings, issues which, eleven years later, still apply to us.

First of all the film poses an age-old philosophical question of what is real? For centuries we have pondered over this question, asking ourselves whether we can view our world empirically, taking what we sense through our ears and eyes as real. In the matrix, the Wachowski brothers propose that we cannot. The matrix itself is a fake world, created electronically by humans who are jacked into, or linked to it. Thus a perfect alternate reality is created, seemingly real, but completely fake. The world of the matrix seems real to its inhabitants, but in truth is an invention of their own brains. One man, John Anderson, is awoken to this reality by a group of renegades, determined to bring an end to the dreamlike world of the matrix. In the film he is forced to question what is real and imaginary and through his journey we are caused to question our own existence.

The film also raises a question of morality and ethics. In this film the main character, John Anderson, also known as Neo or ‘The One’, is opposed by two major antagonists. These appear in the form of ‘agents’ corrupted programmes originally made to police the world of the matrix and to protect the minds of the people connected to it. Because of their mindless obedience to their programming the agents have become a totalitarian force, more interested in law and order than the safety of their charges, the human race. The second group of antagonists are the sentinels, machines that were created in the real world and equipped with artificial intelligence, however, because of this intelligence, they developed a sense of self-preservation and realising that the human race were a threat to their existence, they began to wage war on them. Therefore the matrix had to be created to escape the adversity of this war. The creation of these threats raises the question is the creation of artificial intelligence ethical? It is ironic that human kind’s greatest invention becomes it’s greatest threat.

This issue parallels with our own dilemmas of pollution and global warming. Our own greatest technological inventions such as the car and airplane have become a cause of detriment to our environment. In fact, the Wachowskis mirror this issue more concisely in one example in the film, where a character explains to Neo, that it was humans who ‘scorched the sky’. Knowing that the sentinels draw power from the sun, humans used powerful technology to cause an endless thunderstorm, blotting out the sun and killing all organic life on earth. In retaliation, the machines began to use human electronic impulses, as ‘batteries’ to power themselves. This, I felt was a clever critique on the way we have abused our environment in the past. In fact, in one scene, an ‘agent’ tells Anderson that one cannot classify humans as mammals, but that to class humankind as a virus would be more suitable. We enter an environment, abuse it and drain it of its resources, then move onto the next ‘host’ to repeat the cycle.

Although this film is primarily a sci-fi thriller, it also presents us with some food for thought about the way we perceive the world around us and the way we live and interact with our environment. This film is  about the awakening of one’s senses and one’s mind to the world one lives in. Just as the race that was collectively connected to a massive computer in the matrix, we too are interconnected by the planet we share and this film stimulates us to think more on the subject of interconnectedness and culpability for our actions. As the wise Chief Seattle once said “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Not only are the Wachowski brothers thought-provoking philosophers, they are awe-inspiring artists and they present their points amid scenes of breath-taking special effects and heart-stopping action, making this one of the most entertaining and rousing films in modern times.

Sometimes I feel I have to bend over backwards to please people.

    This issue parallels with our own dilemmas of pollution and global warming. Our own greatest technological inventions

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