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Red Pill and Manifesting the Good Life

For those unfamiliar, Red Pill is a philosophy developed from the movie The Matrix, where the main character, Neo is offered two pills by Morpheus, one blue and one red. The blue pill offers contentment and relaxation and exclusion from what is actually going on in the system that operates behind the illusion of order. The red pill offers freedom and the truth of reality. It shows you what's really going on, how dirty and dark the matrix really is.

If you want a good idea of the idea that the red pill philosophy appeals to, watch this clip.

Introduction

The red pill is a movement that has grown significantly in the last couple of years. It consists of men, mostly, who have broken out of the "matrix" and have come to understand the reality of the world. Taking the red pill means seeing through the manipulations and deceptions of society. While vague and slightly confusing, if simply understanding the world for what it truly is was the only consequence of taking the "red pill," then this article wouldn't be worth writing. While I suppose the red pill philosophy doesn't necessarily entail the mistreatment of women or the belief in wild, usually baseless conspiracies (usually having to do with Jews, of course), oftentimes they go hand in hand. 

Champions of the red pill space routinely take aim at feminism, lamenting that women, in reality, have never been and are not oppressed. Rather, the traditional man has been oppressed and suppressed. They often appeal to the good 'ole days, back when "men used to be men" and women had traditional gender roles as mothers and caretakers. 

The outcome of this usually looks like a call to action for men to get into shape, get their finances in order, and become rich, inevitably attracting hordes of women along the way. This usually also comes along with convincing young men to not go to school and to move away from the usual 9 to 5 jobs. Many sympathetic to the cause of the red pill will cite men's physical and monetary improvement as a reason why the philosophy is not "all bad" or even a net positive. Of course, this analysis seems to miss the point. While the red pill philosophy may (and tbh, the jury is still out on this) help certain men achieve great success in their finances and physical health, the issue with the philosophy is its tendency to one, give young men a very unrealistic view and understanding of the world, and two, negatively affect their current and future relationships with their significant others and children. 

Even more disturbing is the amount of young Muslim men who have taken up the red pill philosophy wholesale, championing its "similarity" to Islam, especially in the realm of gender relations. While very disappointing, I think the phenomenon of the red pill can give us some key insights on what to do moving forward. Additionally, the appeal of the red pill has much to do with the truth of some of its insights. The everyday man is struggling both in education and the labor market. The role of a man in the home has become muddied and unclear. Again, while unfortunate, I think there are valuable insights that can be gleaned from the widespread popularity of this philosophy. It prompts us to critically examine the shortcomings of how we as a Muslim community have failed to properly frame and even understand what masculinity or femininity looks like in Islam.

Misapplied Energy

As I stated earlier, the philosophy of the red pill does make a few salient points. Outside of all the other problematic features, one of its biggest downfalls is the solutions it prescribes even for the good points it makes. For example, men are falling behind women in academia and even the labor force in some cases. Liberalism, as well as a general fuzzing of inter-gender relationships and their etiquettes, has made getting to know and pursuing relationships with some women more difficult. The solution that the red pill philosophy provides is a material one. Get rich! Because then every woman will have no choice but to follow after you. Be strong! Get your body in great physical shape so women can't help but drool over you. Be cold! Emotions are for women, a man must be cold and calculated at all times. Oh, and all of these things also happen to be what women are naturally attracted to. 

There are a couple of issues here. One, while most of these imperatives are actually good by themselves, in the red pill philosophy, they are all based on the implicit assumption that women are materialistic, visually driven, and emotional wrecks incapable of using their logical faculties. Two, the chasing of material success cannot and will not provide the soundness of the heart that, in reality, is what most of these men are looking for. Lastly, women are still at the core of the material endeavor. Get rich! Be strong! Be cold! (in order to get women, because breaking through the brainwashing of the "matrix" is getting women???). While there are some strands of more extreme red pill thought that aren't focused solely on the attainment of women, the first two critiques still apply to them as well. 

Now, here is the unfortunate part. While I believe Islam actually has solutions for the men who end up seeking out or feeling sympathetic towards the red pill philosophy, I think they often incorrectly identify what those Islamic solutions are based on how certain communities have framed inter-gender relations, femininity, and masculinity more generally. Marriage and the family unit more specifically.

The Husband, Wife, and Manifestation of the Good Life

One of the key areas where I think we have failed is in trying to understand the distinction between that which is masculine and that which is feminine from an Islamic perspective. There are ahadith that mention some traits of women versus men, and there are also the guidelines of the shariah which structure the marital relationship. Unfortunately, what this has caused is for us to understand masculinity and femininity solely through the lens of the marital relationship. The prescriptions provided by many community leaders for men and women are in reality prescriptions for husbands and wives. This narrow focus may be due to various reasons, including our difficulty in distinguishing between what is recommended and what is permissible (longer discussion for another time), and a lack of clear definitions of masculinity or femininity in Islamic teachings. Furthermore, even within the marital relationship, the legal guidelines and rights provided by Islamic jurisprudence are intended as safeguards for the worst-case scenarios, rather than ideal prescriptions for a thriving relationship.

The reality is that unfortunately, there is no formula. Relationships are complicated and certain societal realities can make them even more complicated. The truth is that there are many different ways to manifest the good life that God wants for you and your family that might exist outside of the breadwinner-homemaker model. 

Femininity and masculinity are general terms, getting bogged down in the details and trying to attribute certain traits like “dominance” and “assertiveness” to masculinity and “docility” and “humility” to femininity is a waste of time. In everyday life, traits and strengths can overlap between individuals regardless of gender. Even in a family, two people are not going to have the same strengths and weaknesses. So even if the man is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the family, there might be aspects of spirituality that the wife takes the lead on (because she’s stronger in them and better at them). Life is complicated and thus may require more complex solutions. Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter one size fits all solution for every scenario or relationship. This is the key thing that the red pill and some of our Muslim communities get wrong in regard to relationship building. 

The Actual Goal of the Red Pill

Red-pillers, and those who subscribe to similar philosophies, are not actually concerned with breaking out of the matrix or even holding "rational," reality-based views on the nature of women. We know this is true because the red pill philosophy is itself an ideology, a matrix of beliefs. What they actually care about and are rightfully lamenting is a lack of societal belonging. The red pill philosophy, and thus its members, are actually concerned about peacefully existing, being heard, and feeling a sense of belonging in a culture that is more and more becoming based on satisfying carnal desires at any and all costs, rather than on building meaningful relationships with other people as a means of getting closer to God. People want to belong and when they feel like they don't, it's no surprise that red-pill thinking becomes so seductive, especially when they don't have people around them to give them a frame of reference for a healthy connection with other human beings. 

A culture of this type is the logical conclusion of the Harm Principle. In the words of essayist Dave Greene (who I also have issues with but in this case makes a great point), "Progressivism is an anti-ethical ethical tradition, an anti-teleological teleological perspective, and an anti-spiritual spirituality. It would in any proper anthropological sense be considered a religion. Yet, despite itself, the movement rabidly pursues secularism and deconstruction, less out of a procedural commitment to discipline but because it can be used as a pretense to disqualify its opponents and ensure its dominance of the public square" (Greene). 

Properly Applied Energy

In light of the misconceptions and misdirection often associated with the red pill philosophy and its impact on relationships, Islam offers a perspective rooted in a complete teleology and the pursuit of closeness to God. While the red pill may focus on materialistic solutions and distorted views of gender dynamics, Islam encourages individuals to seek true fulfillment through a profound connection with like-minded people and through them the Divine. By prioritizing spiritual growth and striving for righteousness, Muslims can navigate the complexities of relationships and gender roles in a manner that transcends the superficiality that the red-pill philosophy champions. 

Islam emphasizes the importance of meaningful connections, whether it be with one's spouse, family, or wider community, as a means to attain soundness of heart and draw closer to God. Through a balanced approach that intertwines devotion to God with nurturing relationships, Islam provides a comprehensive framework that addresses the spiritual yearnings of would-be red-pillers. 

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