Stand Alone Complex
"Do you believe everything in the world is a lie?" - JD Salinger

The term Stand Alone Complex appears to have been coined for the deeply psychological anime of the same name. It's one of the core themes of the show and is discussed in a dialog between Kusanagi and the Laughing Man in the last episode.

A complex in the psychological sense is a cluster of related thoughts and feelings that lie deep in the unconscious, reflecting into the conscious. The Stand Alone Complex can be described as the desire to change the world, the drive to change what is wrong with society. It is the urge to stand alone against impossible odds, to risk everything for seemingly little gain.

The Stand Alone Complex can arise in any person. It could manifest in a child fed up with school, an adult not content with his progressing life of slavery.. or in an old man, ready to give up on life.

In the show there are several characters whos ultimate aim is to reshape the world into something a little less cruel. One character kills capitalists using a gun that fires 100 Yen coins.

The aim of the shows reoccuring super hacker, the Laughing Man, is bent on exposing an evil plot by nanotech industry leaders who blocked a potentially life saving vaccine that showed great promise in treating cyberbrain sclerosis so they could market their own, much more expensive, nanotech treatment. (His intentions are pure and in the end Aramaki offers him a position on Section 9 as an information specialist.) This is a great example of someone with a Stand Alone Complex: the Laughing Man was willing to throw away his past life, and die for what he beleived in, without any support from anyone.

In the real world, Robert S. McNamara is a good example of an individual with a Stand Alone Complex. In Fog of War, he not only illustrates his regret for his role in the deaths of so many people for such petty causes, but he even goes as far as attacking the very system of government we have in place for allowing such atrocities to take place.

Another example is Noam Chomsky. He saw the destruction of the "bazaar of ideas" that he grew up in and began to resent it. He also witnessed the gap between functional members of society and rogues living on the poverty line. He eventually became one of the most outspoken opponents of our present system of government.

It's important to note that the Stand Alone Complex is not negative. It's the desire to change the negative into the positive. It's the desire to tear down an ugly mall and build a library or plant a garden.

As we advance into the golden age of information, our governments are removing our personal freedoms in order to protect us from rogue elements of their own machinations. I beleive that very soon we will start to see a great deal of people with the Stand Alone Complex. Maybe even a whole generation.

Heres hoping.

Disclaimer: most of this is pure conjecture. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Although it makes perfect sense, I can't find any mention of it outside the show. Perhaps it is a translation thing, if so I would like to know the original Japanese term. (Update: liveforever tells me the original title has it in plain English, so there goes that theory.)