The Matrix as Metaphor for Animal Advocacy
Source Free From Harm
By Robert Grillo
The following is excerpted from my (Robert Grillo’s) book, Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal-Consuming Culture, due out Summer, 2016.
It appears that most children are born with an innate empathy for animals. They learn prejudice and discrimination based on race, sex, and species from the adult world. For example, when I was a child, I recall being taken to petting zoos on school field trips where we were given strict guidelines for how to interact compassionately with the animals. But then, later that evening, we would be served the same animals we were told to respect when alive. What seemed like baffling hypocrisy to me then is a testament to how powerful cultural and social forces lead us to turn against our hearts and minds, especially when it comes to the animals we eat. And even more startling is how widespread and consistent this phenomenon is in all of the animal-eating cultures of the world. The question I have grappled with for years now is: how can this conditioning work so well on so many of us for so long?
This question is central to the film, The Matrix. While most narratives from popular culture are carefully crafted around what we want to see, hear, and believe, The Matrix asks us to question what we’ve been taught, to separate what is illusion from what is real, what is oppression from what is freedom. And The Matrix is all the more important because of its notoriety as a cult classic. In the film, Morpheus explains to Neo that the Matrix is a simulated reality based on what the world was like in 1999, into which harvested humans are pacified and trapped as slaves by the sentient machines of their own creation. Morpheus and his followers make up a rebel group who hack into the Matrix and “unplug” enslaved humans and recruit them as rebels. Morpheus becomes convinced that Neo is “The One” prophesied to end the war between humans and machines. In one defining moment, he offers Neo a choice to take the red pill or the blue pill, explaining that taking the red pill will reveal the truth about reality. When Neo chooses the red pill, Morpheus then explains what the Matrix means:
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work . . . when you go to church . . . when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind. (1)
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what we see
what we feel
who we be.
our soul is
we should never
in this realm
Karen Lyons Kalmenson