Red pill or blue pill? One reveals the truth, the other lets you live a lie. This question is the central focus of “The Matrix”, the 1999 blockbuster film about a hacker who discovers the true nature of reality. Spoiler alert! Neo, the main character, chooses to learn the truth. After all, if he hadn’t, the movie would draw to an end. But “The Matrix” fails to answer an important question: Why does the truth matter?
The answer might seem obvious, but in the context of “The Matrix”, it isn’t so simple. Later on in the film, Neo is transported to the “real world”, a desolate and dangerous wasteland, where he and his fellow truth-seekers are hunted by their AI overlords. If Neo had chosen the blue pill, he would have lived in ignorance, carrying on like nothing ever happened. Yet, Neo didn’t pick the blue pill, but instead launched himself into the black and bitter state of reality. Neo knew living in an ignorant world would mean living without freedom.
Although there is bliss in being in a state of ignorance, there is also the oppression that comes with it. In the world of “1984”, a novel by George Orwell, the government uses slogans like “freedom is slavery” and “ignorance is strength” to justify their actions. They keep their citizens under surveillance and do everything in their power to prevent them from uncovering the truth. It is groups like the AI in “The Matrix” and the government in “1984” who weaponize ignorance as a way of keeping people under control. Learning the truth is sometimes at the consequence of familiar comforts, but resisting the temptation to take the “blue pill” also comes with freedom.
In the past, ignorance is what held back many societies. In eighteenth-century France, peasants were ignorant to the crimes of the ruling class and lived in terrible conditions. They had no idea Marie Antoinette’s overspending or King Louis the XVI’s poor leadership were causing many problems within their lives. The peasant’s lack of knowledge of these events prevented them from taking a stand against the bourgeoisie. Constricted and unable to move in any direction, the peasants were stuck in a state of ignorance.
But what does this mean for the modern world?
With ignorance still being a problem that plagues us, we need people who are passionate about uncovering the truth. In China, religious groups are likely being oppressed by the government, and despite evidence suggesting it to be true, little has been done to investigate these claims. Society needs people that are willing to dive right in, serve justice and seek the truth.
Therefore, teaching the importance of truth is a standard we should hold ourselves up to. Whether it’s uncovering a murder or unearthing the state of reality, the truth is something we should all seek. Without it, we are left in a state of ignorance and unable to take a stand.
After all, as the government of “1984” doesn’t like to say, “Ignorance isn’t strength.”