My brothers and sisters… This scene here tho! This scene is claaaaassic. The phrase to remember is not the magnanimous “Ignorance is bliss,” however off the chain Pantoliano (as Cypher) delivered it. Neither is it the symbolic and rhythmic “Do we have a deal, Mr. Reagan?” spoken by that dude Hugo Weaving (as Agent Smith).
The line for me is….
“I don’t want to remember nothing. Nothing. You understand?”
Me and my oldest bro (of Uncanny X-Men #275 yore) repeat this refrain often as a means of condemnation.
These lines–“I don’t want to remember nothing. NOTHING. Understand?”–these lines reflect the reality of willful ignorance, dangerous memory, and epistemological compromise.
The mundane of a sci-fi flick throttles us to the extraordinary and sends us back to the mundane.
Cypher’s will, his desire is to become ignorant again. Unlike those who have not awakened from the hold of the Matrix, Cypher has seen reality and wishes to unsee it. He wishes to forget. In the technocratic age of injustice that we find ourselves in, this willful desire to forget, to dismember memory is a sign of the times. In the age of memes and gifs, dismemberment is quintessential. Memes and gifs become greater than their source material.
Don’t believe me?
Poor Boromir is no longer Boromir to the masses. His character has been dismembered… This memes something. (See what I did?)
What does willful ignorance have to do with social injustice?
Social injustice is not simply maintained through overt domination and violent suppression. Social injustice is also maintained through nonviolent (though deadly) means, i.e. willful ignorance. Willful dismemberment of memory allows for the dismemberment of life and love. Willful ignorance should not be confused with blindness. The problem, as Sobrino once wrote, is not that folks cannot see. The problem is that folks don’t want to see.
For instance, one of my homeboys has recently gone to Japan and posted pictures from Hiroshima. Do we truly remember that the nuclear bomb is unprecedented in human history?
Never in the history of humankind have human beings killed so many so quickly. 100000+ in a matter of seconds. Have we really understood this? To remember Nagasaki and Hiroshima is to remember that certain lives have always been cheap and disposable in Modernity, and that for all the good the West produced–it also produced an evil never before seen on the face of this planet. At the risk of false equivalency–which I utterly despise–it is by no means coincidental that WWII produced one of the worst genocides in human history and also the worst single day death report in human history. Do we remember that the genocide and the bomb victimized primarily non-combatants? I am not just typing about morality here. I’m talking about the extraordinary–the awful and ugly extraordinary that shapes our mundane interactions.
“I don’t want to remember nothing. Nothing. Make me important…” Willful ignorance in the age of injustice proliferates itself across social media when high school friends sit on the other side of a political or social spectrum and begin to throw shade and blow up your timeline. They forget they are speaking to a human being–a friend–they once broke bread with and laughed with. They don’t want to remember nothing. Nothing. Their hearts are numb, and the possibility that things might be so unjust is too upsetting to their status quo.
“Make me an actor,” says Cypher. Someone who pretends. The double irony of a man who wants to become someone who profits off of make-believe in a world that’s already make-believe… Double the hypocrisy. Willful ignorance.
Memory, history is dangerous. It remains dangerous for one simple reason: memory/history subverts the present, especially if the present is built upon lies.
In the case of Cypher, it is dangerous to remember the past because it exposes that the Matrix is a lie.
I’ve talked a lot about epistemology on this blog, and hopefully, by now I’ve demystified the term. It simply means that we are investigating how we come to know/understand and experience the world and ourselves–or as Ivone Gebara wrote, we are “knowing our knowing.”
“I don’t want to remember nothing. NOTHING. Understand?”
In other words, Cypher’s understanding of the world is predicated on willful ignorance that seeks to destroy dangerous memory. He, like so many of us, is epistemologically compromised. It is not enough to say that Cypher is willfully ignorant or that he seeks to circumvent dangerous memory. At the most fundamental level, he reveals an epistemology built upon the elimination of lived experience.
To know is to eliminate. To know is to silence. To understand is to forget.
Cypher reveals that historical amnesia is a way of knowing the world, and those who seek to steer clear of the demands of justice, mercy, and love often live in this episteme (place of knowing). There are many “Cyphers” in this world.
This has gotten lengthier than I intended so I shall stop….
Please excuse my rust… I been on hiatus. Also, my Monday sermon excerpts will resume next week…
Faith. Hope. Love.
©2016 M. J. Sales