There is a scene in the original Matrix where Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is sitting in front of Morpheus, played by Larry Fishburn, and being asked to choose between the blue pill, which would return him to the world that he was familiar with, and the red pill, which would fully open his conscience to the reality of the world that existed outside the Matrix. Neo takes the red pill and is thrust into the real world kicking and screaming and vomiting. Later in the movie Cypher, played by Joe Pantoliano confides to Neo his regret that he didn’t take the red pill. Later, Cypher makes a deal with Agent Smith where he would betray the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar and, in affect, whatever was left of the entire human race so he could return to his delusion free of any guilt or any memory of what the real world is like.
Cypher represents that component of human nature that prefers to selfishly live an existence of deception filled with lavish perks to make his life easy rather than accept the reality the humanity is actually fighting for control of its own destiny. The idea that humanity is nothing more than a resource for the benefit of the machines is a concept too frightening for Cypher to deal with and too large of a problem to have a definitive solution that would lead to the liberation of the human race. Cypher’s solution was to submit to the overwhelming power of the machines and to join them as a collaborator. If you cannot beat them then you obviously must join them.
While most of us will point to the Cypher character and are disgusted with his behavior, too many of us are unaware of how much our behavior and values actually mirrors the behavior and values of this particular example of a human. All of us who watch this movie look at this man and say how he could do that to humanity and swear to high heaven that we would never stoop to such behavior. But instead of machines let us use the term dominant culture. Instead of humans let us substitute the term the oppressed culture. How many people are aware of the gulf between the two cultures but then do what they can to cross that gulf in order to become part of the dominant class and doing whatever they can to forget their life on the other side with the oppressed.
People who are able to make the transition from the subjugated to the liberated rarely look back across the economic divide with a sense of connection to the general subjugated population. Usually, if there is a connection that remains across this ever widening chasm, it is to an individual or a very small set of individuals that can be assimilated into joining the oppressors. At best, the chasm jumper will look back and help a handful of individuals make the jump as protégés to follow in the same conforming footsteps. Rarely does the person who becomes part of the oppressors endorse a behavior that will help those that continue to be oppressed establish a self supporting economy within its own circle that does not require submission to or collaboration with the greater culture in order to get ahead.
People like Cypher who are caught on the losing side will look across the economic divide with envy and exhaustion. Resistance is futile. The oppressors hold all the cards and people like Cypher feel that their ship is long overdue. There is a perceived need for immediate and personal gratification that, in Cypher’s mind, justifies the betrayal of the members of the oppressed who are fighting and working for an end to the subjugation. As far as Cypher is concerned, he’s doing nothing more than pulling himself up by his bootstrap in order to get his piece of the oppressor’s pie of the good life. Other people in the oppressed camp could help themselves and pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they would just submit and offer the oppressors something of value like information that would allow them to have the upper hand in the continuous struggle between the people who have and the people who have not.
The people who make the conscious choice to turn their back on the oppressed in order to partake in the benefit of being a member of the oppressors are not an exceptional phenomenon. In the disparity between the black and white communities these people are more prevalent than anyone would have imagined. Turn on the television for just a few minutes and you will see plenty of people of African ancestry who have made it to the other side only to turn their attention away from the general African American population that may not be as fortunate. It would be nice to think that other black people will succeed and will become part of the solution that will help develop wealth and prosperity within the black community itself. But once that chasm is crossed the only thing these people seem to have on their mind is doing as much as possible to get even more. They’ll help a few more succeed. But in order to toe the line the general population needs to remain in its place of subjugation.