“No more; where ignorance is bliss,/‘Tis folly to be wise.”*

*closing lines of “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” (1768) by THOMAS GRAY.

From: “Did You Ever Eat Tasty Wheat?”: Baudrillard and The Matrix, by William Merrin, University of Wales, Swansea, UK:

“…Looking at this history of images and their reception it becomes apparent that images have always been seen as efficacious — as having the power not merely to represent reality but also to present themselves as what they represent, in assuming for us the force of the real. This is a power long recognised in the founding theologies and philosophies of the west, especially in Judeo-Christianity and Platonism which each saw this physical world as an illusion, a mere image or copy of a higher divine reality, and which each opposed this illusory image’s power to attract and divert the minds of men from that reality. Each also attacked human made images in this world as compounding this error, hence Christianity’s assault upon the “eidolon” — the “idol” or “simulacrum” — and Plato’s attack upon images, and upon the “simulacrum” in particular as an image that simulates fidelity to the divine form to deceive us as to its reality. Such deception could only be evil hence the western demonisation of the image, explicitly repeated, for example, by Descartes. Finally, each also saw this imagic world as a place of confinement, Plato explicitly describing us as prisoners chained in a cave mistaking shadow-play upon the cave wall as reality. It is this question of the simulacrum, therefore, that The Matrix, in its “trip into Plato’s cave”, returns us to — to the issue of the powerful image which eclipses the real to assume its position, rendering impossible in its usurpation the distinction of image and original, and to the enchaining of humanity to the image and its evil deceptions…

…The simulacrum, therefore, from Judeo-Christianity, to Plato, to Descartes, to Baudrillard, forms one of the main and recurrent themes of The Matrix. Consider the breakfast scene where Mouse complains of the processed slop they eat, asking, “Do you know what it really reminds me of? … Tasty Wheat. Did you ever eat Tasty Wheat?” As Tasty Wheat exists only in the matrix it is pointed out that no-one has actually eaten this. “That’s exactly my point. Exactly”, Mouse replies. “Because you have to wonder now, how did the machines know what Tasty Wheat tasted like, huh? Maybe they got it wrong; maybe what I think Tasty Wheat tasted like actually tasted like … er … oatmeal … or tunafish …”. Existing only within the matrix, Tasty Wheat is its own effective reality; it cannot, as Mouse suggests, even taste “wrong”. Compare this “last supper” before Morpheus’s capture with the Judas Cypher’s restaurant meal with the agents inside the matrix. Just as Lucifer fell to this secondary imagic world of sensory temptations, so too does Cypher, for whom the simulacral reality similarly eclipses the real. Witness his pleasure at eating the steak: even if it “doesn’t exist”, and even if “when I put it into my mouth the matrix tells my brain that it is juicy and delicious”, this is sufficient: the simulacral steak eclipses the breakfast slop. Plato’s cave is happy enough if you know no better. “Ignorance is bliss”, he says between mouthfuls…”

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