“Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” – Morpheus, The Matrix
This quote was in response to Neo declaring he didn’t believe in fate because he didn’t like the idea of not being in control of his life. As deaf human beings, some of us have that splinter in our minds. But what is it, exactly?
*leans in close and whispers* That splinter in our minds is … audism.
The flawed schema and social construct imposed upon us by human beings who share the notion that deaf human beings are not equal to hearing human beings, and thus are treated accordingly.
Flawed schemata are essentially known as stereotypes and they are generally defined as “unreliable, exaggerated generalizations about all members of a group that do not take individual differences into account” (pg. 18, Schaefer). Keep in mind stereotypes can be both positive and negative. What we term as a negative stereotype is called a prejudice. *looks back and forth at audism and prejudice, then nods*
By acting upon our prejudices, this leads to what is called discrimination. “The behavior that deprives individuals and a group of certain rights and/or opportunities because of prejudice or for other arbitrary reasons” (pg 41, Schaefer). This can be on an individual basis, or on a collective basis.
When enough people share a schema, this turns into a social construct, which is necessary for a culture to exist. Let me break it down even further: individual thoughts can lead to collective thoughts, which in turn becomes part of a culture. And since thought typically leads to behavior, this means members of a culture will behave similarly.
Generally, this isn’t bad but it can lead to problems, like Morpheus explains in the first film, “The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”
In short, it’s a feedback loop. Audism → institutionalized audism → internalized audism.
And if one resists the attempt to internalize audism and it in general, they become like Trinity, Morpheus and the others in the Matrix movies. The freedom fighters for the deaf people, to destroy the idea that deaf are inferior to the hearing. But just how do we destroy audism, and how do we become like Neo, the best freedom fighter of them all?
One key aspect of what made Neo the way he was, is that he understood the Matrix so well that he was able to look at a program and understand how it was constructed. Trinity, Morpheus and the others could do this, but only up to a point. But what made him able to understand the Matrix so well? The first answer is that he knew the programming language of the Matrix. Remember, he was one of the best hackers out there, and that is one of the main reasons why Morpheus contacted him. But despite being one of the best hackers out there, he still struggled to discover the full extent of his abilities.
A main portion of the film is us watching Neo discover the extent of his abilities, and starting to truly believe in himself. There are extraordinary moments where we catch glimpses of his abilities, such as the now infamous bullet-time sequence on the helicopter pad when he goes to rescue Morpheus. But it wasn’t until the end of the first film that Neo was finally able to do this.
In other words, Neo self-actualized. The brief definition of self-actualization is to fully realizeyour potential, as I mentioned in my first blog post, but this doesn’t give a full picture of the concept. So, let’s look at Maslow’s concept of self-actualization – see right for the image of the pyramid showing the hierarchy of needs. Two things happened nearly simultaneously for Neo at the end of the film. He finally believed in himself, therefore gaining the needed self-esteem, and found love and belonging when Trinity told him that she loved him.
When this happened, it led to several things – instead of denying the truth, he accepted it and ultimately, himself. Neo also stopped his prejudices from controlling him. This is significant, because he serves as an example of how even among the best of us, we can and do hold prejudices against our oppressors, and that is one major reason of what holds us back.
*leans in close and whispers with a nod* Reverse audism.
Mahatma Gandhi understood this, and this is what he meant when he declared that we had to be the change we wished to see in the world.
Now, the problem of reverse audism is also compounded by what I call reverse horizontal audism, and this is also illustrated well in the last two films of the Matrix Trilogy. In the Matrix Reloaded film, we meet Commander Lock, who is a natural born – born in Zion, the last bastion of free humans, therefore he does not have a jack in the back of his head. Lock doesn’t understand the Matrix as well as those who were born into the Matrix. He’s also quite prejudiced against Morpheus and his allies because of two main reasons: Morpheus is not natural born like Lock is, and Morpheus repeatedly flouts Zion’s rules.
*looks around innocently* I don’t know about you, but this sure does seem familiar….
Fortunately, there are wiser heads who prevail and allows Morpheus and Neo to proceed on their mission, overruling Commander Lock’s objections and wishes to take the fight completely outside of the Matrix. Because of this, ultimately, Neo and the artificial intelligence reach somewhat of a truce, because Neo’s arch-nemesis, Agent Smith (which is what we could consider to be institutional audism) is such on a rampage that he threatens to take down both the artificial intelligence and the humans. So, Neo successfully takes down Agent Smith, and both intelligences live in somewhat of a peaceful co-existence afterwards.
They finally came to the realization that neither one could exist without the other.
So what does this mean for us? *puts on sunglasses* I think it means you have to know thyself, and of course …
FREE YOUR MIND!
Acknowledgments: I wish to thank MishkaZena and Amy Cohen Efron for the countless hours of dialectic explorations into Deaf Culture, American Sign Language, the psychology of oppression, and Deafhood. And of course, I wish to thank all of the commenters who stop by my blog, especially those who respectfully disagree with me, thereby forcing me to understand my principles and point of views better. This would not have been possible without you. 🙂
Racial & Ethnic Groups, 11th Ed. Richard Schaefer, DePaul University. 2008.
The Matrix, 1999.
The Matrix Reloaded, 2003.
The Matrix Revolutions, 2003.
Wikipedia: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs