Morpheus explains in the movie ” The Matrix” (1999) to Neo by means of the analogy of the blue & the red pill what it means to be critical literate. He says to Neo:
“You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and you believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes”
In a way ‘Morpheus’ (in Greek mythology: the God of dreams, he who shapes, the molder, the fashioner) plays an archetypal prophetic role, he starts explaining to ‘Neo’ (meaning: the new, a new form or a revival of an old one, but also to spin, to interweave) what it means to ‘awaken’ from the dream, the illusion or what he refers to in the film as the enslavery of the Matrix.
To me, this scene describes in a fictional way the start of the process Paulo Freire calls the humanization process. Freire describes this process in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (first published in 1970) as one where “men and women develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality but as a reality in the process of transformation“.
What makes us humans, is our essence to give meaning to our existence in the broadest sense of the word. We are meaning makers and meaning generators. When we forget, or are not conscious of this fundamental notion of being an active agent in giving meaning to our reality, we ‘dehumanize’, in terms of Freire. We become enslaved by the Matrix, in terms of above mentioned fiction, The Matrix, would then be in terms of Freire the dehumanization process. Freire explains what this is and how this contrasts with the above explained humanization process by using the metaphor of the banking concept. Meaning is being here deposit to us in our minds, we are in this process passive consumers of ideas of others, we don’t question, we just accept. In a way Morpheus is reminding Neo of his ability to shape his reality, to be the creator of his own transformation. This awakenings-process Neo goes through is what transforms the old form in the new form (the symbolic meaning of his name).
Freire says that in order to humanize, we have to be conscious of how ideologies are reproduced in society, how power is played and maintained by means of the ‘word’ . One essential element of his pedagogy of liberation is that we have to be aware that we “read the world by reading the word”. When we become aware of this we enter the realm of critical literacy. This is an ongoing state and an important way to put our humanization process in practice. We begin to embrace our human capabilities. We approach the ‘word’ as vessel where meaning has been deposit into. We take a critical approach to the ‘how’, the ‘why’ and the more discursive ‘what’ that words carry. No wonder Morpheus and morphology (the study of the word) have a common etymological origin. “The one who shapes”, the meaning generating power of words. The mediation of experience happens in the conscious act of choosing the right words. For ages, we have been enslaved (using the terminology of Morpheus) by this Matrix: Ongoing critical literacy as a human empowering process sets us free.
I invite you to join me in my journey through the rabbit hole, it feels like taking a plunge into the unknown, but it’s safe: I carry a flashlight with me!