There really is no greater inconvenience than the truth. In fact, so great is the human race's susceptibility to the temptress that is convenience that the Wachowski brothers based a whole film franchise on it. Sat over a steak dinner with Agent Smith one of the few people living outside system, Cypher debates eschewing all that he knows to be true for simpler life. In his words:
"I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth The Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious.
"After nine years, do you know what I realise? Ignorance is bliss."
The notion that we may one day become a power source for robots who keep us running by hooking us up to a system that delivers all the sensory requirements a person needs may seem far-fetched, but it's dystopia in its finest form. Not only does it touch on computer control, elements of freedom and individuality, it questions the cost of living in the way we do.
The reason it comes to mind is that I too found myself eating a juicy steak this weekend, a few days after I had penned a feature on food production and the impact that it is having on the planet. In many ways, I faced precisely the same dilemma as Cypher. I knew that raising Cattle uses more greenhouse gasses than all cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes combined when you factor in methane emissions, yet the juicy, perfectly seasoned steak sat in front of me compelled me to err on the side of ignorance. How grim.
But thankfully, or worryingly, I'm not alone. According to new research by vegan charity Viva! despite 83 per cent of us believing we're 'clued up' on the processes used to get meat, dairy and eggs from the farm to our plate many are unaware what cows, pigs and chicken endure as a result. Most didn't know, for example, that it is standard practice to kill all male chicks on egg farms at a day or two old, or about the tail amputation of piglets and the removal of teeth. Indeed, the study revealed that after learning more about the legal treatment of farmed animals in the UK, almost half would consider cutting back on the meat, eggs and dairy products, and I consider myself one of them.
According to Juliet Gellatley, founder & director of Viva!, the problem stems from the fact that most people are so far removed from the reality of industrialised animal farming that they have no idea how food gets from farm to plate. But I disagree. I think that even with that knowledge many people will opt for the convenience of ignorance over the chore that is the truth. And that is something that transcends several facets of our lives.
Upton Sinclair once wrote that "it's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it", and his sentiments were proved to be accurate this week by a study by accounting firm AAT that revealed that millions of workers would turn a blind eye to a company's ethics as long as the salary was good. A massive 56 per cent of people in the study would continue to work for a company that avoided paying tax, and many would turn a blind eye to unethical practices such as, in the case of the food industry, removing sell-by-dates from food to extend its shelf life.
The simple reality is that we humans seem to be causing the degradation and destruction of the planet because to pursue its preservation would be an inconvenience. We are knowingly blind to the world's problems, which is most likely the root cause of why they exist in the first place.