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Does the American Public Need to Wake Up & Learn from Plato?

By A.K. Patch on Aug 29, 2016

Are voters across America starting to wise up?

And with both major American political parties conniving to abrogate the peoples’ choice in favor of their choice to run for president, are Americans also starting to get angry?

We have certainly become used to politics-as-usual and accepting that ‘it’s just the way things are,’ Spirited calls for reform come and go, but result in no real threat to the establishment or how the country is run. We are given the approved candidates from both parties and bludgeoned with media until we accept their choices and keep the gravy train rolling in Washington and on Wall Street. The question is: Is the public beginning to see through this manipulation?

Ancient Greek philosophers contemplated the question of people knowing only what they are allowed to see and therefore, becoming ignorant of what other possible truths exists. Plato, Socrates student and Aristotle’s teacher, in the 4th century BCE, developed the allegory of “Plato’s Cave”. In this scenario, people are prisoners in a cave, chained to the floor and can only see what is in front of them on the cave wall. Behind them is a fire that the rulers of the cave use to project shadows on that cave wall. Those shadows are all the prisoners know and their whole truth.

How many of us are like those prisoners? Knowing only the "shadows", or what we’re told on the television, internet, or social media. Do we search for more information or different way of looking at what is revealed to us? Maybe they, the shadow-makers, have the voters all figured out. We only see what they want us to, and to deter our questions, even ridicule us when we search for the truth.

The allegory continues.

Now, someone gets loose and exits the cave.  Our hero struggles up an incline and is blinded by the light of truth and reason (i.e. intellectual and philosophical changes are neither fast, nor easy.)  Our hero is enlightened, just as we are when we discover something of inestimable value in our lives. We want to return and educate others who have not seen what we have. Our hero returns to the cave and attempts to explain the revelation of the new ‘truth’ that's been discovered. Only,  the hero can’t properly explain this new knowledge to the chained. They have not traveled the arduous road to wisdom, and not only reject the information, they  cry madness and try to kill  our hero.

Could this be what happened to Socrates in 399 BCE when Athens tried him for corrupting the youth of Athens and defiling the ‘gods’? Was his philosophical enlightenment and questioning of the way things were too much of a threat to the established powers?

Here we are in 2016, looking at the future of our country and worldwide challenges. We have to wonder, with the popularity of such anti-establishment candidates, is the voting public beginning to disbelieve the “shadows on the wall”?

If we can imagine that we’re not being told the truth and remain happy to wallow in our ignorance, then it’s too easy for the greed, arrogance, and corruptions that plague our system to continue. Unwilling, or ignorant of the need to change, we watch the shadows and take them as the truth. It's time to wake up!

It is unlikely that we’ll be given the truth willingly. We will have to be heroes, struggle up the incline, and reach for enlightenment. What will we see when we get there?

It has been pointed out that a republic cannot continue to exist without an educated public.  It has also been pointed out that the lessons of history repeat themselves.  It should concern us that the study of American history has been diluted in our schools.  It should concern us that most millennials have little to no understanding of American history or current world issues.  And it should concern us most that we have not yet asked “why”.

Maybe the first question to ask is who’s casting the shadows on the walls ? Are they the same people diluting our educational system? What are their goals? Should we imagine that it doesn’t matter if the prisoners have red or blue clothing beneath their chains? It’s also likely both camps of voters are manipulated to continue the gravy train of Washington to Wall Street and political manipulations of economy to fuel contributions to campaigns, central banking wizardry, control of the media and what we’re told.

There may be another way forward for this country, one which lifted the torch of self-rule that the same ancient Greeks began so long ago. They self-destructed, fighting with each other. What will become of us? We’re strong as a nation, with a people that have always risen to the call of liberty and the destruction tyrants and injustice. However, the foundation is being eaten away.

Sanders and O’Malley in the first Democratic debate of this election cycle brought up the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. A great majority of the public likely had no idea what they were referring to. Could the repeal of a protection put in place during the depression era have contributed to the economic collapse of 2006-2009?

More questions have to be asked or we will not know who is casting the shadows. When we finally begin to understand, it is likely there will dodging and ridicule. How dare you question our motives? We know what is best for you and the global economy.

Shut up and go back to watching reality television and sporting events. Accept our truth. We are the establishment and far smarter than you, otherwise, we wouldn’t retain so much wealth and control of global resources.

Don’t ask questions. Don’t do research. Stay in your cave. Accept what we allow you to know. Your cave is just fine the way it is.

Is this how democracies and republics fall?

Maybe voters will realize the inherent power they have, the ability to vote in, or out, politicians who lie to us. We can reject the manipulations of the controlled media and search out candidates at the local, state, and federal levels who will help lead us away from ‘Plato’s Cave. The reforms may advance by inches. The powerful do not yield easily. But first we have to recognize the manipulation behind the shadows and actively seek answers and solutions that are not blue or red, but one's that are red, white, and blue.

Allan Patch is the author of the contemporary/historical fiction thriller Apollo Series.  Passage at Delphi  and Delphi's Chosen use contemporary characters, historical encounters, and page-turning adventure to pose the question: what must we learn from our past to ensure our future.