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Plato’s ‘The Allegory of the Cave‘ is from book VI of his most famous work, The Republic. He begins ‘The Allegory‘ by describing a dark cave found underground where a group of people are sitting in ‘one long row with their backs to the cave’s entrance’. They are chained to their chairs from an early age and all that the humans can see is the distant cave wall in front of them. Their view of reality is completely based upon this limited view of the cave which but an unenlightened view of the real world.
In addition to the chained people, there are other people in the cave. Plato refers to them as the puppet-handlers and they are the ones holding those in the cave captive. (It is important to realize that the prisoners do not realize this–in fact, the prisoners do not even realize that they are being held captive since this existence is all they have ever known.) Walking behind the prisoners, the puppet-handlers hold up various objects found in the real world. Due to a fire that is burning the mouth of the cave, the prisoners are able to see the objects and each other only as distorted, flickering shadows on the cavern wall in front of them.
The prisoners can not see the actual objects or the puppet-makers because they are unable to turn their heads. From childhood, “…their legs and necks [have been] in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only [what is] in front of them…. As Plato goes on to later explain, “the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”
Similarly to the Plato’s engulfing allegory is the current state of todays world wherein humans believe exactly what they are told by the oligarchy (i.e puppet-handlers), refusing to question what their eyes behold.We are brutally fooled by the political masquerades thus easily allowing ourselves to believe what we hear within the limited scope of society (i.e the cave). Furthermore, we accept what our senses tell us
1. that what we are experiencing, seeing and hearing through the mainstream media is all that really exists, [and that]
2. [there is] nothing more [than this].
The puppet-handlers, as Plato calls them in his allegory, represent the prominent, authoritarian members of society (i.e the Government) who live inside the artificial paradigm that they have created for the rest of us.
Going along with the allegory we notice that Plato does give us hope; one freed prisoner who would eventually escape and flee the cave wherein he would see,for the first time, what the real world looks like.
After finding himself free the intellectual individual would then “…suffer sharp pains; the glare [would] distress him, and he [would] be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows….he’d be at a loss and believe that what was seen before is truer than what is now shown.”
This can easily be related to the amount of confusion one meets once he is aware of reality,beyond what the media and oligarchy have been feeding us. Later the confusion will subside and:
“When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities… He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven….Last of he will be able to see the sun…”
After the discovery of the sun (i.e The Truth) the intellectual individual will then wish to share the life-changing discovery of the real world with those still trapped in the cave – setting out on a mission to free them from their chains. An example of these types of intellectuals would be bloggers, underground media news broadcasters etc [...]
But as a blogger myself I can attest to the fact that this mission is not at all simple due to the fact that, like in Plato’s allegory, those still trapped in the artificial world become hostile and refuse to face the possibility of another reality – for this would go against every form of understanding they have been fed to believe.
The Allegory of the Cave, written over 2000 years ago, is undeniably relevant today – maybe even more than it was during the time of Plato – and just as in the allegory there are main characters which cause the fable to continue:
1.Those chained within the cave:
Refusing to take notice to anything but the shadows on the wall. An example can be those who sit and watch their television,refusing to seek out anything besides the shadows displayed through the screen (the television sets we have are just more advanced cave walls).
Individuals/Groups who form the shadows on the cave walls for the prisoners to see (i.e mainstream media,government) – nothing more.
3.The freed men:
Those who leave the cave and walk into the light (i.e Truth) yet do not use the knowledge they have found or ignore it.
4.The freed men who come back to free the rest of the prisoners:
The bloggers,radical journalists,underground broadcasters etc [...]
The meaning behind Plato’s allegory is that the majority within society shall prefer to remain chained to their ignorance or allow themselves to remain shackled to the false reality fed to them by the oligarchy – left only to with the shadows of truth oftentimes manipulated by the puppet-handlers (i.e government). Only a few,the wise and intelligent,will be willing to free themselves from these shackles and open their eyes to the truth, no matter how blinding it may be at first.
This is our allegory and we are living it right now. So take your pick – Do you stay in the cave or free yourself?
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