A Contemporary Adaptation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.
And now, let me show in a figure how far our nature is
enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in a
modern society, the United States, which has a prolific media
system that extends to every part of their lives; here they have
been from their childhood, and are restricted from other forms of
information, so that they cannot move, and can only see before
them, being prevented by the censorship from learning. Above and
behind them is a large conglomerate of corporations who's sole
purpose is to gain money, and between the corporations and the
Consumers there is a market economy; and you will see, if you
look, there are screens, like the screen which marionette players
have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
And do you see men passing along the screens carrying all sorts of gadgets, and statuses and figures of the ideal life made of money and belongings and various materials, which appear over the screen? Some of them are talking, others silent.
The Consumers see only their own material goals, or the material goals of one another, which the media throws on the screen before them.
And of the objects which are being shown on the screen in like manner they would only see the material goals of the corporations as their own?
And if the Consumers were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they desired what was actually before them?
And suppose further that America had a radio media system which came from all around, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the radio commercials spoke that the voice which they heard spoke with authority, like the images on the screen?
To them, the truth would be literally nothing but the commercials and advertisements of the corporations.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the Americans are released from censorship and educated about their options. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to turn away from the media and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the reality of life before him, he will suffer sharp pains; the lack of instructions will distress him, and he will be unable to understand the realities of which in his former state he had seen the commercials; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the commercials on the screen and requiring him to prioritize them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the images on the screen which he formerly saw are more important than the reality which is now shown to him?
And if he is compelled to look straight at his family, or at his own childhood dreams, will he not have a pain in his heart which will make him turn away to take and take in the priorities of the commercials, which he can more easily attain, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the reality which is now being shown to him?
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged away from the television or computer screen, and held fast until he's forced into the emptiness that is left without material goals, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the dreams he had forgotten, his heart will be broken, and he will not be able to stomach anything at all of what are now called realities.
He will require to grow accustomed to the idea of the immaterial world. And first he will relate to money, next the reruns of former media, and then the immaterial desires themselves; then he will gaze upon the life he missed while trying to keep up with the Joneses, and the children he raised to be as material as he, and the time and energy wasted going into debt; and he will see the priorities of real happiness better than the commercials could have ever convinced him?
Last of all he will be able to see true freedom, and not mere false definitions of it, but he will see true happiness and priorities in their own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate them as he is.
He will then proceed to argue that these new freedoms, priorities, and desires are the foundation of what makes a life worth experiencing, and even material goals must be based them, and in a certain way these are the basis of all things which he and his fellow Americans have been accustomed to desire?
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the Media and his fellow Consumers, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who owned the fastest machine, and who paid more for their home, and who had attained a higher social status; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
"Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to
endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after
Imagine once more, such one coming suddenly out of the true freedom to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his heart full of sadness?
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in paying the most for the material objects, and going further into debt, while his heart was still thinking about the true freedom, and before his mind had gotten used to the idea of how petty consumerism was, would he not be ridiculous? The Consumers would say of him that up he went and down he came without his mind; and that it was better not even to think of looking away from the screens; and if any one tried to stop another Consumer from listening to the Media, and lead him up to the true priorities, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.