Understanding yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. Wisdom itself is a perceived understanding of not only one’s self but as well as external forces that have a significant influence on decision making. Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” effectively touches on the idea that in order to achieve self-awareness, it is critical to recognize the influence that surrounding entities have on the individual. Having the ability to see through perceived realities created by governing figures gives passage to a clear perception of one’s self. In today’s society, Government has the ability to create “shadows” that hide the true nature of issues today.
Truth is a hard concept to come across in the world today. Real and unbiased information can be like finding a needle in a haystack with the controversy that is our society. One of the biggest influences on the individual is its government. In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, he illustrates the effect that outside forces can have on an individual with the use of “an underground cave which has a mouth open towards the light”, which can be directly compared to the government. This cave has prisoners that are locked up and forced to look at illusions that are created by puppeteers that work behind them and these illusions are the only truths that the prisoners know. Plato describes the world in his representation of the cave as there are many unknown things in the world and that the individual is so occupied in society today that it becomes hard to venture out past what we were told growing up whether it be right or wrong. If anything, we are hidden from the truth more so today than at any other time period. We are controlled like the prisoners in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and governmental figures act as the puppeteers that create illusions or shadows that keep us from perceiving the truth. The government is what its people turn to for trust, support and a sense of security. All trust is put into this external force in order to attempt for a perfect society. However putting this amount of trust into the government gives it an almost unstoppable power and as time has continued, it has only gotten stronger. Not only does it govern its people, but also controls the economy, the military, national security and the media. In our society, we have been born into this ideal of respect for the government without question. Here we have been since childhood, [having our] legs and necks chained so that [we] cannot move, and can only see before [us], being prevented by the chains from turning round [our] heads” and seeing the truth behind the problems that exist in the world (Plato).
While the government might be creating illusions in order to keep the truth from its people, it is still in no question that these events are happening. For example, the military is an excellent example as to an external force that hides the truth from its people. It has hidden top secret information such as incoming threats to the nation, weapons of mass destruction and even conducts missions that are carried out to eliminate other competitive enemies. The assasination on Osama Bin Laden wasn’t released to the public until days after the event actually took place and there are still many aspects of the missions that haven’t been revealed. While it might be in good intent to hide this information, it still hides the truth from the people it controls and therefore fits the description of a “cave” from Plato’s essay. The media is another great example as to one of the puppeteers in the cave of today’s society. Top headlines that are seen almost everyday seem to always be misleading. An individual may read the headline of a news article and then the article itself may say something contradictory to its headline. The media is often a part of everyone’s routine that is used to catch up and gain information about what is going on in the world today, however most might not understand that the top headlines are usually the most misleading. This creates a major problem as to what might be credited as the most popular news station is actually the most bias. Having a bias and misleading source of information that is trusted by the reader not only affects the reader but also their perception of reality. Most of the bias in news articles is extremely political, swaying from republican and democrat. The problem arises when a democratic person listening and believing a democratically biased news station will perceive the information in a way that supports that side’s beliefs, even though it could be completely different from the truth of the matter and vice versa.
Having the ability to recognize the shadows that are presented to us in today’s society is an extremely powerful tool in order to discover the truth. These illusions control not only an individual’s life, but also their perception of the world around them. It is impossible to recognize and discover the truth without understanding the effect that others have on the individual. If a life is lived where everything is understood to be the truth, that life will be locked into the cave forever. Ever since the day we were born, chains were put onto us and shadows played on the wall and everyday as time goes on, these shadows roll past us. In his essay, Plato describes the light as a sharp pain because the truth hurts and is very shocking. However the more truth that is uncovered, the easier it becomes to see past these shadows and discover the unknowns that exist way beyond our perception of reality. In order to obtain the ability to discover, it is crucial that the individuals locked into the cave work together and share the truths that they uncover, so that one day this cave can be buried and the truth of all things can be obtainable to all.
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