Some days, writer’s block is reality. Other days, the universe almost writes the column for you.
When life brings a theme your way, you just have to go with it.
The exclamation point on my column topic came today when the man called “Mowgli” announced that he longed for the days when he spent more than a decade in a cave being raised by wolves because he was disappointed with human life. Just think, he is disappointed with human life and doesn’t even live in a country that elected Donald Trump president. He finds humankind cold and wants to go back to living with the animals.
He’s from Spain. He doesn’t have to worry about playing basketball in his driveway with his black son and seeing pickup trucks with rebel flags in the back driving by.
This guy is disappointed in humans and he hasn’t even received an email by someone who embraces Hillary Clinton’s “deplorable” title.
But that wasn’t the only cave reference in my life this weekend. As I was mowing my mother’s lawn as a quasi-Mothers Day gift, I was listening to a sermon by one of my favorite pastors. In that sermon, Matt Chandler referenced Plato’s allegory of the cave. The allegory describes a small group of people who are chained together in a cave. Their reality is misshapen by people who cast shadows on a wall in front of them. They aren’t seeing reality, they are perceiving a reality all their own. A main idea is that your senses can lie to you. Without philosophical education, your learning is incomplete and possibly incorrect.
The allegory goes on to contend that if one of them broke his chains and went out of the cave to see what real life was like that upon returning the others would not join him in seeking freedom and reality. Instead, they will remain in the comfort of their own captivity seeing shadows of reality created for them by others.
I have seen this interpreted many ways, but in political science classes, it is often interpreted with an eye on people who cling to “insulated opinions.”
Insulated opinions are shared by people who exist in the same small circles. FOX News fans who only get news from one source and from people who share one mindset can develop insulated opinions. They can experience a reality that is completely foreign to people who watch or read other sources for news.
The same is true on the left even though there isn’t the one monolithic voice on the left to rival FOX News’ effect on the right.
When you allow yourself to see only the shadows cast by one ideology or another and never consider possibility that you are having reality kept from you, then you are like the captives who stay in the cave when real understanding is yours for the taking.
I was also reminded of another type of cave dweller that helps to perpetuate the shadows and dispel reality.
The fifth publisher I worked for in my first job as editor was the best for me since he was a crusty old editor. My staff now can relate.
He wrote one of my favorite columns ever when he took on a group he called the CAVE people.
To Jerry Pittman, CAVE stood for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. These CAVE people live in every community. They love the shadows they are shown and fight hard to prevent progressive ideas from coming into the political realm from those people who have lived outside the cave and have bigger ideas after seeing a different reality.
Conservatives in America can’t wrap their heads around the idea that almost every other industrialized country has single payer, government-run health care. They wait three months for an appointment with a specialist, pay thousands of dollars for an hour’s worth of care and repeat the message from the shadows that America has the best medical system in the world. I would argue that Obamacare isn’t hugely successful, not because it went too far, but because it didn’t go far enough. Letting the oligarchical insurance giants help write the bill kept prices soaring and profit margins rising.
But many who read this column will see that as socialist thinking — because that is what the people casting shadows on the wall they stare at all day have told them.
The same is true for gun control, education, taxes and many other policies that people don’t really understand beyond catchphrases and marketing messages from political parties.
People resist change, even when their reality is being chained in a cave watching shadows dance all day. Maybe, just maybe, we would be better off if we took a deeper look at how people outside of America provide healthcare, prevent school shootings, and tax their people.
We might just find that we have been voting for the people casting the shadows to perpetuate a reality that benefits them and keeps us in chains.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.