Plato’s Allegory: Modern Perspective
by Angelo Greñas
Three years ago, I have encountered the Allegory of the Cave by Plato. There was this uncanny feeling that among all other subjects, it was during Filipino class that I encountered it. I have always considered myself an average junior high school student and I am no stranger from the mediocre thought that Filipino class is boring and the tendency of getting asleep was inevitable (don’t get me wrong though, I am a former night class student and so, the possibility of getting asleep is quite normal). But by that very moment, the inner struggle of groping my identity has begun.
You may have told yourself that the prisoners were really stupid for believing that those puppets were for real. But upon contemplating the central idea of allegory about perspectives and our grasp of reality, I questioned myself: is the prevailing status quo the better truth and seemingly fit for our society?
We can relate the current societal status with the allegory. Some of us were ideologically and religiously restrained to see the sufferings of another. There are some who always bind themselves to religious conservativism, thereby rejecting any radical thoughts about challenging the established order.
Johnny Miller was a South African photographer who initiated a project intended to shed light on the prevailing inequality amidst the urban of Johannesburg, South Africa. There, he recounted that the shift of perspective from flat ground view to bird’s eye view has provided him a great deal of understanding of what is really happening beyond the two-meter-tall fences of their village. It is seemingly dramatic to realize that a wet marshland is the only barrier between these two villages and the differences are too obvious. The picture is an epitome of social inequality, class struggle, failed urban planning, failed government policies, and among other stuff. The world, in fact, is an ecology of inequality. Only some of us were restrained to see this truth because of their limited perspective.
We must know that we are facing the challenge to dismantle the flaws developed by the old order, and in order to do this, a perspective shift is necessary.
“Where everything is flat, you can see nothing,” this was Miller’s realization after his photos have stormed the internet and sparked a nationwide interest for radical change and activism. When our views are distorted and limited, we tend to limit our opinions. Sometimes, it is not a bad thing – it prevents us from making irrational decisions; but should we choose to expand our perspective, we have to remember that it would always be better to open up ourselves with new thoughts about things like equality and liberty.
The decision to involve yourself with matters related to activism is a choice reserved for you to make. Should we realize to choose, lest we forget that we have a society to care about, and your decision would always matter and affect everyone no matter how small it is — no matter which side will you choose. Do choices like these matter to you? Yes, it does – one way or another. We are all in this together, and choosing sides is inevitable: even in education.
Paulo Freire wrote, “There is no such thing as neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument to bring conformity or freedom.” Knowing a large percentage of our population is illiterate about these issues, bringing our perspective into their sight is the key.
Right now, it is not about the wealthy versus the poor, the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, the politicians against the people; it is about the fight against corruption, fight for a better healthcare system, fight for environmental preservation, fighting against apartheid, fight against toxic patriarchy, fight for LGBTQIA+ rights, fight for the welfare of the people — our fight for humanism. We must know that we are facing the challenge to dismantle the flaws developed by the old order, and in order to do this, a perspective shift is necessary.
The allegory has taught us that the shadows seen by the prisoner were seemed surreal. Only he realized that his whole experience has been controlled by the others after experiencing the new world, and breaking from the limitations imposed by the chains that held him from grasping the truth, he vowed to ascend and then find his way back to help his fellows in the cave.
We shall rise up with our voices united against marginalization and oppression. New ideas are not that scary, but a better judgment of things is always necessary. Amidst the prevailing inequality, let us ascend and bring hope to the margins of our society.
“We have a world to win,” says Marx.