"There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands." ~ ~ Plato
Representatives of all political parties have the same message: "You need me." To put it simply, this is an illusion, a lie. The most powerful (and most damaging) illusion is the one that says happiness is enabled from outside of oneself. Politicians cast this illusion because illusion is what the human brain prefers to reality: "Vote for me and I will create more jobs. Therefore, you will have more money, which will make you happy."
Philosophers Should Be 'Kings' (But Never Will Be)
2500 years ago, Plato, who was born to an aristocratic and influential family, could have chosen the affluent and powerful life of a politician. Fortunately for us all, he chose to become a philosopher because he felt that this was the best way to serve the greater good.
In his famous work, The Republic, Plato describes in his "Allegory of the Cave" how most people, which he calls prisoners, have a false impression of reality. In this analogy, narrated by his mentor, Socrates, Plato describes how the prisoners are chained and face a wall. The prisoners are not able to see behind them where figures pass before a fire; they can only see ahead of them, where only the shadows of the figures are projected onto the wall. The prisoners ascribe false forms (words and symbols) to these figures and, according to Plato’s Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality.
"Wonder is the feeling of the philosopher and philosophy begins in wonder." ~ Plato
In the analogy of the cave, the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and realizes that the shadows on the wall are not reality. This is why knowledge can be deceptive because people tend to believe what they see, hear or learn from others without question, without doubt, without wondering. To free oneself from the cave, one must stop looking forward at the shadows of reality and look inward at the highest forms—one’s own ideas, one’s authentic self.
I touched upon the theme of this false reality in the recent post, The American Awakening. Humans are accostomed to seeing only shadows of reality; they prefer dreaming to consciousness. Therefore anyone wanting to reach large audiences must cast their illusion--their shadow on the wall--for others to see it. However, the philosopher--the thinker, the minority of humans who are free of the cave--exists to help others free themselves, to awaken from the dream they mistake for reality.
"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." ~ Plato
Politicians, although masters of the skill, are not the only illusionists; we are all illusionists to some degree. If you learn that happiness is accomplished from outside influences and that your identity is directly tied to the way you project your image--your shadow, your illusion--you will will naturally seek the means to create the most attractive image possible: You buy the education, the clothes, the car, the house, the social memberships to form this identity.
You want to appear "rich" on the outside, which is a prime reason why debt exists. Ironically, many people are neither financially rich, nor are they spiritually rich. How can you blame politicians for telling you that the pursuit of happiness, to fulfill the dream, is the highest ideal? It's what you've been taught and it's what most people believe (mistake) as truth.
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." ~ Plato
As the philosopher wanting to free as many people as possible from the cave, I ask of you to try a small exercise whenever you listen to a politician speak: Whenever they say "dream" or "happiness" or "freedom" or "truth," you will know that they are casting their illusion. Soon the illusion will dissolve and you will learn that the shadows on the wall are not reality. This is the end of the dream and the beginning of true happiness in reality, a step toward authenticity, the path to a meaningful existence.
Plato Image by Shannon