Plato, the Greek philosopher used the ‘allegory of the cave’ to describe the way in which individuals living in a society with strong influences, can be ‘brainwashed’ into succumbing to a life where everything is dictated for them, leaving them unable to think for themselves.
Briefly, ‘the cave’ is home to a group of people who have been chained up and forced to face a blank wall for all of their lives. Projected onto this blank wall are images made from figures passed in front of a fire behind them.
It is only if they can set themselves free and escape the cave that they are able to ‘see the light’, the light of course being the sun, and an extended metaphor for independent thought.
The force in charge of showing them the shadows represents the influences that compose society; the media , the government, the social hierarchy, ‘traditions’, the pressure to keep up with ‘the Joneses’, and of course MONEY.
We are all ‘chained to the wall’ and living ‘in the cave’; just think how unnatural, arbitrary and bizarre some of the images that subsequently mould our actions and behaviours, really are.
For instance everyone in the country is united by the MEDIA, who reinforces what time of year it is and consequently how everyone is obliged to behave.
There is absolutely no justification for the outright LIES that are told every December to deluded children regarding the ‘magic of Christmas’. It is of course a ‘moral dilemma’ that every parent faces – do they lie to their children to please them or do they tell them the truth and ruin their Christmas?
The images on the wall, representing an old tradition reinforced by societal pressure, are practically ordering them to LIE and suddenly it is unanimously accepted across the country that Father Christmas DOES EXIST and IS efficient enough to deliver presents to every child in Great Britain in the space of 12 hours.
The fact that children believe this is less ridiculous than the fact that parents tell their children this. The images on the cave (social norm) tell parents to lie, parents accept their ‘duty’ and then tell children and children accept the lie and will grow up to repeat the lie to their children; it’s a very vicious cycle.
A similar predicament occurs at Easter, a religious celebration for some and for the non-religious a celebration of A MAGIC BUNNY RABBIT.
Realistically, telling your children that ‘the Easter Bunny’ has brought chocolate eggs is as ludicrous as telling them that the Ocado shopping was delivered by a small family of hamsters that were wearing wooly hats…and yet we all know that when we have children we will be as guilty as our parents were, and accept that when the images on the wall tell us to do something WE MUST OBEY.
There is also the unbelievably random conspiracy theory (lie) of the ‘tooth fairy’. The tooth fairy is a small human with wings that flies into the bedroom (unlike our good friend Father Crimbo she doesn’t have a means to enter by) and replaces the tooth with some money, every ‘good mother’ finds themselves telling their children at some point.
WHAT ON EARTH DOES THE CHILD IMAGINE THAT SHE IS GOING TO DO WITH THE GIANT TOOTH? I’m sure all parents would love to ask but are far too afraid that they may receive the truly baffling reply of ‘not sure mummy, please can you tell me?’
The images on the wall (social norm enhanced by magazine articles and daytime TV) are also guilty of encouraging every female in the country to consume as much food and alcohol as physically possibly on the 31st December, providing that twelve hours later, come 1st January they will be equipped with a piece of paper entitled ‘New Years Resolutions’.
These ‘resolutions’ must ALWAYS without fail begin by expressing some ludicrous amount of weight that needs to be shifted:
1) lose 20lbs.
They then move onto addressing one's general appearance:
2) highlights, leg wax.
Character flaws are then eliminated:
3) be less judgmental
4) be nicer to people I find annoying.
Followed by the
5) work harder
6) spend less money
and concluded with the all time classic:
7) drink less alcohol.
Why on earth do the projections tell us that it is acceptable for one to spend the entire December stuffing one’s face with chocolate shaped Father Christmases, gossiping about one's best friends’ unfortunate hairstyle and ‘drinking themselves silly’ as on 1st Jan all will be corrected by the RESOLUTIONS.
It isn’t in any way normal that within a matter of hours our behaviour swings from one extreme to the next, proving the absolute power and control these outside forces have on individuals. If ‘Lorraine Kelly’ hadn’t have pointed out that it’s acceptable to indulge in December as one can correct everything in January, nobody would justify such excessive behaviour!
Shortly following this, February is the home to the most nauseating day of the year. Valentine’s Day, reserved for those lucky enough to have a ‘special someone’ to express their love through a thoughtful gesture such as flowers or chocolates, as everybody knows how much more they mean on the 14th February.
And for the fat, hairy, judgmental singletons that spend it sitting in front of ‘Bridget Jones’ with a box of chocolates alone it really is truly awful…when the sad reality is that IF THEY HAD JUST STUCK TO THEIR NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS THEY WOULDN’T BE IN THIS PREDICAMENT.
On a serious note, can you actually believe that on the 14th February each year, the images projected have caused half of the country to feel especially depressed and half to feel elevated and annoyingly smug?
It is actually ridiculous how much power this dictator possesses over our moods, behaviour and attitude to everything. If everyone had grown up outside of the ‘cave’, with the sunshine enriching our independent thought, I wonder how differently our lives would have turned out to be.
Imagine a life where we weren’t exposed to controlling influences such as the ‘Daily Mail’, reinforcing negative views on immigrantion, how homelessness is in many cases self-inflicted and how dyslexia is ‘just a made-up excuse’ for parents. Wouldn’t we all be kinder and more content?
Imagine a world without social hierarchy, where Tarquin, an ex-Etonian who grew up in Buckinghamshire, holidays in Gstaad and Cannes, could be a social equal to Blob from ‘the valleys’ who has the accent to prove it and grew up relying on Tarquin’s fathers’ taxes for food and shelter.
Well sadly, rarely anybody manages to break free from the social constraints and obligatory behaviour that has been dictated to us on that (now, very familiar) wall in the cave.
So let’s raise our glass (as it’s February we are ALLOWED to break New Years resolutions) and embrace the silly yet comfortable fabrications that have been created for our enjoyment: "Here’s to blissful ignorance."