Chapter 2 (Part 2)
Chapter Two – Undermining the Tools of Disconnection (Part 2)
11) School Us
School is a device to disconnect children from reality. The role of the public “education” system in the civilized world is to prepare children for their future as workers. Within the walls (and rarely outside of them) of schools and colleges our precious progeny are made to ingest slice after slice of appropriate information, carefully selected so eventually the graduates of these institutions will be qualified to perform a money-earning function within society. In these terms, it’s fair to consider just whose side the school system is on.
Was it possible that I had been hired [as a teacher] not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realise that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.1
As creatures of an umbilical tendency we seek out connection to something all our lives; other people, primarily, but also communities of humans and the wider ecology of life. In the absence of any of that then we, and particularly our recently de-corded children, will embrace anything that mimics real connection. The difference between real connection and the surrogate civilization offers is that the latter creates dependency, sometimes by accident, often deliberately. The Tool of Disconnection that manifests itself in the form of school buildings, schoolbooks, teachers, administrators and government-enforced curricula does a splendid job turning the deepest desires of the Jesuits (“Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man”) into a reality for the masses. Individuals who do not wish to be part of this system are labelled “rebellious”, “delinquent” or “dysfunctional” and are made to conform via a series of increasingly punitive measures.
School may serve several purposes for well-meaning parents – childminder, disciplinarian, provider of academic skills even – but that has to be balanced against what is lost by handing over their child to a faceless, one-size-fits-all system. If we are to make a value judgement on the benefits of public schooling, we first have to ask a serious question: What kind of education is offered by a school system that vomits out young adults completely dependent on civilization; disconnected young adults whose only learned skills make them more effective wage slaves?
From the age of four or five, in most industrialised nations (though notably a couple of years later in those criticised as “socialist” by more right-wing commentators) children are compelled to attend a state-approved institution for around 35 hours per week. Within the free time of all 5 to 16 year olds (typically) are further periods of compulsory indoctrination, known as homework. During holiday periods, those students failing to achieve an acceptable level of attainment (or in danger of doing so) are encouraged to attend schooling Gulags, dressed up as Summer Camps. Compulsion is the watchword when it comes to indoctrination by schooling. No system that is so mentally nourishing, and so beneficial to the individual as the school system’s promoters claim, would need to compel, by law, anyone to attend on a regular basis. They would just go. But it isn’t, and so they are; which makes identification of disconnection by schooling as easy as A-B-C.
Compulsory schooling is a waste of the evolved mental and physical abilities of young people who, in the uncivilized world, would be spending that period of their lives learning how to survive on their own terms and within a functional community. As governments in nations across the globe increase the compulsory schooling (or the euphemistic “training”) period, the window of time during an individual’s formative years to learn the necessary skills for real life is narrowing. In “less developed” areas of the world, children are being taught that school is a gift from the civilized world that will give them a bright future; often at the expense of the vital, connected life skills that are of no use to the industrial machine (why would you need to know how to fish when you can work in a call centre and live in a city slum?) The result of all this is a global population that is less able to fend for itself, and is thus dependent on the industrial machine to provide for it. An extremely dangerous position to be in, on the cusp of collapse, but greatly beneficial to the system all the time it wants to achieve its rapacious aims.
Presumably we should point the blame at everyone who carries out the day-to-day schooling of children, but it is not as simple as that. Schoolteachers, as opposed to administrators, managers and policy-setters, are some of the most enlightened people in society – given the opportunity and time in which to be enlightened. But they are often hopelessly constricted within a system, the larger whole of which is the true perpetrator behind the systematic disconnection of an entire age group. This system is led from the top down by corporations and political elites who manipulate curricula to their own ends (witness the universal presence of Citizenship in an increasing number of school systems, as well as subjects increasingly being focussed on business skills and entrepreneurialism); and propagated by naive organisations, charitable trusts and the like, who believe universal education actually results in a net gain in useful knowledge. Power may have shifted in recent years from religious institutions to corporations in the majority of school systems, but that does not absolve them of any responsibility. It was not so long ago that the Church was the universal provider of schooling in many highly industrialised nations, and it is still widely the case that, aside from the adoration of Mammon, children are encouraged to worship whichever deity the legislature of the day considers suitable. You would almost think the school system exists solely to propagate the beliefs of whichever institution has most power.
12) Steal Our Language
Words are enormously powerful; in many ways they are a defining feature of human culture, not only because of the number of ways they can be used – in the form of poetry, debate, story-telling, song and innumerable others – but also because we have become conditioned to accept certain words as having significance beyond their physical incarnation. These words are more than just symbols; they are tools that can be, and are, used to manipulate the way we think and act. I will keep referring to the “real world” in this book, which is shorthand for everything we need to sustain us as human beings, physically, mentally and whatever may lie beyond our ken. That this simple expression has been turned on its head to mean the Civilized World (as in “getting back to the real world” or “yes, but in the real world…”) demonstrates how determined civilization is to harness the power of words. So important is this phenomenon that even the notion that words are powerful has been subverted to prevent people from recognising it; as shown in a speech made by (though undoubtedly written for) Ronald Reagan in 1985:
Even if national unity cannot be achieved immediately, you, the youth of Germany, you who are Germany’s future, can show the power of democratic ideals by committing yourselves to the cause of freedom here in Europe and everywhere.
You know some may not like to hear it, but history is not on the side of those who manipulate the meaning of words like revolution, freedom, and peace. History is on the side of those struggling for a true revolution of peace with freedom all across the world.2
There is a great deal of lexical misdirection going on here. Most obvious is the claim that the manipulation of words is not a historically significant factor, in which case why has every civilization and, more pointedly, every imperial force sought to control both access to literature and the meaning of language? More subtly is the repeated use of the word “freedom” which, on one hand Reagan decries the manipulation of, yet from the earliest throes of Western imperialism, right to the present day in the continuing War On Terror has been expressly used by civilized governments to mean “our way of living”.
Laying claim to the meaning of that of which we are an intrinsic part of is perhaps the most insidious misuse of language, and one of the most effective ways of keeping us disconnected from the (real) real world. The idea of “nature” is rich and complex, implying that which is in its pristine and unconfined state, something that interlinks everything throughout what many call Creation. The meaning of that concept is far more than the word itself or even any definition of the word; yet it has become terribly convenient for the civilized world to subvert this into a word that is not only easy to grasp, but is (with delicious irony) Capitalised:
“Nature” is a perilous device, all too easily employed to dominate others. To consign something to Nature – including ourselves – is to submit it to domination and control. Yet, in a sense, Nature is also a mode of concealment, a cloak of abstractions which obscures that discomforting wildness…That which will not be named cannot be controlled.3
On the flip side of this need to name that which is essentially unnameable, is the transfer of existing words between different concepts to reflect the desires of those in power. Given the previous Tools of Disconnection, there can be little doubt of the industrial system’s ability to control the media and style of human communication. Once you control the communication channels – be that through newspaper articles, television news broadcasts, school curricula, published reference materials such as dictionaries, or corporate advertising – then you can impose whatever language specifications you like. This can work in two ways.
First, you make the acceptable or normal become unacceptable and abnormal. For instance, the word “savage” (from the Latin silvaticus, meaning “woods”) has been fully and possibly irreversibly redefined; initially, most likely during the European Enlightenment period, to create a mental separation between that which is “cultured” and that which is not; and progressively to make it possible to impose imperial rule upon other human beings in less civilized parts of the world. This extract from a widely referenced internet English dictionary makes further comment unnecessary:
sav•age [sav-ij] adjective, noun, verb, -aged, -ag•ing.
1. fierce, ferocious, or cruel; untamed: savage beasts.
2. uncivilized; barbarous: savage tribes.
3. enraged or furiously angry, as a person.
4. unpolished; rude: savage manners.
5. wild or rugged, as country or scenery: savage wilderness.
6. Archaic. uncultivated; growing wild.
Similar treatment has been dealt upon the words “wild”, “animal”, “undeveloped”, “uncivilized” and, in a particularly effective example of Newspeak, “anarchy / anarchist” which means nothing more or less than having no formal leadership structure, but which makes a disapproving appearance in every news broadcast that involves people rebelling against the industrial system.
Second, you make that which is implicitly damaging and destructive, not just acceptable but preferable. Referring back to two of the words in the previous paragraph, remove the “un-“ prefix and you have a couple of terms that are only ever used in mainstream communication in a positive sense: civilized and developed. Not only are these two words, and their derivatives (civilization, development) used to indicate that which is good, but they are aspirational concepts, applied to such diverse areas as international conventions, government policy, corporate greenwash and even the literature of aid organisations. A whole phalanx of other words (see previous sections for their application), such as “progress”, “education”, “growth” and “sustainability”, have been appropriately moderated to ensure the only meanings we now recognise are the meanings the Culture of Maximum Harm has approved.
As language is so fundamental to who we are, culturally, it can be difficult to step outside of that bubble in order to see the true meaning of words, and how they have been manipulated to suit the needs of the system. It turns out that isn’t strictly necessary. The adage “the medium is the message” means the carrier rather than what is being carried, or communicated, makes all the difference to whatever is perceived by the target. Thus, when you hear an oil company’s profits have fallen to less than a billion dollars, expressed in sullen tones by a news presenter on a corporate or state-owned television channel, you know you are being expected to perceive that as bad news; not as news that fewer greenhouse gases are being emitted by that particular company. And when you see the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” wrought in iron above a factory gate, recognise these are not simply three words giving a positive message (however twisted that message is) but are three words that express the desires of the “factory” owners for you to give yourself over to the concept of work being a “good thing”, and whatever befalls you afterwards. It is never too late to see the true meaning of something.
Language is a powerful inheritable meme, meaning it is something that is inevitably passed from generation to generation within a cultural setting. If we carry a set of definitions and cultural meanings in our heads that are not to our long-term benefit as human beings, then we, and those that follow, will act in such a way that is similarly – and more concretely – deleterious to our long-term survival. To progress as a human being is to ensure each generation inherits in turn something that is naturally more abundant and sustainable, or at least as abundant and sustainable, as the previous generation inherited. To “progress” as a civilized human is to do whatever benefits a civilization in its ambitions to dominate formerly free human beings and the wider natural world. The meaning creates the outcome.
In a sense, everyone who uses language helps perpetuate the disconnection that mangled and manipulated language imposes upon a culture; but in the spirit of “the medium is the message” there is little doubt the major culprits are those who control the means of communication: media proprietors, editors, journalists, broadcasters and reporters, publishers, political orators, public relations firms, censors…this is a long list! Effective, targeted communication provides the momentum for all industrial economies to thrive and widen their power-base; so it is not surprising that so many different parties are involved in undertaking this vital function.
13) Steal Our Time
Between 1997 and 2007 I didn’t grow any food. We had moved into a house with a decent sized garden and loved pottering around outside at the weekend pruning here and there, mowing the lawn, keeping the weeds in check, that sort of thing; but growing food takes time, not just physically but in your head. I had a full time job just over an hour’s railway commute away, meaning I spent about eleven hours a day away from my family, my garden, my neighbourhood, my community; instead boxed away in an office carrying out a service that ensured other people could carry out a service that allowed other companies to move large amounts of raw materials around the globe, gamble with people’s pensions or just generally screw humanity into the ground. My time was valuable…as a part of that system.
In 2007 I became one of the lucky ones and walked out of the machine.
Most of us can’t do this. It’s a privilege I hold dear, for when you are trapped in the tiny space left by having to work to earn the money to buy the things to keep you going so you can live your life in which you work…then pushing through the thick skin of unreality into the fresh air of a life where there is enough time to think and act on your own terms is just another dream. On the other hand, it’s a dream few people have; because there are bigger, more exciting aspirations that flood the senses from the moment we are sent to school in the civilized world. As we grow we are trained, then we get a job (and if we don’t then we are considered unemployed), then we might have some children which we will send to school as soon as the system tells us to, meanwhile we continue to work even longer hours so we can buy more of the things the system wants us to buy – the “essentials” of life and the “little luxuries” like a vacation that sucks up around a month’s earnings for the sake of a week away. If we are lucky we might get to see the kids long enough to read them a bedtime story. Then at some point, perhaps 65 years after we are born, we are “retired” from the system with maybe a small stipend to show for all those years hard labour. Now we have the time: maybe ten or twenty years being active, a window during which many of us do grow food, meet our neighbours, play a part in our community…and look after the grandchildren that their working parents have precious little time in which to do so themselves.
“So many of us live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. And our consumption habits are squandering the earth’s natural resources”, says Anna Coote, co-author of the report and Head of Social Policy at nef. “Spending less time in paid work could help us to break this pattern…It is time to break the power of the old industrial clock, take back our lives and work for a sustainable future.”4
Between starting school and retiring from the labour market a crime is committed upon the population of the industrial world: the theft of time. In our chronologically restricted existence it is the role of the industrial system to utilise as much of that time as it possibly can. If it is not spent in “useful” work or travelling to and from that place of work, it is spent playing catch-up, carrying out the things that have to be done – like cleaning, cooking, eating, making essential repairs…and sleeping. That genuinely useful period of time, though, is being ever more tightly wedged alongside the civilized demands of watching television on, going on extended shopping trips to buy, and socially networking via, goods that have been produced by millions of other people who once had time of their own. These are people whose time you have stolen so you don’t have to fritter away as much of your money you spent your valuable time earning.
And here’s another thing. Between 1997 and 2007 it would have only taken me 15 minutes each evening to tend a few seedlings, hoe between the rows and tie up the fruit-laden plants; just 15 minutes I could so easily have shared with my children instead of, or maybe as well as a bedtime story. But I didn’t think that time was available. Such was the temporally fucked-up state I had accrued over those years on the treadmill, every moment not carrying out a systemically prescribed task was a moment wasted. Until that mindset could be broken then I was no threat to the system: I simply did not have the time.
The theft of personal time is damn hard to identify, such is our acceptance of the industry-imposed daily and weekly regimen on our lives. Sure, there are obvious activities that are not linked to survival or the continuation of the human species that we carry out, then wonder to ourselves – in a moment of clarity – why on earth we just wasted that last hour (“That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back”, we half-joke). There are also those milestones in our lives, when we see others have achieved things that we could have, had we spent our time more wisely. Again, moments of clarity in a life obscured by school, work and ersatz-leisure. But time is not a simple progression of ticks on a clock – perhaps the greatest symbol of oppression in the industrial world. Time contracts and dilates as we go through the day, lose focus on the now and drift into a melancholy dream state (notwithstanding the bacon slicer about to carve off a digit or two), or enter a crisis state that pulls our senses into order and s l o w s d o w n t i m e f o r l o n g e n o u g h t o a l l o w o u r s u r v i v a l instincts to kick in and save lives (and our fingers).
In fact, given the relativistic nature of time, identification of Time Theft is most likely a matter of teamwork. A trusted friend or a partner, or maybe a child itching for you to get off the computer and read them that story or just play with them for a while, is going to provide more help pulling you through that thick skin of unreality than you can do yourself. And so you too must be other peoples guide to their profligate use of this most precious of gifts.
It is impossible to overstate the negative consequences of Time Theft on society and the wider environment. Taken as a whole, the civilized population devotes something like two-thirds of its collective lifetimes involved in activities that assist the industrial hierarchy in its drive to gobble up every available natural “resource” in order to create wealth for the very few. The remainder of this time, aside from the few moments of clarity that surprise us with their eccentricity, is occupied by the bolster of sleep we need each night just to keep us functioning. Even the amount and quality of sleep we are able to obtain is shrinking as late-shifts, catch-up chores and the inevitable television encroach on our slumbersome hours.
By ensuring we have little time to think, let alone act, on our own terms, the industrial system controls us. Not only will a failure to break the clock lead to the inevitable crash in the supply of everything we depend upon for our collective survival, it will ensure we are too pre-occupied to even notice this happening.
Time pressure pushes from all directions, and it is all too easy to blame the people you love for occupying those periods in which you “need” to work, get jobs done and chill out in front of the TV, computer or store display window. A moment of clarity: it is not the people you love who are stealing your time, but everyone else. Every institution; every commercial enterprise; every single artefact of Industrial Civilization is clawing away at the shreds of your remaining years. The people and activities you should be spending your time with have been pushed aside by the forces of commerce because, like it or not, time is finite, and no one knows that better than those who want to steal your time away for their own benefit.
14) Give Us Hope
November 4, 2008, might not seem to be a particularly significant date in the annals of world history; yet it is perhaps the single most important day in the history of political grassroots activism. Here is part of the speech the person in question made on that November date:
“…to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
“For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”
In that speech Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America, used one particular word in such a way that there was no doubt what had swept him to power. The day Obama accepted victory was the day the Hope rhetoric fully engulfed America; the posters, still crackling freshly in the Chicago breeze were emblazoned with the same word; button badges and sweatshirts adorned with slogans playing on this word were already for sale online.
What is actually significant is not that someone of mixed race and cultural origins completely atypical for the historical position, assumed power; not even that the route to victory was paved with the shoulders of millions of genuinely passionate, normally disenfranchised people. No, what was significant is that no one seemed to understand the victory had been won by exposing a concept for what it really was; in a way that no satirist, no author and no activist had ever been able to do. Finally the sinuous mantra of the social optimist had been beaten into a circle, and promptly swallowed its own tail.
No one who follows the course of world events – even the “world” events that assume a totally parochial outlook on mainstream USA news channels – can doubt the Obama Presidency was just business as usual for the oil barons, warlords and media tycoons of the industrial world. The posters have since been overpasted, landfilled and recycled; the button badges no longer proudly displayed by the hopeful millions. The irony is that anyone who has paid attention to events that change world history would have known what was happening all along, had they not been swept away by the frenzied election coverage. Hope is anything but a world-changer: it has never been anything other than a means of sublimating the will to create change.
It is clear that few people in the world of grassroots activism understand what a hollow ring that word still has, even in the wake of the Obama Presidency; which is a terrible shame, because there is some genuine value in Hope, used in its proper sense, as a means of bringing people together at critical times. Even as a committed “hope sceptic” there is no campaign or action I do not embark upon without some small sense of hope attached, but as writer and co-founder of The Dark Mountain Project, Paul Kingsnorth, states:
We need to get real. Climate change is teetering on the point of no return while our leaders bang the drum for more growth. The economic system we rely upon cannot be tamed without collapsing, for it relies upon that growth to function. And who wants it tamed anyway? Most people in the rich world won’t be giving up their cars or holidays without a fight.
Some…believe that these things should not be said, even if true, because saying them will deprive people of “hope”, and without hope there will be no chance of “saving the planet”. But false hope is worse than no hope at all.6
False hope is the application of a wish, a secular prayer if you like, upon something that with its own momentum is unlikely to succeed. Rather like a Green Party candidate in a British constituency that has voted Conservative for the last 60 years, the only likelihood of success is with the removal of all other potentially successful candidates. On the other hand, a Green Party candidate in a constituency that has a history of liberal voting, backed by a platoon of activists and the support of the local press, may be justified during the vote count when nothing more can be done, in hoping for victory. Unfortunately, as Caroline Lucas, the first ever Green Party Member of Parliament in the UK has been witness to, becoming a member of a behemothic, corporate-led system, in the hope that change can be made is about as effective as throwing a coin into a fountain and hoping to water the parched trees of the Brazilian Amazon.
For once, this is easy to spot. The use of the word “hope” is profligate in the speeches, essays and articles of a wide range of people whose use of the word, and related terms like “hopeful” and (without irony) “hopeless” in one of two ways. First, you will hear and see it as a way of appealing to the human spirit in place of constructive action, manifesting itself in the form of vigils, symbolic human chains, petition signings and all sorts of other ineffective activities; what could be called “fluffy hope”. Second, it will be in the form of a call to arms, where the object of this call is made to feel duty-bound to act on behalf of the requestor – usually a politician or a corporation proxy, such as the press release of a sponsored event. It will be obvious to you by now that this is nothing but “false hope”. Very rarely you will feel the warm and positive glow of genuine hope: but no one will need to tell you to act, because the work will already have been done.
In the presence of hope, action stops – real action, that is, not the symbolic activities mentioned above that masquerade as “action”. Hope is the killer of change; it is the mental glue that prevents us from deciding maybe we haven’t quite done enough yet, or done anything at all. Conversely, to quote Derrick Jensen: “When hope dies, action begins.”
Hope and symbolism go hand in hand, and it is those who deal in symbols like the flag, the rosette, the cross, the button badge and the cluster of glowing tea-lights that are the guilty parties in this suppression of action. So beware the symbols and those that distribute them: politicians with their votes to collect; religious leaders on a mission; charities and NGOs with their fundraisers and, more ominously, their calls to (symbolic) action. And you too: every utterance of the H-word makes someone else a little more impotent in changing their world. Such a simple, yet dangerous Tool of Disconnection.
The Most Powerful Tool of All
Reading through this glossary of the Tools of Disconnection what might strike you is that everything discussed here is common knowledge. You might be thinking: “So what’s the big deal?” In the real world that would be inexcusable. In the civilized world that’s perfectly understandable.
Writing this glossary of the Tools of Disconnection it was hard for me to hold back my emotions: I wanted to rage, to express my fury and utter contempt for the system which has kept us in disconnected servitude for so many centuries; civilization after civilization each having its opportunity to proffer a hand of freedom to the enslaved populace but ultimately bowing to the destiny that befalls every civilization. There is no place for freedom where wealth and power are at stake. No place for freedom and certainly no place for connection.
Connection permits us to understand our humanity.
Connection makes us a threat to the system.
So we have to be kept in the dark. The Tools of Disconnection operate at the limits of our perception: we just about see them; we hear them but as a whisper; we can even touch their feathery tendrils. We sometimes hate them and we sometimes embrace them. But we do nothing to stop them.
Because there is something else going on we can’t quite put our fingers on; a mechanism that works through light and dark to protect the system from our latent wrath. For have no doubt, if we ever become fully aware of the extent to which we are being disconnected from the real world then the system will be dust.
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
This Veil of Ignorance the Culture of Maximum Harm utilises so brilliantly is no secret if you know where to look: the Wizard of Oz used it in the form of smoke, pyrotechnics and a curtain to distract the inhabitants of the Emerald City from his lack of might; Doctor Who used it in the form of a Perception Filter to divert attention away from the thing his enemies were looking for; Saruman The White used it in the form of a voice that commanded total acquiescence in the face of a potential threat. Trite, maybe even laughable examples from popular culture, yet they show that the idea of a system protecting itself from normal sensory awareness is nothing new.
One Greek man was more than aware how this kind of thing worked. In order to demonstrate the mindset of the typical person as compared to the mindset of the enlightened individual, Plato used a simile in the form of a cave7:
“I want you to go on and picture the enlightenment or ignorance of our human condition somewhat as follows. Imagine an underground chamber like a cave, with a long entrance open to the daylight and as wide as the cave. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads.”
The situation subsequently described is of a shadow puppet performance being projected onto the part of the cave the prisoners are able to see. And that is all they can see. Desmond Lee, the translator for the Penguin edition of “The Republic” from which The Simile of The Cave comes, suggests the simile can be easily extended to cinema or television – the latter being the primary outlet of information in the civilized world, for the moment. But the simile extends further than a simple visual illusion, for the shadow theatre is not so much mimicking the events of the world beyond the Cave, but actually being the events of the real world as far as the prisoners are concerned. What happens on the wall onto which the images are being projected in two-dimensions is so compelling, and the prisoners so tuned into these images, that nothing else exists: the projection of a false world is the real world, so long as the prisoners remain imprisoned, and so long as the shadow theatre continues.
Breaking the chains and moving into the light will take a former prisoner into a different dimension, not just physically, but in their awareness of what is going on around them. Dazzling at first, the Real World shortly becomes the truth, with the shadow theatre a mental relic of an old world – a false world – that up to very recently was the real world. The newly freed person is at liberty to tell the prisoners about this real world, but will fail:
“Then what do you think would happen,” I asked, “if he went back to sit in his old seat in the cave? Wouldn’t his eyes be blinded by the darkness, because he had come in suddenly out of the sunlight?”
“And if he had to discriminate between the shadows, in competition with the other prisoners, while he was still blinded and before his eyes got used to the darkness – a process that would take some time – wouldn’t he be likely to make a fool of himself? And they would say that his visit to the upper world had ruined his sight, that the ascent was not worth even attempting. And if anyone tried to release them and lead them up, they would kill him if they could lay their hands on him.”
There are ways to free others and to connect them with the real world, but they do not involve simple suggestion, and they cannot be imposed by force. The curtain in front of the booth protecting the controller; the mysterious force pulling attention away from the truth; the powerful voice preventing all rebellious discourse and thought: these and more operate, like the shackles and the ever-running light projections in the Cave, to keep people rooted to the spot. We see the world civilization offers us as the truth. Before we can point out the livid details of how we are kept disconnected and help others join forces in undermining the Tools of Disconnection, we have to undermine the things that prevent us from even believing we are disconnected.
This is perhaps the hardest task of all; but some of us are ready to take on not just the possible, but also the seemingly impossible.
CLICK FOR CHAPTER 3
1 John Taylor Gatto, “Dumbing Us Down. The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.” 2005, New Society Publishers. This is a superb book and critical reading for anyone who wishes to understand more about the nature of the school system.
2 Ronald Reagan, Remarks to Citizens in Hambach, Federal Republic of Germany. Accessed via the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Archive, University of Texas (http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/)
3 Neil Evernden, “The Social Creation of Nature”, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
4 New Economics Foundation, “Shorter working week soon inevitable, forecasts nef”, http://www.neweconomics.org/press-releases/shorter-working-week-soon-inevitable-forecasts-think-tank130210 (accessed February 2011).
5 “Obama acceptance speech in full”, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/05/uselections2008-barackobama (accessed September 2011)
6 Paul Kingnorth and George Monbiot, “Is there any point in fighting to stave off industrial apoca-lypse?”, The Guardian, August 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/aug/17/environment-climate-change (accessed February 2011).
7 This “simile” is better described as an allegory, and indeed in many texts the passage in question is referred to as “The Allegory of The Cave”. The translation used here, however is more faithful to the original. Excerpts are from Plato tr. Desmond Lee, “The Republic”, Penguin Classics, 2003.
Version 1.02, published 24 October, 2012