Authoritarianism and the Escape from Freedom
Apparently, the images swirling around the cave are much more complicated and diverse than are conveyed in our original description of Plato’s cave. Does the cacophony of sounds and images move us to a state of denial and isolation? Do we try to close our eyes and cover our ears? A contemporary psychological observer, Ken Gergen (2001) writes about a saturated self, suggesting that we are inundated with some many different images that it is hard to sustain a coherent sense of self. Are we led by this saturation of self to be more vulnerable to a single, authoritarian voice and interpretation of reality? Are we more likely to seek escape from freedom if we are afflicted by what Gergen described as our collective mental disease–multiphrenia (rather than schizophrenia)?
Leaving the Cave
What happens when one of the cave dwellers is unchained and leaves the cave? Do they simply enter another cave, or do they discover that the world is something more than the shadows they have always assumed were reality? Do they find that the world outside the cave is even more blinding and that it is filled with many contradictory belief systems? Let’s imagine that this single prisoner (that we will call the protagonist) is freed from the chains and is forced to turn and see the fire. Our protagonist would not believe it if they were told that what they saw before was not real.
Our freed prisoner is likely to struggle when first realizing that the images and echoes are not what is real in the cave. Would our protagonist be anger about their previous life in chains seeing and hearing only an indirect view of reality—or would they wish to return to the safety of the chains? If they are angry, where should the anger be directed? If they want to return to the chains, will this desire for escape from freedom be accompanied by a send of personal shame?