Authoritarianism and the Escape from Freedom

Authoritarianism and the Escape from Freedom

The protagonist is then forced (or perhaps allowed) to leave the cave and confront the outside light and sound directly. The light would hurt their eyes and make it hard for them to see the objects that are casting the shadows. The sounds are likely to be strange. Perhaps another language is being spoke or no words are to be heard—there being only the sounds of nature or no sounds at all.

Our protagonist might be angry and in pain. This would only worsen when the radiant light of the sun overwhelms their eyes and blinds them and when the new sounds (or lack of sounds) play havoc on their ears (and psyche). The sunlight and sounds are representative of the new reality and knowledge that the freed prisoner is experiencing. Slowly, her eyes adjust to the light of the sun. The sounds become less bewildering. Gradually, the former prisoner can see the reflections of people and natural things in water near the entrance of their cave. A bit later, they can see the people and natural things themselves. Plato continues, saying that the freed prisoner would think that the real world was superior to the world they experienced in the cave. Our protagonist would feel blessed for the change, pity the other prisoners, and want to bring their fellow cave dwellers out of the cave and into the sunlight

Returning to the Cave

Here is where the central question emerges: can our protagonist come back into the cave and what would this “enlightened” person say to those still in the cave? How would the dwellers take in this radically different perspective? The cave dwellers won’t know what to do with the returning unchained “revolutionary” who talks about a different reality. What happens when this person returns to the cave? Would this person be considered a “philosopher” (as Plato suggests) or would they be identified as a “fool” or as a person who is “mad”? The former prisoner’s conveying of their experiences is likely to terrify compatriots. Our protagonist realizes that they cannot remain in the cave. They would stagnate. Other cave dwellers will not change or move forward. They perceive our protagonist as dangerous. Our protagonist might be killed or at least isolated from other cave dwellers (imprisonment in a jail or asylum?)


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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