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Plato, a Pundit, and the Evening News

People who are suckers for things classical are familiar with Plato's famous "Cave", an allegory that emphasizes the difference between the false reality of appearances (for unthinking people) and true, underlying Reality. The trouble is that his allegory is complicated and drawn-out and thus loses its force, for me at least.

Caitlin Johnstone wrote an op-ed piece the other day that improved on Plato's Cave. I have no idea whether her version was original, and I don't care. She put it to great use.

Doing daily commentary on world power dynamics feels a lot like staring up at the sky watching clouds...


but no matter how long you lay there staring up at [the different cloud shapes] you're really only ever seeing one dynamic play out with different appearances from moment to moment.


The daily news is very much the same, except most consumers of news media aren't aware that they're watching clouds.  

They don't see the real underlying dynamics, they just see the forms those dynamics are taking from moment to moment. They don't see the water droplets being moved around by the breeze, they just see the shapes.

Just as clouds are always water droplets in the air no matter what shapes they take, news stories are only ever one dynamic playing out with different appearances.

There is only ever one news story on any given day, and it is always the same news story: wealthy and powerful people seek more wealth and power, and narratives are spun to advance these agendas.

  Great article, Caitlin! And just when I was getting to write off the internet as a "vast wasteland." It was gratifying to take mere "purdy pichers" of clouds and insert them into her thoughts as visual metaphors.


XXXXX said…

Undoubtedly, a Joni Mitchell fan.

Both Sides Now
by Joni Mitchell

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

© June 19, 1967; Gandalf Publishing Co. (as "From Both Sides Now")
Yes George, there are definitely some lines in the song that fit well with Caitlin Johnstone's editorial.