The American Cave Dweller

ImageIn Plato’s Republic, he saw democratic citizens as chained prisoners in a cave. The only existence the prisoners have known was the life in the cave. These prisoners can only look forward. In front of them are figured shadows that are placed on the cave’s wall. These shadows are the prisoners’ understanding of nature and reality. There are two outcomes if a prisoner is released. First, once a prisoner sees where the shadows are projected from, the prisoner can become fearful and sit back into the reality they know and are comfortable. The alternative, the prisoner sees the true reality and adventures off outside the cave to get a further understanding.

It is commonly understood, in the United States, that the purpose of going to college is to receive greater pay rather than a deeper reflection of the nature and context of the world one lives. With this philosophy or ideal pursuit of materialism this may produce a culture that promotes ideas of a good life, that may, only serves the economy rather than the psychological need or the realities that American society faces.

An example can be given in the wake of September 11th when President Bush encouraged Americans to go shopping to encourage economic stability and growth, therefore, ignoring the psychological effects and the realities of September 11th while pursuing a course of war and tax cuts to the upper classes. These actions are similar to Plato’s cave analogy. Instead of educating Americans on the reason for those events and providing for the psychological needs, America was told to continue in the same coarse of understanding, prejudices, and practices. This was America’s fearful return to the figured shadows. The American leadership made no call for a shared sacrifice when it came to taxes to pay for a war, a first in American history, and no call to service but only a call to shop. This event was a lost opportunity for Americans to further strengthen their communities, reflect on the ideal citizen, and reevaluate America’s perception according to lands that are most foreign to it. America can benefit from Plato’s warning, therefore, avoiding a culture that does not provide the appropriate mechanism to deal with physiological stress and problems.

Plato criticizes democracies because its leaders have a tendency to give to its masses rather than call for sacrifice in times of need. Such example is the Bush Tax Cuts. For the first time in American history, the United States chose not to raise taxes in a time of war, a 700 billion dollar bailout, and a costly heath-care reform bill. Instead of raising taxes, the United States has chosen to raise the debt ceiling. Since 1962, the ceiling has been raised 74 times and the last 10 , where from the past decade (Austin and Levit, 2012).

Plato predicted these actions in democracies. For Plato, the masses are reluctant to bear the burdens and cost of its society. For when the people have the power to boot officer holders, it forces the leadership to kick difficult issues down the road because of the desire to retain their position. Plato argues, that this will lead to the demise of democratic governments. America cannot ignore this warning from Plato. We, as citizens, must ask themselves what are the mutual obligations in times of good as well as bad and encourage long-term thinking. Aristotle’s argument of the role of the legislator is to produce laws that produce good citizens. If laws are to produces good citizens then there may be laws that have a sacrificial nature, therefore, making it difficult to enact. If legislators were to follow the Plato argument as being philosophers, perhaps the United States will benefit in the long-term and ponder on the implications of ignoring difficult issues such Medicare and Social Security.


Austin, Andrew, and Mindy Levit. “The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases.” Congressional Research Service, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2012. <;.


About Logan

Logan lives in Arkansas
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