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Plato and The Big Picture
Logic, structure and rationale underpinning my upcoming book.
For the vast majority of us, COVID-19 has been experienced as a river formed by the confluence of mass media and government-promoted stories, infectious disease threat alerts, and economic disruptions (at times disasters) which has flowed by and through our daily lives since the early months of 2020. Only a small minority have been carefully, perhaps obsessively following every twist and turn of the ebb and flow of subsequent events, and among these are a few that have been able (for whatever reason) to perceive the mis- dis- and mal-information which has been propagated globally. The majority have willingly consumed and believed the story line of the “Great Reset” and “Great Narrative” (titles of two books authored by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret) which has been so aggressively promoted since the start. Almost all, whether or not they have accepted an inoculation labeled as a vaccine, have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 at some point. Each has their own story and experience, and each of these stories are facets of individual and collective truth which transcend all attempts by media, governments, non-governmental organizations, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders to manage and manipulate the “Great Narrative” to advance a wide range of agendas. For some, the tide of events has cost their lives or those of friends and loved ones. For others they have destroyed their businesses or livelihoods. And for a small subset, particularly those dissidents that have raised alarms about the many breaches of fundamental medical ethics, human rights, freedom of speech, clinical research and regulatory norms and guidances, it has cost them reputations and careers as they have been bombarded by withering and highly coordinated attacks in their places of employment, by their medical licensing boards, on social media, and in a bewilderingly coordinated array of legacy mass media outlets.
How to begin to capture and then start to make sense out of the breadth and depth of the global human tragedy known as COVID-19? History is being actively drafted and manipulated in real time, in some cases even before the fact (for example the “Event 201” wargaming which took place during late 2019 as the virus was just entering the global human population) and then aggressively distributed by a highly coordinated global media ecosystem which is owned and managed by a very small number of corporate stakeholders. When confronting such globally coordinated and harmonized efforts to manipulate memory, thought and perceptions of individuals while actively deleting events and suppressing inconvenient data, it is somewhat overwhelming to imagine how written words can be used to help others make sense of their own experiences and their own tragedies. How can written words, a single book, a daily stream of essays published on the internet, help to heal the damage done to all of us? This is the real question which lies at the heart of all of the current work which Jill and I have undertaken since the beginning of this outbreak. In the face of this global tragedy, what can the two of us do to help lift people’s burden and stop this from happening again? Again and again I have written that I do not seek to tell people what to think, but rather to help them get access to information and become better able to think for themselves. But the sheer volume flowing through the river of information (and all of its tributaries) regarding the Coronacrisis is overwhelming at times.
Humans perceive and interpret the world by comparing the information which they receive through their senses to internal models of reality. Our conscious mind does not directly perceive reality. It holds a model of what it believes to be true, and then compares incoming information to this model. Our minds will discard information which is inconsistent with our own personal internalized model. It can be demonstrated in psychological experiments involving individual hypnosis that, if our internal models are controlled and shaped to deny the possibility of something existing, we will actually not be able to “see” objects which are demonstrably present in the photons which our eyes detect or the audio waves which our ears hear while either directly looking at or listening to the object which our minds “know” cannot exist. In other words, we can only see that which we believe exists, that which is consistent with our own personal model of reality. This is an essential truth of human consciousness, one which enables the hypnosis (of individuals or whole societies) which Dr. Mattias Desmet describes in detail in his seminal work “The Psychology of Totalitarianism”. If you start by acknowledging this fundamental truth, then it follows that the challenge which any person who seeks to make sense out of the confusing and often mesmerizing flow of information bombarding us during the Coronacrisis requires development of an extended internal model of the world which can help their own mind process all of this.
The easy solution, and I argue the intellectually lazy solution, is to just accept the model that is being so actively promoted and inserted into our minds via every information channel that can be controlled and manipulated by the media, governments, non-governmental organizations, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders. That is to say, to just accept the product of the active and globally coordinated psychological operations and marketing campaigns which have been developed, coordinated and implemented by an overwhelming array of institutes, think tanks, governments, non-governmental organizations, intelligence community operatives, and financial stakeholders. Much harder is to build your own model, brick by brick, by examining data, traveling, listening to others, reading and doing your own investigation, and above all thinking for yourself. To that end, this book is designed to help you to recognize that the “Great Narrative” that has been so actively promoted is not the only model for understanding the present and predicting the future, but rather one of many alternative models, one promoted by people and organizations who have an angle. A conflict of interest one way or another. Furthermore, this book is intended to not only serve as a first draft of history, a recitation of the lies and harms that have been inflicted on all of us, and a means to help you make sense out of the bewildering array of lived events, but also to help us all process our collective experience and derive lessons and identify actions that we might take to move towards a better future which is informed by this global experience which we have all shared.
As Jill and I have worked through the daily stream of Coronacrisis-related events over the last 2+ years, processing them through our own internal models of reality, we have had to shift our own perceptions and to constantly, actively modify our models of the current political, scientific, and public health world to fit the incoming data. To update and transform the array of multiple working hypotheses which we use to try to detect the elusive underlying truths. We have tried to be fearless, but some of our hypotheses, associations and inferences can make many (including ourselves) quite uncomfortable. They often seem to trigger considerable cognitive dissonance within our own minds, those of our readers and certainly our detractors. I believe that this sense of cognitive dissonance, of psychological pain, that often occurs when encountering facts or ideas which are different from the ones which we have relied upon in the past (and have previously employed to make sense of the stream of the present) can be a signpost pointing towards an opportunity for personal growth. However, one thing that we have become acutely and very personally aware of is that there seems to be a movement in modern society to avoid information, theories or opinions which trigger cognitive dissonance and the associated psychological pain. Often associated with terms such as “cancel culture”, “virtue signaling” and “woke-ism”, this movement appears to have manifested as a belief system which holds that the individuals as well as the collective body politic have a fundamental right to intellectual protection, to not encounter unpleasant thoughts, information or ideas which are inconsistent with their internal model of reality. These are the intellectual roots which nurture censorship, denialism, and the weaponized gaslighting, defamation and slander, as well as the idea that anything which causes individuals to lose faith in their government constitutes domestic terrorism and should be treated as such. There is a long and rich human history of punishment by death for such dissident thoughtcrimes. I suggest that these behaviors and actions are among the ugliest manifestations of the tribal human tendency to reject those who are willing to speak inconvenient truths, and that this tendency has always been a dark reactionary aspect of the processes by which scientific and medical knowledge advance. Awareness of this phenomenon is not something just recently discovered. It extends back even before Galileo Galilei and the Roman Catholic Inquisition to at least the fourth century BC, and probably further beyond that into the mists of time.
About 2,400 years ago, the Athenian philosopher Plato (student of Socrates, mentor of Aristotle) described the Allegory of the Cave, writing while using the voice of his martyred mentor Socrates. Socrates is most famous for his powerful logical approach for avoiding hubris, beginning all philosophical and logical quests for truth with the position that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.
In his political masterwork “The Republic”, Plato uses the Allegory of the Cave to justify his core political thesis that the ideal ruler is the “Philosopher King”, essentially a wise philosopher-dictator who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are collectively wise enough to choose a good master. Modern readers can immediately detect the conflict of interest which lies at the heart of this Platonic ideal, that being that Plato (and by inference Socrates) are basically nominating themselves as authoritarian rulers over Athens. Personally, I find the logic that the Cave allegory justifies the philosopher-dictator as the ideal leader both a bit contrived and circular. However, I suggest that the Allegory of the Cave is a profound and immortal insight into a fundamental aspect of human society which is at the center of the observations of both 20th century political philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt as well as her 21st century intellectual successor Dr. Mattias Desmet. The Cave is essentially a metaphorical thought experiment which uses a literary device similar to those employed in Aesop’s Fables, in which stories of talking animals are used to bypass the human mental defense mechanisms that can make it so hard for each of us to accept observations and critiques concerning human behaviors. The Cave relates a fundamental, prototypic human myth. It tells the story of the inevitable coupling of human discovery with the tribal rejection which all true innovative pioneers, all dissenters, all paradigm shifters know far too well.
The setting for the Allegory of the Cave is a hypothetical dark cavern inhabited by a group of prisoners who are all bound hand and foot facing the same wall. The prisoners have been there since birth; they have grown up together, and this is the only reality that they know. Behind them is a burning fire maintained by the rulers of the cave. The rulers have different objects and puppets which they hold up so that the prisoners can see the shadows cast by the objects as they interrupt the light of the fire, and the rulers make sounds and generate echos for the prisoners to hear. These rulers of the cave are the puppet masters, able to control the reality which the prisoners are able to experience. As these shadows and sounds are all that the prisoners have experienced since birth, they do not question and do not know anything different from this shadow reality. They think that this is what life is, a reality of shadow, sound and echo.
The prisoners compose and share names for the shadows, develop competitions to determine who is best able to guess which shadow will turn up next, and give each other awards and praise for the ones with the most accurate predictions. From their standpoint, this is life.
One day, one of the prisoners gets loose. His chains break, and in a confused state he stands for the first time, looks around, and sees the fire. Lying on the ground next to the fire he sees the puppets and objects which correspond to the shadows on the wall. In a great leap of insight, he concludes that the shadows came from these objects, and that the puppets and fire represent a greater reality than that which he had previously known.
Feeling empowered and energized like never before, he begins to explore the cave, finds his way to the entrance, and leaves the shadowy fire-lit confines. The bright sun burns his eyes causing great pain, so he shields them with his hands. Gradually his eyes adjust to this new environment. He drops his hands and opens his eyes fully, seeing for the first time the greater world outside the cave. He sees color, sun, trees, animals, grass, mountains, and has yet another epiphany that he has become able to see the true nature of the world for the first time. The shadows had been mere surrogates of this greater truth. There was much more to life than he had ever imagined. Filled with joy over this new experience, he feels a wave of gratitude and awe as awareness dawns that he has become able to directly perceive the true nature of the real world.
Then he remembers his fellow prisoners, the people he had shared his entire life with. He pities them for being trapped in their limited understanding of reality, for their ignorance of the larger real truth which they are neither able to experience nor perceive. Overwhelmed with waves of pity, empathy, and anger at the puppet masters who have imprisoned and manipulated the reality of those that he has grown up and spent his entire life with, he returns to the cave determined to share what he has learned and help the prisoners see the larger reality, and to help free them from their bondage by the puppet masters.
The freed prisoner returns to the cave and his friends, hoping to enlighten and free them from their chains. But they cannot understand what he is saying and trying to do. He tries to explain the greater reality that he has seen and experienced, but they cannot even begin to understand what he is trying to describe. Imprisonment in the cave is the only reality they have ever known, and they cannot understand anything else. They notice that the eyes of the freed prisoner have changed due to exposure to the sun, and that he now has trouble seeing, naming and interpreting the shadows. The laugh at him, and all concerned agree that leaving the cave is a waste of time. They then threaten to kill both the escaped prisoner as well as anyone else who dares to break their bonds and leave the cave.
This story provides a simplified allegory which illustrates the paradox at the center of this book. It is easy to communicate a separate reality which differs from the approved and promoted narrative to those who are already convinced that their experiences differ from that narrative and have begun to question what they are being told by the puppet masters. The challenge is how to communicate to those who have just been casually aware of the river flowing by and have accepted that the promoted reality provides an adequate explanation and model of how the river will flow in the future.
Physicians and other medical practitioners are constantly encountering things that do not make sense. The good ones become a kind of beat detectives, specialists in interpreting the shadows on the walls of the cave that they know best. Most of the rest become masters of naming the shadows. A very few are occasionally able to see outside the cave, for instance to recognize that there is a particular pathogen with a spiral shape which causes stomach ulcers, and which can be treated and prevented by killing the pathogen. But almost inevitably these few are initially rejected, defamed and ridiculed by the others with whom they were raised. Still they persist, armed with conviction that they have seen the greater reality, and the knowledge of how other dissenters who have come before have helped advance the common cause. But it is neither easy nor pleasant to convert their fellow prisoners, and many will never accept that there is something more than the shadows which they have grown up with.
The book follows the basic process which physicians are taught to use when encountering a patient. A well trained and experienced physician begins by trying to make sense out of what has brought the patient to seek care, a process which begins by getting the patient to speak about why they have presented to the physician (the chief complaint), gathering information both as a history in the patient’s own words as well as results from a physical examination and laboratory tests. This information is then compared to the many models of disease which the physician holds in their head (and sometimes in books or computers), and a hypothesis is developed which seeks to answer the question “what are the causes of this particular patients’ complaints and symptoms?”. This hypothesis may be challenged and supported by performing additional examination or tests. A treatment plan is then developed based on the working model (hypothesis) for what is causing the patient to have a complaint or develop what appears to be a disease. The treatment plan is implemented, and after a period of time the physician and patient come back together to see if the treatment has been effective or the hypothesis needs to be modified.
In the case of the current work, a number of personal stories have been assembled in the hope that they will help illuminate the underlying problems. These chapters are essentially personal histories which describe the chief complaints of different people from all over the world who have been impacted by the Coronacrisis. Then there are essays developed during the course of these events which strive to comprehend and make sense of the events and forces which have caused these various complaints and symptoms. Finally, there are the chapters which have been most difficult to write; the treatment plans. The collected thoughts and ideas which, if implemented, offer hope for recovery and prevention of future global calamities akin to that which we are now (hopefully) emerging from.
As discussed above, I have no illusions that these mere words can cure the damage done by the Coronacrisis and the treatments which others have imposed upon us. I also know that the case histories illuminate only a small subset of the tragic collective human experience that we have all shared. Likewise, the treatment plans discussed are only a starting point for a broader discussion. I do not pretend to have the answers, nor to comprehensively understand the “truth” of what we all have experienced, but rather seek to try to help each to broaden their own models of reality, to open each of our “Overton” windows just a bit more, and to not tell you what to think but to help you to discover and think for yourself. But you may want to partially cover your eyes or at least wear mental sunglasses at first. Cognitive dissonance can hurt when you come out of the cave and first encounter bright sunlight.