Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party is under attack, again. It is really a testimony to his resilience that he is not only going ahead with the real agenda of trying to undo the draconian damage being done to Britain by the present political circumstances (assault on Health, Education, Housing, Flood defences and Clean energy, hawkish Foreign Policy, renewal of useless and dangerous Trident nuclear system) but he has found time to tweak a little his entourage (aka reshuffle, what all party leaders do to increase efficiency) with patience and coherence. The Media did not waste this opportunity to continue using their favourite epithets for his actions like “shambles” and “unelectable”. Why would this humble, genuine and compassionate guy become the focus of such viciousness?
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave comes all the way from ancient Greece to help explain such phenomenon. Things have not changed much in the last 2400 years!
In this story, contained in Plato’s The Republic people have been imprisoned in a cave since childhood. They are chained so that their legs and necks are fixed, forcing them to look at the wall. Behind the prisoners there is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a low wall, behind which people walk carrying objects or puppets “of men and other living things”. The prisoners are only able to see the shadows on the cave wall in front of them. They believe the shadows to be reality as they have never seen anything else.
If someone were allowed to look at the back the light of the fire would hurt his eyes, so he would go back to look at the cave wall. But if a prisoner was forced to leave the cave the light of the sun would make him angry and in pain until his eyes managed to adjust.
Gradually he could see people and things themselves, the stars and moon and the sun (the new reality and knowledge, that is, for Plato, “Good”).
The freed prisoner would value such knowledge and pity the other prisoners returning to the cave to liberate them. But he would be blind again in its relative darkness for which the prisoners would not believe him, blaming the journey out of the cave and refusing to leave.
They could even kill anyone trying to take them out of the cave.
For Plato, furious with the “democratic” way that Socrates had been judged (for corrupting the youth with his ideas and not showing respect for the traditional gods) and condemned to drink hemlock, people in the cave would be, by today’s definition, uninformed public opinion, deceived by the puppeteers (the Media representing the views of the Establishment).
History has endless examples of the “Socrates” of their times. Pythagoras’ school was burnt and his disciples killed, Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier when he wanted to continue doing his geometrical figures. Jesus was crucified, Hypatia of Alexandria was killed by a Christian mob; Galileo and Giordano Bruno were attacked by the Inquisition, Lavoisier was executed during the French Revolution, probably on false charges, being a scientist from an aristocratic background.
In our own times the nonviolent author and spiritual guide Silo was vilified and imprisoned. He was probably the case that best mirrored the accusations made against Socrates. Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela were given similar treatment and the whistleblowers Manning, Snowden and Assange had their lives destroyed for daring to inform the public.
Are we to be surprised, then, that Jeremy Corbyn, refusing to play the “we are all neoliberal now” game, is getting so much flak?
We may not be chained and forced to look at a cave’s wall. Rather, sitting comfortably on our sofas and glued to the TV we digest uncritically the “horrors” of Corbyn’s leadership as if they were “reality”. One of the worst culprits, our own beloved, tax-payer maintained, supposed-to-give-a-balanced-view BBC: “Shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party in September, the BBC were accused of an ‘anti Corbyn bias’ and challenged with a 61,000 strong petition demanding that they stop using the prefix ‘left-wing’ when reporting on events related to his leadership. But before he even won a stunning 59.5% of the vote, ensuring the largest democratic mandate of any Labour leader in modern history, Jeremy Corbyn was subject to what a source from his leadership campaign went as far as describing a ‘complete hatchet job’. The Panorama episode in question was alleged to have attracted a large number of complaints, but the BBC refused to release the figures.
“Former BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, even wrote to his colleagues over concerns about the BBC’s bias towards Corbyn, and Channel 4’s Michael Crick issued a stunning rebuke to broadcasters referring to non-left MPs as ‘moderates’. Despite these protestations, as we begin a New Year, it is evident that the BBC has not taken any New Year’s Resolutions to become a little bit more balanced in the face of a broader, more inclusive political spectrum.” Evolve Politics
Inspiring as he may be, it would be naive to hope that Corbyn makes it all OK. Only work to clarify what we all want and need as human beings can bring about change, and that is also his message. Escaping our chains/armchairs, wall/telly and cave/sitting room to become active in shaping the future can be done if we overcome the discomfort of seeing the light.