Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Safe Spaces, and the Allegory of the Cave

I am – with immense relief felt every time I say it – no longer in the journalism business. Nevertheless, things like this irk me.

You want twisted, insincere narratives? That’s typically what you get when you shut people out, whether they’re journalists or not.

I am far and physically removed from the protests in Missouri. I have no plans to invade any “safe spaces” (whatever that means). But I might, out of curiosity, out of sympathy, out of empathy, want to know what’s going on. By shutting out the news media, you sound as loony as those who fear “the medias” are a left-wing (or a right-wing) cabal of truth-forgers bent on shaping whatever it is you think you’ve got into whatever it is you think they want to tell the rest of the world. And grant you, we see that sometimes (and from both the left-wing and the right-wing of this so-called cabal).
But isn’t there room for sincerity somewhere? And isn’t there irony painting “the medias” with a broad brush when you’re on campus trying to paint race relations with finer instruments?

Whooooooah! I think there is.

Here’s a twisted narrative for you: What are y’all trying to hide there? That’s the first question that came to my mind when I heard y’all were shoving the media out and wanting to create safe spaces. Is your conversation of reconciliation and delight so dark and unproductive that you don’t dare share it with the rest of the world?

I know I’m painting an unfair picture.

But you’re helping paint it by barring outsiders who happen to come with a camera or a microphone.
You’re helping to feed the monster of fear and distrust, folks. You’re feeding the monster of “Us vs. Them” even as you think you’re starving it.

You chanted “We Shall Overcome” and you overcame. But this kind of behavior means pretty soon y’all will be the ones others are chanting “We Shall Overcome” at (h/t to Terry Pratchett for that one).

I’m reminded of the humans described in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, chained to the floor and able only to see the shadows and hear the cries of what is going on behind them, lit as the cave is by a crackling fire. They see shadows of man and shadows of the statues of animals the men carry, and sometimes the shadows blend together so they are not quite certain of what they see. And there is an echo in the cave, so any voices or cries or singing they hear is muddled with the reverberations. They are never quite sure what they see and hear; they can only interpret. And one sitting next to the other may not agree on the interpretation.

Don’t be like these prisoners, who, once released, initially prefer to stick with their own interpretations because, upon looking at reality – that some of the animals that they saw were statues, not real; that the sunlight blinds and hurts their eyes -- they can't deal with it. They prefer to return to their prison, even unchained, and remain there for a time because they're more comfortable with seeing mere shadows and illusions than they are dealing with real life.

Real life does not offer safe spaces.

Real life requires an open mind without shutting others out of it.

The sooner you learn that, the more meaningful the rest of your education will become.

No comments: