The Allegory of the Cave for the 21st Century

To Plato, with Gratitude

Deep beneath the stadium lies a cave. In this cave stand tall compartments. Hanging in the compartments are various pieces of equipment. Belts. Pads. Helmets. Cleats. All the tools of the trade. Facing these compartments are players. These players have spent their entire lives in this cave and no very little of the world outside other than the muffled adulation from adoring fans. All that they know, all that they care to understand exists here, deep beneath the stadium.

Of course the players have each other. They call themselves a ‘brotherhood’ because to them, this is what family means. Their perception of how the world works, how the world operates, is formed from filtered conversations with one another as they sit and stare at the compartments in front of them. Since they rarely escape the confines of the cave they know very little of the outside world, the world that exists beyond the media rooms. Beyond the concessions stands and parking lots. Beyond the millions upon millions of admirers.

Assume that one of these players was to break free from the chains that bind them to their cave deep beneath the stadium. That player, exposed to life beyond the stadium walls for the first time would be traumatized as their bodies and minds adjust to the way the world works and thinks beyond the comfort of the cave. For the first time this player would encounter perspectives and preferences never heard or discussed before in the cave. At least not publicly. In the society beyond the cave people are accepting of differences. Not just because it’s convenient or because it’s fits the system but because it is moral, logical thing to do.

When this player returns to the cave deep beneath the stadium he visits each of the compartments and tells his fellow teammates about his experiences in the outside world and how people in normal society typically operate with understanding and compassion. He talks about how in the real world the term ‘brotherhood’ refers to all of humanity not just the players in the cave.

His fellow players would not believe him because they have never experienced life outside the walls of their cave therefore the world that is being described to them cannot be real. Acceptance is only an idea to them. an idea which is given plenty of lip service but in their sheltered reality is representative of a double standard. What is said publicly in front of the camera is quite different then what is acted on stage behind the closed doors of the cave.

When the player asks his leaders if they’d be interested in exposing the cave to a more diverse spectrum of ideas and interests the leader say ‘no’, too much of a distraction. They have serious jobs to do. Better to remain amongst the safety and protection of like minded souls. Yet to this player, this particular stance is hypocritical and prejudiced. How as a leader can you tolerate some ‘distractions’ and not others? Is is simply the difference between being a first round draft pick and the first openly gay player?

What these players and leaders fail to realize in their cave deep beneath the stadium is that change is inevitable and that eventually the barriers that keep them protected from the rest of society will fall down. Only then will they realize that acceptance is a real thing.