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Dec 30, 2012

Plato's Basement


Imagine a group of prisoners in a really, really large basement. They’re chained together in such a way that they can only see the wall in front of them. Sort of Facebook. There’s a perpetual fire burning behind their backs. It's the condo’s heating system. People and animals walk through a pass way between the prisoners and the fire (let’s face it - only really cheap condos allow stinky things like goats, camels and prisoners inside.) Unable to move their heads, the prisoners see the shadows of the passersby going to and fro. They hear strange noises coming from behind and think, in their archaic way of thinking, ‘‘Tis strange: sounds like Narcissus’s girl’s voice.’ They suffer, of course, from all kinds of spine problems. The lack of exercise would have turned them into fat balls, but it didn’t, for they weren’t fed. If they were, they would have seen at least a hand – maybe a spoon or a dish or something. Yet, they have only seen the shadows. Pray suspend your disbelief, okay? I’m trying, here. For the prisoners, this is the World. ‘And what a shitty world it is’, they think.

One fine day without rain, a flaw in the system allows one of the prisoners to be set free. Despite never having walked before in his whole life, he climbs the service stairs towards a blinding but beautiful light, the way a moth does but without the flying thing. The prisoner had never seen 5,500K white before. Lo and behold – but only after a moment, for his eyes are rusty – there’s something out there. He looks again and again, and each time he looks he sees something wonderful. The Flat Iron building. The topless ladies at the Moulin Rouge. An helicopter landing on a São Paulo skyscraper. The Taj-Mahal. Justin Bieber. North-Korea’s dear leader. But this man hasn’t read on Objectivism. He doesn’t understand he really should think of himself and the system would take care of the rest. He does the silly thing: he goes back for his basement friends. Gesticulating and shouting furiously like a program vendor at a French opera house, he tries to convince his former mates that reality is at one hundred passes, even less if you take the elevator. But the prisoners mock him. They call him a looney. ‘Don’t your understand’, he cries in despair, ‘That there are virgins and hot dog stands out there?’

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