Plato’s allegory of the cave is whiteness itself

Every few years people get piping hot mad about another black life apparently not mattering, and the typical process leads into questioning whether or not they lived a “good life” or a “bad life” so to justify not only his death but whether or not we should do anything about it. Certainly a death in and of itself doesn’t speak reform into literal existence: we have to investigate something in order to determine what that reform should look like, or we may decide to abolish the entirety of the apparently “scoped” cause of the problem. Does it lead to police reform? Reform of the FBI, CIA, etc? Reform of the legal system? The political system? The market? Are any of these things actually distinct? Bear in mind, that Floyd was called-in by a shop keeper, not even the owner (Frank B Wilderson says that the “master has been dispersed throughout society”).

What value is there to die without dignity? Why should we purify the dead in order to justify some next act? Why can’t Floyd be a simple man with simple plans, only concerned with his little patch of blue, rather than some nebulous notion of a universal struggle? Was he in fact concerned with the universal struggle? Does it really matter? And how many black lives lost should we have revolted to this extend, as we have for Floyd, in the past? How is it that “seeing is believing”, namely his brutal and humiliating manslaughter, yet we also want to identify those things we cannot see or haven’t seen, and debate whether or not they were in fact conducive to the problem determining a stolen life or biological death in the last instance? So there seems to be something important in identifying the preconditions of someone’s stolen life or biological death: what connects the event to reform (funding, planning, education, etc) or abolition such that true alternatives may be generated? Can we actually tend toward the new without an exhaustive understanding of the old? Is politics without identity possible?

Should police offers spends two weeks a year in jail or prison, like we make dogs smell their own feces? Should we decentralize dispatch and open source it for full auditability? Should we just DDoS all police communications so they’re effectively de-technologized?

After years of non-rigorous, non-redeemable, sporadic and intermittent, artless, Markov-like scholarship I’ve come to a seemingly radical conclusion, one that I believe cuts to the chase as to where all this afro-pessimism/optimism and white supremacy is leading: the abolition of Plato’s allegory of the cave. If we must abolish the U.S. police, we must abolish the allegory of the cave, and if we must abolish the allegory of the cave, we must also then abolish whiteness. Therefore, we if must abolish the U.S. police, we must abolish Plato’s allegory of the cave, by way of abolishing whiteness. Any project less specific will not achieve the abolition of the U.S. police: if we do not abolish whiteness, and then do not abolish the allegory of the cave as a result, we will not result in in having abolished the police, or at least we’ll be less oriented to having done so, and there may still yet be more work to do. Is this a mere contingency of history, or is there an evidence for these arguments? What’s the connection? While not hoping for the ring of necessity, I should only these points are at least convincing and allow for either a decisive strike or a greater step forward than what has yet been said.

Shadowplay and Nietzschean Optics. Ryan Johnson. 2013.

The allegory of the cave, first of all, is an “orienting metaphor” for truth and knowledge. Truth and knowledge, by this metaphor, are like a chain that has tethered the beginninglessness and beginning together in a chain of being: becoming, in fact, for the allegory is ontologically mythical. The sun never sets, there is nothing new under the sun, for one to become new. Truth and knowledge are of course fine concepts and must be upheld, but our standards for them, their “meaning” have been nothing more than in-formed according to a philosophical archive, not just a philosophical statement, that is the allegory of the cave: that there is a chain of being that conditions truth and knowledge.

From Plato’s allegory we get a bunch of other metaphors: chief among them, the mind is a muscle (remember Metaphors We Live By?), because there are “chains about one’s head” that constrict the ability to detect shadows, so one must change one’s context in order to improve one’s chances at scientific understanding of the world. So the presupposition, then, is that there are inherent attributes of the person for which some environments are not conducive for erudition, understanding, truth-discovery, knowledge and so on. There will be shadows in and outside of the cave, but the point is that there are chains about your head no matter what context and the best we can hope for is a sun that never sets, a context of unending opportunity to perceive appearances aright; and yet they are still nothing but appearances, for us to develop into abstractions. But what if we, instead, go deeper into the cave? Would we arrive at the same conclusion? The chains represent self-limitation: something we might accept regardless of whether it is shadows that are indicating this. When I reach out my hand and hit the wall of the cave, I learn that I am limited, restricted: that is what the chain represents, even my physical person is limited by its own finitude in various senses, not just sight. The shadows only indicate the alleged primacy of the faculty of perception, both experiential (a posteriori) and epistemic (a priori). But each sense has its own a posteriori and a priori: all 5, 10, 22 of them, whatever you wish to take as your model of the “human senses”. Why should we uphold primarily “perceiving” (in the mind) and “seeing” (through the eyes) as telling us the whole story? By accepting the allegory of the cave, we exclude all the other senses, or at least subsume them or relegate them according to the primacy and priority of mental and visual “perception”. We go even further to talk of the ontological import of “light” (“light of reason”, “jewel of thought”, “enlightenment”, “illumination”, etc.), that which enables these forms of perception as itself just as real as those organs and capacities that possibilizes its perception. And insofar as that light is made real through metaphor, it relegates the other senses so as to reinforce the allegory of the cave circularly.

Plato’s sun never sets, and I think it is a popular position to not only question Plato’s allegory but to question the role and status of allegory altogether. Whose metaphors ought we to live by? Everybody’s loves Nietzsche, and while he may praise the Greeks in one vein, attacks the “common coin” that proceduralizes truth and knowledge: the status and role of light, optics, within the allegory.

A sun that never sets is required to understand Plato’s allegory of the cave. More importantly, it is required also to understand various doctrines that the United States follows: namely the idea of a police for that is “chained” to the military force, by way of receiving military arms and munitions and strategic documentation for handling dissent, and by way of maintaining a forever-awake orientation toward the world. The police is always-already whiteness itself: the police force exists to ensure that people are chained. The police force itself is the chains. They tax the citizen body in order to upgrade themselves, but insofar as that citizen body behaves according to the dictates of the cave, those behaviors that they acquired within its confines, they are punished so as to behave as shadows more attuned to the whitest of lights: the searing light of the sun. And yet venturing further into the cave is no less guaranteed to make us less competent or less virtuous, only less visible according to one of the senses.

… fragility sustains depth, as a relation to the sacred, while power betrays depth and renders life unsustainable. (Daniel Price)

The recognition that we are always-already superpositioned between the midday sun that never sets and the expansive reality of the cave unexplored by sight underscores the fragility of our becoming. We are not allowed to fully become according to the full range of our senses: our walks, our dance, our music, our gestures, our bodies, our languages, all appear as if condemnable acts found of a cave mentality, as if we are emulating the behaviors of shadows. Of course, the sun’s cage of light is not nothing but other than the abolition of shadows, and yet while the sun has its use, for it to never set is to train ourselves for self-betrayal and to live according to the dictates of powers that render life unsustainable for most. The problem is not with how non-white bodies move or trust, but in how the powers, the rulers and their enforces, evaluate those movements and that trust. To abolish whiteness is in the last instance to abolish the allegory of the cave. And to take the ethos of the never-setting sun into the night’s light is but to parody the powers, perpetuating unsustainability. The game of optics must end, and perhaps even begin to trust in the movement of nothingness.



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