I heard that Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Richard Styles, might be dismissed from his faculty position at Citrus Community College, in Orange County California, a campus that I visited to get this story. The grounds for his possible dismissal are indoctrination of students in un-American ideas and disrespecting students with disabilities. But the Board of Trustees who might fire him are in for a surprise. He gave me a copy of his most recent lecture notes. They read as follows:
Today we examine Plato's famous Allegory Of The Cave. For background I want to briefly examine what passes for facts in the United States today:
"Donald Trump Protester Speaks Out: 'I Was Paid $3,500 To Protest Trump's Rally.'" is a tweet widely repeated on the internet and believed by millions. But according to politifact.com it deserves a "pants on fire rating" because it is a total lie when subjected to fact checking. It is fake news.
Donald Trump's pick for National Security Advisor, General Mike Flynn, has re-tweeted accusations that Hillary Clinton is involved with child sex trafficking and has "secretly waged war" on the Catholic Church, as well as charges that Obama is a "jihadi" who "laundered" money for Muslim terrorists. These are total lies when they are fact checked. It is fake news.
Politifact and other fact-checking sites cannot keep up with the fake news on the Internet and on TV. We live in a nation where most of what is on the Internet is not factual. On television, the cable news networks are mostly fact free zones where Trump surrogates like Kelly Anne Huges say, "Everybody has a way of interpreting things to be the truth, or not truth... But there's… no such thing as facts." On Fox news, CNN and sometimes MSNBC, Trump surrogates, turning themselves into pretzels, defend the latest Trump lie, such as millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 Presidential election. That is all fake news.
The defining characteristic of Trumpism is that something is a fact if enough people believe it. Of course, if news is based upon that notion, it will be fake.
In a way, the GOP is the most dangerous political party or faction in human history. Why? It denies the reality of climate change and the threat it poses to eventually exterminate the human species. That is what is really real in our times. When, during the debates, the moderators didn't bring up the issue they were actually presenting fake news.
Now to the Allegory Of The Cave: Plato imagines that the cave is very dark because there is little light inside it and hardly seen the objects. There are some chained people on their necks as well as feet, these chained people cannot move easily. Similarly, there is also another world out of the cave world, but between these two worlds, a wall is raised. On the wall, many other people move with different things on their hands and their shadows fall in the cave world.
The people inside the cave cannot raise their head completely so that they can only see the shadows like illusion, which they believe, as real but it is just their illusion. In the outer world, there is light and everything is clearly visible. If one of the chained people is released from the cave world, and if he is taken to the outer world he cannot see anything at first because his eyes dazzle in the light.
But if he stays in the outer world, slowly and gradually he begins to identify everything and he becomes to realize that the outer world is the real world and the cave world is the unreal world.
In the Bible we hear of the people who dwell in darkness seeing a great light. For Plato, The dark cave symbolically suggests the contemporary world of ignorance and the chained people symbolize ignorant people in this ignorant world. They do not see the light of truth.
They cannot see the truth in America because it isn't on social media or TV. One might get valuable information from books-of course, it depends upon what you read-but the U.S. ranks 22 in the world in hours per week dedicated to reading. As for Internet sites where one might encounter reality only 3% of the population visit online news magazines. About 6% listen to National Public Radio.
So what you get is that 1 in 4 Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Only 40% believe in evolution, the basis of all biological sciences. About ½ of Americans don't know what's in The Bill Of Rights. Americans want to tackle deficits by cutting foreign aid from what they believe is the 27 percent of the budget. The real number is under 1 percent.
A tiny percentage of Americans know a lot about politics, up to 50%-60% know enough to answer very simple questions, and the rest know next to nothing.
What Plato is teaching us is to leave our cave of ignorance and seek wisdom. When 91% of Americans say that they are not worried about global warming, that can lead to very dangerous consequences. Some people say that the U.S. is The Nation of Stupid. But Plato is saying that the U.S. should be re-named to The Nation of Obliviousness. Of course in the country dominated by fake news one could expect the name to be accurate.
If I were to give another lecture it would examine the moral implications of Trump surrogate Kelly Anne Huges saying, "Everybody has a way of interpreting things to be the truth, or not truth... But there's… no such thing as facts." I would suggest that in the realm of moral philosophy if there are no "facts" upon which to make judgments there can be no way to ascertain what is moral.
If "fact" is simply what people believe because they are not real (they don't exist) it's just a matter of opinion whether, say, child molestation, rape, torture, or drone killings of civilians actually occurs. These things can't be fact in the world of Trumpism. So, are we going to take a vote on whether these things exist? Perhaps the morons on Fox News will vote to ascertain whether global warming has a human component? Hey, why not poll the Kardashians?
This will be my last lecture at Citrus College. I'm leaving for Canada.
I could not interview Professor Styles about the notes. He was gone. I was able, however, to have a conversation with the college president, Dr. Robert Hanover the day after Styles left the country
"People like Styles give the college a bad reputation. What a community college like Citrus is all about is good relations with the community. We don't want to upset our patrons-that's what I call members of the community-by exposing them to controversial ideas. When you do that you're raising the anxiety levels of people. When Styles gave that last lecture he didn't give any trigger warnings. You know what they are? Giving students advance warnings that possibly stressful material will be presented.
That gives the student the opportunity to cover their eyes and close their ears or even leave the room," said President Hanover.
"Look, A safe space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe. Anyone at Citrus can create a safe space for themselves and like-minded people. In the present situation if Styles had given a trigger warning students could have left the classroom, created a safe space, and expressed their contempt and hatred for this insensitive professor who hates America. I say, "America, love it or leave it." Styles left and we're all the better for it. Students won't have to feel uncomfortable anymore about their ignorance," the College President continued.
"See, ignorance just means that you're not knowledge abled. It's being in a category of disabilities or people who are differently abled in hearing, sight, motor control and the like. One doesn't make fun of such people. But Styles made inappropriate comments about ignorance. That alone was grounds for dismissal from this institution of learning," President Hanover concluded.