Saturday, February 13, 2010
The Price of Freedom
Plato and the Art of Imagineering
Plato’s Republic proscribed the banning of all poets save those working for the state. Individuals creating new myths, new narratives, through personal expression was considered a serious threat to the established order of things. Being a mythmaker himself, Plato understood that myths are the means by which the collective psyche, like a garden, is seeded and cultivated. To govern a society, it is necessary to have control at a deeper level than merely social. What really rules people is their unconscious life, and to have control of the collective unconscious, you must take charge of the myths which people live by. To this end, our myths have been hijacked and restructured by a secret elite of storytellers, of whom Plato was one of the more famous representatives.
The aim of these meme creators and “imagineers” (the term coined by Walt Disney in 1952) is to redirect psychic energy, the real currency of control, away from the collective and to their own specific ends. This is a process that continues to this day, and key to it is the way that myths, while appearing to empower the tribe with “inspiring” tales of heroism, actually engender conflict and malaise within it, slowly stripping it of its power and integrity. At the same time, these myth-stories (once instructional, now mere “entertainment”) serve to distract the collective from the truth: that the source of the conflict and malaise is these very same amusements—and the “governance” behind them. This way, the tribe never suspects that the very thing it is using to escape from an intolerable, disharmonious reality is itself the source of that disharmony. Instead, it project its discontent outward, onto the Other, and turns its rage inward, against itself.
This can be seen clearly enough today by the countless Hollywood movies that are backed—and to a large extent conceived and created—by the military-industrial complex. These are films that seemingly glorify a rebel hero, a lone outlaw figure who fights against a corrupt and abusive government system and who prevails against all the odds. The distorted, inverted solar hero supposedly stands in for the common man, and for the collective; but actually, he represents—in none-too-covert, symbolic form—the oligarchic military elite. So while audiences cheer Bruce Willis, and experience a vicarious thrill of empowerment as the tenacious “little guy” overcomes a monolithic corporate power, they never suspect that all of their energy is actually going to the same power system that is ostensibly being “defied,” even as their hard-earned wages wind up lining the pockets of a small clique of corporate movie-star billionaires and their hidden backers.
The Price of Freedom
Freedom in the ancient world was a burden—or perhaps a calling—as much as it was a privilege; far from being an inalienable “right” granted by the State to its citizens, it was rather an attainment that few aspired to and even fewer had the dedication to achieve. In alchemical or psychological terms, freedom and individuation are synonymous. Freedom in the true sense has little or nothing to do with external constraints or social liberty; it has everything to do with integrating the disowned fragments of one's psyche to allow for anamnesis—reawakening to one's true nature and function within the Universe—to occur. As Jung wrote, individuation can only occur via the dissolution of the persona, the constructed identity. Christ said, the truth shall make you free, meaning the truth of who we are once the mask is removed. The price of freedom is this—our sense of personal self—and it is a price that only a very small, heroic few are willing to pay.