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The Power Of Allegory – Part 3

Previous article: Spin Doctor: The Power Of Allegory – Part 2

Change comes with debate, action, and sacrifice. Debate and action are crucial. Sacrifice is mandatory…

Behaving in a subtle and discreet manner is essential. It keeps the bigots in check and the argumentation solid. On our toes when addressing a controversial topic, our words withstand the tests of time. We argue not in a politically expedient or hateful manner, but in a reasonable one, filtering the trash out, allowing reason and constructive criticism, scathing as they may be, to say what they have to say in order to expose a crime, an injustice, a threat or a problem that has been hiding behind its self-righteous finger.

And the stories get passed on.

Allegory Points The Finger At Whoever Deserves It…

The writers of Agora wrote an ingenious script. They encapsulated the rise of radical Islam in a story about the rise of early Christianity, and told it so superbly the Christians took offence, while the Salafists never even noticed – or if they did, they didn’t say anything. (They couldn’t make something out of it, like orchestrate riots round the world, like they did when the cartoons of Mohammed came out. It’s hard to start a rampage over an allegory, especially over one that has been set in the past on the backdrop of a rival religion.)

So we got to contemplate and scrutinize them through this allegory, all without incident.

…And Reveals What To Be Mindful Of

Referring to the past can be useful. Historical case studies are an excellent method of assessing the situation with an informed mind. They provide precious insight on the present, reminding us that things are not new, they’ve happened before, and that we can learn from the past to avoid its pitfalls.

What started out as an economic and sociopolitical crisis ended up in vicious and bloody revolution, part of which was necessary, part of which was overkill (Wake Of Liberty image by Gav Denman)

I accidentally discovered the utility of history while reading up on the French revolution in 2005. Following the Paris district riots that year, when youths took to the streets, rioting and looting for days and nights, I went back to the legendary stories of equality, fraternity and liberty. It seemed the appropriate thing to do. I was looking for insight to the political tradition of Paris, eager to understand what gets its inhabitants into violent confrontation with authority.

I found something far more interesting: our current affairs. The more I read, the more I could see the present playing out in the stories of the past. Not limited to Paris or France, but extended to the USA, and to the West in general, it was all right there, developing along similar lines, to an astounding degree: terror, patriots, traitors, national security, emergency tribunals, republicans and democrats and democracy at large (or lack thereof), an old regime battling a new regime, a king with veto powers, in-house fighting. It was all there.

So I read some more and wrote a novel based on it, which I titled Wake Of Liberty, Historically accurate throughout, the novel describes the revolution as it happened, exercising creative license only where its two fictional characters are concerned (Smyth, Cooley), whom I created to tell the story, and whose actions take us through the facts and events of the revolution and not only.

Beyond its informative historical nature, Wake Of Liberty worked as an allegory, reflecting current events. Using the French revolution as a backdrop, I addressed our progressive but confused political system through analogy. The advantages and pitfalls of democracy, the pros and cons of debate, the use of force in the wake of threat, the use of patriotism as a rallying cry, the suspension of basic civil liberties in the name of liberty … I mean, when they say history repeats itself, don’t laugh. Start reading.

I wrote, among other things, about the progressive but rampant socioeconomic system, laying out a cautionary tale on what happens when the economy is abused, or when the ruling classes lose touch with the ground.

I showcased what happens when the people of a country – citizens, subjects, whatever – are disillusioned and jaded, when faith in the establishment vanishes and the revolutionaries start challenging the system.

I also analyzed the steps through which righteousness takes over, turning the cause oppressive, tyrannical and counterproductive.

In other words, I used an old story to tell the tale of present-day reality, encapsulating what is happening now in what happened two centuries ago.

The parallels were shockingly relevant.

Revelation Of Reason

Speaking one’s mind in a critical manner is popular, but only insofar it targets other people. People don’t appreciate antagonists who don’t speak on their behalf…

Philosophers and visionaries deal with a number of issues from all walks of life: left, right, religious, atheist; West, East, North, South, commoner, aristocratic, innovative, traditional; black, white, grey, rainbow, green, or a combination thereof, if not ambiguous; and fashionable, or not, male or female, transgender or hermaphrodite (or otherwise queer), the old and young, the sick and healthy, all those who are either close to heart or strangers and irrelevant. No subject, none, is off limits for philosophers and visionaries. They spar and wrestle and tackle everything in order to pin things down and see what they’re made of.

They do so because they want to get to the bottom of things, separating the reasonable arguments from folly. It places things under new light, allowing them (us) to view life anew, and do something about the parts that don’t work, and double down on those that do.

The procedure doesn’t earn them many friends.Speaking one’s mind in a critical manner is popular, but only insofar it targets other people. People don’t appreciate antagonists who don’t speak on their behalf. Forthrightness has few friends. Loneliness, not accolade, is the polemicist’s reward. Praise comes later, after one passes away.

Comedian Bill Hicks was dead center on some things, yet he was never fully embraced by the mainstream (image:

Take Socrates. He was executed for criticizing the folly behind Athens’s attack on Sparta.

Jesus, too – He called the Pharisees hypocrites and sinners.

Hypatia, of course. She figured out that the planets orbited the sun, which challenged the authority and wisdom of the Church, leading to her execution.

Vincent Van Gogh also comes to mind. He captured the brilliance and darkness of life with his brushstrokes, and was laughed at in artistic circles.

Bill Hicks, too, whose caustic humor was as disturbing as it was inspirational, depending on his mood – he wasn’t laughed at, but he was shunned by the mainstream for his antagonistic vision of the world, even when he had beautiful things to offer.

People come down hard on those who challenge the norms, making the visionaries suffer.

But the accomplishments are worth it. What the visionaries leave behind influences the world in enduring ways, to each their own.

Not to mention the freedom they command: a condition for which they sacrifice the sweet comfort that belonging and acceptance provide.

Which brings me back to my comment at the beginning of the article:

‘Change comes with debate, action, and sacrifice. Debate and action are crucial. Sacrifice is mandatory.’

Some people choose to bring about change by sacrificing others.

Visionaries, on the other hand, choose to bring about change by sacrificing themselves.

Some would find this statement ostentatious and extreme. (Perhaps even similar to how suicide bombers think.) Not so! The difference between suicide bombers and visionaries is that visionaries don’t answer to theocrats and puppeteers. They follow their hearts and are masters of their domain. They expose folly wherever they see it to get to the bottom of things. They leave a legacy that is cherished, something substantial and tangible that inspires and drives people from all walks of life, across time. Theirs is the past, the present, and the future. Through their stories and case studies we illuminate our way, by following their example.

Eyes open, mind sharp.