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Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Allegory of the Cave

If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.  However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment. 

Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.

#17: The Allegory of the Cave
A paradox exists between what we experienced at Reggae on the River, and that which the outside world saw, and it is all about the intangibles. What we experienced was the emotional high of sharing a space for the common goal of absorbing the music and culture of reggae. What the outside world viewed was a boatload of people making a huge negative environmental impact, on a sensitive ecological venue.

In attempting to convey the spirit of what was occurring on the Eel River, both for myself and for the thousands of other revelers, while also including the rest of the universe, I have found that others have faced similar daunting tasks, going back to the ancient Greeks, and that this task has been addressed before. 

Here is the briefest of attempts to put first ROTR into perspective, and then to use the same process to address what is happening in the real world, when it comes to the newly created cannabis industry, not to be confused with a bunch of outlaws in the hills, growing pot. 

Take it away, Plato...............

The “Allegory of the Cave” begins with Socrates telling Glaucon about a cave, where people live underground. They are tied up and cannot move their heads, so they can only see what is right in front of them. 

So that would be people bound to their lives and their jobs, blind to anything that interferes with keeping grub on the table, no matter how intolerable the situation.

A fire burns behind these prisoners casting shadows on the wall that looms up before them, as others in the cave pass in front of them holding objects, which are then reflected on the wall. In this way those who are confined inside the cave, learn about the outside world. These shadows are their only link.

So this is a metaphor for people who are so close to the street, that even the idea that college would help improve their lot in life, is ludicrous. Working overtime to meet one’s responsibilities, the wife trying to keep the house together and ferry the kids around, and try to keep from collapsing along the way. College? lol

Eventually, one of the prisoners in the cave is released to the outside world, where he is at first repulsed by the light. As his eyes start to adjust to the brightness, he sees the world as though he has always lived there.

Plato’s “Allegory” represents the difference between what really exists, and our perception of it. The prisoners still in the cave are as incapable of learning about the outside world, as people trapped in a treadmill existence. Only those who free themselves have a chance to see reality as it actually is.

Most people prefer to stay in their chains, for to remove them is to draw outside the lines in the coloring book of your life. Only those who are truly able to step outside the boundaries of their own existence, are going to be able to expand their horizons adequately to adopt a new perception.

First ROTR and the outside world’s perception: I took twenty or so photos of mountains of garbage left behind on-site, when the hordes returned home. They would have had to do without the use of Highway 20, shut down by wildfires, which would have doubled any inconvenience already being experienced by travelers on the road.

How happy would these travelers have been to be joined in this road-circus by all of those tired, bedraggled reggae fans? How happy are the denizens of the local community to have their home fronts invaded by an army of dreadlocked, traveling pilgrims? 

Do the pilgrims care? 

The non-participants only see the shadows of the objects they are shown, as opposed to those who live to experience that which uplifts them, at the cost of other things in life.

Now for the participants of the festival: Wall-to-wall tents, port-a-potties that are not for the faint-hearted, who unfortunately have no choice, and minimal chance at any substantial sleep are only a few of the attractive features to be found.

However, balanced for these hardy souls, is a plethora of valid, tangible and intangible reasons for putting oneself through the hassle. These justifications vary from simply liking the music or the party, to my more complex reason of wanting to overcome personal challenges, so that I could continue the renovation of my long-atrophied right-brain.

This shriveled organ began to show signs of life in 2011, and has risen to such a level of prominence, as to put old Lefty [Brain] almost out of commission. This may-or may not-have stirred things up in my neck of the woods for a while, depending on your point of view. 

Those who are freed from the cave are those who actually participate in the festival, as opposed to never understanding what is happening. 

If a composting program could be started at ROTR, 2016, similar to that used on the Black Oak Ranch, to try and reduce at least one portion of the mountains of refuse left behind, this would constitute baby steps outside the cave.

Now I want to take this whole allegory, or metaphor, and apply it to the cannabis industry.

Those in the cave see only the detritus of the raids on Island Mountain, and the negativity which has been so successfully propagandized by US Industry, and its willing partner, the US Government, which has been taken over by money and greed. If this sounds harsh, then maybe you can find a more palatable way to explain it.

Those who use the sacred herb as it has been done by humans since the beginning of time, are those who have escaped from the cave, and understand that one person’s medicine, is no one’s business but the person in question.

For those who scoff at the notion of cannabis as medicine, and assert that people only use it to feel good, I say not a thing.

Is there a point you are trying to make? Listen to yourself. You object to people feeling good by using a natural herb, but you see no problem with Dad bringing home a twenty-four pack, to try and get through the weekend. 

Better still, I point to the wine industry and how much influence it has over societal perceptions. No problem getting wasted on fermented grapes, with all of the damage Big Ag has done, but perish the thought that one would take a couple of rips off of a bong.

So because wine is on the list of “approved” societal substances, those inside the cave see only the sparkling glasses, and that luscious, deep ruby red nectar of the gods, and not the ecological atrocities committed in the name of “culture.”

It’s the same-only different, because big money begets big money, and legitimacy adds an air of entitlement, that galls thinking people immensely.

Those who are struggling to establish the Emerald Growers Association, soon to be the California Growers Association, with the intention of establishing cannabis as “connoisseur” are those who are outside the cave. By stepping forward and contributing money and their names to the ever-expanding list of fired-up folks, these folks are also beginning to win their freedom from the cave.

At the Eel River Restoration Project booth at ROTR, Casey and I spent a lot of time taking in the light with like-minded individuals, and comparing notes. It’s hard to entice people out of their comfort zones, and into the light.

Establishing the CGA, providing other cannabis farmers with examples of appropriate growing procedures, plus providing some help with the logistics of getting their water rights established, all constitute baby steps out of the cave, for others to follow.

It will take much work by many exiles from the cave, before those still mired inside will ever see the light.

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