Day 22 and 23: The Cave

Since coming to the United States, a lot of people here have asked why, I, an Australian from the magical land of Oz (a lot of people here hold Australia in something approaching reverence, though for none of the reasons I’m so happy to call it home), have, well, come to the United States. I tended to fumble around my answer with a lot of “well it’s like”s and “but, you know, also”s with a few “knowhatimean?”s, but the other night during a bourbon-and-hot-dog fueled discussion that also touched on Jeff Bridges, Wu-Tang and wine regions, I came up with something that sort of works – at least, for me to explain it to myself.

The key for me is Plato’s allegory of the cave. If you’re not familiar with it, there’s a wonderful layman’s-terms summary over at the Philosophy Bro, and if you are, I suggest reading it anyway because I really like what the Philosophy Bro does.

In Australia, we see the America-shaped shadows on the wall of our cave. Our cave wall happens to be a wide-screen plasma TV hooked up to the internet, but it’s still a cave wall. We could be satisfied with that. Most Australians are. But for a country which has such an impact upon Australia, upon Australian life, upon the Australian people, I think that’s a foolish and lazy path to take. America affects up more than we care to admit, and all rhetoric about the rise of China aside, that’s not going away any time soon – like, three decades at the earliest, maybe even a half century for anyone to overtake America in terms of cultural influence.

So, the shadows on the wall of the cave aren’t enough – at least not the way I see it. I felt the need to go outside and see America in more than just some monochromatic, two-dimensional, perspective-less image. And as an Australian in the early 21st century, that seemed to me to be a pretty smart move. I visited Europe to see the past and I intend to visit Asia and South America to see the future. But right now, I’m in the USA, to stop thinking as so many of my countrymen do that the shadows on the cave wall are the real deal and to see the present the way it really is.

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