Macbeth may have hallucinated whether there was an actual dagger before him prior to him killing King Duncan, but those self-aware know and feel the sword of Damocles placed above their heads. Don’t you feel the weight and keenly shaped tip of the sword of Damocles above your head?
The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.
Greek philosopher in Athens (469 BC – 399 BC)
Upon reading the Science Fiction novel “A Thousand Sons” from the Warhammer 40,000universe, written by Graham McNeill, I came across a quote made by one of the main protagonists in the novel, Ahzek Ahriman, in the first few pages, the quote being “the only good is knowledge andthe only evil is ignorance”. It made me consider the quote and what I observed in life or in the news.
The ancient Roman Empire and the Greek Empire attacked other countries and built huge armada to control the land and sea, by doing that they acquired gold, silver, trade, fishing etc. Napolean attacked Venice by taunting it to attack France’s ships thereby it gave Napolean the pretext to attack Venice and take many of its treasures, one being a thick gold plated altar dedicated to Jesus Christ. Likewise, the British Empire fought in the Boer War to subdue the Afrikaners and control the gold mines, attack India to control the spice and opium trade etc. In summary, you can see that much of the conflict in the past and even now was/ is driven by the desires and wants to subdue nations while giving the excuse that it was all done to spread Christianity, bring civilisation to non-Western cultures, war was executed in response to an attack etc. The soldiers of these Empires who carry out the dirty work of their Governments do so because they need and/ or want the job of being a soldier to provide a standard of living as well supply the needs of their families and the soldiers themselves. Other reasons because they are indifferent to what is actually going on in the war which is where the “only evil is ignorance” comes into play because by being indifferent, they are CHOOSING to ignore what is really going on and unwittingly have limited knowledge to know what is actually good. Others fight in wars because they like killing people so it fulfils their need and wants.Other soldiers say “they would dies for their country” and all this patriotic nonsense when in fact what they mean, as pointed out by a fellow philosopher who I can’t remember the name of yet,that they would gladly kill for their country. Again, a need and desire is being fulfilled here, overriding their sense of reason and the ability to be fully aware of what the ACTUAL situation here is which is the taking of one Nation’s resources to be given to another,thus maintaining the old hierarchy of First World, Second World and Third World countries.
Serial killers kill because they are driven by the NEED and DESIRE to become famous and be recognised for their killings even though they know all too well the Law and what it prohibits regardless of culture or nation.
People spend thousands of ££££/ $$$$$ (or other currency) on clothes,televisions, music etc because it sates their needs and desires to feel good, to stroke their ego etc. This may sometimes lead to them overspending beyond their means which could lead them to debt, to crime etc. Despite knowing they are not affluent to have these items,they still do it because their needs and desires override their reasoning. When like another Fashion season arrives, the same people will again spends LOTS of money on a new set of clothing, when a new gaming console arrives, people will gladly pay to acquire it despite the initial price of the console being very expensive etc. Thus the whole cycle of Consumerism starts again. So Socrates quote about goodness consisting of being knowledgeable falls short here because he ASSUMES people would be more of the mind and would be rational to make their decisions when in fact, most people are not e.g. look at protest rallies, the fluctuations of the stock market which are reflection of people’s emotions to changing prices in oil, gold,company value etc. Socrates places too much EMPHASIS on the mind and its capabilities, ignoring the non-mental and physical side of human beings which are generally the dominant.
Surely you must have had the experience of thinking you were friends with people in your class or work, chatting to them casually etc but when it came to when you really needed them or you wanted to speak to them after so many years, they would appear to ignore you after making so many repeated requests or they would ask something off of you and then totally discard you like a piece of rubbish by being very explicit about it aurally. They were never really your “friends” in the first place and had already acquired what they wanted/ needed from you which in their minds is perfectly justifiable. Again, needs and wants dictate right or wrong.
The same with prostitutes or people with dubious preoccupations in South American or Third World countries where there seems to be a prevalent Catholic religion being followed. Their religion dictates what they do to be wrong yet these drug dealers, soldiers, prostitutes etc do it because of the level or poverty which forces them to do the most unpleasant of things.
Then there’s the question and apparent contradiction in all of our societies where Murder is something to be seen as clearly wrong but when it comes to War like in Iraq and Afghanistan, we all seem to be perfectly fine with it, just some group of guys and girls in uniform with weapons butchering another bunch of guys and girls, doesn’t seem to be Murder despite being the same thing. Their governments appear to not punish or jail them for killing. Think about the rapings and killings of civilians going on in wars. Contradiction! Again, it comes back to wants and needs i.e.governments don’t want Murder to occur in their countries because itcauses social unrest but when they carry those same types of killings to other countries, it’s perfectly fine.
What I am suggesting in this rant is a slight modification of Socrates’ ancient quote by putting instead, in light of this disordered discussion,something that appears like this: “the only good is knowledge, the only evil is ignorance provided you reason in a way that is fair and doesn’t harm people directly or infringe on their rights without their consent. Otherwise, morality is generally all about wants and needs.”
These three things are deeply interrelated like three strong, granite pillars holding a roof upright. It’s almost symbiotic.
Knowledge doesn’t weigh a thing at all, it’s intangible but then it’s stored in your brain in the form of memory. Understanding a field of interest like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English Literature, History etc enables you to apply that abstract knowledge in our daily lives which in turn means you will not be able to apply for jobs that have a large salary. It’s another reason why a few of us spend ridiculous amounts of money to be inducted into tertiary education to acquire a piece of paper at the end of the course that tells the employer that we are best suited for the job etc. It’s funny how a piece of paper with ink represents those 3-4 years of late, sleepless nights and the general stress and hassle experienced. Hence when we acquire knowledge and extend it with new discoveries, inventions, new business ventures etc (which that was what knowledge was intended for in a crude, superficial sense), we are very likely to acquire large sums of money when selling the concept to a prospective individual or company which which want to make use of our new, novel idea to generate more profits for themselves in the future.
It is knowledge that can allow us to defeat any problem that we may encounter whether a person or thing, it gives us that flexibility, that ability to change and adapt (which is what the only constant is). Knowledge acts like a bridge between the past, present and the future; by analysing the past and the relics of that time, we sometimes come to realise that what we think we know as being recent like an idea/ invention was actually known thousands of years ago; the experience humbles us and makes us wonder how advanced we think we really are. I wonder if we are just repeating a cycle of time like that of the relic we studied before undergoing a decline/ catastrophe, restarting the chain of events and the discovery of the same relic to another group of people in the future who similarly thought they were advanced prior to making the discovery of the relic. By gaining more knowledge you can become more than the common crowd because the English language itself is arranged in a way so that people with very little knowledge of complicated vocabulary will not be able to understand books and information worthy to be learnt and instead tend towards more accessible Media like celebrity magazines, reality tv etc.
Look at what the convicted soldier Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden did. Just by imparting knowledge on a few truths and secrets that the US government didn’t want you to hear, you get the North American government overreacting to what they did because they simply told the TRUTH. Since when did telling the truth become a crime??? Knowledge is power. Without knowledge, you are not in a position of strength or power to make the best choices for yourself.
The strange thing about knowledge is that the more I learn and study, the more I begin to realise how very little I know and I am beset with ever increasing uncertainty. As what Socrates said thousands of years ago which was “I know nothing”, that saying still applies to today; look at the ideas and concepts of Physics up to the present moment and you begin to realise that all their theories in trying to find out what reality is made up of becomes increasingly strange. You come to a point in Quantum Mechanics where you have to accept the ideas as beliefs because it doesn’t make sense otherwise. Think about the nature of Time and what it really means to KNOW about it by typing on YouTube and you will find that we are worms on the 4th dimension. When you go beyond the 4th dimension, things get very strange indeed.
Money, that piece of paper which humans have ascribed emotional/ abstract value to it, that which we spend most of our lives acquiring very little of. Our possibilities of flourishing increase as we can make a significant amount of those pieces of paper helps us acquire even more knowledge in the form of books, artifacts, clandestine information (to be used for a market or against a company/ individual etc) and to trans-mutate money in a form so as to influence and buy someone’s favour. Buying someone’s loyalty by giving them money such as to charities, politicians etc puts you in a greater position of power (assuming they feel indebted to you because of your “kind” act). Think about the times corporations bribed politicians to look the other way and not interfere in the corporation’s business. That is true power.
As a good and wise friend told me, we are slaves to the money system. We spend our days accumulating the pieces of paper at work, we rent our bodies for it when we sit in front of a cashier, office desk etc as what Noam Chomsky states. As much as we desire to leave work sometimes and be free, we cannot because we need the cash to survive. So we are trapped in a way for the rest of our lives. As what Robert Kiyosaki states in his book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, when we receive or monthly/ weekly salary, the moment we get it, most of us succumb to the feeling of greed and that is when we spend most of it mindlessly on stuff we sometimes don’t need. Once our desires have been temporarily sated, we feel the fear of not having much money and losing our jobs so we go back to our jobs and repeat the cycle of greed and fear, greed and fear until there is very little time in us left and we die. This snare we find ourselves is called the “Rat Race” according to Kiyosaki, as like a rat who constantly runs on the wheel, always going, not stopping, always trapped in the same loop and pattern much like most of us. We sometimes kill for money as well. Funny how a piece of paper holds so much influence on us.
Power is an intangible thing that helps you to make someone do something for you without having to force them. Power is everywhere although it cannot be seen, only its effects can be experienced e.g. celebrities and singers hold a lot of power because just by doing what they do, they can attract thousands of followers which in turn means they acquire huge sums of money and fame. What they say or do deeply affects those followers. Celebrities are treated like gods. Celebrities acquire influence and power by creating compelling spectacles, by appealing to people’s needs. Power is all about appearances, this world is all about appearances. Power can be used to deceive people like the media and politicians who KNOW the truth but they deliberately ignore certain facts and give us information only they want us to know. This lack of choice and information makes us the manipulated/ controlled, doing/ reacting the way the way they want us to react and not necessarily in our best interest. We are puppets playing to the their tune, mindless pawns to be kept or discarded depending when it’s to their advantage. If we really knew going into Iraq and Afghanistan was all about stealing oil and Heroin poppies respectively, we wouldn’t be in that mess, would we? But then most of the media hides the amount of lies politicians conjure up so most of the public is suckered in to obeying everything they do like these dirty wars.
In summary, the more I know, the more money I can make. The more money I make, the more powerful and influential I become without having to appear to force someone to do something for me. Knowledge, Money and Power are like the Ouroboros, i.e. the cyclical dragon whose head appears to be biting its tail. It symbolises the end drawing near and a beginning occurring, when there is death there is also life in order for death to be meaningful and defined, the ying and yang, good and evil etc. They are one and the same yet different in aspect, where one is destroyed/ consumed, another appears.
The Matrix never gets old. Each time I watch it, I uncover and learn new things, underlying analogies that can be applied to our world like slicing through layers of an onion.
Neo slowly came to realise how shallow and superficial his current Reality was so he began to look inwards to himself and look for answers to his life’s purpose. That started with confronting his Truths head on by swallowing the Red Pill. In a way, his old-Self died after taking the Red pill and he was reborn anew into a world where machines and AI harvested humans as an energy source while retarding their awareness of their current situation by making them believe that the Matrix was all that there was to their Reality and nothing more. Another religious interpretation could be that Neo was baptised as soon as he woke up from his artificial pod as soon as he took the Red pill, realising in horror that most of Humanity was unaware of its slavery.
You could say the Matrix is an analogy of Mass media as, apart from informing the Public in a limited role, its main function is to encourage division among people with different beliefs/ philosophies and to warp the Realities of its viewers by feeding them with limited, biased information.
You could also say the Machines are like the Elite and their enforcers (police, military etc) whether in the triangular Capitalist or rectangular Communist/ Fascist regimes. The Machines are cold and unfeeling, much like some political/ corporate leaders who are psychopaths and who own the Mass media, controlling the flow of information.
The Oracle, who advised if Neo was The One, was really testing Neo to see if he could live up to his potential after Neo saw the sign “Know thyself”. When she told him the bad news, it destroyed his confidence and made his Conscious and Subconscious Minds fall out of alignment. However, when Neo was confronted with the choice of rescuing Morpheus or not, he chose to save Morpheus regardless of whether he was The One or not and that meant he became something more than himself and that his Conscious and Subconscious Minds harmonised, allowing him to unlock his full potential.