Historical case studies are an excellent method of assessing the situation with an informed mind. They provide insight on how things work on the ground. In Wake Of Liberty, for example, a book I wrote on the French revolution, I addressed our rampant socioeconomic system through allegory.

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

Having to remain on our toes whenever we address a controversial topic forces us to speak in ways that withstand the tests of time

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

Being subtle and discreet is essential. It keeps the bigots in check and the argumentation solid. Having to remain on our toes whenever we address a controversial topic forces us to speak in ways that withstand the tests of time, arguing not in a politically expedient or hateful manner but in a reasonable one. We filter 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, telling it superbly. So superbly that 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 a riot. It is 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 see without incident what they represent.

…And Reveals What To Be Mindful Of

Referring to the past can be extremely useful. Historical case studies are an excellent method of assessing the situation with an informed mind. They provide insight on how things work in reality, on the ground.

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 wanted to get some insight into the political tradition of Paris and figure out 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, democrats, democracy, an old regime, a new regime, a king with veto powers, in-house fighting. It was all there.

So I read some more and wrote a book about it, which I titled Wake Of Liberty, Historically accurate throughout, the book describes the revolution as it happened, exercising creative license only where its three fictional characters are concerned (Smyth, Cooley, Tom), 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 also worked as an allegory to 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.

When they say history repeats itself, don’t laugh. Start reading.

I also wrote about the progressive but rampant socioeconomic system, providing the reader with 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 people become disillusioned and jaded; when faith in the establishment vanishes and revolutionaries start challenging the system. And 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. When they say history repeats itself, don’t laugh. Start reading.

Revelation Of Reason

Speaking one’s mind critically is popular so long as it targets other people. People don’t appreciate antagonists who do not speak on their behalf

Philosophers and visionaries historically and systematically 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, ambiguous, fashionable, male, female, transgender, old, young, close to heart or strange and irrelevant. No subject is off limits for them. They spar and wrestle and tackle everything in order to pin things down and see what they are 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, so that one may view them differently and do something about the parts that don’t work, and double down on those that do.

The procedure does not usually earn them many friends. Speaking one’s mind critically is popular so long as it targets other people. People don’t appreciate antagonists who do not speak on their behalf, especially if they happen to be right. 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: wikipedia.org)

Take Socrates. He was executed for criticizing the folly behind Athens’s attack on Sparta. Or Jesus, who called the Pharisees hypocrites and sinners. Or Hypatia, who figured out that the planets orbited the sun. Or Vincent Van Gogh, who captured the brilliance and darkness of life with his brushstrokes. Or Bill Hicks, whose caustic humor was as disturbing as it was inspirational, depending on his mood. These people were shunned, ridiculed and persecuted for their vision by those threatened by them as well as by those who didn’t get them.

But their accomplishments were worth it. What they left behind influenced the world in enduring ways, to each their own.

Not to mention the freedom they commanded: a condition for which they had sacrificed the sweet comfort that belonging and acceptance provided.

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 choose to bring about change by sacrificing themselves.

Some would find this statement rather ostentatious and extreme. Perhaps even similar to how suicide bombers think. Wrongly 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, so that they may get to the bottom of things. They leave behind something substantial and tangible that inspires and drives people from all walks of life, throughout 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.