If a person with impaired vision is advised by someone to read a passage, written in small letters, and the person finds the same passage somewhere else in large letters, he or she would first read the passage in the latter type of letters. This is how Plato tries to explain the ease and importance of moving from large to small, and from dealing with the bigger but simple problem to the complicated one – simple, in the sense the problem is easily identifiable and the solutions can be worked out by using the collective wisdom and resources of higher human associations.
This metaphor Plato used , in particular, to explain, and make us to understand, the importance of state, and affairs of the state, of his times and all times, to effectively deal with the issues that human race faces. Plato was mostly concerned with the ordering and building of a state which for us implies that the problems and issues of the state ought to be dealt first and then should we move to find solutions to the problems of the individuals, which remain after the resolutions of the larger problem areas, for most of the smaller problems will cease to exist once the larger ones are dealt appropriately.
His scheme in the Republic was to remove the basic and fundamental flaws from human association which could aid in developing an ideal state where everything would have been in order. There would have been no corruption or crime, exploitation or insecurity and most importantly there would have been no injustice in the idealized state and the individuals of that state, had it been realized. However, the stakes of building such a state, and on account of human fallibility, were so high that such a state was simply unrealizable and is more so in the contemporary democratic world.
Anyway, nothing from such a genius, as Plato was, could remain without giving worthwhile outcome(s) for the human race. There are lessons to be gained from each of Plato’s scheme, and treatises which he has written. The same is true about his emphases on the things related to state against that of the individual. According to his scheme, if the issues of state are taken care of most of the individual problems will get solved by default. So,the gist of the allegory, at the outset, about large letters was to find solutions and resolutions to the problems of human race by using a proper, easier and workable method.
Today we live in a global world, a sort of a global village, where distances have been almost annihilated by the monsters of technology. Anything that happens in one part of the world is known to the people in all the other parts and impacts the life of the people in those parts. Considering these inventions, and their miracles, it could be safely said that the world today is smaller than the city state of Plato’s times. Hence, in order to help humanity to prosper in this age the parable of large letters could be of great help. Here, the resolution and solution of bigger problems that human race faces as a whole could go a long way in solving most of the smaller problems of the individual states and individuals. These bigger problems hold the key to deal with most of the problems of nations and countries of the world.
Therefore, to ensure the continued existence of life on the planet earth, and sustenance of the planet itself, we must keep an eye on the universal scheme of things for anything untoward in the other parts of the universe could adversely affect this planet. Simultaneously, we must try to solve the problems which exist on the global scale for it is these problems from which spring most of the issues with which the nations of the world remain engaged. This must be done without taking eyes off the problems that are specific to a region or a group.
Take for example some of the bigger problems that the world of today faces. These include insecurity, environmental degradation in all its components, nuclear weapons, wars, terrorism, abuse of human rights and others. In case of insecurity, if the countries of the world conduct their affairs in a wise manner there would be less of insecurity and problems which spring from the sense of insecurity could get mitigated. These issues include poverty due to diversion of resources to create a semblance of security for the countries, rivalries with other countries, abuse of human rights and so on.
The nuclear weapons threat has the same type of problems associated as are with insecurity. Besides, other problems nuclear weapons have generated a great anxiety about a new type of insecurity where unlike in past, where only confined geographical regions were affected by wars, the wars could have global repercussions and no region of the world could remain unaffected, if God forbid these weapons are used. If this issue of nuclear weapons is dealt in the interest of the human race the problems associated with it are bound to get solved by default.
About environmental degradation, there is no effective and non-discriminatory Organon to keep the environment in a fit state. The main players on the global scale are acting in an erratic manner and defeat the purpose of the efforts that are made at this scale. The lack of consensus on the global scale in respect of environmental degradation means ineffective legislations at the levels of individual nations thereby taking the world towards a dangerous situation. The failure to deal with this problem could signal the end of the human race much earlier.
The world has seen deadliest of wars in the past but it seems that humans have not learned any lessons from those wars. Had that been the case no wars would have been fought today and there would not have been any threats of future wars. But, wars are there and the threats are there, they are fought and there is no assurance that they would not be fought in the future. These wars and threats have created so many issues which threaten the existence of the entire human species. The global humanitarian crisis, abuse of human rights, poverty and exploitation and underdevelopment are few of them. Dealing with wars and threats of wars will ease out life for the people of the world and make human species more sustainable.
In case of all the problems like terrorism, economic imbalance and the underdevelopment, the approach should be the same. That is, dealing these problems from above. Unless that is done all the efforts that are made at the local, national and regional levels would refuse to yield any fruits. Here the intension is not to say that no efforts should be made at these lower levels, rather the efforts should be integrated. The efforts at the lower levels should be the offshoots of those that are made at the global levels.
So, far the world has made many efforts towards achieving the desired ends for human species but somewhere the links have been missing in these efforts. Now is the time to establish proper connecting links in dealing with all the problems of human race and once those links are firmly established all the challenges would be successfully faced. Today we are not building Plato’s ideal state, but taking a cue from that state we have to build a world which is sustainable and where every individual is given what is due to him/her till posterity. From above to the lowest rung of human association sincere efforts must be made to achieve that.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]