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Socrates in Afghanistan
“Socrates, please join us in our hot tub session,” said Polemarchus.
“Ah, I see what you’re saying, Polemarchus, however if I was blind I would not be able to see what you were saying,” replied Socrates.
“But Socrates…if you were blind you would still hear my words,”
“That is true, Polemarchus, but I thought I would let you know the importance of things being absolute,”
“Are you saying that we should eliminate all men who are blind?”
“If I had said that, would that mean you should eliminate me because I cannot see things as you see it?”
“But that is not the case, Socrates. You could still hear what we were saying,”
“That is true, Polemarchus. Yet it would be the case if I was deaf. Then I would need to read your lips to see what you were saying,”
“But you are not deaf, and you are not blind. You are simply difficult,”
“Exactly Polemarchus, and if this was true, you should eliminate me since I cannot see things the way I need to see them”
The men all stared at Socrates as he ate his grapes and fondled his beard. “I think I will wait until you all are finished,” he said. Sure enough, Socrates waited and waited until the men finally dissolved into the water; a usual occurrence in Ancient Greece. Disrobing his tunic, Socrates cannon-balled in and splashed about like a drowning canine.
After several hours of testing his lung capacity underwater, Socrates found himself in the middle of modern day Afghanistan. Dusting himself off, he walked over to the nearest market and bought a pomegranate to nibble on. No one in the village seemed to think much of this Ancient Greek philosopher; instead they assumed him to be another senile old man. It wasn’t long before the Taliban stopped by and instructed him to wear a turban and a proper robe. Socrates, of course, had no idea what they were saying, so he proceeded to ask them a series of questions.
“If I speak to you and you do not understand me, do I still make sense?” asked Socrates.
The men did not know how to answer this question.
“If everything is absolute, it should make sense. And then it is you who does not make sense, am I correct?”
The men were still puzzled, so in response, they took his pomegranate away from him.
“Is it just to take something away from a man if you believe it is better for him not to have it, even though he thinks he may need it?”
The men had had enough and started to walk away. Immediately, Socrates began contemplating the loss of his pomegranate. He knew the pomegranate would help provide nourishment, so why would these men with the silly hats try to deny it from him? “Thoughts for another day,” he thought to himself.
As Socrates walked through the town, he started to peep into the windows of people’s houses. In Ancient Greece, this was known as “acknowledgementing” – a way to find a potential lady friend. After hours of walking into people’s houses, though, he came to the conclusion that all of the women in the village were frightened lepers ashamed of their bodies. Yet because he is Socrates, he began asking them questions in the hopes that he could make a few points.
“If a woman decides to dress like an apparition, is it by her own choice or by influential fear of people’s opinions?”
Fortunately for Socrates, this woman had nothing to do in her spare time except read original copies of The Republic.
“If it is by choice, what benefit could it provide? If it was fear of opinion, why would I dress this way while I was alone?” said the woman.
“Touché. Then why do you wear this while I am trying to acknowledge you?”
“Because I have no choice, the Taliban says all women must dress this way at all times,”
Socrates took a step back.
“What else does this Taliban do?”
“They ban all forms of art except those that reflect Islam. They ban anything that they think contradicts the fundamental principles of the Koran,”
Socrates stepped forward.
“I agree that things should be one way. I do not understand, however, why they take away pomegranates and make women dress like apparitions. These laws seem to be extraneous to what makes a society functional,” he replied.
“It does not matter what you think. These were decided by men who wanted a society that they thought was perfect in the eyes of Allah,”
“And what about a society that is perfect in the eyes of mankind?”
“What is perfect for mankind is perfect for Allah”
“But that is not true. Plato’s recordings of my philosophies in The Republic say nothing of the sort,”
“It is all relative, old man. We all do not agree on what is perfect, even though one solution may be better than another. In the big picture, everything should be a certain way. But in the end, all that matters is how much freedom someone has to live as they choose,”
“What if they never had a choice and therefore have no ability to desire anything that goes against the function of society?”
“Tell me, old man, have you ever read Brave New World? What is best for society and what is best for the individual are two different things. Furthermore, a functional society does not always correspond to a genuinely happy individual. Rather, it is the balance of both that is ideal. You must learn that instability is what makes us human. If you try to rid a society of instability, you rid a society of its humanity,”
Socrates sat for a moment in contemplation.
“I have not read that book. Besides, ghost-lady, it is far too soon for me to learn any lessons. Come back and remind me later. Good day,”
Yet just as Socrates walked out the door, the woman’s husband walked in. Assuming that Socrates was having an affair with his wife, he verbally attacked her and then took both of them out on to the street to turn them in to the Taliban.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before an American infantry showed up in the village. The Taliban scattered and Socrates was left standing alone on an empty street. Since Socrates had an innate knowledge of modern-day English, he was able to explain to them who he was. One of the Americans seemed to understand how a hot-tub could become a time machine, citing that he had recently seen a movie of a similar topic. Socrates hopped in the tank in the hopes that he could ask a series of questions to the Americans.
“Who has the just cause? You are trying to establish a society perfect for the individual, but these Taliban men are trying to establish a society that is perfect in the eyes of God,” asked Socrates.
“Well, Mr. Socrates, we believe the people should decide how they want their country to be run,” replied the American
“Let’s say this. I want to eat grapes and talk with women all day. Yet every time I do, I lose productivity with my thinking skills. Is my satisfaction just if it is not pertinent to the function of society?”
“It is just because a person should be able to explore what interests them in life. If they only think of how a society functions, doesn’t that make them simply an instrument?”
“And how do you know that a man should not be an instrument?”
“I do not know,”
“And if our viewpoints differ, everything must be relative, which means the absolute is that everything is relative”
“I guess so”
The Americans grew weary of Socrates’ aimless questioning and eventually sent him off to a female brigade where endless talking was more accepted.
After spending a few hours with the women, Socrates was delighted by the fact that they were allowed to serve in combat. Regardless, he was still whole-heartedly disappointed to hear that children were not brought on to the battlefield. Nevertheless, after mingling with the women for a few hours, it finally dawned on Socrates that women in Afghanistan were not being treated equally. After smoking some strange herbs he found lying around, Socrates became more passionate about this issue.
“Do you women know what is what? As I am eating this Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I am thinking about what makes everything work. If it was not for this peanut butter, this would not be a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The same goes for the chocolate. Both are essential because they are present. Therefore, not everything is relative. It is absolute that peanut butter and chocolate both equally comprise a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Therefore, both women and men equally make up humanity. Do you see?”
“Mr. Socrates, that is a very good point. Humanity is very similar to a peanut butter cup. However, in the best interest of everyone here, I think you should lie down for a while,”
“Nonsense, woman. I am going to do something about this.”
Grabbing a duffel bag and loading it with various guns of all sorts, Socrates was ready to serve justice. The fact that he did not know what a gun was made the situation even more intriguing for the Americans. They watched him stumble down the road until eventually he was side-tracked by a frolicking deer. They could only hope that they would never see him again.
Once Socrates had gotten his mind back together, he hailed a camel and rode all the way to Kabul. He wanted to reason with the Taliban, and since he had no money, he used the guns and ammunition to bribe his way up to the leaders. Thinking Socrates was out to fight against the Americans, he was able to schedule a meeting with Osama Bin Laden, who apparently had been running a flower shop downtown.
“Hello, Socrates Jan! What can I do for you today?” said Osama with a warm smile.
“Greetings, Mr. Bin Laden. Lovely shop you have here,”
Osama picked up a comforting vibe from Socrates. Not only was he impressed with his flowing white beard, he was also fascinated by his audacity.
“Let me just say, Socrates Jan, that I can already sense my presence inside of you. I think this is the start of a great friendship,”
Socrates watched thoughtfully as Osama carefully watered each plant. He thought about whether plants were necessary, but he saved that thought for later.
“Well, Mr. Bin Laden, you seem to be quite the man yourself. However, I came to talk to you about your views of women and whether you think the Koran is just”
“I see where you are coming from, Mr. Socrates, and I completely understand your concern. Unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place and we can never make it a perfect place because there is no absolute principle that underlies everything. The main issue, I think, is learning to accept the differences,”
“First off, Mr. Osama, there is an absolute underlying principle: that everything is relative. Second of all, let me show you this peanut-butter cup. Do you know what makes a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup?”
“Chocolate and peanut butter, for the most part. Unless you take into account all of the preservatives…”
“…Well anyways it takes 2 to make the whole. And each are equally important. So tell me, Mr. Bin Laden, what are two essential elements that make up mankind?”
“I would have to say language and consciousness”
Socrates was puzzled. He thought his analogy was straightforward enough.
“No, Mr. Bin Laden, it is men and women. They are equally important to mankind and thus should be treated equally,”
“Unfortunately, Socrates Jan, as you said, the absolute is that everything is relative. We decided to follow the Koran, and this is what the Koran tells us. Yes, the women now are upset because it is a change for them. Yet if we are able to instill these principles in future generations, they will have nothing to contrast their lives with, and thus they will be satisfied.”
Socrates’ mind was blown.
“But is it just to keep them unequal?” he questioned.
“Well, that all depends, doesn’t it, Socrates Jan”
“If it depends, why are there undeniable rights?”
“There are no undeniable rights. This is religion, my friend. We don’t live for today, we live for the afterlife. Think what you want, it’s our choice. Even though some may suffer now, it is a step that can be passed until it is accepted. A man could live happily in the pits of h*** if it was all he ever knew. And as for the terrorist attacks, we only do them so that others can realize we do not want them to interfere with our lifestyles”
Socrates was at a loss for words. He mustered the best follow up he could think of.
“But are floral shops important to the function of society?”
Suddenly Osama’s eyes turned black and his warm countenance sunk into a cold, soulless look of disgust.
“You’ve lost the argument, Socrates. Give up.”
“But Mr. Osama, isn’t that all relative? How can you claim I haven’t won?”
“Ah but there is an underlying principle to an argument, and that is if you make your point and the other one doesn’t, you lose”
“And how are these principles absolute?”
“Well, we all seem to agree on what the definition of an argument is, don’t we?”
“Yes we do Mr. Osama, I was just using your theory of relativity against you even though I agree with it now”
“You are an interesting man, Socrates. Please do not question the importance of flowers to me again though, because that and Islam are the only things I believe are absolute. Everything else is just relative,”
Socrates had wondered for a moment whether Osama had contradicted himself. Nevertheless, he was finally sure about one thing: that even though societies are unequally imperfect, in the end, there is no solution that is absolute, because the only absolute is that everything is relative. He gave up on his quest to gain equal rights for women in Afghanistan, and decided to head to Pakistan for no particular reason. After meeting up with a few of his hot tub pals in a Pakistani bar, they all decided to head in a hot tub and travel back to Ancient Greece.
Unfortunately, Socrates new philosophy did little to influence the world. Socrates forgot the fact that though nothing is absolute, it is still OK to actually believe things are absolute. Though there were no longer any wars, societies did not develop due to the fact that no one believed anything essentially mattered. If there is anything to be learned from this, it is simply that what we believe is true is true for us. Sometimes it is best just live a lie.