In a country riven with discord, an older philosopher, Sophia, lives in a small one-bedroom apartment in a modest neighborhood in the city of Splendiforous, the capital of Capitalisma, a democracy known for its material abundance, cheerful consuming and addiction to the latest technology.
The citizens of Capitalisma argue constantly about news and truth, disputing everything except the dates of days and years. Although different points of view have always been part of this democracy, freedom of speech having been created by its founding mothers and fathers, differences have recently widened almost insurmountably, flamed by anger and intolerance expressed on social media like SoulBook and Prattle.
Daily, during her morning writing in a nearby coffee house, Gnosis, Sophia listens to groups of people at separate tables arguing in unexamined, closed and hateful ways about the “others,” hurling words like “racist,” “socialist,” “fascist” and “lefty,” as though they were grenades. Their disagreements roil around issues like immigration, healthcare, and the interference of a foreign nation in the election of their country’s leader who constantly uses Prattle to rail against those who oppose him, real or imaginary.
“How can anyone believe the phony news when I am the greatest Leader in Capilisma’s history!” he recently prattled from his luxurious miniature golf club. “You my loyal followers must oppose them, silence their treasonous voices…they are enemies of the people, loyal to countries where Bunkum is their religion…we must ban the Bunkums!”
One night, in her snug apartment, Sophia ponders the increasing and unremitting conflict she witnesses in Gnosis where her hope of enjoying good coffee and writing has been made more and more difficulty by the constant arguing, the loud voices shattering the silence that once nourished her. As she watches the nightly news, she realizes that what she sees and hears in Gnosis mirrors the conflict in Capitalisma. If this continues, she thinks, our democracy with the right for all to live in freedom and mutual respect will end.
The next day, as she sits at her favorite table she hears the voices rising in anger again like a hot, withering wind. When the barking and snarling pierce her, she unexpectedly rises and climbs on her chair to stand on the table, opening her arms and speaking loudly to the fighting tables.
“I call to you,” she says, her voice as unwavering as granite, “I call to you to stop this meaningless, harmful, unenlightened hostility. I call to you to tear down the walls between you, walls that keep you apart, the walls that destroy our democracy. I call to you to understand, that while you differ, truth and peace comes only when you open your hearts and minds to each other!”
Stunned, they look at the thin, reedy source of this command. Yet they do not dismiss her as she continues her call. They listen.
The following morning, a bit embarrassed, Sophia goes to Gnosis and sits at her table to write. Something is different, voices are low, and rather than sitting at separate tables they are all together at one table intently talking and listening to each other.
“Oh,” Sophia thinks, “if an older, thin philosopher’s voice can make a difference, then every voice can make a difference.” And the lines for a new essay come to her: “Let us listen to the beating of other hearts, let us become one in the same dance.”
Jack Hernandez is a retired director of the Norman Levan Center of the Humanities at Bakersfield College. The opinions expressed are his own.