• Published
  • AETC director of safety
Consider the idea of being chained in a cave, immobile since childhood, and forced to stare at the back wall. Near the opening of the cave, behind you, is a heavily used path. As light beams into the cave, the shadows of the people and objects moving about are projected on the back wall.

This scenario goes on for decades.

Reality to you is not the hurried couples on the path, laughingly rushing home amid brilliantly colored plants and noisy children. No, your perception of the world consists of muffled noises and dreary shadows visible in front of you.

Welcome to Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

The Greek philosopher Plato (428-347 B.C.) suggested this fictional scenario in the context of knowledge. He then matured his ideas into what one of the prisoners might do if he or she emerged from the cave and learned that all they had known was wrong. And Plato even suggested that if an enlightened one returned to the cave, friends left behind would rather embrace the ignorance of the cave instead of appreciating the new knowledge ... so much so that they might kill the one who tried to share this fresh reality.

For many, the journey toward embracing the Air Force culture of safety can be akin to climbing out of the cave of ignorance. Air Force members, who grew up with families and friends who embrace and practice unsafe behavior, are likely shocked at the safety immersion they receive from their first day of duty -- and throughout their career. Many who return home to visit are even more stunned when they observe unsafe behaviors being practiced, of which they had actually been part of in the past. And those who abstain from formerly accepted behavior, or show disdain toward unsafe family and friends, may generate confusion and animosity.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss, and it might be easier to just reattach the shackles and live in the cave of unsafe ignorance forever.

Plato, and the Air Education and Training Command safety team, would strongly disagree.

In fact, the magazine you hold in your hands can be a key tool in the climb from the cave. From stories exposing motorcycle madness and basketball hazards, to those on midair collisions and avoiding dangerous critters on deployments, your journey from the darkness can start now.

In the end, it's up to you to choose freedom of injury by enlightenment or to be a prisoner (or perhaps a casualty) of ignorance. I urge you to join us. Don't be a victim ... step out of the cave.