"The Emperor's New Clothes": Three Musings

1. It's the child, the child with no position to protect, the child with the least authority of anybody in the story, who announces the emperor's nakedness.

This tells us: the risk in telling the truth is least when you have the least. We accept and propagate deception to keep what we have.

(Here, I have everything: a full fridge; a heated house; clothing; the necessities of life.

Here, I have everything: a fridge full of food grown by people in total poverty; house heated with oil won in foreign wars; clothing sewn by ten-year-old girls; necessities of life bought cheap, at somebody else's expense, to leave some money for luxury. What am I going to do about that?)

Also: The utterance of the weak has power. And not simply because this is a story for children.

2. The emperor, he's at fault. He's foolish and he's vain, and these are real flaws.

But the emperor gets his comeuppance. He's humiliated; he's spent piles of money on lavish robes that don't exist -- while conmen-tailors skip town happily, with their pockets full.

This tells us: you may think that you know who you please when you keep your mouth shut. You're probably not looking in the right place.

Or, our flaws leave us vulnerable to real, active evil. That's not inexcusable, perhaps; it's certainly human. But you need to keep your eyes open, and your mind sharp.

3. The emperor was naked all along. And everybody saw it.

This tells us: If it's true, it's true; you see it, even if you don't say it. So say it.

Ask, at least. Is the emperor naked?

I've been thinking about this story a lot lately. Health care in America? The emperor's naked. War in Iraq? The emperor's naked. Public education? The emperor's naked. And on, and on, and on.

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