Monday, May 5, 2014

The Emperor's New Clothes

     You remember the old fairy tale about the Emperor and his New Clothes.  The one where some con-men, posing as tailors, take advantage of the Emperor's wealth, vanity, and gullibility, selling him on the idea that the magical fabric that they are using is visible when worn by the worthy, and only invisible to the unworthy.  Through an elaborate bit of play-acting, they manufacture the purportedly visible clothing, and persuade him to parade himself, wearing only his magical garments, through the streets of the imperial city.  Not only the emperor, but all his courtiers, and the population as well, must buy into the pretense, for fear of revealing himself, or themselves, to be "unworthy."  The parade commences.  An untutored boy in the crowd, observing only the plain facts of the matter, blurts out that the Emperor is naked, and the universal pretense is exposed.  In this short story the only hero, if we may use that word, is the truth-telling child.

     In my opinion, this fairy-tale is more than a fairly tale, and even more than a morality tale.  It has, quite deservedly, attained the status of a myth.  If not quite on a par with the metaphysical insights of some other old myths, it is at least an historical or worldly-wise myth.  Adapted and re-figured from a story that dates back about seven hundred years to medieval Spain, the Hans Christian Andersen version  from Denmark has been translated into many languages, and has been well understood by many cultures.

     If the fairy-tale were to be retold today, we should have to change its ending.  The child would be immediately seized by uniformed and armed special agents, promptly charged with domestic terrorism, further accused (upon mature reflection) of hate speech, called out as a truther, and dismissed by the public as another conspiracy theorist.

     Credentialed spokespersons of the purportedly Free-Speech-Loving-Left and the Defend-Our-Freedoms-Right would argue lengthily and vigorously about whose patsy he was, but would nevertheless be mutually glad that he had been sent to Gitmo prison to live out his days with Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden.  After a few weeks of head-shaking and head-nodding, and milking the story for media-advertising revenue, it could be forgotten in favor of some newer and better manufactured "outrage."

     Fortunately, we do not have Emperors today.  Especially we do not have naked ones.

     We only have fairy tales.


  1. I recently watched a video of a lecture given by Dr. Michael Heiser, in which he makes the point that all of human history is an expression of the conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of Eve. Although that point is a bit elementary, he further pointed out that Gnosticism, for example, is really "Watcher theology." The levels of enlightenment, and so forth.

    Reading this post, it makes me think of the Old Testament prophets and the truth they received from the Spirit. The powers they spoke against way back then didn't take kindly to criticism.

    Although prophets were certainly martyred in those days, the enemy was not nearly as omnipresent as it likely appeared (and assuredly took great pains to seem so). Escape was possible. The All-Seeing Eye was not, in fact, all-seeing. But he want to be.

    Perhaps this is wear technology comes in. The "Principalities and powers" are not the Almighty, and thus are not almighty. But they want to be.

    The modern surveillance state is nothing more, I believe, than the All-Seeing Eye doing everything in his power to try be so.

    And he does offer "rings of power" or powered objects of one sort or another, highly addictive in nature, that give the bearer the illusion of importance, attractiveness, ability.

    Perhaps I press the point too far.

    Suffice it to say, regimes are certainly not becoming more open to criticism. And as they mine the data and metadata for the secrets of their citizens' lives, they operate more and more in the realm of covert and sub-covert operations.

    The Emperor, now, is the only one allowed clothes.

  2. Anon,

    Thanks for your good comment. Heiser's insight about "Watcher Theology" is valuable.