Let’s pretend not to see: The emperor’s new clothes.

there’s nothing to see here

The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new “clothes”, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The tale has been translated into over 100 languages.

In case you are too young or ignorant to know what Hans Christian Anderson was famous for, his had his tales published in a book called fairy tales for children. He changed the ending above from the emperor admiring his clothes to the child’s brutally honest, unselfconscious exclamation. It is thought that one incident from his own childhood inspired this change:  he once recalled standing in a crowd with his mother, waiting to see King Frederick VI, and when the king made his appearance, Andersen cried out, “Oh, he’s nothing more than a human being!” His mother then tried to silence him saying, “Have you gone mad, child?” Whatever the reason, Andersen thought the change would prove more satirical.

Scholars have noted that the phrase, “Emperor’s new clothes”, has become a standard metaphor for anything that smacks of pretentiousness, pomposity, social hypocrisy, collective denial, or hollow ostentatiousness. There are a number of valuable lessons in this tale, all of which are even applicable to our post modern, self consciously sophisticated(?) society. The weavers were swindlers who wanted handsome compensation (we can only imagine how much the emperor was willing to pay for such a magic suit) for no effort. We have our modern equivalents in the creators of esoteric financial instruments, like credit default swaps, securitized debt obligations, or auction rate securities. Those who create such engines of financial destruction rarely understand what they have wrought; those who are charged with regulating them are too ashamed to admit they don’t understand them. That’s just a wry aside, not my main point.

Most people don’t want to be seen in public naked, but that’s mainly because they don’t want to be made fun of in a way that focuses on their shortcomings (yes, pun intended). Did it not occur to the emperor that the people to whom the suit would be invisible, would therefore see him naked? Apparently not. Today there are even more powerful ways of parading social hypocrisy without being challenged: social media mobs, campus thought police, hate speech legislation, #hashtag “movements”, corporate media mouthpieces (national coverage newspapers and networks). Social hypocrisy, better known as political correctness, cliches and concepts abound, and if you dare challenge any, the guardians of PC will, like Han’s mother, shout “have you gone mad, child?” Then they will chase you from restaurants and frighten your children in your home. What cliches and concepts am I talking about? Gender dysphoria, social justice, cultural appropriation, hate speech, trigger warnings, safe spaces, anti-fascist (why do they talk and act like fascists?), to name a few.

I took my title, Pretend not to see, from the most visible of these social hypocrisies: women who provocatively parade the majority of their flesh in public, and whom get offended if stared at. Am I a prude? God help me, I would love to stare at you know what, but have perfected the black occult arts of chameleon-eyed appearing to stare at the horizon with one eye while sneaking glances at the flesh with the other. Sue me, that’s how I (maybe you too) am wired. Preservation of the species, don’t you know. Do I think modesty is superior to immodestly i.e. overexposure? Yes! Do I enjoy overexposure? Only if it isn’t MY daughters, which obviously means I would rather look at your daughters. Are you offended? Are your daughters? If they are, what stops them from covering a little more? If you are, maybe it’s time for a parent-daughter talk. Now, to address the hateful thoughts percolating in your offended mind: You’re a child molester or pedophile! No, I am assuming that your daughter is old enough to be dressing the way SHE chose to, regardless of your opinion, which hopefully eliminates children. You’re a lecher. No, I would rather I had nothing interesting to look at, at the beach, other than nature, but like that famous line in Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come“, I say “if you expose it, they will stare“. How dare you! How dare I what? You’re a misogynist. If I knew what that was, I might be. You hate women. You mean other than looking at them? I suppose now is the moment for some virtue signaling, telling you how my three daughters love me and so forth, but you know what? Women have the right to self expose, and I have an equal right to look. If those women think they are wearing the updated version of the emperor’s suit, I must be among the unworthy. Maybe so, but the view is pretty good from here.

Author: iamcurmudgeon

When I began this blog, I was a 70 year old man, with a young mind and a body trying to recover from a stroke, and my purpose for this whole blog thing is to provoke thinking, to ridicule reflex reaction, and provide a legacy to my children.

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