Yesterday, I was looking at this Stairway to Nowhere in my hotel — the kind of “luxury” hotel with lots of fancy finishes and no ice in the ice machine — and I was thinking about the news, and Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” came to mind, as it often does these days:
Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes…
“It’s strange people think they need Arendt or Orwell to figure things out,” Jeet Heer tweeted not long ago, “when everything was spelled out in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’”
“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.
“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”
“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.
After I finished the story again, I thought of 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, whose autism informs her approach: “I don’t fall for lies as easily as regular people, I can see through things.”
To the politicians, she says: “You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in the answers that will allow you to carry on as if nothing has happened.”
But will anybody listen? Will anybody change? “Is my microphone on?” she asks.
Children are able to see through our bullshit, but if we don’t respect them and listen to them, we learn nothing from them, and nothing changes. The Emperor is allowed to proceed, because “the procession has got to go on.”