The Modern Emperor’s New Clothes


by Caren Besner

Once upon a time, there was a great ruler, beloved by his people. On this particular day, the emperor had just completed his royal procession through the streets of his imperial capitol. On his return to the living quarters of the imperial palace, three of his retainers and his loyal court jester greeted him as he strutted; stark naked through the doorway.

“Ah, my loyal followers and my beloved fool,” said the monarch; “how do you like the new garments the royal tailors have just made for me?” “W-w-wonderful,” “S-s-spectacular,” “M-m-magnificent,” echoed the retainers, averting their eyes so as not to stare at their sovereign’s nakedness.

The jester, true to his calling, began to sing and dance, the bells on the tassels of his fool’s cap and on his footwear jingling as he sang, “I see not, where none there be; a fine raiment that all others see.”

The emperor’s eyes narrowed as he contemplated the jester. “Interesting,” he said, “while on my procession I heard a child ask its mother why I was naked. The royal tailors have assured me the brocade is of so fine a weave as to be almost invisible to the human eye.”

The jester continued to sing and dance as he inquired, “O, how is it I cannot view, what all others know to be true?” “Ah,” replied the emperor, “that is because thou art only a fool. Thine eyes cannot behold the magnificence of these garments anymore than they can comprehend the grand vision I have for the empire; for it is my intention ALL citizens of the realm be fitted for similar apparel.”

The jester stopped dancing and grew very solemn. “Sire,” he intoned, “the royal treasury is bereft of funds, job prospects are dismal, we owe colossal amounts of money to the great empire of the East as we continue to borrow huge sums from them; many of our cities and provinces are on the verge of bankruptcy as we continue to export jobs overseas. Social unrest at home is on the rise, our public education system is in shambles, our health care system is in chaos, and our standing among the nations of the world; both friend and foe is greatly diminished.” The jester continued, “We have just ended one war against terrorists in one country and Your Majesty has previously announced a date of departure in a second war. Your Highness has made substantial cuts in the military budget, to the delight of our enemies and the consternation of our allies, at a time when reports indicate that both domestic and international terrorism are on the rise.” “Just recently,” he added, “a major in your army killed and wounded a number of fellow soldiers in an apparent incident of domestic terrorism. Yet, Your Excellency proposes to spend even greater sums on a new clothing program. How can we ever hope to pay for all of this with more and more of our citizens on welfare?”

“My beloved jester” replied the emperor, “because you are only a fool, you cannot comprehend the grandiosity of the vision I have for the empire.

We shall raise taxes on the wealthy, for it is my intention to deal with the issue of income inequality once and for all.” The confident monarch declared, “As for your description of that army major’s rampage as terrorism, you are mistaken. What you call an act of terror is merely an example of ‘workplace violence.’ Similarly, we are not waging a war on foreign soil; we have an ‘overseas contingency operation.’ Also, what you call welfare is only a ‘transitional living fund’ to help the needy overcome their temporary hardships.

As an afterthought the great leader professed, “If the royal treasury needs more money, we can always print it.” With authority in his voice the supreme ruler stated, “In case you have forgotten, I have traveled around the world apologizing for our past misdeeds and everyone will surely see I am sincere and they will come around to my way of thinking. So you see my dear fool, there are no real problems, only the perception of problems as we persist in clinging to a system and an ideology that is clearly outdated in the New World Order to come.”

The jester bowed his head low in homage to his sovereign. “I stand in awe of Your Majesty’s greatness,” he declared. “Blessed be the fates that made me, for in the final analysis, I am, as Your Highness has said, ‘only a fool’.” The jester and the three retainers continued to bow their heads in reverence to their monarch as they slowly backed out of the room.

“How dare thee speak to the emperor in such an insolent manner?” said one retainer to the jester after they had exited from the imperial presence. “How brazen of you,” opined a second. “What gives you the right to make such commentary to His Majesty? By what right do you usurp our authority?” exclaimed the third.

The jester stopped in his tracks; a look of apprehension clouding his normally jovial features. “Well,” he said pensively, “I thought it would be nice for a change if someone told the emperor he had no clothes on.”

P.S.: Fortunately, the above is only a fairy tale and any similarity to any individual living or dead is purely coincidental.

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