Do you remember Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes? Prof. Njabulo S. Ndebele reminded me of it again in his Sunday newspaper article entitled, “The Emperor is Naked”. It tells the story of a fashion-obsessed Emperor who has no time to govern his country, care for his people and show leadership. With a coat to show off “for every hour of the day”, he spends all his time and money on clothes.
One day two swindlers come into town posing as master weavers. They claim to make clothes out of the most fabulous fabric. The clothes made from this fabric become invisible to anyone “unfit to hold office” or who is “unpardonably stupid”. Such clothes, the Emperor reasoned, should enable him to discover not only those in his service unfit for office, but how to distinguish the clever from the stupid. Without hesitation, the Emperor advances huge sums of money for this wonderful “fabric” to be manufactured.
Soon, through astute marketing, the weavers ensure everyone in the city knows of their wondrous creation. The entire population is curious to see who among them will be found unfit for office and stupid, nogal!
So afraid of being thought of as unfit for office or stupid, everyone including the Emperor is convinced that the non-existent new clothes of the Emperor are magnificent. It was a child who recognised reality for what it was and called it out: “The Emperor is Naked”.
This story has stood the test of time because it contains great truth about our human condition. I was reminded again of how pride and fear so easily prevent us from seeing things as they are and how they also silence us from speaking the truth.
Jesus said, “You must become like a little child if you want to enter the Kingdom of God”. Indeed …