I was planning to write something different, then this occurred to me and I decided it rated a post of its own. And I was in a cranky mood at the time.
There are times when I really think people should be forced to read The Emperor’s New Clothes at Secondary School (12-18) and think about its deeper meaning. I imagine that most teenagers would object to reading a kid’s story, but the fable does have a profound meaning that resonates through the ages.
The basic story, of course, is well known. A pair of swindlers convince a king that they can make him a magic suit of clothes. To a wise man, they tell him, the garment is a beautiful set of robes; to a fool, it is absolutely invisible. The king, naturally not wanting to appear a fool, promptly tells the swindlers that it is a magnificent garment indeed. And his queen, equally determined not to appear a fool agrees. And so does everyone in the palace. As the song goes, ‘it’s just the thing to wear on Saturday’s parade, leading the royal brigade.’
So the king walks out stark naked, knowing – at some level – that he’s in the nude, but unwilling to admit it to himself. And everyone admires the set of clothes so much that, perhaps, he begins to truly believe in them … right up to the moment a small boys shouts out ‘the king is naked!’
Terry Prachett, may he rest in peace, had a pithy comment on the whole story that should be borne in mind. The Emperor’s New Clothes is a story about a small boy who sees through the lies and calls out the truth, embarrassing the king and exposing his complete lack of fitness to rule. But it’s also the story of the small boy who was sharply rebuked by his father for being rude to royalty … and also the story of the crowd that was rounded up by the soldiers and told to pretend the whole embarrassing episode didn’t happen on pain of death.
(This was in a Discworld book, but I have been unable to locate the source.)
Ok, so what does this have to do with the modern age – and liberals? No one could be this stupid, right?
Well, there’s a reason I suggested everyone should read the story, because if there is one thing liberals are good at, it is the manipulation of words.
Put the correct buzzwords into an argument, liberals discovered years ago, and the argument will avoid any cold-blooded scrutiny that might reveal its flaws. ‘Liberal’ sounds so much better than ‘conservative,’ ‘progressive’ sounds so much better than ‘reactionary’. Who can argue against progress? Of course, one could make progress forward until one falls off a cliff – having decided that reversing or altering course is reactionary – and one can be supremely liberal until one discovers, the hard way, that one has allowed people too many liberties and they use them to hang you from the nearest lamppost.
Dictators were quick to take advantage of this curious blindspot. What is wrong with a state that calls itself the ‘Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’? (Well, apart from the fact there isn’t a single truthful word in the name?) Or the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea? (Which is at least marginally more accurate, as it does control North Korea.) And then there’s the absurd quest among liberals for an agreement, ink on paper, between the West and Iran. Or Israel and Palestine. Or a hundred other flashpoints where liberals have been trying hard to paper over the fact that the Emperor has no clothes. To the liberal mindset, having the agreement is all that matters …
…Choosing to completely ignore the fact that dictatorships feel free to ignore any agreement that isn’t actually enforced.
This gets worse, believe it or not. Liberals have demonised the word ‘racist’ so much that the mere hint that someone is racist leads to hasty back-treading, or outraged condemnation from the perpetually offended if the accused does anything other than genuflecting to liberal orthodoxy. A rational society demands that the accused be proved guilty, not have to prove his guilt; liberals demand the accused prove his innocence … and, as there is no way to prove a negative, the accused is unable to remove the stain of the accusation. The charge of racism – and sexism, homophobia, etc – makes it impossible to hold a rational argument, if only because everyone knows that such people are invariably wrong. Is there any point in arguing with someone who seems to be arguing from a blatantly racist point of view?
Unsurprisingly, this results in shattering levels of contempt for so-called liberals from everyone else. Why? It is far from impossible that the so-called racist is arguing from a far more reasonable point of view than bloody-minded racism. A person who thinks the thugs who recently ran riot through Baltimore should be imprisoned, rather than being allowed to run free, isn’t a racist, but someone who has a respect for the rule of law. But anyone who makes public statements to this effect runs the risk of having spurious charges of horrific bad-think levelled against him, isolating him from his supporters or the mainstream community. I honestly don’t think liberals grasp just how strongly their bullying tactics are detested, or how bad it will be when this hatred and rage finally explodes.
This ties back to the quote I used earlier. Yes, people may see the nakedness of the argument for what it really is and turn on the king. Or the person who points out the truth may be vilified for daring to suggest that the king is naked. Or the bosses may use deadly force to maintain the illusion, even though everyone knows the truth.
Or, perhaps, that they will walk out one day and discover that it’s a very cold day and they’re freezing to death …
… And their new clothes simply do not exist outside their deluded minds.