The emperor is naked.
Only a child is courageous enough to tell the truth: raw, unvarnished without cynicism and without self-serving agenda. “He has no clothes,” she says. “He is lying. His lies are destroying our only home.”
In 1837 Hans Christian Anderson published The Emperor’s New Clothes as an expose of hypocrisy, courtly vanity and snobbery of Danish bourgeoisie. The story goes further back to a Persian folk tale of the 1300s and even further back to an Indian fable recorded in 1283.
This story of a naked ruler whose absurd pretense is encouraged by all around him has played out again and again in local and global politics, in our religions and in our own psyches.
Vanity, greed, falsehood grows unchecked in a leader. Weak, dangerous people are elevated to positions of power by those hoping to gain favor or recognition or influence. Deceit is allowed to persist by those of us who see the nakedness and simply turn silently away in disgust, fear, resignation, hopelessness or distraction of our dailyness.
The lies continue until a child from the crowd speaks up loudly, “That man has no clothes on!” Only then does the spell break so that we wake up and begin to tell our truth and to take a stand for what matters most.
Or do we? Perhaps instead we malign the child, tell her she is crazy, immature, unrealistic, unreasonable and naive and yes, she is even dangerous. Or perhaps we think - oh my gosh, she is so inspiring, so brave, so amazing, so wise! - and then we go back to our comfortable routines and to our preferred forms of deception and distraction, the more pressing immediate outrage, the most engaging entertainment and our prettiest comforts.
Yes indeed Greta.
Our planet is burning,
Our oceans are rising
And in the face of that we are all naked.
So now we must choose. Continue to be part of the deception and the distraction?
Or shall enough of us rise for love of this earth and for the children of all species to create a new way forward?
As Al Gore reminds us this week in the New York Times, It is Not Too Late.
You can make a difference. Personal actions to reduce your carbon footprint coupled with letters, phone calls and personal visits to elected officials and decision makers can mobilize powerful changes.
We can lead the way into a more environmentally sane future.