Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Emperor Has No Clothes

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
We may feel the need to be that voice crying out. . . "The emperor has no clothes!" Most of us will not be spearheading protest marches. . . masterminding boycotts. . . or leading the charge against oil exploitation. But we do what we can. We write. (Mary Pipher, PhD, Writing to Change the World, pp. 29-30)
You remember the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Emperor's New Clothes," a cautionary tale about the danger of believing what's not real: Caring only about his appearance in the finest clothes, this Emperor's vanity led him to believe a couple of swindlers who told him they could weave clothes in which he'd be invisible to those unfit for office or unusually stupid. He thought he'd be able to determine who in his empire was unfit.

Of course, neither he nor anyone else could see the clothes but all were unwilling to admit they could be unfit or stupid. Finally, as he rode through town a little child said, "But he hasn't got anything on!" Only then would others acknowledge the reality.

This tale signifies the importance of speaking the truth when we see it, no matter what the social pressures. And nothing is more powerful than communicating at a symbolic level. When we look at our planet's increasingly failing capacity to support us, for example, we're appalled to note how many people still insist they're seeing the emperor's fine new clothes. How can writers and poets convince others of the naked truth in time to make a difference?

Perhaps by transporting readers into a starkly imagined future in earth's "silent periphery / on one of the cooler planets / far removed from walls and barbed wire / crosshatches of lies and alternative facts . . ." (from Poetry First Prize winner Claire Scott's "A Mote of Dust" in Bacopa 2017).

More about the intersection of art and activism to follow.

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