Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Batuhan: The President’s new clothes

HANS Christian Andersen is considered one of the greatest storytellers who ever lived – a modern Aesop, if you will, whose fairy tales meant for children always held a lesson or two for the reader – whether those readers be adults, or indeed, children.

According to his Wikipedia entry:

“Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen’s popularity is not limited to children; his stories, called eventyr in Danish, express themes that transcend age and nationality.

Andersen’s fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well.[2] Some of his most famous fairy tales include “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Little Mermaid”, “The Nightingale”, “The Snow Queen”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “Thumbelina”, and many more.”

It is this most famous story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” quoted above that to me is instructive of events in the country over the past 100 days. An excerpt from the story’s summary reads thus:

“In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colours and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.”

How is Andersen’s tale relevant to us now?

Well, we just celebrated our new president’s first 100 days in office. We heard him laud his achievements over those same number of days. The oft-touted “War on Drugs” is the centerpiece accomplishment of those first 100 days, and of course, he has heaped praises on this initiative.

And what of his men? Of course, they too have heaped praises on the President’s noteworthy deeds. Someone even dared to say that he could yet be “the greatest president this country has ever had,” if he continues on the trajectory that he is in, for the duration of his presidency.

And his supporters, those 35 percent or so of the voting populace who elected him to the highest office in the land? Well, they too are all hallelujahs for the President. Almost to a man they defend him for his actions, though some ostensibly “stupid” individuals have voiced regret over their recent electoral decision.

Like the emperor and his men who do not want to be seen as “stupid” for not seeing the fine colors and patterns of the emperor’s clothes, not the President nor his men and supporters dare proclaim that there were a lot of things that were not right during those first 100 days.

The rash of extra-judicial killings that threaten to undermine not only religious sensibilities, but human rights and the rule of law. The unease among our international friends and allies over our president’s erratic pronouncements. The jitters among investors who worry about where his investment and foreign relations policies are leading the country. And on and on the list goes. Yes, there have been good things done, but where are the voices of dissent about the collateral damage along the way, which have been just as, if not more numerous than the achievements?

Well, the “innocent children” have cried out that the president is naked. Like the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and other well-meaning observers. Like the other sensible Filipinos whose devout faith and civic duty tell them that something is wrong. And yes, the innocent Filipino children who, like the children in Andersen’s tale, are the first to see whether someone is indeed naked or fully clothed. But they have all been duly rebuked for being “stupid” because they could not see the President’s new clothes, but only his nakedness.

Until when will the other “wise men” keep on pretending, until they too see the gross nudity on full display?

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