Transparency, The Emperor’s New Clothes and the Naked Truth

In the story line of the popular fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, the tailors certainly marketed their product well to their target audience, the emperor and palace staff.

But the populace was quick to notice what was really  beneath the transparent gossamer robes and laugh.

The innocent child was quick to shout out, “but he isn’t wearing any clothes!” So it is surely best now as it was then, not to focus marketing on deception.

Each new generation will ever be first to catch a lie, however well concealed and accepted it has become by older generations.

For example, the recent Oscar-nominated documentary film GasLand that has been in the news comes to mind. It’s at times humorous, at times horrifying to watch.

Here, filmmaker Josh Fox catches tap water igniting right out of the faucets in the impoverished homes adjacent to sites of natural gas fracking. But we are supposed to think the drilling is safe, and so a heated political battle has begun over the issue. As a scientist, I am compelled by the evidence. For viewers of the film, the thought of “safe water” becomes incompatible with the vision of tap water exploding into flames. You just want to shout out, “But the water catches fire!”

What about transparency at home? During the recent group chat I joined with thought leader Lolly Daskal on twitter, the question of transparency in private life arose. Even for the individual, not only for business and government, what to disclose and what to conceal became a question.

I’ve heard that being truthful increases personal power, while deception diminishes it. And in my own experience that has certainly held true. Nothing quite like getting caught in a lie to make you feel suddenly less powerful.

My second example also involves volatile substances:

  •  Adult family member asks me, “is that beer in your mug?”
  •  I say, “why, no dear, it’s pear cider.”
  • Adult family member, “it’s beer. You’re not supposed to drink.”

Oh yes, feeling small, very, very small. The tactic had worked really well with children.  Adults, not so much. You may have guessed, I sit at the head of the table in a family where the children under my wings have become outspoken adults.

What exactly am I marketing in this scenario at home? Not the elegance of new clothes like the emperor. The mug is not made of glass. Perhaps I struggle to maintain something like an elegant maternal image, one strength and authority, a matriarch. I’m hoping to provide the illusion of the person taking good care of her health. Yet, when I can admit to the fact that I like pear cider openly and then actually buy the Martinelli’s sparkling (nonalcoholic) cider instead, this enables transparency.

The good action comes first, transparency later. This is not an illusion but a decision. It says to the family, love me for who I am, not for who I wish I were. It allows me to be who I hope I’ll become; the head of household who actually does take care of her health.

Lolly Daskal’s site:     

Josh Fox’s GasLand:

2 responses to “Transparency, The Emperor’s New Clothes and the Naked Truth”

  1. Transparency. In a minor conceit that riddles the book of the Chinese In Montana I once in a while address the reader as ‘My dear Transparency.’ As with many of my choices, I really don’t know ‘why’ I do it, I somehow just like how it feels. At that moment, whether it is good for me or no good for me, I go with it.
    I love the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
    It is a such a golden key!


    • Thanks for sharing thoughts here. The Emperor’s New Clothes has always been one of my favorites and still relevant today. Is your book “Chinese in Montana” available? Would love to be able to read it.



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