The emperor wears no clothes

The peacock has too little in its head and too much in its tail.

Swedish proverb

The title depicts a situation in which subdued people are afraid to criticise something or someone because the perceived wisdom of the masses is that the thing or person is good or important. Apple-polishing to heap undeserved praise, or gaining brownie points, as the West labels it.

There was once a politician who was above the law, choked the Federal Constitution with lopsided amendments, muzzled the judiciary, loathed constructive criticism, incarcerated political dissidents without trial, and committed malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance while in office. Many say it is not irreverent to say he is irrelevant today. He still struts around uninvestigated and unpunished. The rule, range, rage, and role of law does not seem to apply to him and his cronies.

The American president today is said to be vacillating between hallucination and incoherence. And that is being kind. Leaders from other nations who visit him and receive a hero’s welcome when they arrive home is not complimentary at all. But that’s the pothole culture.

The powers-that-be are unable, maybe unwilling, to fix the frequent flash floods that inundate our rage, and potholes in our streets, highways and byways. The best answer you get when writing to a government agency is no answer to augment the slick and sick slogan ‘Malaysia Boleh’. Surprisingly, the old back-roads are a better bet with fewer potholes. Malaysia Boleh, after all.

Unworthy praise is a whole new galaxy of bovine excrement that’s required to be the sine qua non in political cultures all over the world where elected governments portray and betray democracy in the name of ‘just us’ – the terrible twin of justice.

This apple-polishing culture leads to corruption, nepotism and wanton acts of stealing under colour of law. An awakened soul once declared: “What good does it bring to have a thousand friends flatter you with false words? I’d rather have a single adversary who criticises me with the truth.”

The culture of falsity, flattery and feigned honour has wrought untold misery to organised crime (read: government). Hence, flattery makes friends and truth makes enemies. The guiding motto of agencies involved in criminalising corruption requires drastic changes. Potholes in the law become evident with visibly feeble enforcement.

The polls and the law are helpless when manipulators and social engineers lurk in every corner of the political galaxy posing as lobbyists. They prey while the masses pray. This is the cult of elected government working in tandem with the culture of organised flattery.

Colin Powell suggested that every organisation must tolerate rebels who tell the emperor he has no clothes. Patricia McConnell suggested that nobody should live in a society that admires the emperor’s new clothes when all can see clearly he’s naked.

Another thinking rebel suggested that people shout “the emperor has no brains”. Whether this will cause the emperor to pause, ponder and wonder is an unknown heuristic. Would it make a difference given the global political culture of heaping praise where it is ill-suited?

But this syndrome happens when meritocracy is swatted away like a pest. A politician won an ambassadorship after he failed as a stand-up parliamentarian embarking into dark humour about two kissing trains. Surely there ought to be a law, or an intolerant pesticide?

Ah, the law! De jure jurisdictions want the law to be controlling. De facto jurisdictions want the law to be liberating. But when the emperor wears no clothes the law is silent, blind and walks with a pronounced limp. No prosthetic can fix a bruised conscience or a sick mind.

Flattery squarely means lying with a bold face. Lying is perjury in a court of law but not in the court of social intercourse. Tolerating a society of hypocrites, flatterers and liars born without consciences renders us a people with no self-respect.

Calling a spade a spade is socially acceptable when a spade pretends to be a Rolls Royce automobile. Political, economic, social and recreational clubs must put up signs at their main entrances suggesting the leaving behind of super-inflated egos. It will be a great start for straight talk with no punches pulled and no holds barred.

Eric F. Douglas wrote that straight talk involves a world where everyone takes responsibility for clear, honest, and open communication. In this world, the emperor is fully clothed. And he knows it, eyes wide shut!

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

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