Emperor's Clothes

Lessons for our current economic situation


Are you sitting comfortably ?
Good, I will than begin.

Once upon a time, there was an Emperor who seemed to have unlimited powers.
No one seemed to be able to challenge him in anything.  His military, economic and judicial might seemed universal.  Even his way of eating, dressing and playing games was admired and copied by everyone.

Bored with his supreme powers, the Emperor started to search for the "most unique wardrobe" in the world.  He wanted an unrivalled style that would set him apart from all those who had preceded him or those who may follow him !

After much search, a group of well dressed, well heeled fashion consultants were brought to his court.  Impressed by their aloofness, supreme disdain for the mundane and utter contempt for traditional concepts, the emperor hired them on the spot.  No references seemed necessary, their self confidence spoke volumes !  At an initially meeting, they informed the great Emperor, that it would cost an obscene amount of money to design the new wardrobe and most of it would have to be paid up-front to cover all their costs.  Impressed by their utter disregard for his exalted position, the emperor paid them 10 kilos in gold ingots to start the "research and design" phase of the project.  

Six months later, the fashion consultants came back and said, "After much deliberation, we had decided to make your majesty's clothes out of the finest gossamer !!  It must be woven on a loom of the precious woods, with a shuttle made of white jade.  Only than can it be called the Imperial gossamer."  Emperor was eager to have a new material named after him and wanted them to start straight away.  But, the consultants carried on, "Regrettably, your imperial majesty, none of this is available in the market and we will need to have it made according to our own bespoke design."  Eager Emperor commanded to them to start immediately and they assured the emperor that this could be completed in a year, provided they had unlimited access to funds to procure the wood, jade etc to manufacture the loom. 

Eager and impressed, the emperor sent for more gold ingots and told his treasury chief to supply whatever they wanted without having to constantly refer back to him for permission.  A year later, a gleaming new loom, of precious woods, covered in precious stones and metals was presented to the imperial court.  

Next phase, the fashion consultants told the emperor, would require master weavers and it would take up to a year of careful weaving to make the finest cloth known to mankind.  Once again, funds flowed like torrential rains from the Imperial treasury as the consultants searched for the elusive gossamer weavers and the raw stock of gossamer itself !  A year later, the emperor was told the gossamer cloth was ready.  The Emperor came to inspect the cloth with his choicest advisors.  The fashion consultants counted out yards and yards of the fine, air like cloth.  They remarked on its sheen, glitter and impossibly smooth, soft texture.  "Your majesty, its so fine, you will feel as if you are wearing air itself."  The Emperor could not "see" the cloth, let alone touch it, but, so as not to appear a dullard, he complimented the consultants on their "fine work"

A wise old advisor enquired as to when will the clothes be ready.  The consultants gave one of their disdained, high browed looked and said, "My Lord, making the cloth is but half the work.  We have yet to design, cut and sew the clothes.  It is not an easy task."  After a long monologue of what was done and still needed to be done, the consultants said that it would take a few more months before the wardrobe was ready.  The most difficult part of the operation being, they would have to cut the cloth very carefully with scissors made of rubies and sapphires, as only they had an edge keen enough to cut the gossamer.  It would than have to be sewed with needles made of diamonds, at midnight under the full moon !  Ofcourse, it had to be done exactly like this for it to be worthy of the emperor !!  

Weeks were spent measuring the Emperor at different times of the day, from the moment he awoke, to before, during and after his bath ; before and after his breakfast ; during the time he attended the court, his various meals, and even at night as he slept !!  The consultants made sure they knew the size of the Emperor down to the last millimetre at any given time of the day or night.  The Emperor and the court was duly impressed with the thoroughness of the consultants and the accuracy of their work.

Months later, after several full moon nights had come and gone, the emperor was requested to try out his new wardrobe of finest gossamer, woven on precious looms, cut with rubies and sapphires and sewed with needles of diamonds.  The emperor came with his retinue of courtiers, curious to see, the most costly wardrobe ever produced in the history of the empire.

An impressive "exhibition" was set up leading up to the hall where the emperor was to try out his new clothes.  The exhibition detailed the imperial wardrobes to date and than showcased the precious loom, scissors made of gems and the needles of adamant !  Everyone was duly impresses by the displays on offer.  When they walked into the vast hall where the emperor sat, they were truly astounded !  The emperor sat enthroned on his enormous throne with the new robes of finest gossamer ever produced !!  The fashion consultants fussed around him with their assistants, arranging and rearranging the folds of his trousers, sleeves and the long sash.  They remarked at how the light caught the fabric "just so", making it shine in rainbow hues.  The Emperor adjusted his crown of variegated gems as he heard everyone praise him in his new robes.  The Consultants had the Emperor change his robes several times behind screens studded with glittering gems.  Every time he came out, the courtiers were more wide-eyed than before.  The Emperor wanted all his courtiers to have robes as fine as his, but he knew, it was beyond the means of most of them.  He decided he would gift a few of these robes to his most favoured courtiers at the New Year's celebrations.

Desperate to show off the new wardrobe to as many people as possible, he announced that tomorrow he would process down the main street of the capital so that the populance may share in his new found style and glamour.  The courtiers were aghast, some tried to dissuade him, citing no previous precedence for such a journey, but, the Emperor was resolved to go through with his idea and who could hope to argue with the Emperor's wishes and hope to live ?

Next morning, at the appointed hour, the Emperor came out of his vast palace and sat on a gilded throne, set upon an open platform, drawn by ten white horses of the  finest breed.  Surrounded by servants, soldiers and courtiers, the Emperor sat off to impress his populance.  Never had they seen him in public before, and never like this !  The public was duly impressed by the show of soldiers and courtiers.  When they saw the Emperor ride by, their jaws dropped and they fell on their knees and buried their heads in the sand at their feet.  The Emperor was thoroughly impressed by their show of deference to him.  After all, they would be over awed by the celestial majesty of his bearing, especially in the new clothes !!

As the Imperial procession made its way through the capital, all bowed before the Emperor and his retinue of couturiers. 

All except one !

A young boy of about 6 wanted to see the gleaming steel tips of the soldiers, glittering armour of the elite guards, the grand costumes of courtiers and indeed the Emperor himself !
Despite the best efforts of his parents, he peeked and looked up as the Emperor's throne came into view. 

For a moment, he blinked.
He rubbed his eyes.
Than, he saw again, with lax jaws.
Than, he laughed out aloud !!

Everyone became silent.

The horses forgot to neigh, the gong man forgot to strike the gong, the serving maids silenced their jingling bracelets.  Even the song birds in their cages stopped singing to hear the boy laugh.

The boy kept laughing and slapped his thighs every time he saw the Emperor.

The Emperor was incensed !
How dare anyone laugh at HIM !!
He banged his hands hard on the gilded armrests of the throne.
The Imperial guards were jolted out of their shock and rushed to arrest the young miscreant.  They snatched him away from his distraught parents and brought him before the Emperor, who now stood to his full height, trembling with rage.  

A wise old courtier rushed forward to help the young boy and asked him kindly, "Young boy, people tremble with fear before His Imperial Majesty.  Why do you laugh instead ?"

The young boy stilled his laughter with difficulty and said, "Because the Emperor is going around naked in public !!!!  My parents always laugh at me when i do that !!!! "

Aghast, the Emperor looked at himself, and indeed, he was naked.
The finest gossamer was nothing but air.
Expensive air.

The Emperor screamed for his guards, but by now, everyone was laughing so loud, they could not hear the Emperor at all.

Have we not all witnessed the Emperor's new clothes in 2008 - 2009 ?

For years, have we not known that the current economic model of "creating wealth on credit" is a sham ?  "Trickling down economy" only benefits those who are doing the trickling.  Those who must catch the drops below have to fight with a huge crowd, but don't we know that ?  Do we not know that investing in shares that have no real basis for their value except the value given by the "market" is an unsustainable way to do business ?  Do we not know that speculating on what may or may not happen in six months time is gambling by any other name ?  Growing cash crops like flowers for foreigners, while your own children starve for want of food is an idiotic way to try and fund your economy, yet, don't we encourage this in all "poor" countries ?

We have know all this and more, and yet, we, as global citizens, don't we continue to support this ?

Have we not seen this before ?  During the dot.com bubble, companies that have never traded were suddenly valued at more than brick and mortar businesses that had been trading and turning in profits for decades.  Suddenly, the brain wave of a spotty teenager in a messy bedroom was worth billions more than the considered opinion of a boardroom full of business men.  Yet, we carried that on for a few years before someone called out - the Emperor is naked ! and the bubble burst.  Millions lost their life's savings.  I am not sure who, but, somebody did make money and some made huge amounts of money, before the Emperor realised he was naked. 

Now, we have suddenly realised, that the Emperor is caught naked - yet again !!

This time though, he is caught naked more publically than ever before.  And everyone is catching the chill from his exposure.o:p>

TTThe whole model of creating wealth by living on credit is a false one.  It can't work.  You can not create something out of nothing.  If magicians could do that, why would they not make money out of thin air instead of relying on ticket sales from shows ?  Like the pyramid business model, "cash for credit" can only works as long as some fool is willing to fund it at the bottom.  The top gets rich, while the bottom gets poor.  One day, when the people decide to withdraw their money, they find there is nothing to withdraw.

I wonder who else will we catch naked in this fast unravelling mess.
* Will we find out exactly how "buoyant" the Chinese market really is ?  Will the dragon economy's soft underbelly be exposed ?  Will we find out the fragile nature of this curious combination of consumer communism ?  Will we find that years of "one child policy" has suddenly left China with too many mouths to feed and not enough people who can do the feeding ?  Will we find that the monster of consumerism, once unleashed, will wreck havoc in the cloistered world of communism and consume it in a new revolution ?  If so, how will that affect the world economy ?

* Will we find the tiger economies of the South East are camouflaging huge inequity's of their society and once exposed, the system will collapse as everyone demands their share ( fair or not ) of the spoils ?

* Will the glam and glitter of "US of A" be exposed to be as fragile as the countless facades of Las Vegas casinos ?  Will the mirage of Western cultural supremacy be exposed ? 

* Will the middle east implode when its citizens realise the mind games its rulers are playing with them ?  Will they realise why their governments are constantly keeping their attention focused outwards towards America, Europe, Israel rather than focus inwards and see the misrule of their own making ? 

* Will the failed states of the world like Korea, Pakistan, Congo and countless others stop receiving aid from cash strapped "rich" nations and suddenly realise how they were ever funded in the first place ?  Will their citizens realise they actually have a voice and a choice ?

* Will we, the pampered citizens of the "First World" realise whose backs we have been riding on for so long ? 

* Will we stop funding the extravagant lifestyles of sportsmen made rich by sponsorship, movie stars made famous by clever marketing, fashion models with enhanced features, singers with synthesised voices ?  Will we realise that the stars we worship are but alter egos of our own selves ?

Will we, the global citizens, finally realise that the Emperor is indeed naked ?
BUT, even if we do acknowledge it, what will we do about it ?
Are we going to laugh or cry ?
Will we change anything or just avert our gaze and carry on as before ?

WWhat indeed will we do ?!?!?


Bhagwat    [email protected]


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