Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is cleverer than most people realize. It perfectly captures a very common phenomena in society: most people are horrified of not agreeing with their peers, even when the peers are obviously wrong. This is known as “pluralistic ignorance” in social psychology (a discussion of the phenomenon can be found here).
Pluralistic ignorance also explains the saying that “only children and drunkards tell the truth”. In Andersen’s tale, it was a young boy who pointed out the obvious fact that the Emperor had no clothes. Sober adults are typically too opportunistic or socially inhibited to dare to publicly admit the obvious.
Recently, in Stockholm, a young girl named Greta Thunberg, told the truth about climate change. Please read her short statement. It does not contain anything we did not know already, but it is written by somebody who dares to speak her mind. Consequently, it makes more sense than anything ever written or said by any established politician.
The moral of the story? We need an expiration date on politicians or to force them to drink more. And we also need to stop destroying the climate.
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