I love using fairy and story tales to inspire reflection. One of my favorites is the classic, The Emperor’s New Clothes. I often refer to it for analogy relating to themes of visibility, shame, power, validation, truth, esteem, integrity and more. Now, I’m reflecting on this classic Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tale as an intriguing lens through which to view the Oceanside SOAR / Measure Y drama unfolding in the City of Oceanside, CA.
SOAR (Measure Y on the ballot for Oceanside’s city election Nov 6, 2018) stands for Save Open Space & Agricultural Resources. It’s a ballot-box initiative catalyzed by the North River Farms project proposed for South Morro Hills. If passed, it would lock in the current agricultural 2.5 zoning minimum, be in place for 20 years, and require a city-wide vote for zoning and use changes.
As the tale goes, a pair of shady weavers come into a town where a vain emperor reigns. These weavers present to the Emperor claiming, “not only do our clothes appear beautiful beyond measure, but they also contain magical properties imbuing only the smartest, wisest and fittest for their jobs with the gift of sight. So, only those with this gift will be able to see the clothes. Otherwise, the clothes will be invisible.”
The vain one gloats, “how perfect this will be! What better strategy to find out who in the land are fools and who in the land are wise and fit for their roles? How powerful I will be.” Duped and overcome with self-congratulation, the Emperor does the deal.
The weavers get to work. Their performance begins with grand arm gestures over their loom conducting their symphony of lies. The insecure Emperor soon becomes eager to know and doubts to himself … “but, what if I see nothing at all? What if everyone discovers that I am a fool, a fraud, unfit for my role?” Too insecure, he decides to give the task to a trusted elder minister to visit the false weavers to assess.
The minister arrives and soon reveals how he too is vulnerable to the perils of foolishness. Though the elder didn’t see the clothes at first, he overrode saying what he truly saw worried others would think him a fool. That, he couldn’t have. So he complimented, “such lovely clothes.”
Then, the emperor… his courtiers and one by one, the townspeople came to “see” the clothes. One by one, seeds of confusion through denial, doubt and deception were sown by preying on peoples’ core fears and desires.
Those who had the most to gain by boosting the ego of the Emperor were the first to lack the courage to speak the truth. Soon, most joined the charade and the farce played on. Ultimately, the weavers of lies were honored by the Emperor with status bestowing on them the title of Imperial Court Official of the Loom.
The charade of fools became a public parade in which the Emperor adorns his new clothes for show. Moments before the parade, he stands proudly peering at himself in the mirror by only first denying to himself his inner voice saying, “you’re not wearing any clothes at all. Don’t do this.” Then, at once dismisses and moves on to proudly march in the procession for all the townspeople to see. Voices could be heard throughout the streets exclaiming, “look at the Emperor’s new clothes! How beautiful they are!” Not a single person dared admitting seeing nothing but for a child who declared innocently, “he’s got nothing on at all!” Gasp. Hush … and a wave of whispers rippled through the crowd, “the child said, he’s got nothing on at all!”
The child’s parent dismisses, “oh, children, what silly things they say.”
But, this child’s voice having spoken sincerely rippled through the crowd. One by one, people repeated, “he’s got nothing on at all … he’s got nothing on at all.”
This ripple reached the Emperor who seemed to acknowledge the truth at least for a moment. But, he stayed with the charade for fear of losing face and favor only to look the greater fool by parading exposed.
I see SOAR emerging in the context of broken trust in the city council. Had trust been felt in the council, SOAR likely would never have felt necessary by those who brought it forward. It’s like a collective vote of no confidence being declared. Then, the polarity – Yes on Y / No on Y ensued. Sad.
Power and money can corrupt and corruption can become like poison in a well. This seems to be the underlying reason for SOAR. And, whatever the outcome in the election, as I see it, the ultimate task is rooting out corruption and finding a way to restore trust among members of a community that will need to find a way forward together.
How this relates to SOAR for you, I invite the reader to explore and share.
Written by Maria C. Mellano, youngest daughter of Dr. H. Mike Mellano, Sr., part owner of Mellano & Company and manager for the land for 1/3 of the ownership. Maria is also a clinical social worker, practicing psychotherapist of 20 years, coach and psychodramatist based out of Boston and Oceanside. She can be reached here.