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The Minister’s New Clothes | A Completely Unbelievable Short Story. . .

There is a woman, a minister, the head of a government, well known to all of us who is extremely fond of new and expensive clothes. So much so that a considerable amount of the money she earns is spent on dresses, trouser suits, shirts and jumpers, not to mention very large necklaces and fancy shoes. Now, any woman, every woman, should be allowed to wear whatever she likes, without censure or comment, and as the men the woman works with are also well-dressed it is something of a sexist double-standard to single her out. But, given the woman’s powerful role, and the fact that many of those she supposedly represents are doing less than just about managing, that she is rarely seen in the same over-priced outfit twice seems more than a little tasteless. And yet, the woman seems oblivious to the impression she is giving, even agreeing to be featured in various publications to showcase her style and fashion sense.

Although everyone, including the woman and the ministers who work with her, pretend that the members of the government are the ones running the country in reality they and their actions are manipulated by a small number of rich and powerful others; the big business owners, the media barons and others generally referred to as the 1%. These people, many of them white, able-bodied men, have greater access to and control of, both the capitalist means of production and the ring wing ideological apparatus that is the mainstream media. They are therefore, responsible not only for the continued exploitation of the many, but also the ongoing skewed political socialisation of the masses. Such is their hunger for power and money this small, unrepresentative group will do anything they can to maintain their position and influence. The women's love of garments and accessories is valuable to them, in their plan to retain their status as the privileged few, willing as she is to wear their gift of a cloak woven together with threads made up of whopping great rancid lies.

Her responsibility for the policies of the land means that the woman has to justify her decisions to her government, the ministers that challenge and oppose her, and more generally to us, the everyday folk in society. In a time honoured tradition, one afternoon each week the woman is posed a series of questions by the opposition ministers. Serious issues are raised and flaws in her plans and practices often highlighted and as such the event should, one would think, be conducted with solemnity and judged in terms of the substance of the points that are aired and the answers that are given (or not). Sadly though over the years this encounter has become more like a pantomime than a parliamentary debate with the jeerers and smearers, jesters and charlatans attempting to drown out the sincere interrogation. 'Oh Yes It Is', and 'Oh No It Isn't', are common taunts and given that some on the opposite benches seem unclear to whom their loyalty should lie, 'S/He's Behind You', is increasingly shouted in warning to the man who asks the lion's share of the questions. The woman herself, has little respect for the questions or for those that ask them and leads her ministers in insulting and abusing the opposition. The harshest and most vitriolic comments are reserved for the key questioner, a man who cares little about his own presentation of self, little about the clothes he wears, except that is for his collection of ties in deepest red. So warped has the system become that the nastier, more aggressive, more personal, more insulting the attack, and the thicker the woman's cloak of lies becomes, the more support she is given from those that control her, reflected in the representation of her by the 1% funded media. Thus, despite the woman's obvious lack of compassion for the many, coupled with much evidence of her bad judgements in terms of present national crises and future local and global concerns, her own particular toxic charisma becomes stronger and more positive in mainstream narratives.

The cloak, unlike the woman's other clothes, is not made of luxurious cloth in vibrant colours. Rather it is a dark despicable thing, dripping in filthy falsehood, greasy from backroom bargaining and grimy deals. Yet, the cloak remains invisible to many people who are unable to see it and the woman who wears it in all their true horror. Terrifyingly this means that the woman is trusted with what she ought not to be and believed even when it should be obvious that her words are nothing but hollow spin. On the few occasions when the cloak slips and the woman and her ministers are exposed for what they truly are the woman, aided again by the forces that protect her, creates a diversion, a moral panic, in order to deflect attention away from both her words and her actions. Once again the focus is often the man who leads the opposition; his arguments for peace claimed as both unsafe and unpatriotic, his efforts for those most vulnerable and alienated defined as old fashioned and unworkable. Additionally, (and yet more evidence that the woman's claim that she is working for a shared society for all is just another meaningless sound bite) attention is also diverted towards those whose identities, experiences, life-chances and choices do not fit that of the so-called, narrowly defined ideal type. Through the use of simplistic stereotypes just about everyone is labelled as other, stigmatised as abnormal and or dangerous, defined as undeserving. Those affected include (not least): the employed who fight for their rights, the unemployed for their drain on the system, the homeless for littering the streets; the old for their outdated views and lack of sympathy for the young, the young for their weakness and lack of resilience, those at midlife for their lack of care and attention for both the old and the young; the experts for their pomposity; anyone from man or woman in the street (or online) to celebrity who dares to offer a critique. But perhaps the greatest identification and demonisation of otherhood is directed at those defined as unworthy stranger; the immigrant and the refugee. We are told again and again that these people are simultaneously taking all our jobs and using up all our resources when in actuality considerations of a day without them clearly shows their invaluable input into the healthy, safe, effective daily lives of all. So neighbour is pitted against neighbour and the tension and fear that this encourages successfully shifts the responsibility away from those who most deserve it. It is not the woman, the government, or the 1%, who take the blame for the inequalities and injustices in society but rather similar others who are equally, if not more, oppressed, powerless and vulnerable.

There are some, thankfully, who are able to see the cloak, the woman, and her supporters, for what they are. There are some, to whom we should all be grateful, who are working hard to ensure that more of us can see this too. There are some, despite continued misrepresentation and abuse, who continue to challenge fear and hate and insist on the need for hope and love.

There are some . . .

For more by this author visit Gayle Letherby's blog

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