Once upon a time two weavers –mountebanks and scoundrels both — tricked a stupid, fat, powerful, white emperor into believing he was wearing a fine suit of clothes when, in fact, he was completely nude. There he was for all to see, a ridiculous fellow prancing through the streets, his shriveled manhood leading the parade. “How embarrassing,” thought his loyal subjects. But no-one, save a small child, had the courage to tell him he was naked.
“That’s not a suit, you idiot. You’re in the nude!” he cried. Well, you could’ve heard a pin drop. But as one voice joined the next they were soon chanting as one: “Hooray for the penetrating gaze of the small child, speaking truth to power!” What fun they had that glorious day.
As the hubbub died down, a few began to notice that the child, warmed and comforted by the adulation of the crowd, had pulled his trousers down and was urinating in the street!” “Aww, isn’t that cute,” said one. “What a cheeky boy,” murmured another, indulgently. “If a hero can’t piss in the street, who can?” fawned another. “And besides, it’s entirely age-appropriate,” said the man of the cloth, ruffling the child’s golden ringlets. And on it went.
By and by, the little boy grew into a man. However, like many faded child stars, he found life as a grown-up a bit of an anticlimax. You see, that brief glimpse of a pompous nude man and the applause from the grown-ups had left scars. Living without relevance was beginning to distort his personality. Deep-seated forces beyond his control began luring him into awful deeds. He found himself launching ridiculous hashtag campaigns on Twitter, printing juvenile slogans on T-shirts, hacking into strangers’ private emails, all the while muttering to himself, “There must be someone in the nude here, somewhere. And when I catch them, they all love me again! You just wait and see.” At his lowest moments he found himself drawn to adult entertainment venues, where he would yell out as loud as he could, “OMG she’s in the nude!”
One frosty winter’s day, as he busked in the nude outside the ABC studios in Ultimo, a kindly ABC producer took pity and asked, “Why don’t you come to work for me? I run a little program called Q&A and yours is a story that simply must be told. Son, the world has become too comfortable and complacent. People have forgotten that under our clothes, we have nothing on. They need someone to remind them of that and I think you’re the perfect man for the job.”
“Why pick me?” asked the man, “surely my story is about as banal as you can get. After all, I’m just an over-indulged no-hoper, happy to publicly degrade myself and blame everything on psychological and social forces beyond my control. I expect others to feel sorry for me and solve my problems. To make matters worse, it’s all the more clichéd because my problems started when I was a whistle-blower for transparency in unequal power relationships. What could I possibly have to contribute to current affairs television?”
“Trust me, son. You’ll be perfect. Now, all you have to do is this: when I call your name, leap from your seat, throw open your coat and say, ‘Look, I’m in the nude. What are you going to do about that?’ Believe you me, once they see you have no clothes on, no one will be ever be brave enough to point out that you’re a complete moron.”
So he did.
And to this very day, and just as the clever producer had foretold, no matter how set-up, nasty, idiotic, pointless, selfish, lazy, dangerous, deranged or unhinged the questioner or the question, no-one ever has.
In Ultimo, with just $1.1billion every year in taxpayer funds to share amongst themselves, the ABC crew lived happily ever after.
Dr Murray Walters is a Brisbane psychiatrist