radical is the new sensible . . .

The Empire Has No Clothes

By Bertall (1820 – 1882);Sapcal22 at fr.wikisource (Transferred from fr.wikisource) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

An Essay of the Man From the North
by Rivera Sun

The empire has no clothes. Be the boy who dares to speak the truth: there is no democracy. All around you, the courtiers are clapping and cheering, but their trembling hands are showing. They are terrified to admit the truth. There is no democracy in the US empire; rich people and corporations run the show. Study after study has shown this. The courtiers of power have been applauding the empire for so long, they’re afraid to speak the truth. But you cannot afford to let yourself be fooled. The empire has no clothes. There is no democracy in the Unites States.

The clever tailors have done their legwork. They have millions of people convinced. The empire stands naked, clothed only in the hype, rumors, lies, platitudes, empty speeches, false words, and illusions about democracy. On the left of the empire stands the Democratic Party. On the right stands the Republicans. In between them is the naked empire, cloaked in the finest “robes” of lies and buzz words. It is a hideous, terrifying sight. Parts of the naked empire are bloated. Others emaciated to the bone. Sores fester. Wounds bleed. Pustules burst. The empire stands rank and deluded – even those whose eyes are open wish we could cover up this shame.

Those clever two-party tailors (and the empire) have convinced everyone that we must applaud the non-existent democracy or you’ll have your head chopped off. The executioners wear the hooded masks of our fears: terrorists, foreigners, immigrants, tree-huggers, liberals, conservatives, racists, bleeding hearts, poverty, taxes, economic collapse, police, bankers – the list is endless and ever-changing. It serves to keep up terrified into playing the two-party game. That’s the trick to executioners’ hoods: they hide the truth. Anyone could be underneath that mask, and the clever tailors have us each hoodwinked by our fears.

Frightened, we play along. We clap our hands for the naked empire. We pretend it still has democracy. We keep repeating what the courtiers of power say: get out and vote, call your reps, sign petitions. If the empire actually had clothes, if it actually had a shred of functional democracy (or decency) left, then these actions would be as sensible as admiring the fabric of a new coat or the lace trim on a sleeve. Perhaps not enough, given the circumstances of the multiple crises crashing into our lives, but not delusional. Unfortunately, the practices of democracy are no longer grounded in any functional truth.

The clever tailors of the two-party system are profiting from maintaining the charade. They’re growing rich by convincing us that it’s democracy they’re weaving on their loom, stitching together with candidates and platforms, hemming and hawing about in congress and committees. They’re pantomiming an incredible show, snipping at nothing and sewing up hot air. And the mighty empire is nodding its head. After all, this charade is all that keeps the people quiet. This illusion of democracy keeps the people from revolting. It stops us from joining nonviolent movements for change. It keeps our resources of time and money caught up in buying the two-party tailors invisible thread and see-through fabric in which to drape the empire. The show keeps us from putting our own hands to the warp and weft of democracy and from picking up the needle, thread, and scissors. We could be determining the pattern and style of our political process. We could be crafting a type of democracy that fits our collective body politic. But the clever tailors have stolen the show. Their ruse keeps us from taking power.

Dare to be the boy who calls the bluff. Say it clearly: the empire has no democracy. Get up in the morning and remind yourself – you can be sure that many will try to convince you otherwise throughout the day.

From this essential admission of the honest truth, we must go to work. We must use the tools of nonviolent action to change the fabric of the nation. Thread by thread, we must weave and spin, trim and stitch, hem and cut this nation into the style of politics we need.

You may find, in this process, that the empire itself comes unraveled. The two-party tailors collapse. The courtiers spin in confusion and squawk in fear. The hoods of the executioners come off. Hold fast. Stay focused. Keep creating true democracy. Sew the clothes on your own back. Let our communities wear the mantle of democracy, all of us, together.



The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today”, when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution. This article is one of a series written by The Man From the North, which are not included in the novel, but can be read here.  

Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio.


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