Seeing What Is Not There

I recalled my story upon reading a story from old Arabic literature.

The chief of the tribe wanted to wear a dress that was unique and had no similar one. The chief asked a known tailor to make one for him. The chief tried different designs which the chief rejected.

The chief, running out of ideas, decided to deceive the chief. He decided to elude the chief by dressing him with air. He went to the chief with his assistant. He made sure to tell the assistants of the chief that he was going to dress the king in a unique dress that only people with sharp vision could see.

The chief and his assistant then went to the chief and asked him to undress to try the new dress. The tailor started asking his assistant to move the dress to the right and left as if he were trying a real dress. The tailor then told the chief that his new dress is unique and he can show it to his assistants.

The chief walked out to hear his assistant say wow and how elegant the dress was.

The chief decided to go out in his mirage-like dress. One person shouted what a beautiful dress! The crowd followed by expressing their wonderment!

This story reminded me of my own story when studying at the university. A friend of ours who was studying in a far city came to stay with us because his plane was due to take off very early in the morning. He watched us playing cards. Discreetly, one of us turned the light off and continued playing as if we could see in total darkness. Suddenly, our poor friend believed us and started shouting I am blind.

Mass media can sell illusions. Social blindness is when most of the members of a society go blindly on believing seeing what they cannot see.

Social hypocrisy makes us see what is not there.

Beware of falling into the trap of social blindness.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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  1. Brother Ali
    I too first heard the story from Hans Christian Anderson’s version of the tale, but I later learned that many of his tales were collected and rewritten from much older stories. The Grimm Brothers collected their fair tales; they didn’t write them. But that is abother subject.

    The missing clothes -that only the rare one could resist the peer pressure to state reality -“The chief is naked!” -is analogous to “fake news” -misinformation – a much repeated lie to which we become so acclimated that the Truth seems untrue.

    In the Information Age – misinformation i- propaganda s a weapon of choice -sow dissention in your enemy and conquest becomes unnecessary or easier.

    And it relates to how our brain works.

    We use our conscious brain -actual focused thinking only about 10% of the time. The other 90% our brain is on autopilot making decisions and taking actions it has taken before -gambling on the frequency -for example -have you ever driven to work or someplece your usually go and arrived and had no memory of the drive? Frequency gambling autopilot.

    This is a huge problem for safety of course. But it is also a problem for critical thinkng beyond our established belief system until an alert person says “Stop -the light is red!” or “Look! The chief is naked!”

    How can we find more alert people? How can we turn our brain’s autopilot off?

    • Thank you brother Alan Culler and for your great comment.

      Thank you also for mentioning that the recently published stories were collected rather than authorized.

      I love the way you explained how our lazy brains work on autopilot. This is indeed a big problem. Famliarity as in driving frequently the same road makes us drive on autopilot and I experienced this myself. I agree with you.

      In the old Arabic version of the stories centuries ago it took a child to say that he saw no clothing on the chief and that he was naked.

      Maybe the solution then is to awaken the child inside everyone of us.

      …a repeated lie to which we become so acclimated that the Truth seems untrue.”

      This is a great thought brother Alan. Mass beliefs can sweep away the truth.

  2. Growing up, this was the plot of The Emperor’s New Clothes, Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale. And I am not at all surprised to find it told in more than one version in other countries as these fables typically were conduits of bringing wisdom and “moral indoctrination” into the next generation.

    It is problematic that if we sign up for a false narrative, we soon don’t even see what really is because our brains are wired for belonging to the tribe – it tells us it is better to be a social hypocrite than not to fit in.

    • Thank you Charlotte for providing a historical background of the clothing illusion.
      I read it from a very old Arab literature and I am not surprised that the story is used with some modification in many countries. I have no idea where the original story started.

      Yes, When brains get tied up to the tribe logical thinking disappears