Bonnie Marcus - Forbes
Princess Beatrice and the Emperor's New Clothes: A Case of Willful Blindness?
By Bonnie Marcus - May 9th 2011

Princess Beatrice commissioned Philip Treacy to design her hat for the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The result was a rather unusual creation that drew attention not for its beauty, but for its outrageous lack of taste and refinement.

Did Princess Beatrice truly think her hat was a flattering addition to her outfit or was she blinded by the fact that Philip Treacy designed it and, therefore, it had to be beautiful? What did she see when she looked in the mirror? Did her friends and family confirm that the hat was lovely?

I am intrigued by this newest version of the emperor's new clothes, and find it especially interesting since I am reading Margaret Heffernan's newest book, Willful Blindness. My eyes are now open to the many ways we all choose not to see reality even when it is painfully obvious. Why do we choose to turn a blind eye to the truth?

Heffernan says, "We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering whatever unsettles our fragile egos and most vital beliefs."

Willful blindness has much more serious implications than Princess Beatrice's choice of a chapeau. Heffernan clearly asks the important questions about why we delude ourselves.

Why did we choose not to see the impending mortgage crisis? Why did those who sensed the impending crisis stay silent?

How was it possible that the followers of Bernie Madoff did not question his business practices when they had so little information on his activities?

How, in fact, did Pakistan not know of Osama Bin Laden's obvious presence in their country? Willful blindness or incompetence?

If you had the opportunity to give feedback to Princess Beatrice, what would you have said?

How many of us are truly up to the task of choosing to face the truth even if it creates conflict?

Are we willing to face the consequences of willful blindness?