The Prince and the Prostitute
In Mark Twain’s story The Prince and the Pauper, two boys, one a prince and one a pauper swop clothes. Before they can change back again, the guards believing the prince to be an intruder, evict him from the palace.
The prince has a terrible time in poverty. He is beaten, starved and mocked when he professes to be the heir to the throne. The pauper has an easier time. He has no idea about social etiquette but the royals excuse his strange behaviour as a sign of madness, and he quickly learns the tricks of the trade, by copying his peers.
It’s a classic case of mistaken identity, reprised by Eddie Murphy in the film Trading Places.The moral of the story is that people in positions of power should use their influence for the greater good, or hubris will lead to their downfall.
As a metaphor, the story shows that power and privilege usually come via luck or an accident of birth, rather than intelligence, virtue or hard work, which is why so many CEOs, Pop stars and Politicians suffer from imposter syndrome.
Our identity may represent us, but something else drives us… our resilience and creativity; our fears and insecurities. This energy expresses itself through archetypes — we might have the warrior, the artist, the scholar, the rescuer, the entertainer or the engineer. These different combinations make us unique. But there is one archetype that we all share, because it represents our relationship to power — the prostitute.
The role of the prostitute archetype is to reveal to us the ways in which we trade for power. We all trade…
A rich person can be seduced by celebrity. They may have wealth, but no style. They trade their wealth for glamour by association.
A celebrity can be seduced by status. They may have fame but no gravitas. They trade their fame for entry to exclusive circles.
Someone with high status can be seduced by “the forbidden”. The rigidity of their life can be boring. They trade status for the lure of the illicit underworld.
On the other side of the divide…
A poor person will trade their self esteem for the security of a demeaning job.
An insecure person will trade their opinions and their creativity for validation or approval from a narcissistic boss or an abusive partner.
A desperate mother won’t think twice about having sex with a border security guard if it guaranteed the survival of her child. This is probably the most honest trade as it doesn’t hide in denial and illusion.
Power — who has it and how to get more of it — is a tale as old as time. But, being old, it is rooted in the identity of power not the energy of it. Identity likes clearly defined lines, so it tries to control the misuse of power by rules or legislation. It’s against church law to have sex outside marriage or to envy your neighbour’s stuff. It’s against secular law to have under age sex or to bully a co-worker.
This has never worked, because energy refuses to be contained in boxes, it leaks out and goes underground, hence paedophile priests and emotional bullying (leave no trace). Also laws can’t cope with nuance… is it rape if you’re married? Is it bullying if the victim doesn’t resist or condones the behaviour?
On one side of the divide we have repression — which doesn’t work. On the other side we have attack — we single out the few people who are caught abusing their power, and make a spectacle of them… Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Prince Andrew. Trial by humiliation.
This also doesn’t work, because the energy still goes underground. The rich and powerful have had centuries of practice hiding both their money and their sexual exploits. Throughout history they’ve had defendants locked up in mental asylums or murdered. These days they buy legal loopholes, lawyers, marketing and media space.
Instead of looking for more creative solutions than control or attack, we cling to the familiar world of “either/or”. In the case of Prince Andrew…
Side A — She’s a scheming bitch who took the money, attended the parties, went along for the ride, then played the victim card. He’s only guilty of choosing inappropriate friends…Ah bless!
Side B — She’s a young innocent girl, cruelly trafficked against her will. He has no morals. He’s a toxic abuser of privilege… and a dim witted buffoon to boot.
Andrew has now been dropped by the 230 charities he is a patron of. This prompts the question “What??!!” A patron used to be someone who supported artists and charities with financial help. How did it become the other way around… that charities and the arts will pay just for the name of a royal person on their stationery? 230 dinner parties to attend… no wonder the Prince is looking portly and dreaming of pizza. This is a world gone mad!
Identity is a fragile construct. It requires unconscious beliefs; smoke and mirrors; marketing and branding to keep it in place. If these fail, the fall back position is denial and lies, and Prince Andrew employed both tactics, to an absurd degree, in his recent interview. No apology, no owning of his inner prostitute, just an entitled inner child who refused to sever his friendship with a convicted sex offender, because he just loved a trade deal.
It’s time to end this charade and foster in a new age of openness. We all have to come face to face with whatever represents power for us so we can become more aware of our own trades. Denial is the least creative option because it’s part of the either/or question, and we’re now moving into a both/and world.
We should spend less time choosing sides and more time unpacking the infinite potential contained in the “and”. It may be one small word for man but it could be one giant leap for evolution.
We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can hide our energy with a carefully created identity. The prince has no clothes, and neither do we… and that could be a good way to begin a whole new story for humanity.
More stories of identity versus energy in The Freedom Project — how to find contentment in a crazy world