In a Global Village, Who Is My Neighbour?

Thus Spake Zarathustra
Thus Spake Zarathustra

One day an expert in critical theory and postmodern thought stood up to test Zarathustra’s credentials. “Teacher,” he asked, “how should I best demonstrate my virtue to the world?” “What is written about such matters?” came back the reply. “That I should publicly avow the truth of postmodern ideology that there is no such thing as truth. And I should show solidarity with members of all minority groups professing to be oppressed by privileged majority groups.” “You have answered well,” commended the teacher.

“But what is true solidarity?” the questioner persisted. The teacher replied through the following parable.

“There was a man who was cycling to work one day when he was set about by a motorcycle gang who stole his iPhone, pushing him off his bike and buckling the front wheel in the process. This was a significant setback to him, not only because he needed the bike to get to work but because he worked for Deliveroo and needed both the bike and the phone to perform his duties.

“And so it was as he sat by the side of the road considering his lot that there passed by a white van man who took pity on him and stopped his vehicle. ‘I’ve got some tools in the back,’ he ventured, ‘which we could use to straighten out that wheel.’

“However the injured party perceived the true motivation of the white van man and called him out: ‘Do you imagine that by fixing a wheel you can make amends for your enjoyment of white privilege and your participation in the slave trade for over 200 years? Be gone from my presence.’ And in an instant the van man was gone, leaving behind him only the noxious fumes of the exhaust from his diesel engine.

“Next came there a couple of Brexit supporters signalling their regressive ideological bias by sporting Leave.EU badges who offered to help. But again their shallow attempt to atone for years of enjoying Nigel Farage videos on YouTube and blaming the EU for the high price of fish and chips was detected and they too were quickly sent on their way.

“Next there came a man from…” Here the prophet hesitated as he lost his way momentarily at the critical point in the script. “What is the name of that island where there was a lot of fighting with the Tigers?” he asked Peter, his close disciple sotto voce. He was it seems thinking of the Tamil Tigers. But Peter taking him more literally than intended suggested that there was a preponderance of tigers on the island of Sumatra. In the absence of a better suggestion, Zarathustra decided to go with that.

“Finally there came an impoverished Sumatran who felt moved by the plight of the man and inquired of him what evil had befallen him. When he heard the tale he was motivated to ask further of the man: ‘And those who committed this heinous act, were they of white race?’ ‘I saw not as two wore motor cycle helmets and the third a burka.’ ‘Clearly they sought to hide evidence of their white privilege,’ the Sumatran concluded. ‘And spoke they with upper class accents’ ‘They spoke not.’ ‘Again clearly they were taking care not to reveal their privileged status,’ was the conclusion.

“‘It was fortunate indeed I came along when I did,’ he finished. ‘I am due this very night to post an update on my Feeling Oppressed? Me Too! blog and your story will go a long way to fanning the flames of anger amongst my readers. Be assured the injustice you have experienced will this day be made known across the nation.’ And following that resounding declaration he left forthwith.”

“Oh, is that the end of the story?” asked Zarathustra’s interlocutor with a note of surprise. “Indeed! Do you now see who it was who showed true solidarity?” was the answer, or rather question, that came back. But before another word was said, the surrounding throng intervened and spoke up in chorus, insisting that the van man and the UKIP people showed solidarity by their offers of help.

At this Zarathustra was much vexed. “Do you not understand that only those who are part of a group claiming victim status are capable of manifesting solidarity and can understand the oppression under which others live?” And he despaired that his educational methods were not having the desired effect.

So when the crowd gathered round him the next day, he told the same parable again. And instantly the crowd shouted out as one that it was the Sumatran who showed solidarity while the others were mere charlatans. And Zarathustra’s heart was gladdened that the people were finding such enlightenment through his preachings and his ministry was bearing the fruit he sought.

And he stored these things up in his heart and went straightway back to his room at the Hilton Hotel. And that evening after a large portion of his favourite dish of traditional British fish and chips with mushy peas did make testimony of all that had come to pass on his Feeling Oppressed? I Likewise blog.

Disclaimer: references to Zarathustra in the above are an allusion to the eponymous protagonist of Friedrich Nietzche’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and not to the Iranian religious reformer and prophet, traditionally regarded as the founder of Zoroastrianism.

By Colin Turfus

Colin Turfus is a quantitative risk manager with 16 years experience in investment banking. He has a PhD in applied mathematics from Cambridge University and has published research in fluid dynamics, astronomy and quantitative finance.

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