The Holy Fool

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell introduced me to the concept of the holy fool. It's a Russian concept whereby someone without a care of their social status, such as an outcast, calls out a societal wrong. One example given was the famous Hans Christian Andersen story where the little boy calls out the emperor's new suit, he has nothing to lose by doing so, but the emperor does.

Sometimes I find myself in the position of the Holy Fool, unafraid to call out something for what it is. This comes about a lot here in Japan I feel, obviously with my default position as an outsider, but also as someone able to call people out (I.e I can, and do, speak Japanese).

One example was a course on harassment we had at work a few months ago. The speaker talked about not being too specific when talking about actual stories, then goes ahead and gives examples where the age and gender of university staff was released. I called him out on it, and he's probably going to change his presentation, otherwise it's a bit hypocritical.

Anyway, this explanation of the Holy Fool gave me more incentive to call things out when I see them. I actually feel it's my obligation as the only person able to too.

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