John Rae, Parable of the Good Lunatic

Every individual is a member of various groups and of society as a whole. Membership in society involves not only rights, but also responsibilities towards other individuals. The following text, based on the biblical "Parable of the Good Samaritan", shows how seriously certain members of society take these responsibilities.

A parable for Lent. A man was travelling from Pimlico to Westminster when he fell among muggers, who beat him and stripped him of his credit cards and left him for dead. It started to ram.
There came that way a bishop clothed in purple, who. when he saw the man Iying on the pavement, said to his chauffeur: "Draw up here, Jenkins. but keep the engine running. I'm already late for the conference on world poverty." He lowered the window just far enough to put out his hand and, making the sign of the Cross, he said: ' In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. Drive on Jenkins." And he passed by on the other side.
There came that way a member of the International Marxist Group, who, when he saw the man, said: "I embrace you - metaphorically of course - as a fellow victim of the capitalist system. With any luck you'll die. The heroic struggle of the workers needs a martyr or two." And he passed by on the other side.
There came that way a philosopher from the University of Oxford, who, when he saw the man, said: "Though it is true that the evidence of my eyes suggests that there is a man Iying on the pavement, it is not a logical step to conclude that because he is Iying on the pavement he is in need of my help. On the contrary, the fact that he has been immobile for several minutes suggests that he may be beyond any help I could give even if I decided to give it."
"Even if he is alive (whatever that may mean) it is by no means certain that he would welcome my help: he might have chosen to lie on the pavement, in which case he would regard any action of mine as an unwarranted interference with his free will as expressed in his decision to lie on pavements." And he passed by on the other side.
There came that way a member of the Government, who, when he saw the man. said: "This is a problem we inherited when we came to office. We are already taking the most strenuous measures to deal with it. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that you will be one of the last people left to die on the pavement." And he passed by on the other side.
There came that way a member of the Opposition. When he saw the man he said: "This is a direct result of the present Government's policies. I give a most solemn promise that when my party is returned to power, people like you will not be allowed to die on the pavement.&wquot; And he passed by on the other side.
There came that way the Headmaster of a nearby public school, who, when he saw the body Iying on the pavement, said to himself: "Oh dear, I hope he's not one of ours. " And he hurried by on the other side.
There came that way a pop star in his powder-blue Rolls-Royce who, when he saw the man, called out to him from the moving car saying: "I identify myself with the oppressed in all the world. I love you man, I love your face, I love the whole goddam stupid human race. "And he drove by on the other side.
Finally, there came that way a lunatic who had recently escaped from an asylum. He was incapable of logical thought. He understood no politics, possessed no ideals, performed no civic duty, held no position in the wordl, paid no taxes and gave no alms. He had the mind of a child. His family had secretly hoped that he would not survive until manhood because they found the burden of his abnormality too hard to bear.
When he saw the man Iying on the pavement he went up to him and lifted him, body, blood and dust, and carried him in his arms to the nearest hospital. On his way he passed a bus queue. The men and women standing in the queue, when they saw the lunatic carrying a man in his arms, set their faces unswervingly towards the oncoming bus. "We're lucky with the weather," said one, though her face was filled with rain. "Can't complain, can we?" said another.
The lunatic arrived at the hospital. He carried his burden into outpatients and laid it on a table. A doctor examined the man and said: "This man is dead. Who brought him here?"
"I," said the lunatic.
"You must be mad," said the doctor.
And they laid hands on the lunatic and thrust him into an asylum.
And he said unto them: "Which of these was the friend to the man who fell among muggers?"
And they replied: "He who was mad."
And he said unto them: "Go and be mad for my sake. Your insanity will make you whole."

lunatic (old use, now derog.): person suffering from an illness of the mind
Lent: time between Ash Wednesday and Easter
Pimlico, Westminster: neighbouring districts in western London, near Vauxhall Bridge
embrace sb. : take sb. into one's arms as a sign of love or affection
unwarranted: unjust)fied
strenuous : (here) energetic
solemn : feierlich
asylum (old use, now derog.): mental hospital
alms : money, food, clothes, etc., given to poor people
unswerving. firm and straight
outpatients: Ambulanz

Understanding the contents
1. a) Look at the people who passed by the victim. What do they have in common as far as their position in society is concerned?
b) If criticized, how would each of the passers-by excuse himself for not helping the injured man?
2. What is the common fault of those who did not help the crime victim?
3. Describe
a) the lunatic as compared with the other people mentioned in the text, and
b) the attitude of society towards him.

Analysing the text
4. Which text type* does this piece belong to? For what reason?
5. It says in the title and in line1 that this text is a parable. In this text form* the author tells the story of a particular event in order to make a general statement about human behaviour. This statement is not made directly; the readers are expected to make a connection between the example and their own experience.
a) What particular event is the subject of this parable?
b) With what experience of their own may readers possibly connect it?
6. A parable is a fictional* text with a didactic function. It is meant to teach a lesson, to convey a moral.
What does the author want to teach us in this text?
7. A parable is basically related to an allegory. In an allegorical text abstract ideas are personified. Such personifications do not represent individual characters*, but types.
a) What ideas does the author personify here?
b) Why could we say that the bishop and the two politicians, for example, are types representing their professions, and not individual characters?
8. This parable - like many others - consists of two parts, the secorid 1 a) Who may be meant by "he" and "them", mentioned
b) What does "he" do in this passage?
c) What is the function of the two parts of the parable?

Working with the language
9. In several places the author tries to imitate the language of the Bible. Express the following examples in more modern English:
"he fell among muggers" , "There came that way a bishop"
, "they laid hands on the lunatic"
, "he said unto them".

Going beyond the text
Very little information on the crime itself is given in the first paragraph of the text. Enlarge it into a short report*.
11. Read the biblical "Parable of the Good Samaritan" and discuss some similarities with and differences to Rae's version.
12. Recent evidence has suggested that bystanders, when alone, are more willing to interfere in street violence to protect innocent victims than when there is a crowd watching. Try to give reasons for this perplexing behaviour.

* see glossary