Zarathustra vs Lily Allen

Thus Spoke Zarathustra – First Part – Chapter 16: ‘On Love of One’s Neighbour’
vs “Fuck You”, Lily Allen (It's Not Me, It's You, 2009)

Look to those around you, those nearest to you – your street, community, your town, city, your country – here is where your identity arises, is given, reflected, validated. Here are your neighbours. This is your neighbourhood, your manor, your territory. Nietzsche has something to say on this… you may not like it…

‘I counsel flight from the nearest.’ Furthermore ‘I counsel… love of the farthest!’ With those of your circle homogeneity reigns! Your coterie is your echo chamber. This is where you go when you need your foolishness to be overlooked, denied, even celebrated. Feeling bad? ‘You flee to the neighbour from yourselves and would like to make a virtue of it… you want to seduce the neighbour into love and to gild yourselves with his error’. Feeling good? ‘You invite a witness in when you want to speak well of yourselves; and when you have seduced him to think well of you, you also think well of yourself.’ This is where you go when you want your prejudices affirmed: ‘It is those farthest away who pay for your love of the neighbour’. You know it – ‘as soon as five of you are together, a sixth always has to die’.

Lily Allen’s ‘Fuck You’ captures up this teaching of Zarathustra. The sampled piano refrain that underpins the song is famously torn kicking and screaming from the eponymous named theme tune of the Australian television soap Neighbours. And it is against this evocation of the homogeneous, the nearest, the neighbour, that Allen’s lyrics rebel.

Sly, so perfect. The faux-polite, double-taking mutter of the everyday ‘Fuck you very, very much’ (the ‘fuck you’ intended to be a homonym of ‘thank you’) becomes a catchy singalong chorus celebrating everyday resistance to the homogenisers. As Allen continues: 'Cause we hate what you do / And we hate your whole crew’. Hate the haters (only a pedant would call this a paradox): ‘So you say / It's not okay to be gay / Well I think you're just evil / You're just some racist’. If you are straight don’t just hang out with straights; and mix it up with different races and cultures; are all your friends of the same gender – go play with more genders. Against what is given – actively seek out and make friends with those different, farthest from you. Seek and destroy your identity. Allen captures exactly the claustrophobic sense of homogeneity and its sad and pathetic purpose: ‘You want to be like your father / It's approval you're after / Well that's not how you find it.’

‘Love of the farthest!’ – this is Nietzsche’s counsel. This is Zarathustra’s counsel. Leave your street, community, your town, city, your country. Open up your country, your city, town, your community, your street. Toward the end of the chapter the ‘farthest’ undergoes two telling transformations which clarifies the concept. In the first place, the farthest becomes the friend. With Chapter 16 we appear to be reaching a point where many of the teachings that have come before begin to cohere, accumulate and permeate the text. In the previous chapter (‘On the Thousand Goals and One’) Zarathustra introduced the idea of the neighbour; Chapter 14 (‘On the Friend’) saw the paradoxes of friendship explored – a friend is your enemy, they challenge you; and you should show yourself as enemy to your friends.

In the second place the spatial metaphor of the farthest becomes a temporal metaphor: ‘a premonition of the Overhuman’. Similarly, Allen not only captures such temporality biologically (overcoming the father), but also historically: ‘Your point of view is medieval.’ Accordingly, the chapter concludes with an exceptionally important thought: ‘May the future and the farthest be the cause of your today: in your friend shall you love the Overhuman as your own cause’. Causality is reversed here. Just as we saw in ‘On the Thousand Goals and One’ where the ways of the farthest are transformative as opposed to the nearest; in Chapter 16 the now need not be an outcome of the preceding event; but rather, for Nietzsche, a future event can be the impetus for and transform the now.

First Part: Chapter 17 - Kanye West

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