Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Defense of the Term Barbarian or Barb

Because of the recent post about Small Wars I have got flack for using the term "barb" short for barbarian. Some consider it a pejorative term that is dismissive and insulting of the people of less developed civilizations. It is that but it is also a legitimate term for relationship that develops between civilization and less developed peoples. It is not a racial insult. The Vikings were barbarians, the Japanese were pirates but their descendants are not. It is merely stage of development that many societies and peoples have passed through.

Civilization is not a term of endearment that is meant to honor favorite countries and societies. It is term to describe societies that have grown to be centralized states with specialists and recordkeeping. A civilization has to grow beyond the tribal level, when their entire society can be connected with kinship ties. It has to discover a way that unrelated people can live together. A civilization has standing armies with soldiers and has the monopoly force. In a barbarian society everyone is a warrior.

Barbarism develops at the border between civilization and less developed societies. A barbarian living in hut looks across to the civilization and wants the benefits of civilization he just doesn't want to join it. The civilization has more and better stuff than the barbarian society because it has the higher social organization and specialization. The rational solution for the barbarian societies, from their standpoint, is banditry. This is a problem for any neighboring civilization. Barbarians are not ignorant of civilization its tools and techniques. They can at times be almost assimilated into their neighboring civilization but until they are completely assimilated they remain a threat. Herman was a Roman officer who grew up in Rome before he ambushed 3 Roman legions in the Teutoburg forest. Acculturation doesn't automatically lead to allegiance.

On The Oceans of Eternity there is a passage that illuminates anti-civilization mindset of barbarians. One of the rebels, to Nantucket, goes to Egypt to help Africa. There George McAndrews schemes to aid the Nubians and Kushites, barbarians to the south of ancient Egypt.

McAndrews had picked up alot of experience with barbarians over the past ten years. Most of them weren't moved by the prospect of being civilized; civilization meant someone like Ramses hitting you up with the bill for his palaces and wars and forty-foot gold statues. He had found that barbarians were just as enchanted as anyone else in the prospect of wealth, and their chiefs were as greedy for power as any Pharaoh.

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