On Barbarism

If eating meat is barbaric…

βάρβαρος is where our term barbarian and all of its derivations come from. Barbaros, was for the Greeks the uncivilized, which really was everyone who was not Greek (or if you were Athenian, even the less cosmopolitan Greeks).

The Barbarian is an/Other.

But Barbarian isn’t just the Other, for βάρβαρος is onomatopoeic. Bar-bar says the Barbarian, bar-bar. Translated to English: blah-blah. The Barbarian is the Other untranslated by Greek ego.

But the Barbarian isn’t technically untranslatable. No, the Greek hears bar-bar because they already are not listening for language or reason. Any Greek knows Greek is the only language worth knowing, the only true logic.

The Barbarian, no matter what language she or he speaks, must remain unheard until Greek is spoken. Otherwise there is no barbarian, there is merely another.

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2 Responses to On Barbarism

  1. adam says:

    “the Greek hears bar-bar because they already are not listening for language or reason… The Barbarian, no matter what language she or he speaks, must remain unheard until Greek is spoken. Otherwise there is no barbarian, there is merely another.”

    Cool, never thought of barbarian this way. I’ve tended to think about how barbarians were thought of as lesser humans in the sense they lacked Greek logos, and thus were more like “animals.” I find it irritating when people call others barbarians or barbarous. It recapitulates the Self/Other, Reason/Chaos dualisms of ancient patriarchal metaphysics/logic. It is so riddled with ethnocentric narcissism. Yucky.

  2. Ben says:

    Interesting alternative etymology from Cassiodorus: “made up of barba (beard) and rus (flat land); for barbarians did not live in cities, making their abodes in the fields like wild animals.”

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