Saturday, August 24, 2013

Happy Barbarians

Hospitality of Barbarians to Pilgrims - Gustave Dore

One of the standard inhabitants of or fantasy/sci-fi worlds, are the barbarians. Usually they're a proud warrior race, perhaps slightly more in tune with nature. Not exactly sharp on the intellectual scale of things, but brave and courageous. They have a tendency to show up at the final battle and suddenly turn the tide in the good guys favour. Or perhaps they are the good guys, pitted against some usually some more sophisticated and evil nation.

Okay, I'm going to say here, I think we in the twenty first century romanticize the barbarian too much.  And to a certain extent that's a product of our technologicalicalization (is that even a word?). Right now we're surrounded by technology, and it makes life complicated. Cars have to be fueled, oiled, cleaned and cared for, computers have to have anti virus software, drives licences expire, the internal revenue service much be satisfied and so on. So we long for a simpler time when all we had to worry about was farming the crops and strength in arms.

This stands in vivid contrast to the portrayal of 'primitive peoples' that ran rampant 50's. Back then we were confident in the power of technology, and we looked down on those stupid, illiterate savages who seemed to us to be enslaved to superstition. We had science and they had not, and since were were convinced that knowledge equaled moral superiority, we were sure we were superior then those barbarians that lived back in ancient days.

Both these ideals, 'the noble savage' and the 'barbaric savage' make the same mistake. They both assume that technology fundamentally changes human nature, As if technology somehow made humans better people or worse people. No. People are still people. No matter what power is in their hands. Our lives are complicated, not because technology is complicated but because human natures are complicated. Science doesn't make us more moral. Neither does ignorance. We as Christians should avoid both romanticizing and marginalizing.


  1. Brendan, this is a really well put, thought provoking post! Actually this whole blog is well put and thought provoking! The issues you address are are all ones that I have pondered many times myself, and it so cool to see a differant perspective on them! Keep it up man, and consider me another devoted reader! :) -Laura Gaul

  2. Thanks Laura! I'm really glad you've enjoyed it!