Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Thinking about: Barbarians


Wikipedia describes that image as a “Historically inaccurate depiction of ‘Germanic warriors’ as depicted in Philipp Clüver’s Germania Antiqua (1616).” The word “barbarian” comes to us – as so many do – from the ancient Greeks and means, essentially, “they who are not us.” A mechanical culture shares common folkways, mores, and laws, and anyone outside of that culture who doesn’t share those traits is the essence of “them.” As an aside, note that a visitor to another culture may well take part in some of those folkways, and observe some of the mores and laws, but that only makes him a “civilized barbarian.” Unless he truly accepts and internalizes those characteristics he will never be more than a civilized barbarian – and given that many cultures also have a strong family, racial, or ethnic component required for admission, some barbarians may never become truly a part of “civilized society.”

The popular perception of barbarians is that they come from outside somewhere, from some other place, and are generally intent on pillaging and plundering the civilized area they are invading. That is an unfortunate misconception, however. Barbarians are simply those who do not subscribe to the local culture. In a science fiction context H. Beam Piper put it well when one of his characters asked, “What do you think the Neo-Barbs are, some sort of Attila the Hun in spaceships?” and goes on to point out that many barbarians are home-grown.

I’d like to offer, for consideration, that perhaps the US should be spending less time worrying about this:


and a little more time thinking about these:

Hispanic intifada

and these:


and these:

aryan nation

and these:

american communists

Unless, of course, those (or others) are your culture, as opposed to the “old fashioned pre-War Between The States” American culture of small government, limited taxes, minimal regulation, and general liberty that prevailed even after the war into the late 19th century. Was that culture perfect? Of course not. Four words – Alien and Sedition Acts – demonstrate an intolerance for liberty that even then was growing, for instance. That said, whatever his other flaws and faults, Alexander Hamlton never had to ask permission of anyone to build a home,. clear his land, start a business, or move around – or in or out of – the country.

Barbarians have always, throughout history, played a part in cultures. Sometimes their presence causes the culture to strengthen, sometimes they are the final push that sends a culture toppling. But barbarians, people who “aren’t us,” are there. The question for any culture is “what will be done with them?”

The Chinese have been past masters of simply absorbing barbarians and assimilating them. England, to great degree, is the result of repeated waves of “not us” washing up on the shores and adopting – or mingling with – the local inhabitants (H. Beam Piper again: “English is the result of Norman men-at-arms making dates with Anglo-Saxon barmaids.”). America in its early years absorbed and, to a degree, assimilated European “barbarians.”

Assimilation is no longer an option in America, though. The “not us” have legal rights to maintain their own status and culture with minimal to nonexistent penalties. Try and imagine Roman decrees being written in both Latin and Visigothic.

Which leaves the second option, unfortunately, and that is an inevitable conflict between the “us” and “not us.” The question then simply remains historically who will prevail, and what the results will look like for the remnants and survivors of that clash.

The part of me that revels in history and sociology can’t wait to see. popcorn


2 responses to “Thinking about: Barbarians

  1. capt gooch May 21, 2011 at 1:18 am

    I am wondering IF the obvious militarization of our internal police forces is yet another example of the barbarians running amok?
    As in … mercenaries being hired by the “King” to control those pesky ungrateful serfs.
    IE the recent murder of Jose Guerena in Tucson by the Pima County SWAT Team.

    And while I am on Violations of the Fourth ….
    How about those Supreme’s in Indiana ?
    Castle Doctrine ? HA! No more serf. Back on your knees.


    stay safe,


    PS I like the site … well done. :thumbsup:

    • Hobbit@Law May 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm

      I would not say that the militarization of the police is a per se example of barbarism, except to the extent that it has served to distance one group from another. The classic “hue and cry” involved local citizens who were expected by community standards to aid and assist each other against criminals. With the rise of “professional policing” replacing the community policing in the 19th century, it was inevitable that the two groups (community and police) would begin to diverge. For awhile they remained close, officers walked or roamed their “beats” and knew every jot and tittle of what went on, and everybody in the neighborhood knew “Officer John” who may well have grown up there. There were still social linkages that maintained the officers as part of the community.

      With the continued growth of cities, though, the time when officers knew everybody and everybody knew the officers came to an end, and when the influx of WWII vets hit the streets the mentality of “us and them” really began to take root. The last step in the process was the essential federalization of the police – with money for equipment (or the equipment itself) and training, along with the establishment of federal police forces in their own right. At the federal and big city level, all connection between police and policed were severed. The police generally no longer consider themselves “peace officers” who serve the community to keep the peace, but rather as “law enforcement officers” who serve the state to keep the citizenry in line. The War on (Some) Drugs and the War on Guns haven’t helped matters, either.

      Simple demonstration of the division between them: Even the most rabid pro-law enforcement guy out there, unless he’s an officer himself, or a dotgov official, or a lawyer, will feel a moment of adrenaline fueled fear when a cruiser’s lights come on behind him. His first thought is never going to be “I must have a light out in the back and the nice officer is going to advise me of that and remind me to get it fixed before sending me on my way,” but rather “what sort of punishment am I going to receive?”

      To go back to your question, to some degree they are “not us,” but they’re actually, for the most part, servants of those who are “not us.” America wasn’t intended to have a ruling class, just some part time legislators, and yet today we have an entrenched government and bureaucracy at federal, state, county, and large city levels that would stagger the imaginations of the Founders, and whose daily violations of the rights described in the Declaration of Independence pushed our forefathers into out and out war.

      The Indiana Supremes are just another example of the long-standing slide into tyranny. They flat-out lifted their collective legs on the Constitution and apparently didn’t even think twice. Look at it this way – if, as historically was the case, “a man’s home is his castle,” then it’s also historically very true that anyone attempting to break into that castle uninvited (as if there could be an invited break in) was likely to suffer – and rightly – no end of grievous harm. The State prefers to protect its minions, vis a vis its serfs, and so the only surprise there is really that it took that long. Their point about “handle it in civil court” is laughable, and I’d be willing to wager that you don’t see any sort of suit go forward in Indiana any time soon regarding a wrongful housebreaking by police.

      Thanks for your kind remarks on the site – I think Jim Bovard (and if you like my site you’ll love his) actually got tired of me hogging up his comments section and his email box, and so finally used his awesome powers of persuasion to convince me to “take it somewhere else.” 😀

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