September 12, 2001 6:52 PM   Subscribe

There is always a tension between civilization and barbarism, and the barbarians are now here. The task in front of us to somehow stay civilized while not shrinking from the face of extinguishing - by sheer force if necessary - the forces that would eclipse us.
posted by semmi (5 comments total)
...these words could have just as easily been spoken by the people you condemn. Rhetoric is rhetoric, hate is hate. Calling your opponent sub-human does not justify violence.
posted by droob at 7:11 PM on September 12, 2001

Agreed, the words are similar. But the fact that murders and terrorists use rhetoric similar to ours does not mean that the underlying causes are similar or equivalent. Bin Laden and others like him will always use this rhetoric to mask their evil intentions and moral bankruptcy.

Drawing a line between "civilized" behavior and "barbaric" behavior is ultimately nothing but an expression of our most closely held values. That does not make it meaningless or inappropriate or hate-speech, any more than drawing a line between "killing" and "murder" is hate-speech towards those who do not the lives of others. Certain things are wrong just because God said so. Or, if you prefer, just because we as a society have a responsibility to set and enforce cultural norms.

All value systems are not of equivalent value.
posted by gd779 at 9:20 PM on September 12, 2001

whoops. "do not value the lives of others".
posted by gd779 at 9:25 PM on September 12, 2001

I agree with droob. The black cowboy hat = evil & white cowboy hat = good is not a realistic way at looking at life. We need more understanding on all sides, not just theirs (whoever 'they' may be).
posted by Bearman at 10:34 PM on September 12, 2001

Semmi: barbarism is not a tension, it is a cycle. Barbarism (literally, backwardness, ignorance) gives way to civilisation (an advanced state of social development). Decadence (literally "falling away" in the sense of weakening) sets in as a result of the prolonged absence of a material threat to survival, and the society falls prey to rival, barbaric forces (neither yet civilised nor decadent), engendering a period of new barbarism.

Have we weakened? 50 years ago all a commander had to worry about was the number and strength of his fighting men. Today's "civilised" commander has to worry about (1) whether any of his men are distracted by their gay sergeant (2) how to provide for the protection and evacuation of his People-With-Disability personnel in the event of being over-run (3) how CNN is going to broadcast his activities on the evening news (4) whether any of his men are going to sue him or his Government for putting their lives at danger and exposing them to trauma.

You are, of course, right. But maybe "stay civilised" and "extinguishing by sheer force" are mutually exclusive? Maybe barbarism can only be met with barbarism. What was "civilised" (I didn't say 'right') about the Gulf War? Or about the starvation of thousands of Iraqi children? Or the USS Vincennes shooting down a civilian Airbus?

Maybe decadence has been sliding toward barbarity for some time now and we've only just noticed that (this) society is entering its terminal phase?
posted by RichLyon at 4:45 AM on September 13, 2001

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