In the novel, Waiting for the barbarians by J.M Coetzee, the barbarians are the Easterners of orientalism and the Magistrate’s empire are the Westerners. The Magistrate did not see the barbarian girl’s home as a civil society and tried to save her from the barbarians civilization. In Said’s book of The Orientalist, he describes how the Western side of the globe views the Eastern side as uncivilized or savages, which is how Coetzee’s characters view the barbarians. Middle Easterns are civilized people and have their own traditions that may differ from that of a European, but who has the right to decided who is better than the other.
This reminds me of a recent incident that I read on the news. Where an American missionary paid a fisherman to give him a lift to the very restricted island in the Bay Bengal. His goal was to educate the isolated Sentinelese tribe on Christianity, which was a very idiotic move. Mostly because this tribe kills anyone that goes near the island and the tribe did not need to learn the ways of the Christian religion. This news relates to Coetzee’s novel because the Magistrate tried to take in the barbarian girl, even though she did not need his help and only wanted to return to his people. In some situations helping others is useful, but you can’t rush evolution because civilizations have to adjust to the times. Some third world counties are still in the industrialization stage and they are not uncivilized, but progressing on their own.
The American Missionary on the right and Sentinelese tribe members on the left.
In my anthropology class, I learned one of the theories in sociocultural evolution where each civilization is evolving on their own time and will soon all be at the same level of technology. Therefore, no one can assume that a civilization is primitive or not because they are progressing at their own rate.
What does one think when they hear the work savages or barbarians? I think of murders, but in Waiting for the Barbarians it is used to describe foreigners because the novel is anti-representation and never mentions a specific time period of location. The fact that they are using a nasty term such as, barbarians, to describe people that do not have the same customs as them is judgmental and discriminatory. The word barbarian has changed over time, in the Roman time the Romans adopted the word to describe anyone that is not apart of the Roman Empire. They were excluding all other culture and traditions and placing their civilization over others. This reminds me of Hitler during World War two because he tried to place the Aryan race over all other races and ignored all other tradition. Hitler committed Jew genocide and tried to make Christianity as the only religion on earth when the world has thousands of beliefs that anyone can follow. I believe each nation should be left to mind their own business and others should only interfere if they are causing harm to other nations or are asking for help.
‘You guys might think I’m crazy’: US missionary killed by tribe on remote island
Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M Coetzee
Oxford dictionary defines ruins as, “The physical destruction or disintegration of something or the state of disintegrating or being destroyed.” When one typically thinks about a ruin they think buildings, but would nature count as a ruin? A ruin gets physical destruction and nature is constantly being destroyed. One can argue that nature would not count as a ruin because it wasn’t built by humans or didn’t have a significant meaning. However, nature is created by the environment and the animals have an attachment to it because it’s their home. Us humans are destroying nature and soon the earth will be seen as a ruin. With all the pollution entering the atmosphere and oceans, there will soon be very little nature to admire. Already the beautiful Amazon Rainforest is beginning to be placed in the ruins category because of the mass destruction of trees for lumber. Endangered species such as the Macaw are experiencing the pain the follows ruins.
The feeling of being lost is what I feel when I look at ruins because there use to be a story and purpose for that specific area, but then it became destroyed. Sometimes it’s the story that contributes to the feeling, other times its the after visual that gets one upset. When I look at the burnt mountainsides after the Ventura fires on the 101 I felt grief because ecosystems were destroyed and an excessive amount of carbon entered the atmosphere. To make the scene worse, there were animal carcasses splattered on the freeway from all the animals trying to escape the flames, only to be met by the destructive human vehicles on the other side. Today the ruins of the fires can be seen and it will remain there until nature decides to repurpose the damage for other ecosystems.
The ocean is the biggest ruin on earth because of all the damage it contains. Although, it is still a working, “structure,” that contains living organisms it has lost many parts of its foundation due to pollution and overfishing. When fishing boats catch large quantities of fish mostly use a bottom trawling, which rakes up the bottom of the ocean floor and annihilates habitats. Not only does it damage the ecosystems, but it also picks up unnecessary marine life. The Great Barrier Reef is also becoming part of the oceans ruins because the colorful corals are beginning to bleach from the oceans unbalanced ph. Sooner or later the Great Barrier Reef will only have its washed out shell to show that life used to be inhabited there.
Ruins like the Roman Colosseum are the most known because they have history and background information. Nature’s ruins can also have context and background such as the fallen tree in my childhood home. It was my play tree where I would climb and create a swing on, but tragically it tipped over during a bad storm. The tree to me has a significant meaning because I was attached to it, but anyone else will view it as trash. The tree is now a ruin that was created from a seed that went through the process of photosynthesis to grow into decent height so my child self could play. I want everyone to realize that nature is like a museum that should be respected and protected. That way it can live on for millions of more years and future generations will not have to witness the ruin called nature.