Barbarian Barbecue

The word ‘barbarian’ has been used for centuries in this world, referring to an uncultured or brutish person. In the terms that matters to Classics, the barbarians were what we call the ‘Others’ or those who were not a member of the Ancient Greek community. The term originates from how the Greek perceived these outsider’s language as a jumble of words sounding like: “bar, bar, bar, bar…”. Now in modern day we stick to the more brutish person definition, instead of it only referring to a stranger in our regular surroundings.

We can see the term being used frequently in news, articles, and other forms of media to describe unforgivable behavior. If we look at the article, School Lunch Without Same by the Editorial Board of the New York Times, the term “barbaric” is used in the the brutish context being discussed. The State of New York allowed for 1.1 million children to receive free or reduced lunch, which is a very good step towards giving relief to impoverished children. Though this is a positive aspect, some discrimination towards these children still exists. The Board describes some mistreatment towards children says, “Nationally, however, far too many school districts still employ barbaric policies under which children are openly humiliated when their parents cannot pay lunch bills. These shaming tactics include berating students, stamping their arms with messages like ”I need lunch money” and throwing meals into the garbage while hungry children stand by.” (Editorial Board para. 3). Here these children are being treated as the ‘Other’, seeming as they are inferior due to their economic level. The article is pinned towards a more liberal mature audience who understands the state of economics in this country. The audience should know and feel sympathy for these children and the barbaric behavior being thrown against them.

The use of “barbaric” can also be seen elsewhere in the modern media like the New York Times. An article by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Dalio Book Lays Bare Bridgewater Culture, discusses the principles and behavior of Ray Dalio, the chairman to the largest hedge fund in the world, Bridgewater Associates. The term is used when Sorkin states, “Mr. Dalio’s critics — and there are many — say his principles offer permission to be verbally barbaric, and they question whether the $160 billion firm’s success is a product of such ”radical transparency” or whether he can afford such a wide-ranging social experiment simply because the firm is so financially successful.” (Sorkin para. 16). Here it is clear how Ray Dalio’s behavior can be seen as barbaric due to his financial level giving him a “leg up”. The ‘Other’ here is anyone who is the recipient of Dalio’s behavior/principles; seemingly they must keep up with it since he is such a powerful figure so he is allowed to, in some form, act barbaric. The audience is the same as the last article, mostly aiming at an audience of a sympathizer for the economically impaired.

Both articles have a clear line showing how economic dominance allows for a barbaric atmosphere to be put upon them. Those who struggle economically, whether it be a impoverished child in NYC, or anyone in Ray Dalio’s path, can be on the receiving end of becoming the ‘Other’. In Herodotus’ History, we see the long mistreatment of the Medes, or the ‘Other’ frequently throughout the story. One section states “For, supposing that he was obliged to invest another with the kingly power, and not retain it himself, yet justice required that a Mede, rather than a Persian, should receive the dignity. Now, however, the Medes, who had been no parties to the wrong of which he complained, were made slaves instead of lords, and slaves moreover of those who till recently had been their subjects.” (Herodotus 129). Here we see how the Persian Revolt, should in some form allow a Mede to receive fair treatment, always puts them in an inferior position. This look back at the classic Greek history, allows us to observe how “barbaric” behavior has been excused, passed on, and promoted through superior positions in society. It’s almost ironic, how the definition of barbaric went from the ‘Other’ to the ‘Not Other’. Seemingly how the Greeks treated the Medes in our definition IS barbaric, yet the Medes and foreigners were the barbarians themselves. How we translate and look at this word will always twist and turn but always will see a barbarian as a cruel, brutish thing to be.

Sean Reilly, Team Artemis


Board, The Editorial. “School Lunch Without Shame.” New York Times, 8 Sept. 2017, p. A26(L). New York State Accessed 11 Sept. 2017.

Sorkin, Andrew Ross. “Dalio Book Lays Bare Bridgewater Culture.” New York Times, 5 Sept. 2017, p. B1(L). New York State Accessed 11 Sept. 2017.

One thought on “Barbarian Barbecue

  1. The connection between both articles were very clear and you juxtaposed them using economic barriers as the social value portrayed to us. well done


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