Waiting for the Barbarians
by Tom Donelson on April 22, 2013 at 8:58 AM
I came across C.P. Cavafy’s poem, "Waiting For The Barbarians" after reading a piece that referenced it while watching the police track down the two Boston terrorists. The photos captured by one of the television stations showing one terrorist leaving the bomb by the feet of the eight year boy, shows evil at is very core. How could anyone be so callous, no matter the cause, as to leave a bomb next to an eight year old and later tweet that he is a “no stress man”? We witnessed evil, and a teenager can be as evil as a mass murdering psychopath like Josef Stalin or Adolf Hitler.
Several years ago, I read a history of the United States, and the author put in his opening chapter, we are one generation away from barbarism. Sometimes it seems that barbarism is just within reach. There are many ways to view C.P. Cavafy’s poem, but one is paralysis. The poet asks, “Why isn’t anything happening in the senate? Why do the senators sit there without legislating?” The poet answers, “Because the barbarians are coming today. What laws can the senators make now? Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.” Boston was closed for a whole day with everything being cancelled including sporting events and the populace trapped inside their homes. For a whole day, two barbarians shut down one of America’s leading metropolitan.
What Boston reminded us was that barbarism is not that far, and as America retreats from the world responsibility, the world is becoming a more dangerous place where a more barbaric code is taking root. Throughout the Middle East, Arab Spring is turning into an Arab winter as the barbarism emanating from Iran is spreading across the region and Egypt Muslim Brotherhood is no revival of civilization for a country that existed at the dawn of civilization some three plus millennium years ago. Look across the Pacific, the China that gave us the Tiananmen Square slaughter is now pushing its own brand of fascism. China has evolved from a totalitarian Marxist state to a Chinese version of fascism only their leaders weigh suits and not comical military uniforms like Benito Mussolini. A world dominated by a Chinese hierarchy does not represent a step forward but backward into a world in which liberty is but a word in the dictionary and no longer practice. The Chinese model is nothing more than the people serving the State as opposed to the government being the people’s servants.
The slaughter this past April 15th merely reminds us that evil exists and walks among us and barbarism is but one generation away, if we chose. And the poem ends, ”What’s going to happen to us without barbarians? They were, those people, a kind of solution.” For many, the Barbarians have the answer to a civilization they no longer believe in. What they believe, the reader can fill in the blanks.