A Savage. The Outsider; The Foreigner; The Barbarian. The person who believes differently than the masses. The ones who are different from ‘civilized’ and respectable people. Throughout history, the label of ‘Savage’ has always been put on those who believe or do things contrary to the main group of people. Recently, I read the dystopian book “Brave New World”. In the book, the so-called ‘Savage’ was the one who believed differently from the rest of the world. He was the one who “ate civilization” and got sick from it. And yet, he was the only one who knew what civilization actually meant. There are many times in history when one group of people calls another group ‘savage’, and they are all connected.
For example, the Romans believed that anyone who was not a citizen of Rome or who did not speak Latin was a barbarian. Pretty specific, right? The ‘barbarians’ were those who lived in inferior lands and their people were uncivilized. The Romans, of course, were civilized and right at the top.
Similar to this were the ancient Jews. Everyone who was not a Jew was called a Gentile. The Gentiles were seen as impure because they did not follow purity laws as the Jews did. In the Jews’ perspective, the Gentiles ate impure foods and used impure substances, and thus the Gentiles themselves were impure.
On the other hand, Christians saw Jews as bloodthirsty and inferior. This viewpoint led to much persecution of the Jews all over the globe, all throughout history. It is particularly interesting to note that both the Jews and the Christians saw each other as impure or inferior and themselves as better and purer.
When the Europeans colonized the Americas, they called the Native Americans ‘savages’. Their reason for doing so? The natives weren’t ‘civilized’ like people were back in Europe. They had different customs, including constant warfare and even cannibalism. Appalled, the Europeans resorted to the term ‘savage’, meaning uncivilized.
Even in Africa, the Beta-Israel and the Kemant peoples (whose religions and customs are very similar) called each other Falasha, meaning foreigner or stranger (both of which are great insults). The Falasha were always blamed for anything bad that happened. Strangers, the Falasha, always brought great evil upon the people of Ethiopia. It had always been seen that way, and always would, so they thought.
However, it’s important not to just blame everything on history. People still label each other as ‘Savages’ today. The most obvious example is the on-going ‘family feud’ between Right and Left politics; conservative and liberal; Republican and Democrat. Before the recent election, an acquaintance was asked many times who she was voting for. Calmly she replied: “Would you think any less of me if I voted for someone you don’t like?” It was astonishing and depressing to hear so many people answer yes. Many people get so angry at ‘the other side’. They excuse their anger, saying that they are right and the other side is wrong, and it’s okay to get angry for the truth. This angry rift between people with different views is spreading, and it is leading countries into a political and societal disaster.
It reminds one of “The Butter Battle Book” by Dr. Seuss. The story is about the on-going conflict between the Yooks and the Zooks. What is their conflict about? One group of people eats their toast with the butter side up, and the other group of people eats toast with the butter side down. It seems like such a ridiculous feud, but then again, aren’t they all?
There are countless examples in history and the present era of groups of people labeling others as ‘Savages’. But who is the real savage? The Romans called foreigners ‘barbarians’, but the Romans themselves participated in barbaric actions such as gladiator fights, which essentially consisted of watching and encouraging prisoners to try to kill each other. Who was the real barbarian?
The Europeans called the Native Americans ‘savage’, but the Europeans themselves participated in witch hunts and executions, along with frightening inquisitions and tortures. Many Europeans would go to watch hangings and gory executions for a fun outing. There were all sorts of executions and tortures devised to create a spectacle for the public, many of whom delighted in the bloody occasions. Who was the real savage?
The Christians called the Jews bloodthirsty and inferior, so they drove them out of almost all societies and killed them ruthlessly. The Huguenots were driven forcefully out of France, and many were killed along the way. And, of course, there was Hitler’s regime that killed more than 6 million Jews. All throughout history, the Jews have been driven out by those who were ‘civilized’. Who was really bloodthirsty and inferior in character? Who was really uncivilized?
How arrogant it is to assume that everything one believes in is correct! No matter the real truth; I am correct, one seems to say. I always have been and I always will be, and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. When satirized in these terms, it becomes fairly apparent the ridiculousness and childishness of the situation. And yet every single human being falls for it. Mankind likes to blame anyone but himself for mistakes and inferiority. He likes to feel above others because if he can convince himself he is better than someone else, it makes him feel better and more confident (for some odd reason). As if being higher than someone else on the ladder of life made a person higher overall.
In short, the idea is to remember these two things. First, consider an African proverb that says: “Until the Lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero.” Those who condemn others as ‘Savages’ seem to be the hero, the ‘civilized’ ones. But in reality, often they are no better than those people whom they call ‘uncivilized’. The second thing is this. In the Bible, Matthew chapter 7, verse 3 asks: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.