what survives

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Tue, 16 Jan 1996 17:19:02 CST

According to the variant of the Master Narrative I'm most familiar with,
what survives after Civilization is the Barbarians. As in, during the Chinese
Dark Ages (which was playing at the Other End of the Eurasian Landmass while
there was, simultaneously, to our racist susceptibilities, "The" Dark Ages
underway at "This" End), "The Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians." What
they had in common was Huns. Nobody knew from Fittest till quite recently; but
the Survival of the Barbarians is of such hoary antiquity it's Uninvented
Tradition. As your local Mycenaeans or Maya, even: Barbarians are so vital,
so central, to Survival After Civilization that they will be imagined where
they did not actually exist; whence the need for a Colin Renfrew to elucidate
the actual transpiry of a "System Collapse": Hardscrabble locals, who'd been
festering at or below bare subsistence in holes in the ground cultivating the
uncultivable (which was bad on ecological grounds, moreover), enduring the
unendurable, such trash and Human Garbage as to not rate a presence in the
Linear Syllabaries or Hieroglyphs, swarm all over the place, getting, one
should hope, even, and seemingly acting as Barbarous as all getout to what's
left of the (formerly) civilized, are Told about in Tales wherein they were
"migrants." The Dorian Invasions. Adventus Saxonum. Whatever the Maya called

Fit for what? Not for no good reason did the Civilized, invaded by the
Barbarous, never have the notion of fitness occur to them. Why, your fifth-
century Goth-in-the-street, in the Eastern Empire, was a slave, and was so,
for the usual reason: self-evident suitability. Physically powerful, the Goth
was intended by God, who'd converted to Christianity, for backbreaking menial
toil. Ferocious and savage, the male of the (subhuman) species was excellent
soldier material: whence the Decline and Fall. Stilicho, a Vandal (not a kid
with a paintspray can but sprung from the German tribe), could have beaten
his Goth enemy, Alaric, on any of three occasions and wiped out the Goths
root and branch. But as a German, Stilicho - Commander-in-Chief, *magister
militum*, of the Western Roman armies - knew that an army full of ferocious
Goths commanded by himself might have been invincible. Trouble was, Alaric,
the Goth king, knew that the Goths already commanded by himself, provided only
that the myth wasn't shattered by what would have amounted to selfdestructive,
suicidal behaviour by Stilicho, ie, exterminating the Goths, would in turn
become even more invincible, and on its own terms, too: Which terms, as you
may well imagine, were indeed harsh.

Not too long before, the Shanyu of the Xiongnu (Huns) played exactly the
same game with the Western Jin Dynasty (which ruled or claimed to rule all
China, 265-317), demanding and receiving a Chinese version of what the Romans
called *foederati* status.

In the Master Narrative of the Survival of the Barbarians, there was nothing
about the Barbarous which entitled them to the good name of Fitness. Contort-
ions of Theodicy might *account* for the visitation of the Barbarous on the
Civilized; say, chastisement for Sin; whoring after False Gods; painted women;
painted men; sex in High Places; Domination of the Court by the Baleful Influ-
ence of Eunuchs or the spiteful, tonguewagging, meddlesome Intrigues of the
Palace Women; lousy, crooked, callous, sadistic governemnt in the end offensive
to Heaven; lots more. But Civilization was a-prioristically Fitter than Barba-
rism; elsewise, for what purpose had the formerly Civilized have had their
Civilization in the first place, anyway.

From this perspective, just one of the problems of our times is, where are
the Barbarians going to come from, what with everything potentially properly
Barbarous having a Westernized and Modernized fringe on top, like the surrey
in the song. It's at this juncture that the Survival of the Fittest Master
Narrative attains its spurious plausibility in the study of "social evolution."
Having, as we know, become spuriously plausible over a great heaping gob of
social science, because Them has got capitalism on, and that's its Master
Narrative. Which sells precisely because of its spuriousness.

Hey, Ruby! Oh, Ruuuuuuuuuuubeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Can ya tell me, please,
no kidding, I really and truly and a half need to know, what's the *nonsexist*
usage for Master Narrative? That's real; the husbandistic act is what's phony,
so you can put those pile of dishes down, and let's talk about it, you know,
Work It Out, Deal With It,...thanks, Ruby. Hey, Ruby, anything good on? No,
please, don't get excited, Ruby; thanks. What I'm saying is, besides 'Give
peace a chance,' is, everybody, even you, and even (incredible aint it) *me*,
got married at least once. Not necessarily to each other, y'unnerstan'.

Daniel A. Foss