Thursday, December 17, 2020

Intellectuals and Barbarians: Poison and Medicine

The boundary between medicine and poison is tenuous. The Ancient Greeks used the term “pharmakon” to describe both medicine and poison—closely aligned to “pharmakon” is the Greek term for ritual sacrifice of human victims: “Pharmakos”. In the pharmakos ritual, the Greeks would sacrifice human victims to provide a healing touch (medicine) to their society in the time of a great calamity (famine, plague, civil war, or invasion). The poison-medicine analogy can be used for the intellectuals and barbarians. The intellectuals believe that with their ideas they are protecting (healing) society from the poison of barbarism, but the boundary between intellectuals and barbarians is tenuous. Most intellectuals are barbarians in disguise, and many of those whom they brand as the barbarians are the real intellectuals. History tells us that every great empire is forged by people of barbaric passions and energy, and the decline of a great empire happens when it becomes stable and prosperous and the over-educated and pampered (intellectualized) progeny of the barbarian founders inherit the empire.

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