Thursday, February 25, 2010

OPINION: Waiting For Barbarians

Magdalena Potluck
By Don Wiltshire

Waiting For the Barbarians is an opera in two acts based on a book (1980) by South African author John M. Coetzee, with music by American composer Phillip Glass and libretto by Christopher Hampton. It was first performed in September 2005 at Erfurt Theater in Germany. It ends with these lines of song.
“Now that the barbarians are at the gate, maybe it is time for me to tell the truth. But what is the truth? I’m a man traveling a road that is going nowhere. A man lost in a cruel and stupid dream and still I keep walking.”
I know little of music and opera. I became aware of this one watching a documentary on Philip Glass called “Glass, a Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts.
Glass, born in 1937, is a modern American composer who has produced operas, symphonies as well many other works including film soundtracks. He did the music for Kudun, The Hours, and the visual landscape art films Koyaanisqatsi.
Waiting For the Barbarians may be an opera with a message for our times. “We need a little war to preserve the peace” is just one of it’s messages. This message is just one of the ironies of the age of “Western Civilization”.
Communication, transportation, and awareness of world history has made earth a small planet for humankind, and human not-so-kind. We are getting many messages from many sources. As always, there may be more messengers than listeners.
Written language, religion, science, and great tool making have been the bones and muscle Western Civilization. Our forefathers wanted to take those bones and muscles and build a nation of greatness. They knew it would not be easy.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died fifty years to the day after the first 4th of July, pleased our democratic republic had lasted that long.
Many think that Adams was a forerunner of the Republicans and Jefferson a forerunner of the Democrats. Yet where these two patriots differed would surprise most. Adams wanted a strong central government that would have the power to make “equal” mean everyone. Jefferson wanted more power for the states and did all he could to make the central government smaller. This may be ironic to Democrats and Republicans today.
However, the irony that strikes me is that they could share affection and respect.
Have we lost a most important thing, respect? Can anyone have any freedom without respect?
I don’t think “Tea Parties” without sacrifice and responsibility taking would impress Samuel Adams. Not buying “made in China” for a year would be more like drinking monarda tea in lieu of British teas.
Western Civilization is a time in history marked by borders, nations and their competition with one another. Greed has inspired “tool making” to the point of eating us out of house and home, the earth. Where bias is often accepted and celebrated as fact. Western Civilization is rule by ego.
Gangs are formed under labels serving as flags. They serve to destroy one another. It takes cruelty to have dogs that will fight each other to the death. For humankind and human-unkind it takes the propaganda of bias.
Yet there is an awakening in the world and a global community is forming. This transcends the age of “Western Civilization” with all it’s borders and jockeying for position. It is very new and very ancient.
This is the age of the individual and Oneness. This is an age of awareness. It is without borders.
It is about respect. Respect is freedom, no master, no subjugation. It is about practice not slogans. On this journey, the first step is respect.
“Gangs” form from fear, insecurity and greed. Respect yourself enough and there is no fear or insecurity. Respect all and you will never be alone.
The barbarians are coming and they are us, Western Civilization. Western Civilization will feed and war until there is nothing left to “profit."We get to choose our reality. Write me at Wshireoldadobe@

Wiltshire’s views do not necessairly represent those of the Mountain Mail.

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