“Conservative candidates Chris Alexander and Kellie Leitch said during a news conference in Ajax, Ont., that in addition to a tip line, a Tory government would establish an integrated RCMP task force with units in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal to step up enforcement of the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, which received royal assent in June” (CBC).
What we are interested with is the concept of “barbarism.” It is, in fact, a very loaded term that originated from xenophobia in Ancient Greece, and it continues to play the same social rhetoric as it did back then. In Ancient Greek, the term “Barbaros,” from where we derive “barbarism,” referred to “people who talk funny.” The basis for this concept was in relation to the order found in “Kosmos,” which referred to the perfect unity of the balanced creation of the universe. In ancient cosmology, Greece was thought to be at the center of the flat-surfaced world; and as one got farther away from the center, one would be coming closer to the edge of the world where “Aether” is located. Aether was conceived to be godly air, a powerful substance which is dangerous for humans – a kind of hallucinogenic in its alleged effects. Because of the Aether being dangerous for humans, and because Greece was allegedly located in the middle of the world, those who weren’t Greek, who lived closer to the Aether, would be considered to be out of their mind, so to speak. Barbaros were those who were affected by the Aether; thus, in order not to be exposed to this substance, Greeks tried to stay home where there was cultural familiarity. In this regard, the Ancient Greeks portrayed those who spoke foreign languages and exhibited different cultural behaviours as people who were not even capable of having “rational thought.”
The Ancient Greeks constructed an Other based on what they were not, thus, to further reinforce what they conceived to be culturally intelligible, or “sane.” This concept of the Other, or the formation of Alterity, is found in societies that perceive themselves superior to others even to this day – as Jean-Paul Sartre would argue, the Anti-Semite and the Jew is an example of this relationship of forming the Other; the Anti-Semite thinks himself to be exemplar of humanity, thus making the Jewish person less than that. Similarly this is found in cases of sex and gender, as Simone de Beauvoir has argued in The Second Sex that woman has been conceived as Other than man for millennia – humanity is man (ex. mankind), woman is Other; or in the case of race, as Franz Fanon has argued in Black Skin, White Masks that the black person has been made Other in colonialism – humanity is white (ex. Eurocentric narratives), blackness is Other. And with the use of the term “barbarism” in Canada, we encounter another attempt of xenophobic coercion from the Conservative Party – Canada is this thing that embodies what is most human, everything else that does not follow that exemplarity is less than human.
The question we need to ask is “Who will define what is ‘barbaric’ and what is not ‘barbaric’?” Chances are that the person making the definition of “barbarism” will take their own culture as the model of what the Canadian citizen should follow. And thus, we return to power as prohibition, regulation, and restriction, for the Conservative Party is trying enforce power over what is deemed culturally fine and culturally barbaric without any understanding of the weak rhetoric they are performing.