Confucius says: “though you go among barbarians . . .”

Once when Fan Ch‘ih asked about virtue, the Master said: ‘In private life be courteous, in handling public business be serious, with all men be conscientious. Even though you go among barbarians, you may not relinquish these virtues.’

–Analects, Bk XIII, 19

Courtesy, seriousness, and conscientiousness are troublesome enough, but with Confucius’ kindly sagacity to guide me I might redouble my efforts.

But every time Confucius admonishes his disciples about the pertinence of virtue even among “barbarians”, I cannot help but remind myself– he’d never heard of Bandustan.

This is not to say that he might not be right.  But if virtue is to be practiced toward our present-day barbarians of color, that is a different matter than the practice of virtue among such barbarians.  Among rioting blacks, the virtues of Cassandra are only an awful holocaust delivered to the false god of this world.  Only the manly virtues of an Aeneas will suffice.  Mercy may be a fine prerogative of strength, but without overbearing force as its prerequisite, there will be no mercy shown, for the noble ignobly dead can grant no courtesies, and the ignoble, whether vanquished or victorious, cannot even conceive of clemency.  Civilization simply cannot live among such people– and it must be asked whether such people can even live in civilization, if only inside its shadows.  How many lies must the noble tell, in order to cast a shade for these squatters to abide in!

No, these barbarians will never hear of a Confucius.  They could not comprehend him,  they could not abide him.  How, then, should we continue to abide them?

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