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The Characteristics of the Barbarous Descrived by Montaigne in of Cannibals

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Montaigne describes the barbarous people in his essay, `Des cannibales` as noble savages, who live in harmony with nature, share everything, lead a simple but honourable life and practice an uncorrupted religion without being tainted by Western societies. They hold two characteristic in high esteem, these are marital love and courage. In battles all the warriors bring back severed heads of their enemies as trophies, and they practice cannibalism, which Montaigne believes is still more reasonable than the practices of the Portuguese while acquiring its oversees colonies or the violence during the French Wars of Religions. He argues that Europeans are guilty of cruelty even more than the tribal communities, who are labeled barbaric in Western Europe.

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The character of the “Noble Savage” itself has always existed, it appears as early as c. 2100 BC as Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is a familiar character in medieval and religious literature too, as the medieval knight, Parsifal, who is in search of the Holy Grail, as well as David the shepherd boy from the Bible. The harbinger of the first classical noble savage concept is however Tacitus` description of the Germanic character from 98 AD, who describes them favourably to the decadent Romans of his day. During the religious wars in France in the 16th century “the good savage” was opposed to the European civilisation by Montaigne in his essays in the name of cultural relativism and tolerance, contrary to ethnocentrism the prevailing trend of his time. His beliefs continued to influence Denis Diderot and Voltaire amongst others, who regarded him as one of the forefathers of the Enlightenment.

Aimé Césaire points it out that in his essay, `Discourse on Colonialism` that colonialism is based on race, the same way as Nazism is. He holds all Europeans responsible for the spreading of Nazism, which was encouraged by racial pride that had been thriving oversees for centuries, making colonialism essentially a forerunner of Nazism.

The colonizers were allowed to propagated their dehumanizing views for centuries because it had only been applied to non-Europeans before. The only difference according to Césaire is that this time the vices of this damaging ideology are inflicted upon the Europeans instead of the inhabitants of a far away land.

To prove the similarities between the two aforementioned doctrines, Césaire compares the thoughts of Hitler and a french philosopher, Renan. He claims that both of them were convinced that the dominance of a superior race, the widening of inequalities based on race and the institutionalization of these were legitimate. He declares that the two ideologies had the same intentions.

What is more, there is a clear correlation between Hitler`s `Lebensraum` theory, which states that dispossessing the lesser races of their property is necessary in order to obtain more living space for the German race, and both Rev. Barde`s and Rev Muller`s statements, who tried to justify colonization and suggested that if the resources of the inferior races remain divided, they can not fulfill God’s purposes nor can they serve the good of all. Based on what we have learned so far Césaire`s arguments seem to be justified.

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