If I were to apply for a Stanford MBA

"What matters most to you, and why?" – Stanford MBA Application

Triumph over social injustice is a theme that is often discussed in response to questions such as these; many think that equality begins with equal treatment, that acknowledging privilege can go a long way toward solving incongruities between groups. Personally, I agree with this, but believe privilege extends beyond just action or behavior and into language itself. Take for instance the words "savage" and "barbarian," both often used in the past to disparage groups (often groups native to an area reached by conquering peoples) and therefore to view them as "lesser" not only within the confines of action (imprisonment, enslavement, etc.) but also within language itself.

Language is of course crucial to the development of culture, society, and behavior; the way people talk informs their attitudes. Thus the label "barbarian" allows one to justify maltreatment. While on its face it only means "someone from a foreign land," the implication, and therefore the accepted and understood meaning, is one of low intelligence, one who is rude and wild. In short, a "barbarian" would lack the social graces to answer this question eloquently, or perhaps would even lack the complexity of thought to formulate any response at all.

But I personally believe that such labels are not only unreasonable (and perhaps an indication of rude, wild thought themselves) but a relic of an archaic time in which social injustice was not only omnipresent, but acceptable as well. Today, I believe, while injustice persists, the desire to stamp it out is nearly universal. Allowing labels to persist through our language is not only hurtful toward those that are labeled but toward this goal as well. We have, as a society that desires equality, an obligation to drive these labels out of our language, out of our speech, out of our minds, and perhaps to honor those who have been unfairly labeled in the past.

So, "what matters most to you, and why?" I think it's time to give voice to the answer provided by a great man who was himself thusly labeled.

"Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women." – Conan the "Barbarian"

  • Benjamin Miller

    If Civilization games have taught me anything, it's that the massacre of barbarians is always justified.