I'm a barbarian, and over there's the gate. It is red. Actually, I'm from a small town outside Barbar.
There's an old man having coffee at a table near the gate. He offers. I sit.
"So--what's the gate to?" I ask.
"It's to civilization, of course," he says. "What are you--some kind of barbarian?"
I order coffee and pastry. He talks. "They're in there falling apart--greed, lying, a state-mania for control, horrific weaponry, economic injustice, bovine media, and an odd blend of incompetence and arrogance."
"I'll be darned," I say. "How's it going to turn out, in your opinion?"
"You should know the answer to that already. Don't they teach history anymore in Barbar?"
"You're a Barbarian, too?!" I ask.
"Born and raised," he says. Then we heard shouting from inside the gate.
"They're in there blaming us for their problems. They're using a sophisticated lingo of hate, fear, and xenophobia."
"How trite," I observe. "However, technically, we are Barbarians at the gate."
"You couldn't pay me enough to go in there," he says. I name a figure. "I might reconsider," he says.
"Merely a thought experiment," I say. I pay for us both and leave a robust gratuity. The server comes over, and I ask, "Is there a bookstore around here?" The server looks at us and sneers and says something most barbarous to us. Nonetheless, I let the gratuity lie as it is. The server leaves.
The old man says, "Civility is often a blade that power unsheathes and waves in the air."
"Is that so?" I say. He's not an easy person with whom to converse. We part company, but we both go in directions away from the gate.