Latheck: The Social Justice Barbarian
by Alex Colvin
illustrated by Jack Roberts
The barbarian raced through the desert as fast as his legs could carry him. He was not running especially fast, however, as his bulky suit of wooden armour did not allow much movement. It was also hastening his dehydration, but if the barbarian were to die, it would not be of that. For he was being pursued by three soldiers on horseback, and they were gaining on him.
The barbarian’s name was Latheck, and he was a Social Justice Barbarian. For years he’d fought a one-person war on patriarchy, microagressions, cultural appropriation, animal rights, and the cisgendered. His ongoing war on all the aforementioned subjects had brought many a mercenary and solider to claim his head, all working for the cisgendered patriarchs who ruled the Zevren Empire. Latheck’s latest slam-poetry reading had been so destabilizing that soldiers had attacked the cafe he’d been reading at and chased him out of the city.
The soldiers were almost upon him when the leader shouted, “Surrender, barbarian! If you do not fight we promise you a swift death! Unless you’d rather fight like a man!”
The word “man” sent a wave of fire through Latheck’s heart. For he did not identify as a man. He was a non-gendered, pansexual, 1/64th-native vegan, and being misidentified as a man was one of his triggers. Latheck spun to face his pursuers and drew his battle-axe. “Check thine privilege, pig! If it were not unethical to use animal products in any way, I’d have escaped on horseback from your hegemonic reach!”
“Privilege? Privilege?” The lead solider roared and leapt from his horse. He unfastened his helmet, tearing it from his head. The face that met Latheck’s eyes was as black as a moonless night. Latheck stared in the man in shock. “I have no privilege, sirrah,” the solider said, “my dark skin means I constantly face dozens of microaggressions each and every day! You are the one with privilege! And it is my task to take that privilege away!”
“Privilege?” Latheck returned, “I am a non-gendered pansexual 1/64th-native vegan! I am shunned and repressed by the entirety of the world!”
For a moment, the two men uncoiled from their battle stances, for they were brothers in the war on cisgendered patriarchy. But Latheck did not drop his guard entirely. While this man was brotherly in his struggles against oppression, he still betrayed the downcast by working for the state. Latheck knew the man and his comrades had to be murdered, for they would not let him escape.
But a moral dilemma raged in Latheck’s mind. The fact that one of his attackers was black was troublesome, for he feared it would be racist to slay the black solider first. The black solider was closest, and it would make tactical sense to slay him and move to his comrades. He could slay the white attackers first to show he had no ill-will to minorities, or he could slay the black attacker in between. Or, could he slay them equally in one fell stroke?
Yes, the single stroke method would be a racially-sensitive way to slay his pursuers. Latheck thought that if he lunged while swinging his axe in a wide arc, he would be able to kill all three within a single moment. The other two men had left their horses to surround Latheck, and they were all within reach of an axe swing. In a single movement, Latheck let his axe fly and bite through the necks of all three soldiers. The blade caressed the flesh and bones of each man, leaving them to collapse in the sand, blood pouring from their severed heads and the stumps of their necks. Latheck surveyed the corpses, feeling quite pleased with himself.
This was true equality.
Latheck stood amongst the windswept sand dunes and wondered where to go next. Latheck remembered that there was a university town not far away, perhaps less than a league. Perhaps among the pretentious cafes and taverns of that town, he could find an inn and some food to reinvigorate him to continue his battle for social justice.
Latheck arrived at the town by dusk. The main street had several taverns; Latheck scanned the street for the least patriarchal/hegemonic-looking bar he could find. The Repressed Masque seemed to fit the bill. He pushed through the ruined door and found a dim, grimy barroom filled with all manner of people. Aged warriors of social justice crowded around a crude stage, where an old man was ranting at the crowd:
“Eating at a foreign restaurant is the worst form of cultural appropriation! The people who own those restaurants are desecrating another culture for capital! If you eat shawarma or kebabs, you’re essentially raping repressed foreigners and stealing their culture!”
The crowd snapped their fingers in approval (clapping is too hegemonic and mainstream) and called out their support:
“Death to the government! Death to hegemony!”
“Stop the stigmas against asexuals! We have a right to be asexual!”
“The Family Day holiday is discriminatory against orphans! Down with Family Day!”
Latheck nodded his approval and went to the bar. “Barkeep,” he said, “pour me a vegan ale.”
“Certainly, sir. Would you like that in a normal mug?” the barkeep asked.
Latheck triggered at the word “normal.” He grabbed the barkeep by the throat and hauled him over the bar. “Normal?” Latheck bellowed. “Normal? There is no such thing as normal! Every person is a unique, special snowflake with their own specific identity and varied beliefs and norms! Do not use the word normal with me, heathen!”
“I’m sorry!” the barkeep cried, terrified, “but we have earthen mugs, tin mugs, or bone mugs! Some vegans refuse to use the bone ones! I just wanted to check!”
“Check? Check?” Latheck roared. “Then check your privilege in the depths of Hell!”
Latheck swung his axe, bearing the blade down and splitting the barkeep’s head to his Adam’s apple. Many of the patrons nodded in approval, but there was one young boy who watched this spectacle in shock. He approached Latheck and asked, “Sirrah? Why did you have to murder that person?”
“Because he did not check his privilege,” Latheck answered, wiping the brains, blood, and spinal fluid from his axe. “And that is a sin that can never be forgiven.”
“Forgive me, sirrah,” the boy said, “but would it not be truer social justice to forgive and accept all as human? To look past difference to accept all people as one?”
Lathcek smiled. “You are but a boy, and still have much to learn. Difference is what divides us and causes the oppressed to suffer. True social justice is only felt in a rage of blind indigence. For never forget, brother, it is our duty to social justice to remind people as often as possible that we are in some way disadvantaged.”
“Should we protest? Should we fight?” the boy asked.
Latheck shook his head, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder, “Tis enough to whine and complain. No action is needed, except to bring death to cisgendered scum. For the most part, complaining and chiding others shall make the world a more accepting place.”
A crippled and mentally-ill homeless man near the tavern entrance nodded and smiled at Latheck’s words, “Ya!” he cried.
Latheck turned to face him, “Be silent you smelly wretch! Take your babbling and drug addictions elsewhere! I have no time for your kind! Were it up to me, I would have all of you foul degenerates executed!”
The homeless man hung his head and staggered away. Latheck knew that his battle for recognition of various races, sexualities, and identities had no place for people as worthless as the homeless. They weren’t really people, anyway.
A new barkeep appeared and gave Latheck his vegan ale in a wooden mug. “Here you go, sir,” the new barkeep said. “It's wonderful to see vegans who are as puritanical as yourself. You don’t hail from the Earthain tribe, by chance?”
The barkeep gaped at Latheck with renewed respect. “Oh, sir! It’s an honour! Please, take this drink on the house. Capitalism is a sham anyhow!”
To hail from, or to be part of the Earthain tribe was a badge of honour within the realm of social justice. Latheck had lived among them as a child, and adhered to their beliefs as best he could. For, with the exception of human seamen (more on that later), Latheck did not consume the flesh or products of any creatures of the Earth. Latheck had even forsaken the comfort and safety of his trusty leather armour, and that is why his battle dress was made almost entirely from wood. It was scratchy, uncomfortable, hampered by most weather conditions, and susceptible to fire, but it was not hewn from the flesh of an innocent animal. Latheck hadn’t treated it with varnish or anything, either. That’s probably why it was getting crumbly and starting to smell so bad.
Anyway, the Earthain tribe Latheck hailed from had long been respected vegan warriors who ruled the southern lands. Five years ago, a young man in the tribe had a vision from the gods, telling them that from that point on their actions in life could not violate the planet in any way. The tribe accepted this, and they vowed never to harm animal, plant, rock, or water for the remainder of their existence. They retreated to a windswept natural plateau with no water or vegetation, and vowed to exist only by eating their own urine and feces. Cannibalism broke out regularly, as feces and urine alone cannot sustain a man forever. Still, the tribe had kept their vow to never impact the earth, and was held in high regard by those who valued social justice. Their tribe of ten thousand strong now contained possibly twelve survivors, too weak with dysentery and septicemia to cannibalize one another. Latheck admired their perfectly ecologically friendly life, and would have returned home and surrendered to it in a heartbeat if he hadn’t so much to fight for in the world.
Latheck left the bar to listen to more slam-poetry and social justice speeches. He picked a seat next to a young woman, who went rigid once he’d lowered his body onto the wooden seat.
“Excuse me?” she said.
“I beg your pardon?” Latheck asked.
“Is rape culture so engrained in your feeble male brain that you think you have the right to take an open seat next to me?” the woman asked.
“I meant no offence. For I do not identify as a man, but as a non-gendered pansexual–”
“Do you have a penis?”
“Do you have a penis.”
“Then you are automatically an agent of patriarchy. The microagression of taking the seat next to me suggests your male dominance, discriminates on my rights as a feminist, and has violated my safe space.”
Latheck was horrified by his own thoughtlessness. He could not even find the words to apologize for his transgression. He should have known better. He sat for a moment too long and the woman began to shout. “What’s wrong with you? Take the hint! Move, already!” She turned to the rest of the bar patrons, “Help! Help! This cisgendered masculine pig is infringing on my rights! Have him taken away!”
Soldiers burst into the bar. Latheck was put in shackles and led away, still in a daze. Five armed guards led him to the city palace, where his fate would be decided by the grand vizier. The enormity of Latheck’s crimes weighed upon him during the slow march. Not the murders. No, the breaking of another’s safe space. That was unforgivable. When the troop had arrived at the palace gate, a guard stopped Latheck and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Be wary,” the guard said, “his entire castle is a safe space.’ Men and women of all creeds, races, and kinks can voice their thoughts without criticism or comment. To violate the safe space is death.”
Latheck nodded, “Were only that the entire empire was a safe space. I will heed your words.”
The vizier’s chamber gleamed of marble and precious gems embedded in the engraved walls. Latheck was led at sword-point to the magnificent throne where the vizier sat. The vizier was a large man, approaching six hundred and fifty pounds, with drooping jowls and puffy cheeks. The vizier’s belly was so expansive it was difficult to see if he had any knees, but Latheck assumed they were there.
The vizier looked up at Latheck and gave a fleshy grin. “Ah,” he said. “So you must be the great barbarian of social justice. I’ve heard many tales of you, barbarian. What brings you before me?”
“The crime of violating a woman’s safe space,” Latheck answered. “And I am guilty of the crime. I submit to you for punishment.”
“You are wise, sirrah,” the vizier said, “but the punishment does not rest with me. I am no fascist cisgendered pig. We will decide in a democratic fashion.”
“This is no democracy,” Latheck said.
“Oh, but it is! We hold political elections every four years! But every year, the entire population abstains from voting to show contempt for the political system.”
Latheck marveled at the will of the people in this empire. For he thought it noble to sulk in silence and hope said sulking would lead to political revolution. Latheck refused to vote in his home country for the same reason. No politician suited his 1/64th-native vegan pansexual values perfectly, so he abstained from his right to have a voice in the future of his country. He knew that, one day, his silence would change the world.
“So,” the vizier continued, “I am never removed from office and I can do as I please! Ha ha! And I will rule until the day I die! I have unlimited power! I am truly brilliant and meant to lead the people!”
The boasting annoyed Latheck. “If your mind was as expansive as your rotund ass,” Latheck replied, “you would know how to treat your subjects better.”
“Are you fat-shaming me?” cried the vizier.
Latheck fell silent. He had vowed years ago to shame no man or woman for their fate. It was probably not the vizier’s fault that he weighed six hundred and fifty pounds. It was probably entirely external factors beyond the noble’s control, and it would be insensitive to suggest otherwise. The vizier, however, had been triggered. Trembling with indignation, he gave Latheck his sentence: “Throw him in the cells with the other rabble-rousers. I will think of a punishment for him to ensure his suffering is beyond anything a mortal man has endured before.”
Latheck was placed in a small stone cell that was suffocating in its darkness. The only light came from the outline of the slot in the door where food was pushed through. It seemed a blinding light when it opened, as a guard slid Latheck his dinner through the slot. Latheck picked it up, expecting rotting slop, but what he’d been given was far worse. His dinner was a peppercorn & mushroom striploin steak in a whisky sauce with a side of fois gras. Latheck recoiled at the horror he had been served, and let the dish crash to the floor. “You monsters!” Latheck cried. “How can you in good conscience serve the flesh or products of animals? Such an evil is not morally or environmentally sound! I refuse to harm an animal in any act I do! I shall not eat this foul concoction!”
The guard outside the cell eyed Latheck warily. “I’ll eat it then,” the guard said, “I forgot to bring a lunch today. I’m hungry.”
“You fascist monster! The vileness it takes to harm such an animal!”
“It’s already been harmed,” the guard said, “I’m just eating it. People are meant to eat meat, you know. That’s why we have eye-teeth. Think about it.”
The words were like knives to Latheck’s heart. He’d never thought about his teeth as instruments to harm animals. But that was their design. His very body was designed to test his dedication to veganism. His body was his own enemy. Latheck retreated into the darkness of his cell and sat in silence.
Latheck did not know how long he sat there. No food was brought to him, for the prison cook was royally pissed that Latheck spurned such a lovely “welcome-to-prison” meal. But Latheck’s hunger gave him an idea. He went to his cell door and called for the guard. To his good fortune, it was the same one who’d given him the foul steak dinner earlier.
“Sirrah, I shall suck your dick if you unlock my cell.”
“I am a vegan non-gendered pan–”
“Save it. That’s not my thing. Besides, semen isn’t vegan. Neither is dick.”
“Veganism should not detract from a robust sex life,” Latheck said, perhaps a bit defensively.
The guard looked at Latheck for a moment. Finally he said, “Okay. Listen, it’s my last day working here. If you promise to leave me be, I’ll unlock your cell and you can go on your way. I just want to finish my shift on time, so don’t cause any fuss.”
The guard unlocked the cell and opened the door.
Before the guard could speak again, Latheck cupped his hand over the guard’s mouth and proceeded to snap his neck. The guard, after all, deserved it. He was a straight white cisgendered carnivorous capitalist who worked within a patriarchal repressive state to keep minorities and sexual others downcast. There are few things so evil in this world of ours, and those who are born within and enforce the rules should be hated and made to suffer.
For that is social justice, as Latheck understood it.
Latheck made his way back through to the vizier’s chamber. He had a plan to exact his revenge. He only needed the vizier to listen for a few moments. Latheck approached the throne room and smashed through the door to the chamber. Still filthy with grime from his cell, he marched to the throne and approached the shocked vizier.
“What is this?” the vizier demanded. “How did you escape?”
Latheck ignored the man’s questions and looked him in the eye. Then Latheck spoke the words that would change the empire forever:
“You need to lose about four hundred and fifty pounds,” Latheck said.
The vizier clenched his teeth with rage at the blatant fat-shaming. And in a safe space, no less!
“And you sleep with whores so frequently it’s a wonder you even find time to eat,” Latheck continued.
The vizier, now double-triggered by this slut-shaming, turned red and trembled at the barbarian’s harsh words. “And you shouldn’t be single at your age. Why haven’t you found someone to settle down with? A good vizier needs to have a stable family life,” Latheck finished.
The triple-triggered vizier was pushed to the brink by the relationship-shaming, and stood up from his throne in a furious anger. He took a single step towards Latheck, but no sooner had his foot reached the ground then he fell down, stone dead. The vizier had been triggered to death, a very real threat for the overly-sensitive and politically correct. The palace guards dropped their weapons and knelt in reverence to Latheck. Latheck grinned at the sight of the dead man, for his one-person war on patriarchy and oppression was at its end. “I am your ruler now,” Latheck told the guards, “and I will lead us into a new era of social justice. You are my witnesses!”
The guards stood and gathered around the throne to hear their new champion speak.
“My brothers! My sisters! Those with dual, with no, or with an other gender identity!” Latheck said. “I promise you a new world! For every minority, sexual other, and counter-identity that has ever been shamed or harmed, I make this promise! I promise that ten thousand white cisgendered men will die for every shaming of a disempowered person!”
“DEATH TO THE WHITE CIS MALE!” The soldiers cried, even the ones who were cisgendered white men. Social justice is just that convincing.
Latheck couldn’t help but smile. The new Zevren Empire was going to be glorious. Once the cisgendered, the capitalists, and the patriarchs were all dead, a new, more accepting empire would rise. One that did not tolerate any form of aggression under pain of death. Social justice would spread across the world, and if anyone resisted, they would be slaughtered.
Latheck shifted in his throne to sit more comfortably. It was time to begin.
Alex Colvin is a Canadian humourist who has been published online, in print, and in magazines. He dreams of being immortalized on wikipedia and of going down in (Canadian) history as being mildly amusing.