Role in Oni
Barabas was primarily a street thug, and quite possibly an early Syndicate prototype involving the Daodan Chrysalis assigned for work as a professional thug by Muro for the Syndicate. His two encounters with Konoko (Mai) occurred during the start of her mission to the lab, followed by his assignment to break into TCTF headquarters and take Konoko's SLD, Shinatama, from her station. After dropping off Shinatama in a helicopter, he stayed behind to personally settle his score with Konoko. There, on the rooftops of TCTF HQ, he met a defeat when squaring off with Konoko. He was presumably killed or captured in the aftermath of that fight.
The name is spelled Barabas in the official part of Oni, but "hidden" resources (scripts, binaries), call him Barabbas, Barabus, or, affectionately, Baba :)
Increasing relevance for the references.
The Jew of Malta
It's a theater play by Christopher Marlowe. Sorta like a pseudo-historical drama. The name of the protagonist, Barabas, was probably chosen intentionally, with the biblical reference (see below) in mind, so that he is "automatically" antipathic to a Christian audience.
He's the main bad guy in Zolotoi Klyuchik a.k.a. the adventures of Buratino, the Russian remake of Collodi's Pinocchio.
Karabas-Barabas is a puppet master. The puppets of his theater are alive, so he doesn't actually animate them with strings : it's more like he's a tyrant and they are his slaves. The protagonist, Buratino the puppet, finds a golden key that unlocks the door to a hidden, "parallel", much better world, helps the other puppets to run away from Karabas Barabas's theater, and eventually leads them to that other world (narrowly escaping Karabas's pursuit) where they live happily ever after.
Karabas-Barabas's appearance is close to that of an ogre : he's a giant with a very long black beard. His disrespect of puppet life (he wants to throw Buratino into the fire as fuel) enhances this aspect. In that he's close to the Buddhist Oni which are somewhere in between ogres and imps.
The book itself (and the movies) are morally lighter than Collodi's original, being aimed at young children. Since the book and movies were produced during the Soviet era, they could have ended up ideologically heavy. Of course the tyrannic Karabas-Barabas can be seen as the embodiment of capitalism, and his puppets can represent the working class, but on the whole it's just a regular (quite entertaining) story for children. Big bad guy, little good guys, domination of evil, escape, happily ever after.
There were many unforgettable moments (both in the movies and in the book), quotes and references that made it into the Russian culture, a popular soundtrack, etc.
Jesus was crucified on the holy Jewish day of Passover. Traditionally, one of the prisoners about to be executed on that day was released by the Roman authorities, and it was up to the crowd to decide who should be released. Pontius Pilate let the crowd choose between Jesus (not guilty of anything in particular) and Barabbas (a rioter and a murderer). The high priests who "framed" Jesus manipulated the crowd, which then unanimously demanded Barabas's release and Jesus's crucifixion.
- Barabbas (from BibleGateway.com)
- A prisoner released by Pilate (Matthew 27:16-26; Mark 15:7-15; Luke 23:18-25; John 18:40;)
A further reference to that episode is found in Acts 3:14 :
- You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.
And that's about it for the biblical reference. There was a Barabbas movie starring Anthony Quinn.
End of story?... that's what I thought, too. That last quote from Acts is richer than it may seem.
According to e.g. Wikipedia the guy was really called Jesus bar-Abbas (Aramaic Bar-abbâ, "son of the father").
Jesus Christ was referring to God as "Abba" when preaching (in Aramaic). So basically the Jewish crowd had to choose between two guys who bore exactly the same name "Jesus, son of the Father"... however, one of them was a preacher and was called Christ, and the other one was an insurrectionist (i.e. someone who physically opposed the Roman Empire) and was not called Christ. Jesus the rioter was released, and Jesus the preacher was crucified, by public request.
Barabbas as Jesus's alter ego
It seems as if Jesus and Barabbas were actually two sides of the same person. The spiritual leader, who preaches new (mostly non-aggressive) beliefs and wants the Jewish people to achieve a kind of moral freedom, is opposed to the insurrectionnist, i.e. one who'd actually get involved in the physical liberation of the Jewish people. That physical "son of God" is what Jesus could have been in the eyes of the Jews, and he was often blamed (by the Jewish people and by his disciples) for not taking actual action against the Empire. Jesus's line aroused misunderstanding and frustation even among his most fervent followers (Peter, Judas), and made it easy for the High Priests to manipulate the crowd into rejecting their Messiah (since they weren't exactly happy with him in the first place).
So the episode with Barabbas can just be a parable for the public's rejection of Jesus's pacifism. The story makes it look like the crowd actually made the Romans free one man (a rioter) and crucify another one (a preacher), but it can be seen as if there was a hypothetical, rioting "Jesus son of God" they would have freed and followed, and the actual, preaching "Jesus son of God" they had had enough of and chose to crucify...
This episode about "state mercy" on the day of Passover sounds more like a choice offered by the crowd to Jesus :
- "Lead us and we'll follow you... but we want action, not words... so stop the BS and get to business... or die."
- "We don't want you to mess with our minds. We don't want any of your so-called spiritual strength. Just make us physically strong and able to withstand our aggressors. Or die."
By crucifying Jesus, the Jewish people made clear (somewhat radically) that they preferred physical power over spiritual alienation. I think that's what the episode is about.
(I wasn't really speculating up there : Jesus and Barabbas being "the same person" has been widely suggested. It's discussed in some detail in the Wikipedia article, and I only took it a little bit further.)
(And I'm not saying the Jews were right to crucify Jesus or anything like that, OK? I'm only figuring how they felt about him at the moment.)
Barabas as power without alienation
Oni's Barabas could illustrate exactly the same thing as that in the "Jesus Barabbas" interpretation detailed above : the will (say, for Syndicate researchers) to isolate the direct benefit of the Daodan (resilience, physical strength) from the psychological alienation that a full bodily upgrade would normally generate.
Power, full control, and nothing else. No new beliefs, no paradigm shift, no alienation, just power.
To a degree, that separation succeeded (Barabas is more human than Mutant Muro), but, as we know, this brute, controlled force didn't manage very well in the long run.
- "I'm ready for anything. You made sure of that."
- "There's always someone stronger. Have you forgotten?"
Indeed. Mai beats Barabas, twice. Why is that? Well, a "controlled" Daodan is certainly confined within some kind of boundaries. A naturally evolving Daodan is unbound.
Let's assume for a moment that Barabas' Daodan is somehow prevented from invading all of his organism (regular injections of medicine, invasive surgery, physical isolation of a fully human brain from a Daodan-enhanced body, synthetic organs that the Daodan biomass can't replace...). What then?
Barabas is physically weaker than Mutant Muro because his bones and muscles (and brain!) don't form one hyper-evolved whole. He lacks Mai's and Muro's agility and reflexes, because the (say, electronic) interface between the human brain and the hyper-evolved biomass can't keep up with the stream of information it has to convey. Heck, maybe the human brain's reflexes are not as sharp as those of a brain that has undergone integration... maybe they're unadapted to the way the biomass has evolved, or at least far from optimal.
All this because the Daodan process did not go to completion : the human brain that's "in control" does not form a whole with the hyperevolved body. A Daodan's cells are totipotent, and a Daodan's brain is supposed to merge with the rest of the organism, to extend into it much deeper than a human nervous system does. One aspect of the Daodan process is the fast regeneration and inter-replaceability of any kind of tissue (the Daodan biomass is actually one such "metatissue" that can serve as any organ on demand). In parallel, there's a delocalization of intelligence and reflexes. So a complete merging seems necessary for a truly effective and efficient symbiosis.
Paradigm of controlled technology
Just as in the biblical case up there, the desire of pure physical power without an associated spiritual alienation, although symbolic of the nature of man and society, is not necessarily a viable alternative. There's a whole dimension of Daodan symbiosis which this approach leaves out. So Barabas is another delusion, another failure. It highlights the limitations of the paradigm of "controlled technology". You discover something which consequences go way beyond your perspective and scope and influence, so you try your best to regulate/limit that technology, achieving some form of control and preventing too radical a change in global policy, way of life, whatever.
Well, that's very tricky. Power does alienate. And great power alienates greatly. Especially when the source of power, the breakthrough that generates it, has to do with the human being itself. Alienation of both man and society is at its most literal then.
Cyborgization, Daodan... that's fiction. But what consequences should we expect in our world from a major breakthrough in health care or genetic engineering? The question is wide open...