martes, 11 de agosto de 2015

Most people have no clear understanding of what civilization is or, perhaps as important, what it is not

What is Civilization?

by Joseph Pearce

  • Is civilization worth defending? 
  • Should we aim to conform to it so that we can be considered civilized?
  • Should we aim to bring our children up according to its norms so that they can also be considered civilized? 
  • Should we try to make our country and our world as civilized as possible? 

The chances are that most people will answer in the affirmative to all of these questions. Most people, even in the dark ages in which we live, consider being civilized a good thing. The problem is that most people have no clear understanding of what civilization is or, perhaps as important, what it is not. It might be a good exercise, therefore, to begin to seek a clear definition of the thing to which most of us are happy to subscribe.

What is civilization?

Perhaps the best place to start would be to consult the oracle of oracles, the palantir of all palantiri, by which, of course, I mean Wikipedia. According to this seemingly omniscient cyber-seer, civilization is defined most broadly as “any complex state society characterized by a social hierarchy, symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment.” Along with this broad definition, Wikipedia adds other key characteristics of civilization as being “urbanization (or the development of cities), centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labor, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon agriculture and expansionism.”

At this point, some of us might be questioning whether we still see civilization as something that is good and worth defending. How many of us would fight for civilization if we thought that we were fighting for the increasing complexity of the state and its social hierarchy? How many of the agrarians amongst us would fight for a civilization that defined itself as being separate from the natural environment and as seeking to dominate it? How many of us would fight for incessant urbanization, centralization, and the passive domestication of ourselves alongside the domestication of other organisms? How many of us had realized that being civilized was the willingness to make ourselves cattle in the service of increasingly complex social hierarchies? How many of us thought that civilization was marked by the sort of “specialization of labour” that had reduced human labour to that of a disposable cog in an increasingly large and complex wheel? How many of us guessed that civilization was defined by culturally ingrained progressivism and other supremacist ideologies? How many of us perceived that taxation was civilized and that increasing taxation was therefore and presumably a mark of increasing civilization?

If this is civilization we would be justified in hoping that civilization would go to hell and that, indeed, we would be equally justified in believing that it was all too evidently going there.

We would, however, be wrong to abandon civilization because of such woefully awry definitions of it.


No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario