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Is civilisation really so bad?

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  • Is civilisation really so bad?

    This is a thought that I've found popping into my head a few times recently. I'll explain what I mean.

    I keep coming across silly people in the "paleosphere" who talk as if civilisation were a kind of swear-word and a bad thing in itself. Rather like Oswald Spengler ( Philosophy of History (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) ) in reverse.

    And, of course, hypocritically enough, this is expressed on various forms of electronic media.

    As someone who does actually have a pretty wide reading background in history and who has been taught archaeology and anthropology by some highly regarded academics, I find most of this verbiage ignorant and ill-informed, inaccurate when it's not downright ahistorical, and in conceptual terms usually very shallowly thought-out, loosely expressed and as full of holes as a sieve.

    Now I'm not throwing stones at the big Paleo names, who are rational and sensible on this issue. I can recall Rob Wolf saying many times that the Paleo Diet was not about trying to live like a "caveman" and that no one should regret the amenities of modern societies and the intellectual (and, I think he said, cultural) advances that have been made. I have no direct quote and no time to find one, so anyone who wants to verify that I'm not misrepresenting him will have to search his old podcasts himself. But that is the substance of what I recall his saying and I want to say "Good for him!" One might also add that the blossoming of individual life that occurred within European culture from about the late 12th century onwards -- nowhere perhaps more intelligently or elegantly shown and discussed than in Michael Oakeshott's writings: On Human Conduct (Clarendon Paperbacks): 9780198277583

    -- is not something anyone who has any alive understanding of our own shared history and culture could cease to value or could speak against without a deep sense of shame.

    That's not to say that to have lost the "warmth" of close communal life, despite its narrowness and repressions, enjoyed in earlier societies is not to have lost anything. It is. But the gains are very real. One thinks of those troubadours stepping out on the high road, saying this is the life for a man like me. ...

    So to what brought this morning's post. I was listening to the news on the radio this morning. I usually avoid the news. It's never good, and I've come to the conclusion that it's best avoided. However, I was staying with family, so I had no choice. It was a short summary and there were four items, which came in this order:

    1. Prospective Islamic judicial murder in Sudan;
    2. A moslem bomber trying to commit mass-murder by detonating himself outside a cafe in Syria;
    3. The rape and murder (it seems assisted by police) of girls considered as "low caste" by hindus in India;
    4. Coups and repression in Thailand.

    One's tempted to say: "So much for the 'Third World'." But that, of course, would be an exaggeration. There will certainly be, for example, peaceful and mild-mannered peasants quietly tilling their fields in Bhutan. A somewhat better side of me suggests to me that perhaps this is what happens when people are attempting to live without The Father of Lights or are not, at least, groping towards Him.

    But what I think one should say is this. Listen to the news some day -- or actually pay attention to it, because perhaps it tends to just flow over us -- and consider "Is civilisation really so bad?". Putting what Newton and Watt, Kant and Hegel, Bach and Mozart, Shakespeare and Goethe, Velasquez and Rembrandt, to take a few names almost at random, have given us aside, do you really regret individual freedom, representative government and the Rule of Law?

  • #2
    I have no freedom. If I try to live somewhere without being clocked into the system as a slave I can be incarcerated. The world is a prison, and nothing but. To be alive is to be trapped. Before people thought they owned everything, the world had potential.
    Crohn's, doing SCD


    • #3
      Yeah, sure, it's because people are or aren't being religious, nothing to do with the individual at all.

      Sent from my HTC_PN071 using Tapatalk


      • #4


        • #5
          You know,I was interested until religion was brought into it. Lost me


          • #6
            Originally posted by jenna View Post
            You know,I was interested until religion was brought into it. Lost me
            Same here. The sampling of events and the conclusion seemed random.

            Plenty of U.S. military consider themselves religious and know the "The Father of Light" and it hasn't stopped them from dropping bombs on innocent civilians.
            Life is death. We all take turns. It's sacred to eat during our turn and be eaten when our turn is over. RichMahogany.


            • #7
              "Is civilisation really so bad?"

              Perhaps we should try it and see.

              Lame misquote I know. Some people like having power over others. Modern urban beurocratic systems give them different outlets to get power and exploit others, than feral human society does. Not better, not worse, just different.


              • #8
                OP, you raise a very good point, one that is really a bit of a bugbear for me.

                I studied history too, and continue to love and immerse myself in it, and have little tolerance for liberal self-loathing brutes who love to hate on Western civilization.

                Western civilization is, to not put too fine a point on it, the absolute pinnacle of what humans have been able to achieve since the dawn of time. To deny this is foolish.

                Is western civilization perfect? Hell no. But it's the best thing this world has ever seen to ensure the rights of women, of minorities, the rights of minors, the rights of most are heard and at least somewhat serviced.

                Anyone who disses on modernity or "The West" is usually a misanthrope and I have little patience left for those who do.

                Read The Rational Optimist. Read The Better Angels of Our Nature. Read any Enlightenment philosophy. It's all miles better than the silly irrational systems that predated it.

                In fact, I will give you two examples so mundane, we probably never think of them, that make the West so successful for so many people.

                1. Public health.
                2. Public education.

                Now, the only thing I would add to your original post is that Secular Humanism is what we need to be focusing on, in my humble opinion. We have to move on from Bronze Age mysticism and magical thinking to something more rooted in the here and now. The best system to ensure high quality of life for people right now, and not in some imagined afterlife is modern, liberal (small "l", historical liberalism), democratic capitalism with a social consciousness.

                As a Canuck, that's only slightly different from what most of all y'all have, but close enough for most of you to grok what I'm saying.

                The only real failing of Western civilization is our industrialized food system.

                It's for shit.

                Mr. Ted


                • #9
                  I think the problem is that civilization these days seems to have reached this odd place where instead of things seeming to get better, it feels to a lot of people that things are getting worse. There is more pollution, there is less upward mobility, writing a letter to your congressperson or senator feels more and more futile, many people are deep in debt and haven't even begun their adult lives. It feels to many of us that the ties that bind clamp ever more tightly and the whole system is so tightly coupled it is hard to imagine a way to fix any of it. Were we to live in a different form of society where the food wasn't under lock and key, probably few of us would choose to live as we do.

                  The easy way to express this feeling of unease of course is to say civilization sucks and to dream of some golden age of the past or to wish we could start over and take a different path or even to dream of a doomsday when it'll all come undone.
                  Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


                  • #10
                    Civilization is an end product it contradicts nature and dominates it! Civilization will go under and die when it’s mature enough and then it will rot and decompose - values, religion and laws will be turned upside down and everything will go back to the state of nature where anarchy and bellum omnium contra omnes rules! After that it will all starts over again with a new civilization being born...
                    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                    - Schopenhauer


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Urban Forager View Post
                      Plenty of U.S. military consider themselves religious and know the "The Father of Light" and it hasn't stopped them from dropping bombs on innocent civilians.
                      I wondered today how many US military personnel were wearing WWJD bracelets while they were invading Iraq, killing innocent people and blowing shit up.
                      AKA: Texas Grok

                      Originally posted by texas.grok
                      Facebook is to intelligence what a black hole is to light


                      • #12
                        First a few distinctions have to be made.....

                        When one uses "Western Civilization", that implies a starting point of the time of ancient Greece. In other words, it pre-dates the rise all 3 major monotheistic religions. With that said, one cannot discuss this "civilization" without these religions, as they were the driving force behind its behavior across 6 continents for about 2500 years.

                        For the first 500 or so up until the fall of Rome, you had an extremely aggressive imperialistic hegemonic force that dominated all of Europe in the Roman Empire. For your average person, life was not terribly good. The northern part of Europe was ruled by "barbarians" (did not speak Latin being the criteria). Native Americans ruled both North and South of our continent, with varying degrees of war or peace.....but yes, it would be fair to say that most of our continent had better quality of life in year 1 A.D than in 1500 A.D. (Cortez, Pizarro)

                        After that era, you had the Dark Ages, which was a time of religious massacre and superstition. It saw the rise of Islam in the form of an army that went through 3 continents, mostly enforcing their ideas via beheading people. Up against it was Christian Europe, busy fighting wars for religious reasons, burning people alive, boiling people in oil, and other fun ideas we came up with....most of the people were ruled over by a landed gentry that did not care if they lived or died.

                        And then you had the Renaissance (which thousands died or were thrown in prison for in its creation by the religious lunatics of the day), followed by the Enlightenment and its principle brainchild, America.

                        So say what you want about us now, but that adds up to about 1800 years of murder, superstition, oppression; followed by about 200 years of whatever we have now. England and Europe had their own Enlightenment-fueled revolutions (French and the Glorious Revolution in England) later....most of S. America became a labor depot, much as it was up until very recently. Most of the non-civilized world was used entirely for resources for all of that 1800 years. Slavery existed all over the western world and Africa itself (the slave trade to Europe operated originally with pre-existing slavery infrastructure in Africa) up until about 4 generations ago.

                        I don't put the blame on all of that on any particular religion or ethnic group, because that is creating boogeymen instead of rationally understanding exactly WHY it was so jacked up, for so long.....the reason was simple: resources. This whole "western civilization" thing relies on a lot of them, always has and always will. Religion, nationalism, imperialism; all of this existed as a means for the powerful in each place to get more resources, fuel more growth and prestige. Simple means to an end.

                        With that acknowledged, it is very easy to sit in one of the most advanced countries of modern western civilization and to declare the greatness of it, mindfully neglecting the previous 2000 years that was not near so pleasant. Take a trip to any one of the dozens of countries who are on the other end of western "prosperity", and then report back as to whether we are still really kicking ass with this whole system we have here. It is a fact that the resources required to fuel our way of life are astronomical, and they MANDATE organized theft, violence, and oppression in order to obtain them in the quantities we use them. I am not really apologizing for that fact.....if "the West" wasn't on top, someone else would be, and they would likely not be as into their "soft power" as we are....but that does not forgive the entire system which necessitates that the dynamics be this way in the first place.

                        It is all a phase. In 200 years everyone will be looking back at us and chuckling at how naive and wasteful the system was.
                        "The soul that does not attempt flight; does not notice its chains."


                        • #13
                          The Christian religion helped to destroy the ancient Greek Roman civilization from within, it turned traditional values upside down, made people meek and longing for the afterlife instead of a happy life on earth. With the fall of the ancient Greek-roman civilization and the rise of Christianity the ground was made for a new way of life that surpassed the Greek Roman lifestyle. So, when the Christian religion became civilized around the 18th century then the idea of a western civilization was fully born! According to Spengler a Civilization is always the end stadium of a culture - it’s doomed to die and go under and massive warfare to protect global interests of the empire in charge is a symptom of decay and not the cause…
                          "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                          - Schopenhauer


                          • #14
                            I always get a little insulted when people just throw around the idea that medieval people were utterly neglecting their own living conditions and political dynamics in favor of a church and ruling-class sanctioned fantasy like "the after-life."

                            Today, the poor have bosses who are jerk-offs that relate to their rulers' propaganda as means of identifying with the ruling class and of seperating themselves from their employees- as these bosses held the lash and owned or controlled the means of production, the workers whispered whatever courtesies the gay master fantasies demanded. Just as today we do not gesticulate stroking our dicks at work on the 4th of July.

                            It's like a subtle reinforcement and internalization sorta hypno-meme to talk about people in the past like they are ignorant and ridiculous cluess apathetic savages who knelt and ooo'd with mystical reverence at a rich guy waving his hand. Surely there were such dupes and losers, as there are today enthusiastic flag-saluters and god-bless-america singers and al sharpton supporters. To make like it's a characteristic of a people and an age is to just advance ruling-class memetic architecture without compensation.


                            • #15
                              I tend to go along the views of Charles Eisenstein (summarized in his book Ascent of Humanity), civilization as we know it is not good or bad, it was _unavoidable_ and like everything else, it will pass.