Sunday, September 16, 2012
"Stages of Civilization"
by John Alexander Madison
September 16, 2012
Civilization is defined as a relatively high level of intellectual, cultural and technological development; a place that has the things that modern cities and towns have; the condition that exists when people have developed effective ways of organizing a society; the human institution by which a group of people come together for protection, the gathering of food, trade, the raising of young, and through this, create, share, and spread a common culture.
The Urban Dictionary suggested that early in the development of human beings “the savages realized that they could survive the harsh world by living together and helping each other survive.” The description continues to say, one thousand years later, the descendents of those savages had formed a set of morals and beliefs distinct from that distant savage culture.
Savages are described as not domesticated, not cultivated or civilized; wild, ferocious, fierce, vicious, merciless or brutal and lacking polish of manners. A savage is regarded as a primitive or uncivilized person, a barbarian or a person who belongs to an earlier stage of civilization. Is that to say, then, they are not “civilized” or merely that their “civilization” differed from ours?” By definition, however, the savages like their descendents had formed a civilization by creating and sharing a common culture.
Even today, some of the atrocities perpetuated upon follow humans in some ‘lesser developed countries’ leads some to characterize the inhabitants of these nations as “a bunch of uncivilized barbarians and savages.” But that does not explain the millions of lives lost at the hands of leaders of what could easily be called advanced or “civilized nations.” (Mao Ze-Dong (China); Adolf Hitler (Germany); Leopold II (Belgium); Jozef Stalin (USSR); Hideki Tojo (Japan); Ismail Enver (Turkey); Pol Pot (Cambodia); to name a few.
Perhaps a sense of decency, a respect for fellow human beings, is required in order to be considered a civil society. Even today in many Middle Eastern nations there is no tolerance for those who don’t fall lock-step in line with one way of thinking. Does that make their nations uncivilized? Maybe, maybe not. But how can one conclude they are not savages if they have no respect for human life when they kill indiscriminately?
Life on Earth has evolved in terms of what we might call “civilized societies,” societies which could, in my view, be defined merely by the way we treat fellow human beings. Can we characterize those countries where there is little or no respect for women (and human life in general) and little tolerance for those who share beliefs other than our own as “barbaric?” These countries may be in the earlier stages of civilization and may, one day, evolve into more acceptable societies in our eyes.
The issue then becomes how we can coexist in this ever shrinking world and allow the atrocities we see around the world to continue without trying to change their values to look more like ours. That is a good question and therein lies the challenge.
There is little doubt, that while the United States of America is a highly-advanced and highly-civilized nation we are also an imperfect nation. But it is difficult to conclude, after this experiment of more than 236 years, that there exists a better governance model than this country’s democracy where we enjoy the freedom of self-determination (the right to choose our sovereignty without external interference), the free exercise of religion, respect for differing opinions, and where most of its citizens respect the dignity of every human life.
The current unrest throughout the Middle East, including the tragic loss of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three others at the Embassy, makes it is abundantly clear that many nations around the world have core beliefs and historical cultures which differ greatly from ours. And when those countries exhibit little or no respect for human life, that’s when the greatest nation on Earth must step forward and do everything in our power to preserve it. That is the culture we must spread in a civilized world. Apathy is unacceptable.
In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say
about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior:
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time when voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”
“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance; From abundance to complacency; From complacency to apathy;
From Apathy to dependence; From dependence back to bondage.”
And, in case you missed it, this was posted on the internet this week: “The United States of America: Born 1776. Died 2012.” Please join with me on November 6th, to ensure that does not become reality.
FINAL NOTE: Regarding the ‘War on Women’ radio producer Bernard McGuirk had this to say: “If you want to know how Republicans treat women, ask Ann Romney. If you want to know how Democrats treat women, ask Hilary Clinton.” The war on women is, indeed, a fabrication of a president desperate for re-election. It is yet another distraction from four years of failure which will be this one-term president’s enduring legacy.