Civilians & Civilizations

The fact is… there is no such thing as civilization. It is a concept the Chinese confected — or if you prefer the Western mode, the Greeks — simply to give a certain moral credence to their attempts at dominion over the other people in the world…

“If a society were truly civilized… there would be no need for the Samurai; and it surely would not abide warriors such as we. There would simply be no need, do you see? But the concept of civilization is like that of Communism. pure in the mind, it nevertheless cannot exist in reality. It is too absolute a concept for man. Like the theory of relativity it is best thought of, food for contemplation, for a civilized man would harbour no warlike tendencies. He would not spy on another, he would not be an adulterer, a slanderer, a destroyer…

“When we set the concept of civilization aside we free ourselves.”
Eric van Lustbader. The Miko

Alas, regardless of their doom
The little victims play.
No Sense have they of ill to come
Nor care beyond today:
You see how all around them wait
The ministers of human fate
And black misfortune’s baleful train.
Ah, show them where in ambush stand
To seize their prey, the murderous band.
Ah, tell them they are men.

— from Thomas Gray’s Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

“…The States are full of assholes like you, fucking draft-dodgers who don’t want to hang their precious asses on the line. No, they want other people to do the bleeding and dying while they sit at home and enjoy their freedom and salve their consciences by assuring each other the war is immoral.”
Stephen Coonts. Flight of the Intruder

It’s sometimes argued that there’s no real progress; that a civilization that kills multitudes in mass warfare, that pollutes the land and oceans with ever larger quantities of debris, that destroys the dignity of individuals by subjecting them to a forced mechanized existence can hardly be called an advance over the simpler hunting and gathering and agricultural existence of prehistoric times. But this argument, though romantically appealing, doesn’t hold up. The primitive tribes permitted far less individual freedom than does modern society. A technology that produces debris can find, and is finding, ways of disposing of it without ecological upset. And the schoolbook pictures of primitive man sometimes omit some of the detractions of his primitive life — the pain, the disease, famine, the hard labor needed just to stay alive. From that agony of bare existence to modern life can be soberly described only as upward progress, and the sole agent for this progress is quite clearly reason itself.
Robert Persig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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